Sexercise: What is it? Benefits, exercises to try, and more

The benefits of sexercise and how to practice it

Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST — Written by Zawn Villines on December 13, 2020

This article is a repost which originally appeared on MEDICALNEWSTODAY

Edited for content

Sexercise is exercise to improve sexual performance and function, which may make sex more satisfying for a person and their partner or partners.

Celebrity trainer Jason Rosell coined the term sexercise, using it for a specific set of practices to improve a person’s sexual experience.

Physical fitness can affect sexuality by making sex easier and more comfortable, reducing the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) and arousal issues, and helping people feel more confident in their bodies.

Exercise may also reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, that can cause sexual issues.

A person may use the term sexercise to refer to a wide range of activities, while any exercise specifically to improve sex counts as sexercise.

Benefits of sexual activity for health

Healthful, consensual sexual activity of all varieties can improve health.

Some benefits of sex include:

  • Better heart health: Sex involves exercise, which can improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and decreasing the risk of heart disease. A 2020 study found that, following a heart attack, people who had sex more than once per week had a 27% reduction in their risk of dying.
  • A healthier immune system: Regular sex may boost immunity, reducing a person’s risk of acquiring infections and certain illnesses.
  • Better emotional health: Sex – and the exercise that sex involves – may reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
  • Better self-esteem: People who have satisfying sex may feel good about themselves.
  • Healthy relationships: A strong, healthy sexual connection with a partner may improve the relationship.
  • Better sleep: Sex may help some people fall asleep faster.
  • Stress management: Sex can be a suitable self-care tool that helps relieve stress.

It is important to note that sex in itself does not necessarily improve health.

Non-consensual, painful, or unpleasant sex may cause severe emotional distress, physical injuries, and other health issues.

Benefits of fitness for sexual performance

Exercise can improve sexual performance in many ways:

  • Reducing ED: In people with penises, regular exercise – especially aerobic exercise such as running or walking – may reduce ED. A 2017 meta-analysis found moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise provided optimal benefits.
  • Counteracting side effects of certain antidepressants on the libido: A 2013 study of females taking antidepressants found that exercising right before sex improved both arousal and global sexual function.
  • Exercise may reduce the risk of chronic medical conditions: These conditions can interfere with sexual performance. For example, diabetes has links with ED, arousal disorders, and some other sexual issues.
  • Improving sexual function: Certain exercises may strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which a person uses during sex. Kegel exercises can help a person orgasm more easily and help with urine leakage and incontinence.
  • Increasing endurance and strength: This may make certain positions and types of sex easier. More endurance may help a person be less tired during prolonged sex sessions.

Exercises to improve sexual performance

Three categories of exercise can help improve sexual performance:

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise increases the heart rate. It can help a person maintain a moderate weight, improve blood pressure, boost overall physical fitness, and may help with ED and general sexual performance. Some exercises to try include:

  • Swimming: Offers an intense but low-impact workout for people with joint or muscle pain.
  • Walking: An ideal starting exercise for people who struggle with more intense workouts.
  • Intense aerobic exercise: Includes running or jogging, jumping rope, skiing, and using a stair-climber machine.

Pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor – a group of muscles that support the bladder. These muscles also contract during an orgasm. Try the following to work them:

  • Performing Kegels:
    • Locate the right muscles when urinating.
    • Stop passing urine mid-flow for a few seconds, then start again.
    • Repeat a few times daily.
    • Next, try tensing and releasing the same muscles used to stop urinating several times per day.
    • Work up to tensing the muscles for longer: 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or longer.
  • Exercising the multifidus of the pelvic floor:
    • Lie on the stomach, face down, with the forehead in the hands.
    • Lift the pelvis slightly back to point the tailbone toward the ceiling.
    • Hold for 5–10 seconds, working up to three sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Performing squats: Squats help strengthen the body, and in high repetitions, they can provide an intense cardio workout. They also help strengthen the abs and pelvic floor. Not everyone can do a squat at first. Try squatting down as much as possible without bending the back or taking the heels off the floor, then build up to deeper squats.

Strength and flexibility training

Improving general strength and flexibility may make certain sexual positions easier and more comfortable. Some options include:

  • Yoga and pilates: Both focus activities on improving flexibility and functional movement. People can even adapt some yoga positions into sex positions.
  • Lifting weights: Try lifting weights to improve the strength of various muscles and muscle groups. For example, a person who wants to lift their partner might try bench presses and other exercises that strengthen the upper body.
  • Bodyweight exercises: A person does not need weights to strengthen their muscles. Bodyweight exercises, such as leg raises, knee tucks, and squats strengthen the core, lower body, and pelvic floor. Pushups, pullups, and dips target the upper body, potentially making certain positions easier.

Sex positions that couples can use as exercise

Every sex position may present an opportunity for exercise if it meets one of two conditions:

  • The speed and intensity of the sexual activity are intense enough to elevate the heart rate.
  • The activity is physically challenging. For example, it requires stretching or involves a person lifting additional weight.

Some examples of specific positions that might help sexual partners get a workout include:

  • Positions that require a partner to fully or partially lift another: For example, a person who wraps their legs around a partner while the partner holds them in a standing position requires both partners to bear extra weight.
  • Positions that increase physical intensity and encourage partners to move more: For example, if a person is up against the wall with their legs wrapped around their partner, and the other partner is holding them, the couple is both supporting weights. They may also have to move more to increase stimulation and adjust the position.
  • Positions that encourage gentle stretching: It is important not to force the body into an uncomfortable position. However, extending the legs over a partner’s shoulders or getting into yoga-like positions may increase the challenge of sexual activity.

Summary

Exercise is great for overall health, including sexual health.

For most people, exercise is a safe way to improve well-being and sexual performance.

However, those who do not exercise should talk with a doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Human sperm count dwindling, penis shrinking at alarming rate, scientist warns

Human sperm count dwindling, penis shrinking at alarming rate, scientist warns

This article is a repost which originally appeared on

Edited for content

Amid the many global problems we are facing today, one of humanity’s biggest issues comes relatively unnoticed: the decline in reproductive health, especially for males.

Specifically, the sperm count of males in the West has significantly decreased by 59% between 1973 and 2011 due to chemicals found in everyday items, a study co-authored by Dr. Shanna Swan in 2017 has found.

In the study, which has been making headlines around the globe, scientists noted that sperm count is of considerable public health importance for several reasons including the decline of male fertility and the rise of other health issues, such as testicular cancer.

“If you look at the curve on sperm count and project it forward—which is always risky—it reaches zero in 2045,” Swan said in her new book titled “Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race,” as cited by Axios on Feb. 24.

In the book, Swan also noted that aside from the decline in sperm count, penis size and testes volume have been decreasing among humans in the past few decades.

“The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival,” Swan writes in the book.

Swan has since doubled down on her warning via Scientific American on March 16, where she co-wrote with Stacey Colino that the decline in reproductive health is happening to females as well.

They found that reproductive problems in males have been increasing by 1 percent every year, while the miscarriage rate for females in the United States is also increasing by 1 percent annually.

Swan and Colino noted that while 1 percent may not seem like a big number to the public, it actually is as this means a 10% increase every decade and a 50% increase in just 50 years.

This increase in reproductive health problems is faster than the rate of global warming, but the public has not been as vocal or informed regarding the issue, which threatens humanity’s existence.

