While you’re not likely to hear them talking about it in the locker room, many men experience erectile dysfunction (ED). According to UW Health, “Mild and moderate erectile dysfunction affects approximately 10 percent of men per decade of life (i.e., 50 percent of men in their 50s, 60 percent of men in their 60s).” And if you think erectile dysfunction is only a problem for older men, think again. As reported by The Greatist, a 2014 study found a quarter of patients newly diagnosed with ED were under 40. Of these men, almost half were experiencing severe ED, meaning they were unable to get or maintain an erection during sex.

Why are so many men struggling with ED? Aside from certain medications that inhibit erections, causes are typically psychological—often due to stress or relationship problems—or physical. Hormone levels are a common concern when it comes to ED because many men have low testosterone. Vascular conditions like clogged arteries may also exacerbate ED since they decrease blood flow. If you think you may be experiencing ED, I suggest talking to a medical professional who can diagnose it and potentially prescribe medication. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help treat ED. Here are a few ideas.

Eat Well and Exercise

Concerned about ED but hoping to avoid popping a pill? Lifestyle changes like getting more exercise and adjusting your diet can help. In a study of obese men with ED who restricted calories for two years and were advised to be more active, participants not only lost weight but also experienced decreased severity of their ED. Research also shows aerobic exercise can significantly lower your risk of erectile dysfunction thanks to its ability to boost blood flow and circulation. Eating certain foods can also reduce incidence of ED. Take oatmeal, for example. This hearty whole grain is a good source of arginine, an amino acid associated with improved sperm count and motility (aka the sperm’s ability to move or swim). In one Turkish study, subjects with low sperm count who were given high doses of arginine had significantly improved sperm quality. Arginine has also been shown to improve blood flow to the penis, strengthening erections and allowing for more frequent intercourse.


Try Supplements

In addition to getting helpful nutrients from your diet, you can also consider supplementing. Many of these are also on my list of top five supplements to increase sex drive, so they’re helpful for overall sexual health. It’s a good idea to check in with a practitioner, particularly one with knowledge of these products, before taking anything.

  • Ginseng: This root shows promise for treating ED. In a study where men who had been clinically diagnosed with ED were given either 900 mg of Korean red ginseng a day or a placebo, those who took ginseng experienced significantly better penetration, rigidity, and erection maintenance compared to the placebo group.


  • DHEA: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced in your body’s adrenal gland that aids in the production of testosterone and other hormones. Since testosterone is critical for healthy male sexuality, supplementing with DHEA may help with issues like sluggish libido and impotence. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found subjects given 50 milligrams of DHEA every day for six months experienced improvement in symptoms of ED.


  • Zinc: This essential trace mineral affects testosterone levels, and zinc deficiency has been linked to hypogonadism (low testosterone). Research suggests supplementing with zinc can help modulate testosterone levels, and it has also been shown to help with sexual competency and ED.


Manage Stress

It’s hard to concentrate on what’s happening in the bedroom when you’re thinking about problems at work. For many men, it’s psychological issues (like anxiety) rather than physical ones that contribute to ED. As I write about here, chronic stress has also been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and more. Find a way of blowing off steam that works for you (I like exercise and meditation) and stick to it. You can see some tips for corporate stress management here.


Read Part II Here

Wondering what others areas of your health could use your attention? Consider taking my Optimal Men’s Health quiz. It’s designed to help you determine your next best step to getting healthier and closer to winning.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.