by Dr. Will Cole
The issue of erectile dysfunction and/or low sex drive is so closely tied to self-worth and masculinity that it often goes untreated due to shame and isolation that keeps this silent epidemic going. The men I see in my functional medicine clinic usually come in for other health problems and do not even mention these as a concern. It’s not until I’ve gone through many health questions that they finally tell me their bedroom struggles.
It’s time to end the stigma once and for all.
Low testosterone is the root of ED and low libido. Symptoms of this hormonal issue can manifest in other areas as well such as irritability, enlarged breast tissue, and weight gain. If any of these symptoms sound familiar take a deeper look at your health and determine if any of these factors may be possible triggers:
1. Ongoing stress.
Stress is no bueno and can affect every area of your health. Hormones included. It doesn’t matter how clean you eat if you are feeding yourself a giant slice of stress every day it won’t do you any good. A study out of Russia found that stress can directly affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HBG) axis, impairing communication between your brain and testicles.
2. Poor sleep.
Quality, uninterrupted sleep is necessary for your body to restore hormones. Research found that men with poor sleep patterns or health problems like sleep apnea had lower testosterone levels.
3. Statin drugs.
Even though mainstream medicine likes to give cholesterol a bad name, it is actually essential for optimal health. In order to have a healthy sex drive, you need a healthy brain and hormones, and for those you need proper cholesterol levels. Because cholesterol is needed to make testosterone studies have shown that statin drugs (which lower cholesterol) also lowered testosterone.
We like to associate estrogen with women and testosterone with men, when in fact, women and men produce both of these hormones, just in different amounts. Guys make estrogen by converting testosterone in the liver by an enzyme called aromatase. What I often find is that over-aromatization happens and too much testosterone is converted leaving an imbalance of estrogen. Thankfully there are some great superfoods that inhibit aromatase:
- Black or Green Tea
- Red Ginger
5. Insufficient exercise.
Exercise, love it or hate it, is needed stay healthy and can increase testosterone levels by 250 percent. Time to hit the gym!
6. Nutrient deficiencies.
Zinc in particular has powerful testosterone boosting abilities. Studies have shown that when people were given 250 mg of zinc a day for six weeks their testosterone levels increased.
7. HPG-axis dysfunction.
Like I mentioned earlier, this miscommunication between your brain and testicles can lead to ED and low sex drive. Adaptogens are my all-time favorite when it comes to naturally bring balance to wrecked health problems. Not only will these herbs clear up this brain-testicular communication they can also help to lower stress and inflammation:
8. Low DHEA levels.
This hormone is a precursor to testosterone. In one study, when DHEA was given after HIIT training it increased testosterone by 200 percent more than just HIIT training.
9. Low magnesium.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and essential for hundreds of necessary pathways including testosterone optimization. Research has found that 10 mg of magnesium per kilogram of body weight can improve testosterone in just four weeks.
10. Not eating enough fat.
Fat is often put into a bad light by mainstream medicine who encourages us to rather reach for low-fat yogurt and skim milk. However, fat is exactly what your brain and hormones need to function. Studies have even shown that low-fat diets lower testosterone levels after just eight weeks.
11. Low vitamin D.
Vitamin D is needed by every single cell of your body to function properly. When supplementation is implemented it has been shown to increase by testosterone by 25 percent. Check out my article to learn how exactly to optimize your vitamin D.
12. Lack of antioxidants.
Tea is my love language. Specifically green tea. And studies show that the antioxidant EGCG, which is found in abundance in green tea, boosts testosterone.
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