Experimental treatments for erectile dysfunction (ED) date back centuries from the truly exotic— like dining on shark fins— to various forms of yoga and rare herbal supplements. Today, most men reach for the little blue pill or one of its imitators to improve sexual function. However, pills like these work to remedy the immediate situation and are not designed to eliminate the root cause of the issue. While many men welcome the opportunity to restore sexual function in any way possible, it is important to note that ED isn’t only the loss of bedroom performance, but it is often a sign of an underlying health condition.

ED can be related to mental or emotional distress which may require other types of treatment such as counseling, but in most cases it is a matter of poor blood flow that could be related to diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or metabolic syndrome.

Testing and treatment for these conditions is an important step in developing treatment options for ED, but research has uncovered some natural options that men can use to treat or even prevent the condition— something younger men should also consider.

Here are 4 simple options that may help prevent or treat ED:

1. Eat flavonoid-rich foods
A study published in the January 2016 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests a diet rich in flavonoid-rich foods can reduce the risk of ED. The study reviewed data from more 25,000 men who were middle-aged and older, and who participated in routine health survey since 1986. Researchers compared responses about having and maintaining an erection sufficient for intercourse with the number of flavonoid-rich foods each man reported consuming. Men who ate more fruit had a 14 percent reduced risk of ED. Men who consumed a high volume of flavonoid-rich fruits and exercised regularly experienced a 21 percent reduction of risk. Foods such as blueberries, cherries, blackberries, radishes, citrus fruits, and red wine offered the flavonoid profile with the greatest benefits.

2. Take an L-arginine supplement
 
L-arginine is an amino acid that naturally occurs in the body and helps synthesize proteins. It is also the precursor to the compound nitric oxide (NO). NO is vital for achieving and maintaining an erection, as it helps the blood vessels relax to support blood flow throughout the body, including into the penis. Supplementing arginine in conjunction with a balanced lifestyle can offer men added support for a healthy erection.

3. Maintain a healthy weight
 
Added pounds can have a significant impact on blood flow, as well as put men at risk for diseases that may exacerbate ED. A study published in the January 2005 issue of the journal Canadian Family Physician found 30 percent of men who participated in a weight loss program and lost an average of 15 percent of their total body weight saw sexual function restored compared to only 5 percent of the control group.

4. Consider hormone therapy
Hormone imbalance, particularly low testosterone, can also play a role in ED. Men can naturally increase testosterone levels by routinely engaging in weight training exercises. For aging men whose testosterone levels have dipped, hormone therapy is a safe and effective treatment option.

Men who have ED should not ignore the ailment. After all, more than 40 percent of men over the age of 40 struggle with ED. Men struggling with ED should talk to their doctor about potential causes and treatment options, as well as make lifestyle changes to reduce incidence. Young men should take preventive steps, including the development of healthy lifestyle habits, like eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight, which can reduce their risk of ED.

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Dr. Jennifer Landa is Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD, the nation's largest franchise of physicians specializing in bioidentical hormone therapy. Dr. Jen spent 10 years as a traditional OB-GYN, and then became board-certified in regenerative medicine, with an emphasis on bio-identical hormones, preventative medicine and nutrition. She is the author of "The Sex Drive Solution for Women."  Learn more about her programs at www.jenlandamd.com