Nature’s Answers for Impotency
The thriving market for pharmaceuticals that enhance men’s sexual performance tells us one thing for sure: men are concerned about their sexual potency. Sales of Viagra totaled $1.68 billion last year, and new drugs Cialis and Levitra just hit the market. Is the problem getting bigger, or are men just more willing to acknowledge it? Or are drug companies selling us an idea of perfection that nature never intended?
As more men discuss their experiences with impotence, or erectile dysfunction (ED), physicians are sorting through the help available, but good physicians will also let men know that a certain amount of change is normal with age.
Impotence, or ED, is the inability to sustain a satisfactory erection to perform intercourse and ejaculation. Transient ED affects 20 to 46 percent of men in the United States who are age 40 to 69, according to a 2002 article in the American Journal of Epidemiology. But the probability of complete ED is two percent for those in their 40s, 25 percent for those in their 60s, and 89 percent for those in their 80s, according to firstconsult.com.
This happens in part because men’s testosterone levels drop with age, as does their circulatory efficiency. “In our 50s and 60s, testosterone levels are one fourth or one third less than what they were in our 20s,” says John Hibbs, a naturopathic physician at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. So it stands to reason that sex in the later years isn’t going to be “business as usual.” But changes in erectile function don’t have to signal the end of sex. Men can feel reassured that what they are experiencing is normal, and they can adapt their sex lives to their body’s changes.
When men start having erectile difficulties, they often become anxious, which can compound the problem, says Hibbs. Impotence can also result from a variety of disorders including diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic prostratitis, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure medication, and other factors.
Dr. Hibbs references recent studies that show vigorous exercise, especially with a weight-resistance component, stimulates testosterone production. Other studies show that losing extra body fat helps improve testosterone levels and erectile function. Decreasing marijuana and alcohol usage can also help.
Many natural substances also can boost testosterone production and circulation. These include the minerals zinc and boron, the herbs ginko biloba, Panax ginseng, damiana, and L-Carnatine, which has been shown to work better than testosterone at increasing sexual potency. (It is always best to check with a naturopathic physician for appropriate herbs and dosages.)
Additionally, Hibbs points out that the estrogenic chemicals present in the food we eat and in our air and water are culprits. He recommends minimizing exposure by consuming organic foods, drinking clean water, and undertaking periodic detoxification regimens. Taken together, these interventions will usually bring significant improvement to a man’s satisfaction and function, says Hibbs.
Although ED is more common in the U.S. than in other countries, an Eastern approach can be helpful. From a Chinese medicine perspective, impotence is often the result of either a kidney deficiency or a liver qi stagnation. A customized Chinese herbal formula and acupuncture treatments can address the underlying bodily imbalance, which over time can improve sexual performance as well as overall health and vitality. According to Sean Seery, an acupuncturist who works in the Chinese Herbal Medicine Dispensary at BCNH, “You may have to work for six months with regular acupuncture and Chinese herbs, along with lifestyle changes, but you could see some dramatic results.”
Writer: Sydney Maupin, staff writer
Sources: John Hibbs, ND; Sean Seery, L.Ac.; American Journal of Epidemiology; www.FirstConsult.com; www.MDConsult.com; www.cnn.com