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Can Your Diet Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Healthier food choices are the way to a better sex life

elderly man drinking a cocktail

It’s a classic date night formula: You have a couple of cocktails and a nice meal, and then, you head home for some bedroom time with your sweetie. But could those drinks and that meal be make harder to get to the “dessert?”

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“Your diet can affect erectile function in a variety of ways. Keep reading to learn how all of that good food and drink could possibly lead to some not-so-good times in the bedroom from urologist James Ulchaker, MD.

Erectile dysfunction and alcohol

What you drink generally matters more than what you eat, says Dr. Ulchaker. “Alcohol is one of the top things we ingest that impacts erections.”

Too many drinks can lead to a disappointing performance between the sheets. And men who have a history of heavy drinking or alcohol dependence are more likely to experience long-term problems with sexual function. That can include erectile dysfunction (ED), low sexual desire and premature ejaculation.

Think you can just counteract a few too many drinks with a little blue pill? Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way. Prescription medications used to treat erectile dysfunction don’t work as well on a full stomach or when you’ve been drinking, Dr. Ulchaker says.

“In our society, we typically have a drink, go out to dinner, and then come home and have intercourse. I advise guys to do the opposite: Take erectile medication at 4:30 p.m., have some fun at 6 p.m., then have a drink and go out to dinner.”

Are there foods that can prevent erectile dysfunction?

There’s no miracle food that will magically prevent ED. But a healthy overall eating pattern can decrease your risk. Diets high in saturated fats are linked to heart disease — and men with heart disease are more likely to experience ED.

“High-fat diets can lead to blockages in the coronary arteries and decrease the size of the arteries supplying blood flow to the penis,” Dr. Ulchaker explains.

On the other hand, research has shown that men who follow a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop ED. The Mediterranean diet is full of fruits, veggies, nuts, beans and fish, and short on meat and full-fat dairy (if ever there was a reason to eat a salad, this might be it).

Some research also suggests that a diet rich in flavonoids can reduce the odds of penile problems. Flavonoids are antioxidant compounds found in foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds and tea. They’re linked to a whole range of health benefits — including benefits in the bedroom.

Obesity and erectile dysfunction

Poor diets can also contribute to excess weight and obesity. And carrying extra pounds can increase the odds of developing ED. But making better dietary choices can help turn things around. Research shows that when men with obesity lose weight, their erectile function tends to improve.

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So you can add “healthy sex life” as another reason to adopt nutritious eating habits. “A heart-healthy diet is also good for prostate and penis health,” Dr. Ulchaker says. And it might just bring some romance back to date night.

High blood pressure and ED

Dr. Ulchaker adds that high blood pressure and medication that is used to manage it can cause ED as well. This is a result of not having a proper flow of blood through the arteries. If your blood pressure isn’t well-managed or you’re noticing performance-related side effects from your medication, talk to your doctor.

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