Low testosterone and erectile dysfunction are two of the most significant issues in men’s sexual health that are at least partially preventable and manageable through good nutrition. Today’s article will focus on how changing the way you eat can help you prevent and address these important concerns.
Although low testosterone and erectile dysfunction are issues that are more likely to occur in men aged 40 and above, it is the habits you adopt at a younger age that will most heavily impact your likelihood of experiencing them.
Testosterone is a very important hormone for men’s sexual health as it has a pivotal role in sperm production, sex drive, energy and endurance. Low testosterone, also known as hypogonadism, is a relatively common issue and , as a result, TRT ( testosterone replacement therapy) has become an increasingly popular pharmaceutical treatment. This treatment is not without its risks and side effects, however.
Erectile dysfunction is another very significant concern for most men. Although low testosterone levels can contribute to ED and a reduced sex drive, you can experience ED independent of low testosterone levels. Because of its relevance to the quality of life in most men, there is a strong body of research that reviews natural ways to reduce erectile dysfunction.
There are many articles on the web that identify “miracle” foods or supplements that will fix these issues. The reality is that the vast majority of this content is either false or based on very weak evidence. In order to come up with today’s article, I reviewed the best available evidence in order to offer you realistic dietary approaches to these issues, no miracles or magic bullets.
Improving Testosterone Through Diet
Striving for normal testosterone levels has implications beyond just your sexual health (even if that may be your most pressing concern). Having low testosterone levels is associated with a variety of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The good news is that men can maintain or improve their testosterone levels by improving the way they eat.
1.Weight Loss/Caloric Restriction: If you are obese ( BMI >30), this is very likely contributing to a reduction in testosterone levels and sex drive. Weight loss is probably the most important consideration in low testosterone treatment and has been well proven to increase testosterone levels in obese males. If you needed a reason to start your weight loss journey, perhaps this is it. Some suggestions on to helping you on this path are found throughout the rest of today’s article. If you have struggled with weight loss in the past, I would recommend seeking the help of a reputable professional.
2. Get your blood cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides under control: Better yet, do not ever let them get out of control in the first place. Testosterone in men with poorly controlled blood cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides tends to be several times lower. Improving your status in these important indicators is supremely important for both your overall and sexual health. To get started on this path , try the to do the following:
A. Eat more: Fruits and vegetables, whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, steel cut oatmeal), legumes ( beans, peas, lentils), fatty fish, nuts & seeds.
B. Eat less: Processed meats (hot dogs, sausages, salami, ham etc), read meat, sugar sweetened beverages ( ie: pop/soda), high fat dairy, fast and processed foods.
3. You do not need to avoid soy: You may have heard that soy products reduce testosterone, but there is good quality scientific evidence to suggest that soy intake will not affect a man’s testosterone levels. The occasional consumption of soy-based foods such as soy milk, tofu and soy beans is an important part of a balanced diet and offers important health benefits, including reducing your cholesterol intake and potentially indirectly reducing your intake of saturated fat by replacing animal products.
4. Consume more magnesium rich foods: There is some evidence to suggest that magnesium intake may play a role in modulating testosterone levels in men. The interesting thing about this point is that a significant proportion of Canadian males do not consume enough magnesium in their diet, and this problem increases with age. Magnesium is found primarily in a variety of healthful foods that many of us do not eat enough of. These include fatty fish, nuts & seeds, legumes and leafy greens such as kale, chard and spinach. Do not take this as a sign to go run to your store and load up on magnesium supplements! Get it from food.
Improving Erectile Dysfunction Through Diet
Erectile dysfunction is something that no man wants to deal with, but it does happen. Besides the obvious effect that it can have on a man’s sexual health, it is also considered an important early risk factor for heart disease. In other words, if you are treating your body in such a way that erectile dysfunction is occurring (if it is caused by lifestyle factors), you are probably also putting yourself at increased risk of heart disease. Here is what you can do from a dietary/lifestyle perspective to prevent and/or help manage erectile dysfunction:
1. Try a Mediterranean dietary pattern: A Mediterranean (European) dietary pattern is a healthy balanced eating pattern shown to help prevent and manage erectile dysfunction. Learn more about the Mediterranean diet here.
2. Lose a modest amount of weight: For those of you on the fence of attempting to lose weight, knowing that it is associated with erectile dysfunction may help. The good news? A relatively modest weight loss of 5-10% of your current weight should help improve your risk factors for poor general & sexual health.
3. Avoid excessive alcohol intake: Excessive alcohol intake (greater than 1-2 standard drinks a day) may increase your risk of erectile dysfunction. Cutting down the amount you drink will also help cut your calories and contribute to weight loss.
4. Reduce your salt/sodium intake: Consuming too much sodium is a big issue for most people in North America. Excess sodium intake is responsible for high blood pressure in about 1/3 of people with the condition. Why does this matter? High blood pressure is as risk factor for erectile dysfunction.
Sexual health is obviously an extremely important consideration for men, which is why I took the content of today’s article very seriously. No gimmicks, just solid evidence-based dietary advice that may contribute to better sexual health in the long-term.
Andy De Santis RD MPH