- Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic muscles, may help improve blood flow to the penis and help men get and keep an erection.
- There is some evidence that consuming Korean red ginseng can help treat erectile dysfunction by helping the muscles in the penis relax.
- You can also make lifestyle changes, like exercising more and drinking less alcohol, in order to improve erectile dysfunction.
- This article was medically reviewed by S. Adam Ramin, MD, urologic surgeon and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles, California.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Erectile dysfunction occurs when you can’t get an erection or can’t keep a firm enough erection to have sex.
Having mild or moderate erectile dysfunction is common – it affects about half of men at age 50 and becomes increasingly more prevalent beyond 50.
Being unable to keep an erection can cause issues in your relationships or your self-confidence, but there are ways to treat or even cure the condition.
Though there are drugs like Viagra on the market, some people would prefer a more natural approach. Here are a few methods you can try at home to help treat erectile dysfunction.
1. Kegel exercises
“Kegel exercises help strengthen the muscles that keep the erection full and hard,” says William Brant, MD, a urologist at Granger Medical Clinic in Utah.
These muscles, called your pelvic floor muscles, sit beneath your prostate and rectum and their strength can affect your ability to keep an erection. This is because when you flex your pelvic floor muscles, they put pressure on the veins in your penis., This makes it harder for blood to flow out of your penis and keep your erection intact.
You can find your pelvic floor muscles by acting as if you are trying to stop peeing mid-flow or keep yourself from passing gas. The muscles that you feel moving are the ones you will use in kegel exercises.
Here is how to do a kegel workout:
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles – sitting or lying down may make this easier.
- Keep your muscles tightened for 5 seconds.
- Relax your muscles for 5 seconds.
- Repeat this exercise as many times as needed.
To get positive results, you should aim to do 3 sets of 10 repetitions per day.
Though more research is needed, there is some evidence that Korean red ginseng can help treat erectile dysfunction. Ginseng works by helping the muscles in the penis relax, Brant says, “it is this relaxation that allows blood to fill the penis and create an erection.”
A 2008 review of several studies found that taking 600 milligrams of red ginseng helped men get and keep erections. However, many of these studies were on small groups and larger studies are still needed to see if these results apply to a general population.
You can find red ginseng sold as capsules or as a tea, but Brant cautions that these supplements are not always reliable. Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, the dosages on the labels may not be accurate or they may contain other unlisted ingredients.
It is important to talk to your doctor before trying over-the-counter remedies for erectile dysfunction to make sure that you are not putting your health at risk.
3. Lifestyle changes
Getting an erection involves many of the systems in your body including your nerves, your blood circulation, and your muscles. For this reason, conditions linked to an unhealthy lifestyle, like heart disease and obesity, can put you at greater risk for erectile dysfunction.
“Don’t think of the penis in isolation,” Brant says, “penis issues may represent general health issues.” To improve erectile functioning, it’s important to make lifestyle changes that will improve the health of your blood vessels, the channels that carry blood to all parts of your body, including your penis.
Brant recommends three lifestyle shifts that can help treat erectile dysfunction:
- Exercise more. When you exercise, your body produces more nitric oxide, a compound that causes the muscles in your blood vessels to relax, allowing blood to flow more freely. This allows your penis to more easily become erect and stay erect. A2018 review found that physical activity can significantly improve erectile dysfunction, and experts recommend doing 40 minutes of exercise four times per week for best results.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, you are almost twice as likely as nonsmokers to experience erectile dysfunction. This is because the chemicals in cigarettes damage the lining of your blood vessels, known as the endothelium. The endothelium is what produces nitric oxide and without enough of it, it is much more difficult for blood to flow into your penis.
- Cut down on drinking. Drinking a low to moderate amount – fewer than 14 drinks per week for men – is not likely to increase your risk for erectile dysfunction. However, if you drink more than this, especially over a long period of time, you may have a harder time keeping an erection. This is because alcohol dilates your blood vessels, allowing blood to flow into your penis, but also allowing it to flow out, leaving your penis flaccid.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue for men, particularly as you grow older, but there are several ways to treat it at home. If none of these methods work for you, reach out to your doctor to discuss other options like prescription medication.
Related articles from our Health Reference library:
- Does masturbation help your immune system? An orgasm may have benefits
- Sex burns about 3 to 4 calories per minute – here’s how to burn a little more
- 5 major health benefits of sex
- How to last longer during sex
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