Diabetes & Erectile Dysfunction: What You Need to Know

Diabetes & Erectile Dysfunction: What You Need to Know

Diabetes has a dramatic impact on every aspect of life, not just your diet. As a result of impaired insulin sensitivity, which leads to high blood sugar levels, there is a risk of complications including cardiovascular disease and nerve damage. All of these can impact sexual health. In addition, living with diabetes can be incredibly stressful, causing depression and low self-esteem, which again affects sexual function. Erectile dysfunction, also described as impotence, may be a completely separate condition from diabetes, but they are often linked. Diabetes is associated with a reduced ability to achieve or even maintain erections, with studies showing that between 35-75% of diabetic men also develop erectile dysfunction.

The Link Between Diabetes & Erectile Dysfunction

Diabetes is known to be a common cause of erectile dysfunction because of its damaging effects on both nerve function and blood vessels. In other words, it reduces sensitivity of nerves that regulate erections and it also affects blood flow to the penis. In healthy men, sexual arousal triggers the release of nitric oxide into the blood stream. This chemical signals blood vessels and muscles in the penis to relax, thereby allowing increased blood flow to the organ. This is how an erection is achieved.

Erectile Dysfunction

When a man is affected with diabetes, impaired insulin sensitivity, and poor management of the condition can lead to blood sugar levels spikes. If these levels of blood sugar rise significantly, they can cause a drop in production of nitric oxide. This hijacks the entire chain of arousal, as it means that the signals are weaker and there is inadequate blood flow to the penis for strong erections.

In addition, diabetes also affects sex drive directly, which can sometimes lead to weaker erections because of low arousal or poor sex drive. This is because the male sexual drive is strongly influenced by the hormone testosterone and these hormonal levels have been shown to be lower in diabetic men. Type-2 diabetes is also closely linked with weight gain and obesity, which may have contributed to the development of the condition in the first place or are exacerbated by it. Either way, these co-existing conditions can also raise the risk of erectile dysfunction because of their ill effects on blood flow and cardiovascular function.

Aside from all of the physical causes of erectile dysfunction in diabetes, psychological factors also have a role to play. Diabetes is an incredibly stressful condition to live with because of its impacts on quality of life, health care needs, and the financial burden. Not surprisingly, men suffering from diabetes are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, and low self-esteem, all of which affect male sexual function. In fact, up to 20% of erectile dysfunction cases are related to psychological or mental health disorders. Keep in mind that conventional treatment of depression with medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can further impair sex drive.

How to Reverse Diabetic Erectile Dysfunction

Despite the fact that diabetes is classified as a chronic incurable condition that increases the risk of erectile dysfunction, this sexual disorder is not inevitable or incurable. Ayurvedic medications for diabetes and healthy lifestyle changes can help in the management of diabetes, thereby preventing or even reversing erectile dysfunction. Strategies to treat erectile dysfunction naturally include:

1. Panchakarma

Panchakarma is widely used in Ayurvedic clinics to treat a wide range of lifestyle diseases, including diabetes. It helps to restore the body’s natural balance by detoxifying and purifying all of the dhatus or body tissues. The treatment includes various therapies such as vamana (emetic therapy) and virechana (purgation therapy), helping pacify kapha, lower ama, and controlling glucose production and blood sugar levels. The efficacy of panchakarma for diabetes management has already been confirmed in studies and effective management of the condition is key to treating and reversing erectile dysfunction.

Panchakarma Treatment

2. Diet & Exercise

Following Ayurvedic diet and exercise recommendations can also help in the management of diabetes and erectile dysfunction. According to Ayurveda, diabetics should eliminate or severely limit the intake of all processed foods, alcohol, and red meats, instead opting for whole foods that are nutritionally balanced with a low saturated fat content and high in fiber. Studies show that such diets can not only improve diabetes symptoms but can also help treat erectile dysfunction. Similarly, Ayurveda emphasizes the role of regular physical activity through yoga or other exercises. Yoga has been found to have a positive effect on stress reduction, weight management, and endocrine function. It’s also worth noting that diet and exercise can lead to weight loss, which is shown to have a significant impact on testosterone levels and blood flow, lowering the risk of erectile dysfunction.

Yoga Exercise

3. Healthy Herbs

Ayurvedic medications for male sexual dysfunction are made from herbs that can help to treat the condition naturally. These can include the likes of shilajit, ashwagandha, tulsi, neem, guduchi, amalaki, karela, methi, and jambul. Many of these ingredients are also used in Ayurvedic diabetes medications because of their positive influence on insulin regulation and blood sugar levels. Some like jambuls, tulsi, karela, and methi are proven to lower glucose levels, while others like ashwagandha and guduchi have been shown to raise testosterone levels and protect against diabetes complications such as erectile dysfunction.

Tulsi Herb

When consulting an Ayurvedic specialist and using Ayurvedic herbal medications for erectile dysfunction, make it a point to inform the doctor about any pharmaceutical medications you are on, as some of them may be contributing to the problem or could interfere with the Ayurvedic treatments, limiting their efficacy.

References:

  • Chu, N. V., and S. V. Edelman. “Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction.” Clinical Diabetes, vol. 19, no. 1, 2001, pp. 45–47., doi:10.2337/diaclin.19.1.45.
  • Yao, Qiu-Ming et al. “Testosterone level and risk of type 2 diabetes in men: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Endocrine connections vol. 7,1 (2018): 220-231. doi:10.1530/EC-17-0253
  • “Erectile Dysfunction.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 2013, www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/men/erectile-dysfunction.html.
  • Jindal, Nitin, and Nayan P Joshi. “Comparative study of Vamana and Virechanakarma in controlling blood sugar levels in diabetes mellitus.” Ayu vol. 34,3 (2013): 263-9. doi:10.4103/0974-8520.123115
  • Esposito, Katherine, et al. “Effects of Intensive Lifestyle Changes on Erectile Dysfunction in Men.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 6, no. 1, 2009, pp. 243–250., doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.01030.x.
  • Khoo, Joan, et al. “Comparing Effects of a Low‐Energy Diet and a High‐Protein Low‐Fat Diet on Sexual and Endothelial Function, Urinary Tract Symptoms, and Inflammation in Obese Diabetic Men.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 8, no. 10, 2011, pp. 2868–2875., doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02417.x.
  • Saxena, Abha, and Naval Kishore Vikram. “Role of Selected Indian Plants in Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A Review.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vol. 10, no. 2, 2004, pp. 369–378., doi:10.1089/107555304323062365.
  • Nasimi Doost Azgomi, Ramin et al. “Effects of Withania somnifera on Reproductive System: A Systematic Review of the Available Evidence.” BioMed research international vol. 2018 4076430. 24 Jan. 2018, doi:10.1155/2018/4076430

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