Hormone-altering chemicals

This decline in reproductive health is largely due to the hormone-altering chemicals found in items found all around us: from plastic containers, food packaging, water bottles to electronic devices, pesticides and many others.

These items contain chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol A and flame retardants, among others. It is no coincidence that the decline in reproductive health began in the mid-20th century when these items started being produced in large numbers, the researchers noted.

“Exposure to these chemicals is especially problematic during pregnancy because what happens during pregnancy doesn’t stay in pregnancy. Rather, an expectant mother’s exposure to toxic chemicals in the air she breathes, the water she drinks, the foods she eats and the products she slathers on her skin can enter her body (and hence the fetus) and influence her baby’s reproductive development,” Swan and Colino explained.

“This is particularly true early in pregnancy—in what’s called the reproductive programming window—and it’s especially true for male babies,” they added.

Among the many health issues, these chemicals’ effect on reproductive health has also been associated with premature death.

The researchers urge humanity “to shift our collective focus” and prioritize demanding the replacement of the said chemicals from our everyday items with chemicals that do not affect our hormones.

” It’s also time to establish better testing methods and regulatory actions so that only safe chemicals can enter the market and our bodies. In other words, we need to stop using each other and our unborn children as lab rats for EDC exposures,” Swan and Colino stressed.

“The health and the future of the human race really do depend on it,” they added. Ian Biong /ra

What are the benefits of dates for men?

How beneficial are dates for men?

Medically reviewed by Grant Tinsley, PhD — Written by Mary West on March 22, 2021

This article is a repost which originally appeared on MEDICALNEWSTODAY

Edited for content

Research does not show that eating dates provides any sexual health benefits for males. That said, the fruit’s high nutrient content may promote general wellness and help prevent disease for people of all sexes.

Potential benefits

Some studies suggest that dates may benefit health in several ways. The following sections will look at what the research says in more detail.

They may help treat infertility

In traditional African medicine practices, people have long used dates to treat male infertility. However, there is scarce scientific research to support their effectiveness for this purpose, according to one study. This study is yet to undergo peer review.

The researchers tested the effects of dates on the fertility of rats with neurotoxin-induced infertility.

The dates reduced signs of infertility in the rats, but they also reduced levels of the hormone testosterone, which is linked to fertility.

The researchers suggest that future studies should try to identify a safe amount of dates for treating infertility.

Scientists need to do much more research into the effects of dates on fertility in humans before they can make any recommendations about using dates for this purpose.

They may boost brain health

A scientific review from 2016 notes that some studies have linked regular date consumption to better thinking skills and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s impairs memory and the ability to think. The review suggests that long-term use of date fruit supplements in rodents was associated with reduced plaque formation in the brain. These plaques are characteristic in people with Alzheimer’s.

They may help alleviate chronic disease due to their antioxidants

Unstable molecules called free radicals can cause a process known as oxidative stress.

Scientists believe that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of certain chronic conditions. These include cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Dates have strong antioxidant properties with the potential to improve chronic conditions.

They may increase skin health

Topical creams containing dates may improve skin health.

Research suggests that the application of date creams to the skin can improve skin moisture content, elasticity, and brightness. The authors also note that dates in skin care may reduce the effects of aging on the skin.

None of the participants using the cream reported side effects, and the dates appeared to be safe for use on the skin.

They may help with diabetes

Diabetes involves reduced blood sugar control. A scientific review that analyzed the available research on the topic suggests that dates have the potential to treat diabetes due to their antioxidant content.

Some studies in the review indicate that dates can improve the function of the pancreas in secreting insulin, which is the hormone that helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. Other studies indicate that dates may help with the complications of diabetes.

In addition, dates are high in fiber, meaning that the body absorbs them slowly during digestion. This helps keep a person’s blood sugar levels stable. High blood sugar levels can be a chronic issue in people with diabetes.

Their fiber content may help prevent certain conditions

The fiber in dates can also help with other conditions.

One study suggests that dietary fiber can help protect against diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, fiber may help reduce the risk of conditions involving the gastrointestinal tract, such as constipation, colon cancer, and ulcers.

Risks and considerations

Dates are a nutrient-rich type of fruit that may have various health benefits. The only possible drawback is that they are high in sugar, according to one study.

People who are trying to moderate their daily calorie intake may wish to limit their intake of dates because they are calorie dense.

Despite the fruit’s sugar content, the study authors say that low-to-moderate consumption is likely safe for anyone, including people with diabetes. This is because the fiber in dates causes the body to digest them slowly, helping prevent unhealthy blood sugar spikes.

However, a person wishing to take supplements containing dates should consult a doctor first. This is because supplements may not always provide the same health benefits as food.

Nutritional information for dates

Below is the nutritional information Source for a 100-gram (g) serving of dates, which is about four dates.

Amount Daily Value
Calories 277
Protein 1.81 g 4%
Total fat 0.15 g 0%
Carbohydrates 75 milligrams (mg) 27%
Fiber 6.7 g 24%
Vitamin A 149 international units 3%
Vitamin B6 0.25 mg 19%
Manganese 0.3 mg 13%
Copper 0.36 mg 40%
Magnesium 54 mg 14%
Potassium 696 mg 15%

According to some research, dates also contain:

  • Phenolic acids: These are types of antioxidants that help protect against disease.
  • Enzymes: These are molecules that make biochemical reactions happen.
  • Carotenoids: These are orange, yellow, and red pigments that are important for various functions.

How to include dates in the diet

Here are some ideas for how to add dates to an eating plan:

  • Breakfasts: Sprinkle dates into oatmeal or add them to dough when making muffins.
  • Salads: Mix dates into any kind of salad.
  • Snacks: Combine dates with other dried fruits and nuts, such as pecans or almonds, to make a trail mix.
  • Lunches: Include dates in a tuna or chicken salad wrap made with whole wheat tortillas.
  • Main dishes: Add dates to a turkey meatloaf recipe or include them in stews and soups.
  • Desserts: Make a parfait with layers of yogurt, diced dates, and berries.
  • Smoothies: Blend dates with almond milk, peanut butter, bananas, and ice to make a smoothie.
  • Sugar substitute: Puree dates and substitute them for sugar in recipes.
  • Energy balls: Pulse dates in a food processor. Mix in natural peanut butter, chopped dark chocolate, and rolled oats. Roll the mixture into balls and refrigerate.

Summary

Scientists need to do more research before they can make any claims about the specific health benefits of dates for men or fertility.

However, preliminary studies suggest that dates may help with other aspects of health, including cognition and blood sugar control, for people of any sex.

The vitamin, mineral, fiber, and antioxidant contents of dates make them a nutritious type of food to include in the diet. There are several creative ways to add them to an eating plan.

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

 

Q&A: Can COVID-19 cause erectile dysfunction? | Expert Opinion

Q&A: Can COVID-19 cause erectile dysfunction? | Expert Opinion

One of the less-publicized reported repercussions of COVID-19 infection has been male sexual health, specifically erectile dysfunction (ED).

Erections require blood flow to the penis, so erectile dysfunction often results from conditions that restrict blood flow or damage nerves and arteries.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on The Philadelphia Inquirer

Edited for content

More than 850,000 Pennsylvanians have tested positive for COVID-19, and while the vast majority of those infected are recovering, long-term effects of the disease are still largely unknown. While pulmonary, cardiac and neurologic complications from COVID-19 are widely recognized, one of the less publicized reported repercussions of infection has been on male sexual health, specifically erectile dysfunction (ED).

