| Erectile dysfunction, Impotence.
By Ellen Kamhi , PhD, RN, HNC
Holistic Medicine expert Dr. Ellen Kamhi discusses her views on the latest alternative treatments for erectile dysfunction. Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, HNC, nationally known as "The Natural Nurse," is the co-author of "The Natural Medicine Chest," "Arthritis: The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide," and "Cycles of Life: Herbs and Energetics for Women."
She is currently head nurse of diagnostics and natural interventions at the Corsello Centers for Complementary Medicine in New York. Kamhi has sat on the Panel of Traditional Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical School.
A professional member of the American Herbalists Guild and a board-certified holistic nurse, she has been involved in the field of natural medicine for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of Rutgers and Cornell universities.
The opinions expressed by Ellen Kamhi are hers and hers alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult with your personal physician.
Moderator: Today we are discussing Natural Alternatives to Viagra, with Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, HNC.Dr. Kamhi, How widespread is the problem of erectile dysfunction (ED) in the US?
Dr. Kamhi: Erectile dysfunction is another word for impotence and we'll be referring to it both ways. Unfortunately, approximately 30 million men in the U.S. suffer from this problem who report it. Of course, there are many cases that go unreported because so many don't want to talk about it. So, it's a very widespread problem among men in the U.S.
Moderator: How successful is treatment with Viagra?Dr. Kamhi: I would say Viagra is tremendously successful and it is one of the most widely sold drugs in the history of medicine. It absolutely has been very effective, but the problem is that it also has serious side effects when we look at the fact that over 700 men have died while using Viagra in the U.S. alone. There are also less severe side effects besides death from taking Viagra, and they include a blue discoloration in front of the field of vision after taking it, digestive disturbances, headaches and other problems. There are many health indications where taking Viagra would not be an option, for instance, men who are already taking nitrates such as nitroglycerine, and those with other kinds of cardiovascular problems, any kind of cancer, or ulcers and other bleeding disorders. By the way, people should know that the real name of Viagra is sildenafil. And, why that's important is because there are other drug companies that will be coming out with that and it won't be called Viagra. Another thing is Viagra is quite costly. It costs about $10 a pill. And, that's when you get it through a prescription through your physician. People sometimes pay a lot more for it if they're just buying it on line or through other available distribution venues.
Dr. Kamhi: Because of that very fact, there is no way that we can really say how many people are using it who shouldn't be using. And, in fact, what does abuse mean? There are those trying Viagra as a sex enhancer even if they don't have erectile dysfunction. One thing literature points out is that although Viagra can intensify performance, it can only be effective if the erectile dysfunction is due to neurological factors rather than emotional or psychological factors. So, if a man who doesn't have circulation problem it will not increase his response. In other words, Viagra is not truly an aphrodisiac which might increase sexual response, although it is an enhancer of circulation and that's why it's effective.
Moderator: What is a priapism?Dr. Kamhi: Yes, Viagra can sometimes caused this sustained erection. In some people that can be a problem, but it's not a major side effect that's worried about with Viagra. It's not really dangerous.
If men who are experiencing erectile dysfunction want to start a program
to reverse it, they should first look at what is going on with their
relationships. They should look
at social and psychological issues involved in the relationship.
Number two is looking at the diet.
An organic diet is of utmost importance because any food coated with pesticides and toxic chemicals, in particular, hormones, such as bovine growth hormones which are found in non-organic dairy products, will cause the accumulation in the body of different kinds of xenoestrogens, which is a problem because that can interfere with proper testosterone levels in men.
Another issue with non-organic food is bioengineering.
Many foods on the market now are bio engineered, and we do not yet know the overall health effects of those foods. So, choosing organic is important. Also, decreasing bad fats which are any animal product.
Number three is all hydrogenated oils.
And, you need to read your labels to find these. They are in every baked good such as cakes and bagels and cookies. They are also in all fried foods and fast foods. These kinds of fats, the same ones that lead to obesity as well as high LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein which is the bad cholesterol), these same kinds of fats will tend to clog up the circulatory pathway that interferes with the erection, just like it causes blockages in arteries to the heart causing cardiovascular illness.
So, decreasing the bad fats, either totally eliminating them or at least decreasing them to a minimum and increasing the good fats.
Good fats include omega-3 fatty acids.
