Beyond the Little Blue Pill

Natural Solutions For Men’s Sexual Health

With the advent of the “little blue pill” men’s sexual health has been thrust into the public eye and now, rather than worrying in embarrassed silence about “performance” issues, men are able to openly seek the help they need to function at their best. This is good news for the 30 million American men who suffer from erectile dysfunction or ED.1 And because 70 percent of ED cases are physiological in nature (it’s not just in your head) and often a sign of some other serious health issue, it is wise to address and correct the underlying physical imbalances that are hindering performance in the first place, ensuring both shortterm happiness and long-term health.

By far the most common cause of ED is vascular dysfunction. When the arteries that supply the penis with blood to achieve and maintain an erection are blocked or hardened, or the lining of these arteries are damaged, blood flow is reduced. Vascular dysfunction not only affects the small arteries of the penis, but the larger coronary arteries of the heart too. Astute doctors now recognize that ED may actually be an early warning sign of impending cardiovascular disease, showing up several years before a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.2 To maintain healthy vascular function, and in turn, normal erectile function, consider these supplements:

  • L-arginine is an amino acid that is necessary for the lining of the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow throughout the body, including to the penis. Studies on L-arginine and erectile dysfunction have used between 2,000-5,000 mg a day in divided doses.ii Supplemental arginine is best taken on an empty stomach.3
  • L-citrulline is an amino acid that the body can convert to arginine and then to nitric oxide to improve blood flow. It may be more readily usable by the body than arginine and in one small study, men with ED saw improvements after taking 1,500 mg a day for one month.4
  • Pycnogenol® is a potent antioxidant that stimulates the enzyme needed to convert arginine to nitric oxide.5 It also helps to protect the arteries from oxidative damage that can lead to ED. In Stop Prediabetes Now, Jack Challem recommends 100 mg two times daily to support healthy erectile function.6
  • Vitamin C and bioflavonoids both help to protect the arteries from damage and vitamin C enhances the bioactivity of arginine. Look for vitamin C with a measurable amount of bioflavonoids listed on the label. Try 500 to 1,000 mg a day.7

Another potential cause of ED is prediabetes and diabetes—35-50 percent of men with diabetes also have ED. Chronically elevated blood sugar damages the arteries (there’s the vascular connection again) and nerves, including those that stimulate the penis. Prediabetes and diabetes are also generally accompanied by excess weight, especially around the mid-section. These excess fat cells convert testosterone into estrogen, negatively altering the testosterone to estrogen ratio. This excess estrogen, independent of prediabetes and diabetes, interferes with the hormonal cascade necessary to produce and maintain an erection. Although many men may reach for a testosterone booster, a more effective means is to improve the body’s metabolism and elimination of estrogen and to lose excess weight around the middle. To support healthy blood sugar balance and estrogen metabolism try:

  • Pycnogenol® supports healthy blood sugar levels by inhibiting the activity of the enzyme that breaks down sugar and carbohydrates during digestion.8 It also protects nerves from oxidative damage caused by high blood sugar.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that supports healthy blood sugar levels and insulin function. It is also well-recognized for its ability to improve neuropathy (nerve damage) associated with diabetes. The suggested dose of alpha-lipoic acid is 100 mg three times daily, before meals.9
  • Lignans and flavonoids such as those found in flax seeds, sesame seeds, veggies, fruits, and green tea may help to block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen thus improving overall testosterone availability.10 11 Aim to get a variety of these foods regularly in the diet.
  • Diindolylmethane (DIM), or its precursor Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), helps to metabolize estrogen in the male body, ridding the body of excess estrogen and restoring healthy testosterone levels. The typical dose for men is 200 to 400 mg per day, taken with food.12

Another common cause of ED for many men is stress. When the body is under stress—either mental or physical—the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, releasing a cascade of stress hormones. Chronic stress leads to elevated levels of these hormones, which can lead to weight gain around the middle, and remember, those excess fat cells convert testosterone to estrogen. Stress also reduces sexual drive and leaves very little physical energy for sex. If chronic stress is a problem, try these supplements:

  • B-vitamin complex helps to support normal energy production and is also essential for supporting the normal functioning of the body during times of stress. Stress quickly depletes the body’s reserves of the B vitamins. Look for a B-complex containing 20-50 mg of vitamins B1, B2, and B3. The other B vitamins should be included in their relative proportions.
  • Adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, holy basil, and rhodiola help bring balance to the body during times of stress. As an added bonus, ginseng, especially Panax ginseng, is traditionally used to improve sexual desire and function. Follow manufacturer’s directions for individual adaptogens.

While ED may seem like a monumental problem on its own, it is usually a sign of a bigger health issue. It is important to isolate and address underlying issues and support overall health by cleaning up your diet, maintaining healthy blood sugar balance, quitting smoking, regularly moving your body, and managing stress appropriately. Along with these healthy lifestyle changes, a carefully chosen natural supplement routine can offer additional support so you can regain your vitality and get on with enjoying your life.

References available upon request.