More men are experiencing and seeking medical care for sexual dysfunction during the pandemic, with the greatest increase seen in younger men in their 40s and 50s.

A July study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation examined the effects of COVID-19 on male sexual and reproductive health. The study identified a correlation between COVID-19 and ED, likely caused by many factors, ranging from physiological changes to changes in the way we interact with others.

One of the hallmarks of a COVID-19 infection is an exaggerated inflammatory response. The resulting storm of pro-inflammatory signals, called cytokines, causes inflammation of the lining of blood vessels. The hyperinflammatory state triggered by COVID-19 infection can cause vascular damage, ultimately disrupting blood flow — the key component of getting and maintaining an erection.

ED has long been recognized as an excellent marker for physiological well-being. Specifically, ED functions as the “canary in a coal mine” for cardiovascular disease, often predating symptomatic heart disease up to several years in advance. People with preexisting medical conditions are at higher risk for serious COVID-19 infection, but the converse is also true: COVID-19 infection can worsen preexisting medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

In addition, many of the medications used to treat common heart conditions can have a negative effect on erectile dysfunction. The decline in overall health in COVID-19 survivors and the medications used to manage this can both result in ED.

Also, mental and emotional health plays a large role in men’s sexual health. Being in the right mindset is a vital component of achieving an erection and having a satisfactory sexual experience. There is no doubt that there has been a negative mental and emotional toll from the pandemic regardless of personal COVID-19 infection. The impact of social isolation, worry for family and self during the pandemic, and economic toll from quarantine is demonstrated with increasing rates of stress, anxiety and depression. All of these feelings can be detrimental to sexual function.

With COVID-19 having such a sweeping effect on our daily lives, finding ways to improve quality of life has become more important than ever. ED is more common than most men realize — it is recognized in more than 50% of men over the age of 50 — and may be occurring at even higher rates during the pandemic.

If you are experiencing ED, you should speak to your doctor or urologist to be evaluated and discuss treatment options. And remember that one of the best ways to lower your risk of long-term complications from COVID-19 is to prevent infection in the first place by getting vaccinated when you can, observing social distancing, masking, and using good hand hygiene.

Joceline S. Fuchs is a board-certified urologist with MidLantic Urology in Abington.

Peyronie’s Disease and Your Sex Life: 7 Things to Know

7 Ways Peyronie’s Disease Can Affect Your Sex Life

Medically reviewed by Joseph Brito III, MD — Written by Cathy Lovering on February 19, 2021

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Healthline

Edited for content

Peyronie’s disease is when plaques (scar tissue) form under the skin of the penis and cause it to bend. Living with this condition often includes pain and changes to sexual function that can affect personal intimacy, your relationships, and mental health.

Understanding the ways Peyronie’s disease can affect your sex life and partner can help you know what to expect from the disease, along with how treatment options can help.

Here are seven things to know about Peyronie’s disease and sex.

1. Getting and keeping an erection can be challenging

Erectile dysfunction is more common among people with Peyronie’s disease. A 2020 study on 656 men who were receiving care at a urology clinic in Brazil found that nearly 60 percent of men with Peyronie’s disease had erectile dysfunction, compared with 46 percent of men without the condition.

There are a few possible reasons for the connection between Peyronie’s disease and erectile dysfunction. For some, the scarring can make it difficult to get an erection.

Erections can also be challenging if the nerves or blood vessels of the penis have been damaged by inflammation or trauma to the penis, which is associated with Peyronie’s disease.

Many people living with Peyronie’s experience anxiety and depression because of the condition. These feelings can also lead to challenges with sexual function, so the symptoms often compound each other.

Finally, pain (especially during the active phase of the disease) can contribute to erectile dysfunction for some people with Peyronie’s.

2. Your partner may experience pain and discomfort

Peyronie’s disease often causes pain during erections. But that condition doesn’t only cause pain to those living with it — it can also make sex uncomfortable for their partners.

A 2020 study found that nearly half of the female sexual partners of men with the condition experienced at least moderate pain or discomfort during vaginal intercourse.

In some cases, couples couldn’t engage in certain sexual activities they enjoyed before the onset of Peyronie’s.

With that being said, the appearance of your penis might not be as much of an issue to your partner. The research found that nearly 60 percent of men with Peyronie’s disease were very or extremely bothered by how their erect penis looks, while just 20 percent of their female sexual partners felt the same way.

3. Communication can help couples cope

While it can be difficult to talk about Peyronie’s disease, communication is key to maintaining intimacy with your partner and finding new ways to be sexual.

Here are some ways to make the conversation easier, according to the Association of Peyronie’s Disease Advocates (APDA):

  • Discuss the condition and its effects over several conversations. Don’t feel like you have to cover everything in one sitting.
  • Your feelings and symptoms can change over time, so you may need to revisit topics in future conversations. Try to be honest about what you’re going through.
  • Make sure the conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. As much as you share your concerns, listen to your partner express how your condition is affecting them, as well.

The APDA also encourages people with Peyronie’s disease to involve their partners in exploring treatment options and going to doctor’s appointments.

4. Couples may need to explore new forms of intimacy

If Peyronie’s disease is making it challenging to have sex the way you’re used to, it might be time to explore new techniques.

Partners can use different positions or explore other forms of intimacy and pleasure besides intercourse to achieve satisfaction.

Speaking with a sex therapist or counselor can help both people in the relationship share their sexual needs and desires and work through challenges in the relationship.

5. Over-the-counter (OTC) medication can provide pain relief

Treatments for Peyronie’s disease, which range from injections to surgery and penile implants, usually have the goal to reduce curvature and improve sexual function.

However, not all people with the condition need medical treatments. If pain is your main symptom, OTC pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), may be all you need to have a more comfortable erection.

6. Treatments can boost sexual satisfaction

There are a number of surgical and nonsurgical treatments for Peyronie’s disease. While they’re typically focused on reversing curvature and breaking up plaques, some treatments have the added benefit of boosting satisfaction for partners of people with the condition.

A 2020 review of small studies found that 70 percent of female partners of men with Peyronie’s disease who were treated with collagenase clostridium histolyticum injections experienced higher sexual satisfaction.

Female partner sexual satisfaction also climbed by 34 percent to 88 percent when men were treated with penile plication, 90 to 100 percent after they underwent plaque incision or partial excision with grafting, and 40 to 75 percent after penile prosthesis implantation (a treatment typically reserved for people with severe Peyronie’s disease and erectile dysfunction).

It’s important to note that available research only surveyed women who were intimate with men with Peyronie’s disease, so further study is needed to determine how the condition and treatments can affect non-female partners.

7. Talking with others can make you feel better

The psychological impacts of Peyronie’s disease can affect your emotional well-being, as well as your ability to be intimate.

According to APDA, the condition can change the way a person sees themself and hurt their self-confidence.

People with Peyronie’s disease may avoid intimacy, lose interest in sex, and withdraw emotionally. This can cause a range of psychological challenges for both people in the relationship.

Overcoming emotional and social isolation can help reduce the impact of the condition on your sex life and overall well-being. Consider talking with others who are living with the condition or joining a support group.

A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or a therapist, can also give you a safe space to work through concerns and find ways to cope.