These are found in cold water fish such as salmon and in vegetarian sources such as flaxseed. So, an overall movement to a diet very high in vegetables including kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, romaine lettuce and other greens, organic whole grains such as brown rice, as well as organic protein sources such as pumpkin seeds, which are very high in zinc (especially healthful to men) and soy products such as tofu, will increase overall wellness, decrease the fatty deposition that can block the arteries and veins leading to the circulatory system leading to the male organs.
In particular, yoga and tai chi as well as other forms of stretching are important.
Of course, cardiovascular exercise which will lead to better tone is also important. This needs to be done on a daily basis, not once a week, not on a weekend warrior schedule. So, that is where we start our program to reverse erectile dysfunction, by looking at the emotional/psychological factors, the diet and the amount of exercise.
Those same things! The sooner you start that in life, the more likely you are to not get the problem as well as avoid most degenerative illnesses. And I discuss these fully in my book, Arthritis, the Alternative Medicine Guide. There are chapters on juicing and diet and exercise, even if you don't have arthritis. The same program will help to prevent cancer, heart disease, erectile dysfunction, arthritis -- all of the above that's why it's a win-win situation. Then we have specific herbs and other nutrients that can be very helpful for this problem.
Ginkgo biloba is called that because the leaf of the tree which is used as a medicine actually has two lobes. This stands out as an herb because so many people know about it. It's amazing what a widespread audience it has now because of the media and this, with St. John's Wort, have been major TV stars. Ginkgo biloba is known for its ability to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It was actually written up in the Journal of the American Medical Association in terms of its ability to enhance memory and also to increase mental abilities. So, this is how this herb has been known.
However, when it has been tested, both for increasing mental ability and also as a mild antidepressant, men reported that as a good side effect, they also found a vast improvement in their sexual function. Now, the reason for this is that Ginkgo biloba helps to improve blood flow to all the very small vasculature throughout the body. This includes the brain. It's also good for improving circulation in diabetics who tend to get neuropathy. It can help increase circulation to the hands and feet and certainly to the penis. So, if the erectile dysfunction, again, is due to a circulatory problem which on a physical level it often is, Ginkgo biloba can be very helpful.
Arginine is good (found in Solstic Cardio).
I've used it in my clinical practice often for couples who come
in and are infertile. Not only does this help with impotence,
it also increases the quality of sperm. I am always amazed when I look at sperm under the microscope
which we do in the office, how many men who are part of an infertile
couple, have sperm which are malformed.
Very often the tails are either broken off or aren't strong enough to create that tadpole-like swimming motion that we see in healthy sperm. More and more research is pointing to toxic chemicals in the environment including pesticides being cause of these problems.
There is so much we can do to combat that by increasing our use of organic foods, and one supplement is arginine. And supplements such as arginine can help. Arginine has a lot of research on it. In the Journal of Urology, a study was published in 1997 that says there is data to support the use of arginine for treatment of erectile dysfunction. There was another study done in 1999, but I don't know what journal that was in. Arginine is an amino acid that is quite safe and, actually, also increases the level of nitric oxide. So it has similar mode of action, but is much less dangerous than Viagra. I will talk about one down side of arginine. If you have a problem with viruses, for instance, herpes, you wouldn't want to take arginine during a breakout because arginine can increase the reproduction of viruses, just like it can increase our own reproduction. One way to offset that side effect is to use another amino acid along with the arginine. That amino acid is L-Lysine. This will offset the viral-enhancing effect of arginine.
Moderator: What is damiana, also known as "ram
goat dash along?"
Moderator: And one should be careful?
Damiana got that name from
the local people because when the male goats eat the damiana,
they are really jumping on everything and dashing along. Now,
we have another herb from China that is called horny goat weed.
So that's very interesting. There is more to this herb than
just the name. This plant is in the epimedium family and it
dates back to very ancient time, at least 200 BC in China. This
plant is actually responsible for many different kinds of sex
enhancing effects. It increases production of sperm and also
increases the level of testosterone. And, this is the male hormone
linked to sex drive in both men and women because testosterone
stimulates the section of the brain having to do with love and
lust, and is also responsible for secondary sex characteristics
in men. So, horny goat weed has been used in both sexes and
it's an interesting one.
Moderator: What are the typical causes of erectile dysfunction?
Dr. Kamhi: The main cause, as we've stated, is interruption
in circulation to the penis, because that's exactly how an erection
happens, through an engorgement of blood in that area.
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