If erectile dysfunction has you down, and you don’t want to rely on drugs, these five natural solutions, as found in the Harvard Special Health Report Erectile Dysfunction: How medication, lifestyle changes, and other therapies can help you conquer this vexing problem, may reverse your ED and improve your sex life. They are easy to adopt and enrich your health in other ways, too.
1. Begin walking. Just 30 minutes of walking a day was linked with a 41% drop in risk for ED, according to one Harvard study, while a separate trial reported that moderate exercise can help restore sexual performance in obese, middle-aged men with ED.
2. Eat right. Go bullish on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish—a diet that lessened the likelihood of ED in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study—while downplaying red and processed meat and refined grains.
Another tip: chronic deficiencies in vitamin B12—found in clams, salmon, trout, beef, fortified cereals, and yogurt—may harm the spinal cord, potentially short-circuiting nerves responsible for sensation as well as for relaying messages to arteries in the penis.
Multivitamins and fortified foods are the best bets for those who absorb B12 poorly, including many older adults and anyone with atrophic gastritis, a condition that may affect nearly one in three people ages 50 and older.
Also, make sure you get enough vitamin D, which is found in fortified milk or yogurt, eggs, cheese, and canned tuna. A 2016 study in the journal Atherosclerosis found that men with vitamin D deficiency have a 30% greater risk for ED.
3. Slim down. Obesity raises risks for vascular disease and diabetes, two major causes of ED. And excess fat tinkers with several hormones that may feed into the problem, too. The smaller your waist, the better—a man with a 42-inch waist is 50% more likely to have ED than one with a 32-inch waist.
4. Check your vascular health. Signs that put you on the road to poor vascular health include soaring blood pressure, blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglycerides; and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Check with your doctor to find out whether your vascular system—and thus your heart, brain, and penis—is in good shape or needs a tune-up through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medications.
5. See your dentist. A 2013 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found an association between gum disease and risk for ED. Gum disease causes chronic inflammation, which is believed to damage the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, including those in your penis.