Erectile dysfunction affects at least 1 in 10 men, which means there are over 2 million men affected in the UK.
It’s defined as the inability to achieve or sustain an erection that’s hard enough or lasts long enough to complete sexual intercourse or another chosen sexual activity.
Most men will experience an occasional failure to get an erection. This can usually be put down to stress, tiredness, anxiety or too much alcohol. In these circumstances it’s nothing to worry about. However, if the problem persists, it’s important to try and find the underlying cause.
In the past it was thought that more frequent impotence was caused by almost entirely psychological factors, but we now know that physical conditions are present in 8 out of 10 cases. However, for the majority of men, the root cause of erectile dysfunction is a combination of both psychological and physical factors.
Stress: stress is one of the leading psychological causes of impotence. While a little stress can help to drive achievement and success in some, too much stress is not good for you.
When the body is in a stressed state it focuses its resources on the essential processes needed for fight or flight: a prehistoric survival mechanism designed to help us get out of danger. Stress focuses the body’s resources on pumping blood to the muscles and getting more air into the lungs so we can fight or run. Functions such as digestion and sexual arousal are put on hold during this time. Consequently, long term chronic stress can impact sexual function.
If you have a stressful lifestyle, an Adrenal Stress Test is a useful way of assessing stress levels and identifying ways to support the body. Smart Nutrition can also work with you to address any stress hormone imbalances and to work towards restoring normal function.
Cardiovascular disease: hardening of the arteries can lead to high blood pressure, angina or poor circulation. It can also result in reduced blood flow to the penis, predisposing sufferers to impotence. Gradual onset of erectile dysfunction is often the only early warning sign for cardiovascular disease.
Risk factors that increase your chance of narrowed arteries include: ageing, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes.
If you suffer with impotence or are concerned that your lifestyle may predispose you to cardiovascular disease, a Smart Nutrition Consultation and a Cardio Check Profile can give you vital insights and a path forward.
Smoking: impotence is much more common in smokers than non-smokers. This is because the nicotine found in cigarettes has a narrowing effect on blood vessels, leading to compromised blood flow in and out of the penis and making it more difficult to achieve and maintain an erection.
Giving up smoking can be a difficult task, but Smart Nutrition’s nutritional therapy can provide a valuable support through this process with diet and supplements recommendations to support you body and reduce cravings. Please use the button at the bottom of the page to find out more.
Diabetes: impotence is common in persons with diabetes: it’s estimated that half of all diabetic men are impotent and the other half will become impotent in time.
The process involves premature and unusually severe hardening of the arteries and degenerative changes in the nerves controlling erections.
However, impotence does not have to be inevitable! Proper control of blood sugar levels and modification of certain lifestyle factors can help to prevent development of this distressing condition. Information is key – and an Insulin Resistance Test can give you just that by measuring your body’s ability maintain healthy insulin levels.
Heavy metal toxicity: exposure to the heavy metal toxins rife in the modern environment and present in everything from pollution, pesticides and mercury fillings, to tap water can impair the nerves that control potency.
If you think heavy metals are playing a role in your symptoms, a Hair Mineral Analysis or a Urinary Analysis checks your levels efficiently.
Excessive alcohol intake: longterm alcohol use affects the nervous system and impairs the communication between the brain’s pituitary gland and the genitals, the system responsible for triggering the signals that dilate and relax the blood vessels in the penis, resulting in an erection.
Clinical studies show that prolonged alcohol abuse causes irreversible damage to the nerves in the penis, which results in alcohol impotence. Excessive drinking also results in behavioural changes that reduce sexual desire and inhibit sexual performance.
Alcoholism also disrupts hormone levels, in particular, testosterone and oestrogen. Low levels of testosterone diminish sexual drive and function.
Addressing excessive alcohol intake is never easy, but nutritional therapy can be a valuable part of the recovery process. Using food and supplements to rebalance brain chemistry can bring the body back into a nourished and healthy state.
Hormone imbalance: a small number of cases of erectile dysfunction are caused by hormone abnormalities. The most frequent imbalance is a reduced level of the male sex hormone testosterone. This can be detected through a simple, non-invasive Comprehensive Hormone Test – or you can check just your testosterone levels with a Testosterone Test.
Kidney problems: diseases affecting the kidney have been discovered to accelerate chemical changes in the body that may impact the production of testosterone, energy level and blood circulation in the body – all implicated in erectile dysfunction.
Compromised kidney function can also lead to a toxicity known as uraemia. Uraemia can lead to decreased production of testosterone and an increase in the production of prolactin in the body. Excessive production of prolactin accelerates the occurrence of impotence in men. Some drugs recommended to treat kidney diseases also occasionally result in male erectile dysfunction.
Neurological disease: conditions which affect the functioning of nerves, such as strokes and multiple sclerosis, can also cause impotence.
Medications: many prescription drugs such as blood pressure medications, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs, glaucoma eye drops, and ulcer medications are associated with impotence.
If you think your medication is causing impotence, you should contact your doctor.
Structural problems: injury to the nerves going to the penis caused by spinal injury, surgery, fractured pelvis or radiotherapy can also cause impotence. In rare cases certain conditions of the penis can also cause a phenomenon called “venous leak” which results in excessive outflow of blood from the penis through the veins.