Takeaway

Peyronie’s disease can make a big impact on a person’s sex life, both due to the physical symptoms and the emotional impacts of the condition.

The condition can also make an impact on your partner’s comfort and satisfaction during sex.

Exploring treatment options, having open and honest conversations, and seeing a sex therapist are some of the ways to reduce the effects of Peyronie’s disease on intimacy.

You may also consider joining a support group to connect with others who have the condition.

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Fertility supplements for men: What they are, how they work, and why to take them

Fertility supplements for men: What they are, how they work, and why to take them

“Randomized, placebo controlled clinical trials basically don’t exist in this area.”

This article is a repost which originally appeared on INVERSE

Edited for content

As sperm counts around the world plummet for as of yet unknown reasons and research indicates that male fertility issues account for 40-50% of infertility cases, many men who are struggling to conceive may wonder if they can do something to improve their chances. And, of course, the world of supplements stands at the ready, offering blends specifically advertised to boost male fertility. But do these products work?

Are there any supplements that you can take to boost your fertility?

There are some widely available nutrients have been investigated scientifically for their potential to boost male fertility, including one more associated with female sexual health than male fertility.

These include:

  • Fish oil/Omega-3s
  • Folic acid — much more associated with women, especially in relation to fertility
  • Zinc
  • Antioxidants

These nutrients can come from your diet, but it is also possible to supplement your intake, too.

Do male fertility supplements work?

Inverse spoke with Charles Muller, the director of the Male Fertility Lab at the University of Washington. He has been studying sperm and fertilization for decades. When asked about male fertility supplements, he did have a story to tell.

He had two patients, one from India and one from China, who came to the Fertility Lab for assessment after struggling to conceive. Both had a condition called cryptozoospermia, wherein their semen had incredibly low sperm counts. This condition makes the possibility of fertilization very low.

Both men were treated with medicinal formulas in their home countries for several months, and upon returning to the lab, their sperm counts were high.

“Now, the question is, is that just sort of a random event? Or did these herbal supplements really help them?” Muller wonders.

He says that while there are studies of the types of male fertility supplements commonly touted in the United States, “randomized, placebo controlled clinical trials basically don’t exist in this area.” These kinds of trials are the ‘gold standard’ for sussing out whether any medication or intervention is truly effective.

He also says male fertility studies are complicated by the fact semen samples are extremely variable across populations, and even when taken from the same individual.

To really establish whether a supplement is capable of positively changing semen quality on the population level, a researcher would have to establish a “normal range” for each evaluated semen parameter for each individual in the study.

“There’s a blood-testes barrier”

Even if, theoretically, you have a condition that could benefit from supplementation, the compounds in the supplements may not be able to get where they need to go, Muller says.

“It’s possible those things don’t have any effect whatsoever, because they’re just getting thrown out by the digestive system, or second, it’s possible they’re never making their way into the testes,” Muller says.

“Bioavailability in the testes is very limited, because very little can get into the testes. There’s a blood-testes barrier.”

These issues notwithstanding, Muller says: “I don’t knock people doing initial trials. I do them too, because you might find out if it is worth looking into further.”

What are the best male fertility supplements, according to science?

Should you take male fertility supplements?

The results from the existing studies are mixed. Here is a synopsis of some of the research:

· Fish oil for men:

A recent study of young, Danish military recruits found that Omega-3 supplementation improved sperm health. Inverse previously reported that 98 of 1,679 men evaluated in the study took fish oil as a supplement and they had higher sperm count, semen volume, and testicle size than those who did not.

Muller says that, while this study is promising, it was “uncontrolled in terms of amount of omega-3 and patient selection” — two major limitations to taking the results at face value. The study authors highlight this issues, too, saying “these findings need confirmation in well-designed randomized clinical trials among unselected men.”

Ultimately, the jury is still out on fish oil supplements for men’s fertility, but these preliminary results are promising.

· Folic acid for male fertility:

Folic acid is often billed as an essential supplement for female fertility and sexual health, but what about male fertility?

A meta-analysis of seven studies found sperm concentrations were higher in men who took folate supplements than those who ingested a placebo. How well sperm swam and whether they were the optimal shape and size were not shown to be correlated with folate supplementation.

The study authors concluded: “these results should be interpreted with caution due to the important heterogeneity of the studies included in this meta-analysis. Further trials are still needed to confirm the current findings.”

Inverse also recently covered a large male fertility study which followed 2,300 male partners from couples planning to undergo infertility treatment. The men were divided in half and one group of 1,150 took 30 milligrams of elemental zinc and 5 milligrams of folic acid daily, while the other group took a placebo. After 6 months, both groups had similar birth rates. The researchers concluded, “these findings do not support the use of folic acid and zinc supplementation by male partners for the treatment of infertility.”

· Zinc for men:

Both studies above involve zinc supplementation along with folic acid. Zinc is one of the most popular ingredients in dietary supplements for male fertility, according to a 2020 paper in the journal Nutrients. Overall, it appears to be in some 70 percent of the tested supplements.

Some scientists argue zinc is an essential nutrient for safeguarding male fertility and reproductive health. But as the 2020 paper above argues, the standards for testing how well any one supplement are lacking. And for zinc, the lack of standards can be worrying.

As the authors write in the Nutrients review: “We were surprised to point out that all RCTs and meta-analyses on zinc for male infertility relied on doses always exceeding the UL.”

In other words, many of the tests for zinc supplementation they looked at had doses of zinc which were above the upper recommended intake. Too much zinc can have adverse side affects, they write, sounding a note of caution over this supplement’s supposed benefits.

· Antioxidants:

Antioxidants benefit the body by neutralizing free radicals — metabolic waste products which can wreak havoc on cellular health if not properly disposed of. Free radicals can kill sperm and they can also result in the fragmentation of sperm DNA, which could potentially lead to the loss of a pregnancy or even childhood cancer, according to Muller.

Because of this, antioxidant supplementation has and is being investigated as a way to boost sperm health. One 2016 meta-analysis of four clinical trials found a combination of antioxidant supplements including vitamin C, vitamin E, and CoQ10, “can effectively improve semen parameters in infertile men.”

A clinical study in which participants took a daily antioxidant formulation comprised of vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, l-carnitine, zinc, folic acid, and lycopene for three to six months found otherwise, however. This study found no benefits for sperm DNA integrity or other semen parameters.

Additionally, some researchers express concern excess antioxidant use could damage fertility through a different process than the damage caused by free radicals. Because of this potential, the researchers write, “we feel that there is a need for more elaborate research to establish the clear benefits and risks involved in antioxidant therapy for male infertility.”

How do you know you need male fertility supplements?

The science is still out on whether these supplements work.

But according to the Mayo Clinic, infertility is a common problem, affecting one in seven couples. They define infertility as the inability to conceive after a year or more of frequent, unprotected sex.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following factors are crucial for fertilization to be successful:

  • Your sperm must be healthy
  • There needs to be enough of them: Low sperm count decreases the probability of fertilization
  • They need to be effectively transported out of your body: There are a series of delicate tubes and organs involved in the creation, maintenance, and transport of sperm and semen
  • They must be able to move: Sperm motility is a major issue. If they are not moving correctly, they may not be able to travel to the egg cell

These attributes of successful fertilization can be disrupted by factors such as:

  • Infection
  • Retrograde ejaculation (semen enters the bladder during orgasm instead of exiting the body)
  • Auto-immunity conditions
  • Previous surgeries
  • Undescended testicles
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Cancer
  • Chromosomal abnormalities (such as possessing an extra X chromosome)
  • Medications including: SSRI’s, channel blockers, and certain antibiotics
  • Physiological abnormalities in the reproductive tract that prevent the transport of semen or sperm
  • Celiac disease
  • Varicocele (swelling of veins in the testicle)
  • Cystic fibrosis or possessing one of the of the genes that causes cystic fibrosis

While many of these issues can be medically addressed, there are causes of male infertility, such as missing parts of the reproductive tract, that are hard to imagine being effectively treated with supplements.

