Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when someone who has a penis can’t have or maintain an erection. The condition affects around a third of men, according to research from 2018. ED is more common in people who:
- are older
- have health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure
- have had an injury to the spinal cord, penis, or pelvis
- take medication like antidepressants or blood pressure medications
- have anxiety or stress
- are overweight
The treatment for ED depends on the cause. It may include certain prescription medications, a vacuum device, or even surgery. But lifestyle changes and other natural treatments can also help improve ED.
What are some natural remedies for treating erectile dysfunction?
There are many natural treatments for ED. They can include lifestyle changes like modifying your diet and getting exercise, as well as seeking mental health or relationship counseling.
It’s best to talk with a doctor before trying a new treatment. They can help identify the cause of your ED and recommend effective ED treatment options, whether conventional, natural, or a combination.
Eating a balanced diet may help maintain sexual function and decrease your risk of ED.
A 2020 study found that men who more strictly followed a Mediterranean diet or Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010 diet had a reduced risk of developing ED. In particular, they consumed less red or processed meat and primarily ate:
Research from 2017 similarly found that eating more fruits, vegetables, and flavonoids (compounds found in produce, coffee, and other foods) lowered the risk of ED in men ages 18 to 40.
These foods are important for your overall health, so helping maintain or improve your sexual function as well is a win-win.
Research indicates that physical activity may help protect against and improve ED. It may be particularly effective if obesity, inactivity, or cardiovascular disease, among other conditions, contribute to your ED.
Research from 2018 found that moderate-to-intense aerobic exercise for 40 minutes a day, four times per week for 6 months helped reduce ED. This includes exercises like:
- brisk walking
Physical activity helps improve blood vessel health, lower stress, and raise testosterone levels, which can all help with ED.
It’s important for your overall health to get enough sleep each night. Sleeping regularly may also improve your ED.
A 2017 study found that men working night shifts who reported worse sleep quality were at higher risk of ED.
Research from 2019 also indicated that people with a sleep disorder had a greater risk of developing ED. Another research has linked obstructive sleep apnea to an increased risk of ED.
Not getting enough sleep can lower your testosterone levels, which may contribute to ED. Sustained lack of sleep is also associated with conditions that are related to ED, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Weight may be another factor in ED.
According to research from 2020, ED was significantly more common in men with obesity, who were overweight, or who had a larger waist circumference.
A small 2014 study indicated that gastric bypass surgery improved blood vessel health and ED among men with obesity. In addition, research from 2017 similarly found an improvement in ED after bariatric (weight loss) surgery.
If weight is contributing to your ED, exercise and a balanced diet can help you lose weight and improve your ED.
In some cases, ED results from a combination of physical and psychological issues. These may include fear of failure, religious beliefs, and sexual trauma, among others.
In turn, ED can lead to additional mental health issues, including emotional distress and lower self-esteem, which then can further worsen ED. Therapy may help address these issues to improve ED.
According to research from 2021, psychological interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were especially effective when paired with ED medications. Mental health interventions may also be effective on their own, but more research is needed.
A small 2018 study involving 4 weeks of mindfulness-focused group therapy indicated that this type of therapy may help improve ED and sexual satisfaction, too.
More research should be done to determine the most effective types of psychotherapy for ED.
Sex therapy or couples counseling
Around 10 to 25 percent of men with ED have no known risk factors. This condition, known as nonorganic ED, may be caused by a mental health condition like depression or by experiencing anxiety when having sex.
A small 2020 study found that cognitive behavior sex therapy (CBST) and medication were each effective on their own at reducing nonorganic ED. In addition, CBST was more effective at lowering anxiety among study participants.
It may also be helpful to attend counseling with your partner to help them understand your condition and discuss ways to support you.
The American Urological Association created a guideline for treating ED based on a review of studies. The association recommends talking with a mental health professional, especially with your partner, and says that therapy can improve communication between couples and help them integrate ED treatments into their sexual relationship.
Stress and anxiety are often linked to ED.
A 2019 study found that stress was one of the main predictors of ED, in addition to anxiety and depression. The study suggests that chronic stress may affect testosterone or cause sleep deprivation, which may contribute to ED.
Still, other research indicates that the effect of stress on ED is still unclear. A 2020 study found no association between stress and ED.
Another small study from 2014 found that an 8-week stress management program alongside ED medication was similarly effective for improving ED, compared with the medication alone.
Until more is understood about stress and ED, it’s still beneficial to reduce stress in your daily life to improve your overall health.
Studies have shown mixed results for the effects of alcohol on ED.
Research from 2018 found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol (fewer than 21 drinks per week, as defined by the study) was actually associated with a lowered risk of ED. On the other hand, regular and high consumption didn’t significantly affect ED.
Still, other research has linked alcohol use with ED. A 2018 study found that sexual dysfunction, particularly ED, was common in people with alcohol dependence syndrome. In addition, research from 2020 also identified alcohol as a risk factor for ED.
More research is needed on the role of alcohol in ED. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that men consume two or fewer alcoholic drinks per day.
Smoking is another behavior that likely contributes to ED. This may be caused, in part, because smoking can damage blood vessels and prevent enough blood from reaching the penis for an erection.
Smoking may also reduce the availability of nitric oxide in the body, which is needed to cause involuntary muscle relaxation and increased blood flow that plays a role in erections.
According to research from 2015, more frequent smoking was associated with an increased risk of developing ED, as well as more severe ED.
Some damage from smoking may not be reversible. Still, the review concluded that quitting smoking, especially for men under age 50, may help improve ED.
It’s challenging to quit smoking, but there are many resources available to help. Stopping smoking has the potential not only to help ED but to benefit many other areas of your overall health.
Are there drawbacks to using natural remedies?
Lifestyle changes may be an effective natural remedy for ED and may improve your overall health. But many changes — like losing weight, quitting smoking, or eating a balanced diet — may be difficult to achieve.
It may also take time for natural treatments to have an effect. Some people, depending on the cause of their ED, may not show improvements without medications or other treatments. It’s helpful to work with a doctor to find a treatment that works for you.
Risks of ED supplements
There are many supplements advertised online as a treatment for ED, but none have been proven to be effective and safe. Some may also contain dangerous combinations of ingredients or overly high doses.
More research on people needs to be done on herbal remedies and other supplements for ED. If you decide to try one, be sure to talk with a doctor first. They can help you determine whether the treatment may be safe and if it’ll react with any medications you’re taking.
What if natural ED treatments don’t work?
Depending on the cause of your ED, natural remedies may not be effective. If this is the case, a doctor may prescribe medications for ED, like:
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- avanafil (Stendra)
- vardenafil (Levitra)
Side effects of these medications may include headaches, indigestion, and dizziness. Don’t use these medications if you’re also taking nitrates, or chest pain medications.
When to talk with a doctor about ED
It’s not uncommon to lose an erection from time to time. It can often be caused by stress.
However, if you often find it difficult to get or maintain an erection, it could be time to seek help for ED.
If ED is causing you distress or putting a strain on your relationship, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor.
ED can be a sign of an underlying condition. Even if ED isn’t causing you any distress, it might be wise to make an appointment with a doctor to discuss the issue, as it can be a sign that you have an underlying health concern.
If you suspect your ED is caused by stress, trauma, or relationship issues, consider speaking with a therapist.