According to a 2014 study, Viagra and other similar drugs prescribed for male erectile dysfunction (ED) may increase the risk for malignant melanoma. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in these drugs, works by inhibiting PDE5A and increasing nitric oxide production. Low expression of PDE5A is known to increase the invasiveness of melanoma cells. Primary care physicians who prescribe these drugs are encouraged to check their patients’ face, scalp, ear and neck during check ups to ensure early detection.

Although there is some controversy regarding the claims of an increased risk for melanoma in Viagra users, is it a risk that is worth taking? And when the other side effects include dizziness, headache, upset stomach, chest pain, numbness, vision loss, and memory problems, perhaps it is best to look to the source of the problem than to just put a temporary Band-Aid on it!

What causes ED?

ED is a symptom of something bigger going on. If your arteries are not dilating enough to enable you to get an erection, chances are you are at an increased risk for heart disease (which can lead to a stroke or a heart attack). Often, the smaller arteries in your body, such as those in your penis, get blocked first or receive less blood flow. Even the slightest problems with erectile dysfunction should be a warning signal that something is not right.

Your sex life depends on your lifestyle

Your lifestyle is key to maintaining good health and an erection! And in turn, a healthy sex life can boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, help improve your sleep and reduce stress, etc.

You’ve heard me say it before: eat healthy and exercise! But what does healthy eating really mean when you are dealing with ED? And what else can you do to help keep your engine running?

• Eliminate sugars, especially white refined sugars, corn syrups, glucose-fructose and any and all artificial sweeteners. Studies show that high levels of sugar can negatively impact the gene that controls your sex hormones. Opt instead for natural sugars, such as raw honey or maple syrup.
• Reduce grains. Eliminate all white refined grains and wheat products. Your body converts these into sugar, having the same effect as those sugars listed above! Opt for spelt and organic whole-grain breads, and pastas made of quinoa or lentils, instead.
• Eat healthy foods. Eat your veggies, drink plenty of filtered water, eat lean meats, and consult a nutritionist to learn how to eat right for your body type and your individual needs.
• Exercise, of course, will help to get the blood flowing, naturally. Make sure you include a good cardio workout (along with some muscle-building exercises) in your exercise plan!
• Quit smoking. A 2003 study showed that there is a higher risk of ED in men who smoke! That’s just another good reason to give up the nicotine!
• Get some sleep! Lack of sleep can affect the libido; so make sure you get plenty of Zzzs!
• Get adjusted! Compressed nerves at the bottom of the spine can affect the blood flow to male reproductive organs. Chiropractic adjustments can help unblock these compressed nerves and increase blood flow.
• Consider supplementing. Zinc can help you get the “zing” back into your sex life by improving the body’s natural level of testosterone. The amino acid L-arginine is also used to treat erection problems by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the blood, which relaxes blood vessels.

Risky business

As with any medication, it is important to take the time to read the package insert and to learn about the risks and benefits before taking it. Viagra and its generic counterpart drugs come with a long list of side effects. According to one study, only 7% of men who have been prescribed Viagra refill their prescription, and when you consider all those side effects, it’s no wonder why!

Again, as with all drugs, there are alternatives, so learn about them! Opt for the less risky options first, using the riskier ones only as a last resort.

When it comes to erectile dysfunction, talk to your natural health practitioner, chiropractor or nutritionist to learn more about which vitamins and supplements can help you. And finally, eat healthy and exercise as though your (sex) life depends on it… because it does!