Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition that affects most men at some point in their lives. It’s not regarded as a medically serious condition, but it can often be the first sign of a more serious hidden health problem that has not been diagnosed. That’s why it’s always important to visit the doctor if you have persistent signs of ED.
One of the most common causes of ED, particularly for men in middle age or beyond, is being overweight or obese. Studies have shown that men who tend to gather fat around the abdominal area are especially more at risk of ED.
Obesity can result in low testosterone levels, which is the male sex hormone that is responsible for the sex drive and sexual function. Men who are very overweight may lack the energy and stamina for sex, and this will eventually lead to lower libido and ED.
Being very out of shape can also affect mental health, causing a loss of confidence and negative feelings such as shame or disgust about the body. Low self-esteem, depression, and poor body image all make ED more likely. This can eventually create an unhelpful cycle of comfort eating and gaining more weight, thus exacerbating the problem.
It is advisable to maintain a body weight that is appropriate for your height by referring to the Body Mass Index chart. A doctor may also recommend that you lose weight if they suspect that this is the root cause of ED. Being a healthy weight is also important to mitigate the risk of other serious conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
However, losing weight is often a daunting task. Being obese can make it difficult to exercise, and changing eating habits that have become ingrained over several years can take a lot of discipline and willpower. It can take weeks or even months to see the results of your efforts, and all this makes the possibility of a relapse very likely.
The temptation in this case can be to turn to fad or extreme diets to try to speed up the process. However, this approach can be unhelpful at best, and may even make the situation worse. Simply mustering up the iron willpower to fast or restrict yourself to a celery juice diet for a week or two will mean that you are depriving yourself of essential nutrients.
Some diet regimens make confident claims that they will result in rapid and dramatic weight loss, and they usually involve severe calorie restriction or the elimination of entire food groups altogether. They may use terms such as ‘detox’ or ‘cleansing’, and some meals are replaced with liquid alternatives.
At best, this approach will inevitably lead to an episode of binge eating that will reverse any weight loss that occurs. At worst, it can upset your metabolism, which in turn means that your body burns fat more slowly and it will be even more difficult to lose weight in the future. An unbalanced metabolism has also been associated with low testosterone levels.
Over time, extreme or fad diets can cause nutrient deficiencies and mineral imbalances that can weaken your muscles and make your bones more brittle and prone to breakage. It is likely that a sudden calorie restriction will leave you feeling tired, weak, prone to headaches, irritable, and with difficulties concentrating.
It is no surprise then that fad diets will do nothing to boost your sex drive, and even if some weight loss occurs, ED is still likely to persist.
Medical experts advise that the safest and surest way to lose weight is to eat regular small meals that contain a good balance of fibre, protein, and carbohydrates, with a small amount of ‘healthy’ fats, such as a spoonful of olive oil with a salad, or fatty fish such as salmon.
Eating plenty of fibre in the form of fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread, oats, jacket potatoes, beans and nuts will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Avoid foods that have added sugar, such as fruit juice, some breakfast cereals, and biscuits.
Choose lean cuts of meat, and swap red meat for fish or poultry at least a few days of the week. Stay well hydrated throughout the day to help your body absorb and make the best use of your calorie intake.
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