Can you get the nutrients in male fertility supplements from your diet?

Diet can impact male fertility

Whether or not they work as supplements, omega-3s, folic acid, zinc, and many antioxidants can come from dietary sources.

Additionally, a recent study found correlations between diet and sperm count, and established a kind of diet hierarchy.

Listed from highest to lowest correlated sperm counts, the investigated diets were:

· “Prudent” diet: The researchers described this as a “generally healthy” diet, consisting of fruits, vegetables, fish, and chicken. This bears a lot of similarity to the Mediterranean diet, the benefits of which Inverse has reported on before.

· Vegetarian-like diet: Limited meat and plenty of vegetables, eggs, and dairy.

· Open-sandwich diet: Traditional Danish diet including cold cuts, whole grains, and dairy.

· Western diet: Lots of red meat, fried food, and sugary drinks, and deserts.

Feiby Nassan, a co-author on the study and researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, previously told Inverse that “because following a generally-healthy diet pattern is a modifiable behavior, our results suggest the possibility of using dietary intervention as a possible approach to improve sperm quality of men in reproductive age.”

Muller agrees diet is an important factor in sperm health and questions about diet are included on the UW Male Fertility Lab intake form. Specifically, Muller’s team looks out for diets low in omega-3s or high in nitrates.

Ultimately, following a Mediterranean diet may be the best recipe for male fertility health, these data suggest. For more information on the diet’s scientific backing, take a look at these four mental and physical health benefits.

How long do male fertility supplements take to work?

This is a difficult question to answer given the dearth of reliable studies showing they work at all.

However, the Cleveland Clinic website quotes Cleveland Clinic urologist and male fertility specialist, Neel Parekh, as saying that, for men with male oxidative stress infertility (MOSI), which is a condition where there are more free radicals than antioxidants in the semen, “taking supplemental antioxidants for three months or longer can improve sperm parameters. If a patient doesn’t have MOSI, however, taking antioxidants may do more harm than good.”

He also clarifies that this is only the case for men who don’t have other contributing infertility issues.

Muller says it takes about three months for a stem cell to develop into a sperm cell, and so a supplement study should be at least that long.

Some of the studies have found positive effects of supplementation featured trial periods ranging from 8 to 26 weeks.

Testosterone can haunt your sperm

Can male fertility supplements hurt your fertility?

Counterintuitively, testosterone supplementation can reduce sperm count.

According to Muller, while testosterone is necessary for the production of sperm, increasing blood testosterone levels through supplementation (or steroid use) can drive sperm production down because of a negative feedback loop involving the hypothalamus in the brain.

When the hypothalamus detects increased testosterone levels in the blood, it down regulates the production of other important hormones called LH and FSH. When the testes start getting less LH, they reduce their own testosterone production. This is significant because healthy testosterone levels in the testes should be ten times what they are in the blood stream.

“If the testes itself is not making testosterone, it’s going to have the same level as in the blood, which is a 10th of what it needs to stimulate sperm production,” Muller says.

Other lifestyle factors known to potentially reduce fertility are:

· Frequent hot tub/sauna use

· Marijuana use

· Diet low in omega-3s

· Exposure to industrial or environmental toxins at work or in the home including: plasticizers, xylene, toluene

The Inverse analysis — While there is reason to believe that certain kinds of supplementation or traditional herbal formulas could be helpful, that certainly doesn’t mean that anything advertised as boosting male fertility is efficacious or safe.

Fertility can be impacted by myriad factors such as overall health, habits, and environmental stressors which may need to be resolved. If you’re having trouble conceiving, a first step is to get to a specialist and get some analysis done before you start popping pills.

The Economic Impact of Erectile Dysfunction

The Economic Impact of Erectile Dysfunction

It starts in the bedroom, moves to the workplace, and ends with plummeting GDPs. Yes, erectile dysfunction has economic implications. Is that so hard to believe?

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Fatherly

Edited for content

Eric developed erectile dysfunction after he started taking the medication he needed to in order to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. Far more concerned with his mental health than sex life, it took him a while to realize it was a problem. When he did, he thought it was only impacting his relationship with his wife. Then, like a cruel and flaccid Whac-a-Mole game, it started popping up in other places. It impacted his sleep, affected his appetite, and killed his motivation at the gym. Finally, it met him at work. Eric manages a substance abuse recovery facility and has the kind of mentally intense job that people tend to bring home with them. But when his ED started causing problems, the opposite happened — he unintentionally started to bring the stress of his home life into work. With less energy and competitive drive, he struggled to be present and available for his clients when he felt so vulnerable himself.

“It’s really hard to support others when you’re feeling vulnerable,” says Eric (he asked that his real name be held). “We at the center often speak openly and honestly, but erectile dysfunction (ED) is not something I bring up during group sessions. That is such an intimate detail might cloud how clients view me.“

At 36-year-old, Eric may seem young, but he represents the new face of ED. More men in their thirties and forties are developing ED, although the reasons for the uptick are not entirely clear. Whether it’s a side effect of psychotropic medications or other lifestyle factors like smoking and obesity, the fact is, ED is on the rise for younger men, and the costs incurred are just now being calculated. The clearest impacts are economic. Men with ED take more sick days and are generally less productive at work all around, compared to men who do not struggle sexually. Conservative estimates suggest that treatment costs upwards of $3 million in healthcare costs in the U.S. alone, but studies in America have not accounted for the loss of work. Studies in the UK suggest that ED more accurately costs $67.71 million annually when productivity losses are figured in. Adjusted for a larger population in the U.S. amounts to over $330 million. This is a very rough estimate that does not account for cultural differences, but it still likely adds up to a lot of dollars, a lot of dysfunctional dicks, and a lot of other, unknown costs.

“The unseen element of cost is the psychological toll that erectile dysfunction takes on men and their partners and their families,” says urologist Dr. Judson Brandeis. “ED causes depression which decreases productivity at work.  It also increases stress on marriages, relationships and families, the cost of which is massive.” How massive? Brandeis estimates the economic cost of ED is well over $5 billion.

And yet, on the other side of ED is a large and burgeoning cross-section of the pharmaceutical industry pedaling generally effective short-term drug solutions like Viagra to older and younger men alike. The global ED drug market was valued at $4.82 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to $7.10 by the end of 2024. Experts attribute much of this growth to younger men with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurogenic diseases, and like Eric, psychological disorders, causing an uptick in sexual dysfunction diagnosis. Clearly, ED costs some men money, while it makes others a shit load of it. But the economic impact of ED is farther-reaching than the billions of dollars that surround the drug industry. The function of nearly half the penises in the world is inextricably linked to global economics. Call it the curved economy of dysfunctional dicks. Like it or not, it may impact us all.

