Sperling Prostate Center

Wishing Won’t Make ED Go Away – But A Healthy Lifestyle Can Help

A newly published article on erectile dysfunction begins, “Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the most common sexual dysfunction disease in adult males. ED can be caused by many factors, such as vascular disease, neuropathy, metabolic disturbances, psychosocial causes, and side effects of medications.”[i] Note that many of these conditions are linked with unhealthy lifestyle habits. Thus, improving overall wellness might also support better erectile function. Understanding male anatomy explains how.

How healthy natural erections happen

It’s easy to focus on the penis as the source of an erection, but in fact an erection begins in the brain. Here’s a review of Erection 101. Both physical stimulation and erotic thoughts trigger brain activity that starts a chain reaction. Signals from the brain travel to the penis via nerves, transmitting messages to special penile muscular tissue called the corpus cavernosum smooth muscle (CCSM). This muscle has a spongy structure. When it receives the nerve signals, the muscle cells relax and allow blood to flow into the spaces. When the corpus cavernosa is filled with blood, the penis holds the erection until orgasm— or until It naturally becomes limp (flaccid) if the brain messages are switched off.

So, let’s look at a couple of unhealthy habits and how they can negatively impact erectile function.

  1. Diet – The Western diet that includes fast foods, convenience meals, processed meats, refined grains, refined sugar, saturated fats, and trans fats. This adds up to bad news for your cardiovascular system, leading to a condition called atherosclerosis. The American Heart Association describes this as “a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through.” Thus, if atherosclerosis is putting the brakes on blood flow elsewhere in your body, you can imagine that it’s not doing your erections any favors! On the other hand, a diet like the Mediterranean diet combats cardiovascular disease, and may even help reverse it (it also offers protection against prostate cancer).
  2. Exercise – Regular vigorous exercise gets your heart pumping, boosting blood flow throughout the body. It has broad benefits since it burns calories (helping control weight gain, which is a contributing factor to chronic inflammation and metabolic syndrome. Did you know that metabolic syndrome is a risk factor for diabetes, and men with diabetes are three times more likely to develop ED? The moral of the story is, get to a gym if you want to enjoy good sex.

There are other lifestyle components that can influence erectile function. Are you a smoker? Do you indulge in a bit too much alcohol? How’s your sleep? Are you frequently stressed out? Any one of these—let alone a combination—can make a serious dent in how well your penis performs.

Is there an ED cure-all?

Although there is not a one-size-fits-all treatment for ED, conventional medicine offers a variety of interventions: pills, pumps, injections, hormones, and implants. It’s important to emphasize that any clinical treatment stands a better chance of success if you’ve also cleaned up your lifestyle—which may have already restored better erections.

In addition, there are new therapies which are still in their infancy and are being clinically researched. “Emerging targeted technologies, such as stem cell therapy, protein therapy, and low-intensity extracorporeal shock wave therapy (Li-ESWT), are being used to achieve more natural and long-lasting effects in treating ED.”[ii]

Beware of so-called “guaranteed” all-natural over-the-counter ED cures! The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Tobias Kohler has a 15-minute video to help identify scammy ads and products that are useless (or worse, contain harmful ingredients. He also describes the more prominent of the emerging technologies.

One final note: whole gland (radical) prostate cancer treatments entail side effect risks, including erectile dysfunction due to damage to the nerves that control erections. To address ED that results from surgery, radiation, or whole gland ablation, most urologists now offer programs called penile rehabilitation that may restore sexual function using the conventional treatments listed above. Al alternative to radical treatment is focal therapy. The Sperling Prostate Center provides state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging and in-bore targeted biopsies to qualify patients for focal treatment. Our focal therapies offer minimal-to-no risk of post-treatment ED. Because we offer three approved treatments (Focal Laser Ablation, TULSA, and Exablate MR-guided Focused Ultrasound) we can help each patient determine which method is best in his case.

Thanks to today’s tried-and-true ED remedies, there’s no such thing as a hopeless case. Better yet, why not prevent ED altogether by embracing lifestyle choices that help you live longer while enjoying optimum sex?

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Chung DY, Ryu JK, Yin GN. Regenerative therapies as a potential treatment of erectile dysfunction. Investig Clin Urol. 2023 Jul;64(4):312-324.
[ii] Chung DY, Ryu JK, Yin GN. Regenerative therapies as a potential treatment of erectile dysfunction. Investig Clin Urol. 2023 Jul;64(4):312-324.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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