Problem: Oxidative stress
How it interferes: Free radicals can destroy nitric oxide production (which would otherwise help dilate the blood vessels, getting the blood flow going when you want it to).
Research: Some ED medications increase nitric oxide in the body, though these pills don’t come without side effects. That’s why researchers are hoping to find a more natural means to enhance the function of blood vessels. Antioxidants fight free radicals, so it’s possible that boosting antioxidants can help keep nitric oxide at a healthy level for blood flow.
Familiar polyphenols that increase your own antioxidant power (in your cells) include N- acetylcysteine, coffee, blueberries, walnuts and exercise. Many others may work, but we know these do. The amino acids citrulline and arginine increase your nitric oxide production—a real good thing, as extending your nitric oxide effectiveness is how the little blue pill and its relatives, Levitra and Cialis work.
Researchers are exploring lesser-known agents like lipoic acid, which may be even more effective in sustaining improvements in health. Polyphenols (in chocolate, vegetables and tea) are also of interest, but the findings are too preliminary to say they can be powerful enough to sex drive.
Bottom line: There isn’t a ton of proof that antioxidants can help fertility problems, but DHA (the effective component of fish oil) does. We like to get 900 mg daily from algae (as the fish do!), because you know you’re getting the real stuff. Some minerals may help as well–zinc is being studied, this is still an area in its infancy. Handling stress helps too (try the Cleveland Clinic’s award-winning online stress management program.)
Problem: Low testosterone from antidepressants
How it interferes: Not having enough of this sex hormone can lead to decrease sexual desire, which would in turn make it more difficult to be aroused during sex.
Research: Some antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can lower testosterone. Think Paxil, Prozac and other drugs for depression. [Bupropion (marketed as Wellbutrin) doesn’t interfere here, and can help you quit smoking, too.]
Bottom line: Talk to your doctor if you think something in your medical history could be affecting your sex life. It’s not just your hormones that can be affected. An automobile or sports accident you had a long time ago could have left you with injured nerves that affect your sexual functioning today.