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In the past, the most common cause of erectile dysfunction was getting old. As people age, cells in their heart muscle degenerate, valves that control blood flow become thicker and stiffer, and circulation generally slow. Heart health declines, therefore erection health does too, so it has always made medical sense why this would be an issue for retired men in their seventies, rather than men who make up 66 percent of the workforce. However, ED is diagnosed mostly primarily based on patient reports, meaning it’s an honor system, and that’s how a lot of secondary ED diagnoses in younger men are made. Secondary ED, or mild to moderate ED, affects roughly 10 percent of men per decade of life, meaning 30 percent of men in their thirties, 40 percent of men in their forties, 50 percent of men in their fifties, and so on.

Erections depend on blood flow and are inescapably linked with cardiovascular health, so when younger men are unhealthy, they’re more likely to experience ED. In the past, lost productivity at work has been linked to those health problems, and ED was just considered another symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle. A recent study of 52,697 men indicates there may be more to it. Researchers analyzed data from the 2015 and 2016 National Health and Wellness Surveys, which included men ages 40 to 70 from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the U.S. who experienced some form of erectile dysfunction within the past six months of the study. While there was an expected correlation between ED and other health problems like hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and depression, when scientists controlled for this, men with ED were still worse at their jobs compared to men who felt fine about their sexual performance. Men who experienced symptoms missed more work (7.1 percent compared to 3.2 percent), went to work sick more often (22.5 percent compared to 10.1 percent), experienced greater levels of productivity impairment (24.8 percent compared to 11.2 percent), and scored lower on tests that measure overall mental and physical performance.

“It’s destructive in a workplace situation because men are competing over things that actually have nothing to do with their productivity. Your masculinity being threatened makes you less productive.”

If men’s physical health wasn’t the reason they were struggling at work, then there is something about their professional prowess that is connected to their sexual one. Unsurprisingly, experts suspect a person’s views of masculinity may be responsible for this. Research shows men who cannot perform sexually report a diminished sense of being a man, increased depression, decreased self-worth, embarrassment, and fear of being stigmatized, and the more they believe in traditional masculine norms, the worse they feel as a result of ED.

“This can lower their self-esteem and motivation, even causing physical symptoms such as headaches and lowered immunity,” couples therapist Elisabeth Goldberg explains. When ED goes untreated some men end up feeling worthless. “This is a serious risk factor for depression, leading to missed work days, inability to stick to deadlines, and anger management difficulties with coworkers.”

In the workplace, economist and author Marina Adshade thinks this low self-esteem can take a different turn. Rather than being demotivated by their ED, men become aggressive — in a sense motivated to make up for what they perceive as a masculine failure with a ratcheted-up sense of (usually male on male) competition in the workplace.

“It’s destructive in a workplace situation because men are competing over things that actually have nothing to do with their productivity,” says Adshade. This manifests in ways that may sound familiar: Not being willing to ask for help, not being able to work as part of a team, and not being able to negotiate and compromise. “In the modern workplace, these are real assets. If those are compromised because your masculinity is being threatened, it would make you less productive.”

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It’s impossible to entirely separate men’s health from erectile dysfunction. Even when studies control for a number of health conditions that cause ED, they do not rule out the possibility that smoking, drinking too much, gaining weight, and being generally unhealthy contributed to missed days and lost productivity for men who did not have diagnosable illnesses.

“It’s a chicken or the egg thing,” says urologist Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt. “Is it the lifestyle choices that lead to erectile dysfunction or is it erectile dysfunction that lead to the lifestyle choices?” This is a question that may have unsatisfying answers. If lifestyle factors cause ED, it could take years to course-correct — losing weight, quitting smoking, getting back on track health-wise.

Why wait when you can take a little blue pill? While men patiently address varying degrees of underlying health issues, drugs like Viagra represent the closest thing to a catchall solution to a widespread problem. The very success of Viagra may come from the fact that, pending no pre-existing heart conditions, these medications are a generally effective and low-risk solution in the short-term. Aggressive advertising campaigns and direct to consumer healthcare companies that discreetly deliver erection pills door to door have helped reduce stigma and educate men on their ED treatment options. And when Pfizer lost exclusive rights to making Viagra in 2017, this gave rise to a number of generic options and market competition that brought costs down, making it even more affordable and accessible for consumers. ED drugs are a temporary but very effective workaround while men address other underlying health problems that cause sexual dysfunction. Of course, they come with hidden costs.

Everyone might be better off if guys are just fine with whatever they’re working with, even if it doesn’t work every time.

Ironically, medically-induced erections may lead to infidelity. ED is linked with a significantly higher risk of infidelity for men, because they blame their current partner for their performance issues, instead of underlying health, psychological, or relationship problems. “They turn to someone new in a frantic effort to prove their manliness, and rationalize that if they can perform with someone other than their spouse, then it must be the spouse’s fault,” says Goldberg. When it doesn’t, damage done, men can ignore the obvious and use ED drugs like Viagra to help make this warped reality a reality.

Infidelity has economic consequences. The affair itself costs about $450 a month, or $2,700 an affair total, which lasts about 6 months on average. It doesn’t sound like much, but that doesn’t account for time lost to the affair and, of course, the fact that many affairs lead to divorce. While infidelity does not cause divorce directly, it does remain one of the most commonly cited reasons for splitting, about 37 percent of the time. In Goldberg’s clinical experiences, ED can cause marriage problems that lead to divorce without causing infidelity as well.

The average divorce in the U.S. costs $15,000 per person but can vary depending on how drawn out and contentious it is. Research shows divorced men tend to have higher rates of smoking, substance abuse, depression, and worse health overall following divorce, all of which lead to increased absences and decreased productivity at work, which slows economic growth overall. Other studies estimate that the family income of parents who divorce and stay divorced for at least six years falls up to 45 percent.

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The various impacts of erectile dysfunction can be boiled down to this: Men have unhealthy expectations for how they should perform sexually. “It’s every day in my office, and you can thank the adult film industry for that,” says Brahmbhatt who admits that he spends more time managing men’s impractical sexual expectations than he does writing prescriptions for Viagra.

In a strange way, this psychology echoes in Adshade’s economic research. In her work she stumbled on a global penis size distribution map, a dataset compiled by a doctoral student to look at how a country’s average penis sizes related to their Gross Domestic Product. Although the findings were not published in a peer-reviewed journal, they indicated that there was a u-shaped relationship between penis size and economic growth. The slowest growing and least developed countries had both the biggest and smallest penis sizes on average, but the fastest-growing economies had average ones. Adshade suspects that this was because these were the men who had less to prove in terms of their masculinity, and lead more productive, economically rich lives as a result. While this does not speak to erectile dysfunction directly, it says everything about the economic impact of how men feel about their dicks. Men don’t need to have the biggest or best penises in the world to succeed — in fact, that may be bad for the economy too. But everyone might be better off if guys are just fine with whatever they’re working with, even if it doesn’t work every time.

“ED causes depression which decreases productivity at work.  It also increases stress on marriages, relationships and families, the cost of which is massive.”

“It really comes down to how men measure their self-worth,” Adshade says. “Men tend to measure their self-worth by their ability to not only perform sexually but please their partner,” Goldberg adds. “Low-self worth has major consequences”

For Eric, a man who is deep in erectile dysfunction and working on finding a way out, this is easier said than done. For him, Viagra has not been the quick fix it can be for some and he’s working with a urologist to figure out a solution without disrupting his medication regimen. He’s doing pretty much everything he’s supposed to, and it’s still not easy.

