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Safer Alternatives to Viagra

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February 2, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Comedian George Burns once joked, “Sex at age 90 is like trying to shoot pool with a rope.” And if you’re one of the 30 million American men who suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED), I’m sure you can relate all too well to this sentiment.

Many men with ED have been able to regain their sexual vigor thanks to ED medications such as sildenafil (Viagra). These popular drugs definitely work, but not without risk. The most serious side effects include erections that do not go away (trust me, this is not as fun as it may sound) and sudden changes in vision or hearing.

More commonly, though, users are often troubled by headaches, flushing, stuffy or runny nose, nausea, or dizziness. Even so, I think most men would suffer through that headache or congestion as a small price to pay for the end result.

Maybe the risk of cancer will change their minds…

New research has revealed a link between sildenafil and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In 2000, researchers questioned 25,848 men about their use of the drug. Ten years later, they established that those who took sildenafil at the start of the study—and any time, really—had much higher risk of melanoma.

Sildenafil, which works by relaxing the muscles in the penis (leading to increased blood flow and erections), also mimics the effects of a mutant form of BRAF, a protein found in 50 percent of melanoma cases.

Therein lies the problem.

I can appreciate wanting to have a healthy, active sex life. But I don’t think Viagra is worth the temporary or long-term risks—especially when I can show you plenty of safer, equally effective options that are readily available.

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If you’re struggling with ED, first understand that you’re not alone. I see hundreds of male patients with the same challenges.

And, although I know it’s embarrassing to talk about, my suggestion is that you visit your doctor and ask them to test you for two things: your heart function and your hormone levels.

ED can actually be a strong warning sign of blood vessel dilation problems (endothelial dysfunction) and hardened, narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis). These conditions affect not only the arteries that feed the heart, but blood vessels throughout the body—including those in the penis.

The natural drop in testosterone that occurs in most men as they age can also lead to ED. Testosterone is a key player in sex drive and the body’s ability to initiate an erection. So, sometimes a testosterone boost is all you need overcome ED.

Thyroid and adrenal gland imbalances also may trigger ED. Taking naturally sourced thyroid medications and glandular supplements can often help fix these issues.

If you’re looking for a natural solution, I recommend the following nutrients. They work in much the same way as prescription ED drugs, but with little or no side effects.

  • L-arginine. This amino acid has been called “the natural Viagra.” The substance nitric oxide (NO) plays a big role in the development of an erection by relaxing artery walls and allowing blood to flow where it needs to. Sildenafil makes the body more sensitive to the rise in NO that comes along with stimulation. In contrast, l-arginine simply increases NO levels in the penis and throughout the body. Adding pycnogenol can have an even greater effect. One study found that the combination of l-arginine and pycnogenol significantly improved sexual function in men with ED without any side effects.
  • Korean red ginseng. A review of seven clinical trials showed that this herb boosted erectile function.
  • Saw palmetto. Preliminary research reveals that an extract of this herb increases nitric oxide and has the same mechanisms of action as sildenafil. And as an added side benefit, saw palmetto is very well researched for promoting overall prostate health.

Finally, deficiencies in nutrients such as zinc can sometimes be to blame. Your prostate uses more zinc than any organ in the body. It’s part of the reason oysters, which are naturally high in zinc, are thought to have aphrodisiac properties.

So be sure to take a multivitamin/mineral every day. It’s a good insurance policy and can help improve your health in countless ways.

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