28 Apr 2010
Blackmores Naturopath


Erectile dysfunction (Impotence)

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Erectile dysfunction (impotence) is an inability to sustain an erection for sufficient time for satisfactory sexual intercourse to occur. Causes may include both physical and psychological issues.


Occasional episodes of erectile dysfunction are normal, and affect most men from time to time, especially if they are tired, stressed, or have been drinking too much alcohol.

Changes in erectile function are a normal part of aging. For example, as men get older, it may take longer for them to become aroused, and the erection may not be as firm as it was previously.

However, even though erectile dysfunction becomes more common with age, it can affect men of any age. Regardless of how old you are, if you regularly experience issues getting or keeping an erection, it is important to consult your healthcare professional so that any underlying causes can be investigated and addressed.


In the past, impotence was a taboo subject, and an issue that many men and their partners dealt with in secret. However, we now know that a wide variety of factors can impact on a man’s sexual performance, and that erectile dysfunction is nothing to be ashamed of.

Causes may include:

  • Impaired blood circulation to the penis: For example, erectile dysfunction may be a symptom of atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries), or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle choices: Smoking may exacerbate the issue due to the additional damage it causes to the blood vessels. Being overweight or eating a fatty diet may also contribute to the problem.
  • Impaired nerve supply to the penis: For example, multiple sclerosis and other nervous system diseases may be involved, or nerve damage may occur as a consequence of surgery for bowel or prostate disease . Diabetes may also interfere with sexual performance via impaired nerve function.
  • Hormonal imbalance: For example, low levels of testosterone.
  • Adverse effects of prescribed or recreational drugs: Erectile dysfunction is a common side effect of many groups of drugs including blood pressure drugs, sedatives, antihistamines, anti-ulcer medicines, and drugs for prostate cancer. It may also occur as a side effect of many recreational drugs.
  • Adverse effects of excessive alcohol intake.
  • Stress: Including relationship problems, financial difficulties and work stress.
  • Psychiatric conditions: Depression, anxiety and other mental health problems contribute to around 10% of cases of erectile dysfunction.

In some cases, a number of the conditions listed above may combine to cause performance problems. Infrequently, no cause may be discernible at all.

Diet and lifestyle

  • A diet and lifestyle that supports the health of your heart and blood vessels will also support your sexual performance by aiding blood flow to your genitals.
  • Eat a well balanced diet that’s low in saturated fats and cholesterol, and rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Oily fish are a better source of protein than red meat or other animal products, as the essential fatty acids they contain help to support blood vessel health.
  • Exercising regularly will help to manage your stress levels at the same time that it supports your circulation, but talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise programme.
  • Stop smoking, as it significantly increases the risk of erectile dysfunction by restricting blood flow to the penis and groin area.
  • Don’t drink to excess or use recreational drugs.
  • If you are diabetic, work with your healthcare professional to ensure your blood sugar levels are well controlled. Blood sugar fluctuations make erectile dysfunction more likely.
  • If emotional or psychological problems are contributing to your sexual difficulties, seek counselling or another form of professional support, and take steps to manage your stress levels more effectively.

Important notes

  • Your doctor should investigate any persistent or recurrent sexual difficulties so that any underlying cause can be identified and treated appropriately. In some cases, erectile dysfunction is symptomatic of underlying diabetes or cardiovascular disease, so prompt diagnosis is essential.
  • Talk to your doctor if you suspect that your prescribed medicines may be interfering with your sexual function. You may need to change to a different medication or dosage.

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Dear Phil, erectile dysfuntion (ED) is frequently associated with conditions affecting the blood flow in the penis. Diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), cigarette smoking and obesity are often involved and there is a strong association between ED and cardiac (heart) disease. Managing your individual symptoms with your healthcare professional would be the best way to manage your ED. The herbs tribulus, ginkgo and ginseng have traditionally been used to help with stamina and ED. I trust the information above is helpful. Please email if you require any further assistance. Jen (Blackmores naturopath
Jennifer 13 Jun 2014
im 63 suffering erectile problems im type2 diabetic and have high bloodpressure
Anonymous 13 Jun 2014
Hi Trevor,
I can imagine the frustration that this would be causing you. The ‘Natural Therapies’ section above includes key nutrients and herbs which may be helpful for erectile dysfunction. For specific product advice please call the Blackmores Advisory service on 1800 803 760 to speak to one of our naturopaths. It may also be wise to discuss this with your doctor again, in light of the medications you are taking, just to rule out the possibility of your medications contributing to your condition. All the best Trevor, Leanne (a Blackmores naturopath)

Leanne 10 Mar 2014
Hi I have trouble keeping an erection or erectile dysfunction for about 18 months, my partner is very sexual active. I seen my GP and he has given me Viagra and calis(not sure of spelling) Im on colestroal tabs b/pressure tabs, blood thinners from stents put in about 10 years ago, I would like to try some natural tabs can you advise me what ones??!!!
Anonymous 10 Mar 2014
Hi Neil,
Thank you for your post.
I’m sorry to hear that you have been suffering from erectile dysfunction for some time.
I would recommend that you consult with your GP for further assessment to try and undercover the cause of the problem in your case, and deal with that directly.
I hope this helps Neil – all the best
Kind regards,
Charmaine (Blackmores naturopath)
Charmaine 02 Jan 2014
44 year old male,had this problem for four years now and only getting worse,could you please help?
Anonymous 31 Dec 2013