“Being a newly-single male back on the dating scene, dealing with ED has been tumultuous, to say the least,” he says. “The toll it takes on men’s confidence is quite drastic. It’s almost as if our masculinity is taken away.”

How Pornography Use Affects Couples Sexual Health

How Pornography Use Affects Couples Sexual Health

Emerging research provides clues on how, and for whom, pornography affects sex.

Posted Jan 11, 2021

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Psychology Today

Edited for content

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, pornography use is seen as morally acceptable among a rising percentage of Americans, moving from 30 percent approval in 2011 to 43 percent by 2018. This trend follows overall movement toward more liberal beliefs across the boards. When it comes to pornography, the biggest changes were seen among unmarried people and adult males under age 49. Factors such as religion and political orientation affect porn acceptance, with a far smaller percentage of conservative and religious people finding porn morally OK.

Despite growing acceptance, there is serious concern that pornography causes real harm: exploitation and risk to performers, damage to the capacity for healthy relationship and interfering with relationship and sexual satisfaction, addictive potential, illegal activity supporting human trafficking and child abuse, and contribution to the general societal trend to objectify and present unrealistic expectations for physical attributes as well as what healthy sexual behavior is. These are public health and human rights concerns, overlapping with moral concerns and calls for ethical porn, just as trauma and moral injury overlap, requiring greater attention and activism.

Pornography and long-term relationship

Of particular interest is the impact of pornography on marriage. According to a study in the Journal of Sexual Research (2018), pornography has a negative impact on most committed relationships. There are exceptions, but they are not typical. Looking at over 6000 couples, they found that anxiety about the relationship (anxious attachment) was associated with greater relationship satisfaction with own pornography use by men and lower satisfaction when women used porn.

Men were three times more likely to report porn use, and marginally more accepting of pornography. In general, they found that low pornography acceptance among porn users was associated with lower relationship satisfaction, though for men only higher acceptance was associated with greater relationship satisfaction. Pornography use was generally associated with anxious attachment and lower relationship satisfaction. However, work on how pornography use affects sexual satisfaction requires further study.

To understand the connection between pornography and sexual health, Vaillancort-Morel and colleagues, in their recent study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (2021) surveyed 217 couples, including 72 same-sex couples, together at least one year, and sexually active, who completed approximately one month of daily reports.

They estimated pornography use, and whether it was solitary, with their partner, or both; sexual satisfaction on days sexually active, using the Global Measure of Sexual Satisfaction; sexual distress using the Female Sexual Distress Scale-Revised (also validated for men) estimating distress about sex life, inferiority feelings because of sexual issues, and sexual worries; sexual function via the Monash Female Sexual Satisfaction Questionnaire (with men’s version), asking about sexual desire, receptiveness, ease of arousal, quality of erection or lubrication, orgasm and experience of pleasure; and frequency of masturbation.

Findings

In terms of basic statistics, in this convenience sample, over 35 days half of couples reported pornography use on the same day they had sex. By and large, pornography use was not related to sexual health on most study measures. While future research is warranted to look at a more diverse sample, pornography use here was not associated with sexual satisfaction, ease of sexual arousal, orgasm, or pleasure, and did not strongly relate to sexual distress overall. Masturbation was unrelated to one’s own or partner’s sexual satisfaction, distress or function.

However, there were two significant findings. First, solo pornography use on days when couples had sex was related to increased partner sexual distress. The negative impact on partner distress was true for both men and women, suggesting increased feelings of inadequacy and potential lower quality of sexual engagement (e.g. the partner who used porn may have had changes in behavior and emotions during sex) on those days they had sex when their partner used pornography without them.

Study authors note that some people using pornography alone on days they had sex might have had sex with partners before using pornography, in which case partner distress may be related to later pornography use.

Second, women reported better lubrication on the days pornography was used, whereas men did not report better quality erection, the analogous measure. Authors note that prior research points toward an entourage effect, where couples pornography use is associated with greater sexual openness, that it may help couples normalize, talk about and play out sexual fantasies, and general facilitate sex positivity.

This is in line with research showing that women’s sexual satisfaction is directly related to how well women express what works for them (2017), and couples talk about and maintain a positive attitude toward, sex (2017). This can be further facilitated by couples groups in which couples speak together about intimate issues, thereby increasing overall relationship satisfaction (2017).

Further considerations

Sexual and relationship issues are on the rise, driven by COVID-19-related stress, loneliness and depression, with increased conflict and decreased intimacy (2020). For many couples, pornography has a corrosive effect, much like infidelity in some ways. As with infidelity (2019), open marriage, or parenting marriages, sexual activity outside the couple may also be stabilizing, a factor strongly affected by moral and social norms.

For other couples, those more accepting of pornography and generally sex positive, with more secure attachment to one another, pornography may be useful and pleasurable component of their sex life—as long as it does not cause insecurity in partners or negatively impact sexual behavior and attitudes. The research discussed here, while preliminary, serves as a springboard for discussion and may offer insight for some couples.

As pornography acceptance is a crucial factor, finding out how aligned partners are on pornography is a key part of talking about sexual and relationship satisfaction. Given that sexual satisfaction tends to decline in the majority of marriages over time (2019), it’s important to talk about sex openly for couples seeking long-term stability and satisfaction.

Note: An ExperiMentations Blog Post (“Our Blog Post”) is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. We will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on information obtained through Our Blog Post. Please seek the advice of professionals, as appropriate, regarding the evaluation of any specific information, opinion, advice, or other content. We are not responsible and will not be held liable for third party comments on Our Blog Post. Any user comment on Our Blog Post that in our sole discretion restricts or inhibits any other user from using or enjoying Our Blog Post is prohibited and may be reported to Sussex Publishers/Psychology Today. Grant H. Brenner. All rights reserved.

 

13 Questions About Erections: What It Is, How It Works, What to Do

What Is an Erection? A First-Timer’s Guide to Getting Hard

Medically reviewed by Jennifer Litner, LMFT, CST — Written by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst on December 15, 2020

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Healthline

Edited for content. Some of the recommendations below may not be recommended by the forum- e.g.- watching porn

Got questions about erections? Like why do they happen, and usually at the most random times?

Or what the heck is dribbling out of it? And what’s up with raging semis?

Keep reading, because we’re answering all of your burning questions here. (Not that your boner should burn, BTW.)

So, what exactly is it?

An erection — or boner, wood, or chubby, if you prefer — is a hardening of the penis.

Most of the time, the penis is flaccid and just hangs around minding its own business.

During an erection, it becomes temporarily engorged with blood and enlarged. This makes it feel stiff and causes it to stand up and away from the body.

Why does it happen?

Sexual arousal is often the reason, which is caused by seeing, feeling, or even thinking of something that turns you on.

Erections can also happen for no particular reason. There’s actually a name for these random boners: spontaneous erections.

So if you get a stiffy while watching a documentary on slugs, it’s just a penis doing what a penis does and it’s NBD.

It’s also normal to wake up with morning wood, whether you’ve had a sex dream or not.

How does it work?

To know how an erection works, we need to start with a little lesson on penis anatomy.

There are two chambers that run the length of your penis called the corpora cavernosa. Each contains a maze of blood vessels that create sponge-like spaces.

