If you have erectile dysfunction (ED), you should see your doctor. Beyond the obvious drawback, ED can be a symptom of other serious health issues—including heart disease—which should be checked out. Check with your doctor before implementing any of the suggestions here; this article is not medical advice.
A healthy and fulfilling sex life is a source of joy, human contact, and connection. Solutions for enhancing men’s sex lives, including ED medication, is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. But there are things you can do, as a man, to increase your sexual function.
These five things will help you be a better lover and enjoy your time with your partner.
1. Get in shape.
Extra body fat has a high negative impact on libido. The side-effects of obesity include reduced testosterone. I will talk about testosterone in a moment, but reducing excess body fat is a key to overall and sexual health.
If you’ve got excess belly fat, like a beer-belly, you may have an issue with stress hormones. An excess of the stress hormone cortisol can cause the body to store fat around the midsection. Exercise, eating right, and stress reduction are going to help.
Erectile problems are frequently linked to hardening of the arteries. Health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can all contribute to artery hardening. A healthy diet and exercise can help mitigate all of these health issues.
Decreasing fat has an extra benefit in the bedroom. Reducing the fat pad over the pubic bone will make your genitals look larger. We can argue whether size matters, but a little boost of confidence probably doesn’t hurt.
2. Increase testosterone.
You most likely know that testosterone is a male sex hormone, responsible for our deep voices, beards, and bulky muscles. Testosterone is strongly linked to libido. Low enough testosterone in men will negatively impact libido.
Testosterone production does drop off with age. Increasing your testosterone naturally will also help you get into shape (see #1 above)
If you have issues with extremely low testosterone, this is another thing you’ll want to bring up with your doctor. Doctors may prescribe testosterone injections in extreme cases, but these are not without risks of side-effects.
There are some ways you can boost your testosterone naturally:
Diet is one of the biggest factors that can help with testosterone. Get enough Zinc, vitamin D, and healthy fats. These are essential nutritional components to help your body maximize its production of testosterone. Also, getting rid of sugar can help.
Strength training is good for your bones and, well, good for boners. Resistance training, along with increasing muscle mass lifts your testosterone.
Sun exposure has been shown to raise testosterone levels. As I’ve stated, vitamin D is necessary for testosterone production. The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. While you can supplement or get vitamin D in food, 90% of vitamin D in the body comes from the skin. A study from the 1930s found that exposing the genitals to sunlight created the largest boost to testosterone. Of course, you want to limit the length of your exposure to minimize the risk of skin cancer.
3. Increase nitric oxide.
You know those little blue pills they sell on TV for ED? They work in the body by increasing the action of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a potent vasodilator. Vasodilators cause the smooth muscles in the blood vessels to relax and increase blood flow. In the case of Viagra, the blood flow is most notably increased to the penis, allowing for erections.
While Viagra works by increasing the potency of NO in the blood, it’s also possible to enhance the amount of NO in your bloodstream without a prescription.
There are many foods that have been shown to increase nitrous oxide production. These include dark chocolate, beets, walnuts, and shrimp. A quick google search and you can probably find dozens of healthy foods linked to nitric oxide production.
The amino acid L-Arginine is a precursor to NO and can be taken as a supplement. A lot of pre-workout supplements include L-Arginine because of the effect on blood flow to the muscles. There is some evidence that the amino acid L-Citrulline, is a precursor to L-Arginine, may be better for NO in the bloodstream. Some people recommend taking them both together. Eat enough shrimp and watermelon, and you’ll get a bunch in your diet.
Don’t be a mouth breather! Nitric oxide is produced in the sinuses of the nose. Breathing through your nose releases NO. Certain yogic breathing practices, which include a raspy or buzzing sound with nasal breathing, increase the concentration of NO in the nasal cavity.
4. Decrease inflammation.
I’ve previously written about inflammation and mood disorders. Modern medical research is linking chronic inflammation to some adverse health conditions. Erectile dysfunction makes the list. Low-grade inflammation is one of the things that thickens arteries, reducing blood flow.
Doctors can look at chemicals in the blood, called inflammatory markers, to tell if a patient has chronic inflammation. ED is strongly associated with numerous inflammatory markers. Taking steps to reduce chronic inflammation can make you and your sex life healthier.
There are many dietary changes that you can make to reduce inflammation. Things like healthy fats, particularly Omega 3s, are necessary. There are also powerful anti-inflammatory supplements like curcumin, derived from the spice turmeric. There’s a dizzying array of anti-inflammatory dietary advice. Make sure to check with your doctor before changing your diet or starting on supplements.
Drinking enough water is important to fight inflammation. Keeping the cells hydrated is a key.
Studies show that regular exercise, at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, will reduce inflammation. You need to get your heart rate up during that time so anything from brisk walking to High-Intensity Interval Training will do.
Chronic stress increases inflammation. Stress increases the number and inflammatory action of immune cells in the bloodstream. Chronic stress can lead to genetic changes to your immune system making it more prone to cause inflammation. So do what you can to manage and reduce stress.
5. Make friends with your pelvic floor.
You may not know this, but you have a group of muscles collectively called the pelvic floor, which contributes significantly to sexual function. These pelvic floor muscles are the same muscles that women exercise when you hear about them doing “Kegels.” They’re the set of muscles you might contract if you were trying to hold in gas, or cut off your stream of urine.
When men have stronger pelvic floor muscles, they are more easily able to get and maintain erections. Strengthening these muscles also enhances stamina as they increase the ability to hold off ejaculation. Stronger pelvic floor muscles also increase the strength of ejaculation, which may improve sexual enjoyment.
So how do your work your PF? Well, there are Kegels for men, and many resources to learn them. There are also forms of Qigong which exercise the pelvic floor. Some types of yoga may also serve well here.
It’s important to remember that pelvic floor muscles are skeletal muscles – like your biceps. They can be overworked – so don’t overdo the Kegels!
My hope is that more men will take positive steps to increase their health—including their sexual health—before they need medication or surgery. By paying attention to the things that improve your libido and sexual function, you and your partner can gain more enjoyment from your sex life, even as you grow older.
Photo credit: Pixabay