By Bahram Dideban, MD
While the spin bike can be a fun bit of cardio, there are sexier ways to get your heart pumping. A bit of pre-cardio warm-up with your significant other might start with a romantic, home-cooked meal. But the kitchen shouldn’t be the only room in the house where you add some sizzle to your sweat. In fact, on a regular basis, you spend more time in the bedroom than any other room of your home, and sleeping shouldn’t be the only thing you do in there. Why not let us spice up your love life with seven simple supplements for better sexual health?
While you and your partner peruse this list, remember that sexual health doesn’t simply start and stop at the bedroom door. And always keep in mind that you should speak with your significant other about sexual health concerns and talk with your doctor before visiting your favourite supplement store looking for something to keep you prim, pretty, and in your prime (and out of your clothes).
L-Arginine and Yohimbine
Arginine is one of 20 amino acids that are the building blocks of all proteins found in the body. In addition to its role in protein synthesis, arginine is also used by the body to produce nitric oxide, a potent dilator of the blood vessels. In the spongy tissue of the male anatomy, more blood means more volume, and like the traditional magic blue pill, Viagra (sildenafil), leads to harder, longer-lasting erections. While the theory is sound, studies show that very large doses (up to 5,000 mg per day) of L-arginine alone might be required to achieve these effects. Another supplement, yohimbine, might help lessen this large quantity, however.
Yohimbine is a compound extracted from the bark of a Central African tree. In theory, it functions similarly to L-arginine by increasing nitric oxide levels, and while it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (but not in Canada), results have been mixed. But a recent study combining 6 g of yohimbine with 6 g of L-arginine (and glutamate) showed very promising results for this combination.
Another study also showed improvements in sexual function when low doses of L-arginine (500 mg three times per day) were combined with pycnogenol (40 mg per day), another compound extracted from the bark of a pine tree. Who knew so many compounds extracted from forest wood could be so beneficial for your morning wood?
It is important to note, however, that because these substances exert their effects on blood vessels, they should be used under the direction of a physician in people taking medications for heart disease or high blood pressure. Also, yohimbine may show some undesirable side effects like anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, and nausea, which may limit its usefulness in certain individuals.
Prostate health is a unique area of men’s health. It’s estimated that around 137 men per 100,000 will develop prostate cancer in 2015. However, the five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is currently as high as 98.9 per cent, meaning that the majority of new prostate cancers are benign and relatively harmless — so harmless, in fact, that they may be totally asymptomatic, and there is currently discussion as to whether or not physicians should even screen for them. Symptomatic prostate disease is actually more commonly diagnosed in the form of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and can cause significant distress, especially in older men.
Typically, individuals with BPH will have a weak urinary stream, difficulty starting or stopping urination, difficulty in emptying the bladder completely, or an urge to urinate in the middle of the night. One prominent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology conducted on almost 5,000 patients showed that men who drank more than two alcoholic drinks per day had an approximately 30-per cent lower chance of prostate enlargement. There was also an association with the antioxidant lycopene and vitamin D.
But before you increase your alcohol intake, remember this old adage: “The poison is in the dose.” While alcohol in low doses is healthy, moderation is key, and alcohol dependence is a significant risk. However, a multivitamin that provides antioxidants and vitamin D may also provide a synergistic effect in combination with low to moderate alcohol intake at healthy levels.
Ginseng is a perennial plant native to parts of North America and eastern Asia. While only the plants belonging to the Panax genus are true ginsengs, several ginseng-like plants with numerous similar health benefits also exist. Two types, American ginseng and Siberian ginseng, have been studied as possible aphrodisiacs, and research shows their medicinal ingredients, named ginsenosides, can directly affect the central nervous system and gonadal tissue. In men, these compounds act like L-arginine, releasing nitric oxide and causing more blood flow in the penile tissues. In the brain, ginsenosides also directly affect the level of various sex hormones, possibly leading to healthier menstrual cycles in women and increased sperm production in men, although results also showed no changes in testosterone levels in males.
The single-most important caveat that separates ginseng from prescription medication like Cialis or Viagra is that its benefits can’t be felt in the short-term. A study found no changes in sexual response after acute, short-term ginseng administration, while the same study did find evidence of this response during much longer administration over the course of several weeks. A second study also observed the sexual benefits of ginseng after a few weeks of administration of more than one gram per day.