A new study has validated a potential link between gut microbiota and erectile dysfunction (ED).  Medical Life Sciences News reports that the study, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, analysed the results of two previous comprehensive studies based on data from 18,340 participants.

The evidence for a causal relationship between a high volume of specific gut bacteria and the likelihood of developing ED is described as ‘compelling’, and merits further investigation. The study did not establish exactly why there is a link between the two factors, although some potential reasons were put forward.

One possible explanation is that the secretion of a substance called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) by the gut microbiota leads to the release of certain inflammatory factors, which have previously been established as a factor in ED. 

Another substance, known as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is regulated by the gut microbiota and is thought to contribute to vascular inflammation. This could affect the smooth muscle cells in the blood vessels that enable the efficient flow of blood around the body, making it more difficult to achieve an erection. 

The study identifies six types of gut microbiota that are particularly linked with ED, opening up the potential for further research. However, the authors note that the data was sourced exclusively from genome-wide association studies, which comprised mainly of European nationals, so the results may not be representative of non-European people.

ED is estimated to affect over half of all men over the age of 40. In older men, the condition is most often associated with a poor blood supply to the penis. This can be due to a blockage in the blood vessels or nerve damage. Psychological factors such as stress, depression, anxiety, or concern about body image can also play a role.

Untreated ED can cause emotional distress, low self-esteem and problems with relationships, which can lead to a worsening of the symptoms. The good news is that there are several safe and effective treatments for ED. One of the newest treatments is called Eroxon Stimgel, which can be applied externally and has no serious side effects.

However, it’s important to rule out any other health conditions that may be causing ED before embarking on a course of treatment. A visit to the doctor is highly recommended for any man who has been experiencing persistent ED so that they can run a few general health checks and investigate any potential contributing factors. 

ED is not considered to be a serious threat to health in itself, but it can be one of the first signs of a hardening of the arteries or damage to the nervous system. This could indicate the presence of heart disease or diabetes. 

Sometimes, making a few lifestyle changes can make a difference to sexual function. These include maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising every day, reducing alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking. 

Eating a well-balanced diet is well established as one of the foundations of good health. The previously mentioned gut microbiome is strongly influenced by what we eat, so making some changes in this area may bring improvements for men who are living with ED. 

Signs of poor gut health, besides potentially ED, include digestive problems such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, disturbed sleep, low mood, anxiety, and a weak immune system. Eating a high-fibre diet is considered to be one of the best ways to achieve a balanced gut microbiome.

Having enough fibre in the diet can also reduce the risk of getting bowel cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It plays a key role in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, meaning that the body can function more efficiently, contributing to better all-round health and wellbeing.

Fibre is only found in plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, whole grain bread and cereals, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. It’s recommended to eat at least 30 different types of plant-based foods per week, and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. 

Drinking plenty of water can also improve gut health by helping to break down food, making it easier for the body to absorb nutrients. Fermented foods, which are foods that have had sugars broken down by yeast and bacteria, can also boost the diversity of the gut microbiome. 

These include live natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, kefir, and kombucha.