Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem that may affect men persistently or every now and again. As men get older, it is more likely to occur, although it is not a natural consequence of ageing. It’s often linked to underlying health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.

One less common cause of temporary ED can be dehydration. This is often an overlooked aspect of general health and well-being, but as our bodies are made up of about 60% water, it is unsurprising that poor hydration can affect sexual function. Here’s a look at the link between ED and hydration, and why it can be a particular issue during the winter months.

When our bodies have optimum hydration levels, the volume of blood cells and plasma is higher and this helps blood to flow more efficiently around the veins and arteries. This means that the blood is transporting sufficient oxygen and red blood cells to the vital organs, including the penis, with obvious consequences for the ability to get an erection.

When we do not have adequate fluid intake, this can lower the blood pressure and make it more difficult to get an erection. To complicate matters, when we are dehydrated the body releases a hormone called angiotensin that causes the blood vessels to constrict, impacting on blood flow.

Chronic narrowing of the arteries can lead to permanent health problems, including heart disease and high blood pressure, which are very common causes of ED.

What are the signs of dehydration?

Most people assume that thirst is the main signal of dehydration, and it can easily be resolved by drinking more water. However, thirst is a sign that our bodies are already dehydrated, and by this time it will probably take a while for fluid levels to rebalance.

During the winter when most of us spend the majority of our time in heated indoor environments, the dry air can lead to inadequate hydration more quickly than during warmer months. Furthermore, warm indoor air can make us feel lethargic and drowsy and less sexually responsive.

Therefore it’s important to be proactive about fluid intake. Other signs that you are not drinking enough water include dizziness, fatigue, dark-coloured urine, a dry mouth, and

confusion or disorientation. Besides ED, dehydration can cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones, muscle cramps, and even seizures.

Most people need to drink between six to eight glasses of water per day, regardless of how thirsty they are. If you have trouble drinking this amount, try setting a timer on your phone to remind yourself to drink at regular intervals. People who partake in vigorous exercise or have recently suffered from a vomiting virus should drink more to replenish bodily fluids.

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