When those blood vessels relax and open, blood rushes through and fills them, causing the penis to engorge, creating an erection.

A membrane around the corpora cavernosa helps trap the blood so your D stays hard.

Erections aren’t just about the penis, though. Your brain plays a role, too.

When you get aroused, your brain sends signals to your penis that cause the muscles in it to relax and let the blood in.

Does everyone get them?

Everyone with a penis does.

That said, certain lifestyle factors can make it difficult for you to get an erection, like being tired, stressed, or intoxicated.

Certain medications and medical conditions can also cause erectile dysfunction.

Does it hurt?

It shouldn’t. Mostly boners just make you super aware of your D when you don’t generally really feel it or think about it otherwise.

However, there are some instances when an erection might be uncomfortable.

Pee boners are an example of this. They happen because your penis is designed to not let you wet yourself. It’s quite marvelous, really. Try to pee when you’re still hard and you’ll feel the burn.

Excessive or especially vigorous masturbation can also cause some discomfort down there. So, if your pain starts after you’ve been especially heavy-handed lately, giving your penis a rest should help.

Otherwise, an underlying medical condition or injury can cause painful erections. If you have penis pain, a trip to a healthcare provider is in order.

What if stuff starts coming out? Is that normal?

Totally normal — assuming that what’s coming out isn’t bloody, green, or yellow, or has a dank stank to it. (Those are all signs of an STI or other infection.)

Barring those things, what you’re seeing is either ejaculate or pre-ejaculate — or precum, as most people call it.

Ejaculation typically happens during orgasm. This is when your arousal builds and leads to an intense, feels-so-good release that’s accompanied by ejaculate shooting from your penis.

That said, it’s possible to orgasm without ejaculating. It’s also possible to ejaculate without having an O.

That thin, slippery fluid that dribbles out of your D when you’re hard before ejaculation is called precum. It happens to anyone with a penis and is no biggie.

An FYI about precum: It can contain a small amount of sperm and therefore can cause pregnancy.

What’s the point of all this?

The point of an erection is so you can partake in penetrative sex.

Granted, you don’t need to have penetrative sex if you don’t want to, but in order to be able to get it in there — whether there is a vagina or anus — you need to at least be a bit hard.

Penetration without an erection is kind of like pushing rope.

How do you make it go away?

The penis is designed to lose an erection once you’ve ejaculated, so that’s one way.

Other than ejaculating, you may be able to able to make it go away by eliminating the source of stimulation, like:

  • shifting positions (or your boner) so your jeans or thighs aren’t rubbing it
  • thinking about something else, preferably something nonsexual
  • distracting yourself by reading anything in sight or counting backward

You can also just wait it out and hide it in the meantime by holding something over it, like your bag or jacket. If your shirt is long enough, you can try untucking it (the shirt, not the boner).

For a menacing rager that pops up at a particularly inopportune time, hightailing it to the nearest exit or washroom might be your best bet.

How often are you supposed to get one?

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how many erections a person should get.

People with penises have an average of 11 erections per day and three to five more each night, but everyone is different.

There are numerous factors that can affect how often you get hard, like your age, hormone levels, and lifestyle.

If you’re concerned about your ability to get or maintain an erection, talk to a healthcare provider. Same if you feel like you’re hard more often than not or have an erection that persists for more than 2 hours straight.

Is there anything you can do to prevent it from happening?

Not really.

Erections are a normal part of having a penis. They’re bound to happen whether you want them to or not.

Using some of the methods we gave to stop an erection might also help you prevent one, but it’s not a sure thing, especially if you have an especially sensitive penis.

What if you want to make it happen?

Now we’re talkin’!

The key to getting an erection is being relaxed and allowing yourself to get aroused.

Here are some things that can help things along:

  • Fantasize about something you find sexually stimulating.
  • Look at images you find arousing.
  • Watch porn.
  • Read erotica.
  • Touch yourself anywhere it feels good, not just your penis.
  • Try a sex toy.

How do you know if you’re doing it right?

As long as it’s not causing you — or anyone — pain or distress, then it’s all good.

Sexual arousal should feel good. Erections shouldn’t be a source of discomfort or guilt.

If you’re concerned about your erections or are struggling with negative feelings about your sexuality, you may find it helpful to talk to a professional.

You can speak to your primary care provider or find a sexual health professional in your area through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) directory.

What’s the bottom line?

Erections are natural and just part of owning a penis. As inconvenient as they may be when they come up spontaneously, the ability to have them is a sign of health.

Their main purpose may be to facilitate penetrative sex, but no pressure. Your erection, your choice.

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Penis health: Conditions, safety, lifestyle, and care

What to know about penis health

Medically reviewed by Kevin Martinez, M.D. — Written by Jenna Fletcher on April 2, 2020

This article is a repost which originally appeared on MEDICAL NEWS TODAY

Edited for content

A healthy penis should be free of lesions, warts, and abnormal discharge. In general, the penis should be roughly the same color as the surrounding skin, though it may be a shade darker or lighter.

Also, a person should not experience any pain in their penis when urinating or engaging in sexual activity.

A sudden change in the appearance, sensation, or function of the penis may signal an underlying issue that requires medical attention.

This article describes certain lifestyle factors and health conditions that can affect penis health. It also outlines some possible symptoms of poor penis health and provides tips on penis care.

Lifestyle factors that affect penis health

Lifestyle factors that can affect penis health include sexual relationships, weight management, and alcohol use.

The sections below outline some common lifestyle factors that can affect penis health.

Sexual relationships

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can negatively affect penis health. Some of the most common STIs include:

  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • herpes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people practice safe sex in order to reduce their risk of contracting an STI. This involves using barrier methods during sexual activity and getting vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV.

The following can also help reduce the risk of spreading and contracting STIs:

  • limiting the number of sexual partners
  • maintaining a monogamous sexual relationship
  • abstaining from sexual activity

Often, people who contract an STI do not experience any symptoms. This is why it is important for people who are sexually active to attend regular sexual health screenings.

Weight management

Obesity can negatively affect many aspects of a person’s health, including penis function.

People with obesity may be more likely to experience erectile dysfunction, or impotence. This occurs when a person is unable to develop or maintain an erection during sexual activity.

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, obesity can contribute to erectile dysfunction by:

  • decreasing testosterone levels
  • causing inflammation throughout the body
  • damaging the blood vessels, including those that supply blood to the penis

However, one 2018 study suggests that the relationship between obesity and sexual health is not completely clear. Although obesity may contribute to erectile dysfunction, other factors may also give rise to poor sexual health. These include:

  • anxiety
  • stress
  • self-esteem issues

Diet

Eating a healthful, balanced diet can help prevent obesity and related sexual health problems.

A 2017 animal study investigated the potential link between diet, obesity, and erectile function. In this study, one group of rats consumed a calorie-rich diet, while a second group consumed a standard diet.

The rats that consumed the calorie-rich diet were more likely to develop obesity, and they also showed significantly poorer erectile function.

The types of food a person eats could also affect their penis health. For example, one 2016 study found that a diet rich in flavonoids was associated with a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction in men below the age of 70.

Flavonoids are chemicals that occur naturally in a range of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Some examples of flavonoid-rich foods include:

  • root vegetables
  • legumes
  • berries
  • grapes
  • citrus fruits
  • teas
  • chocolate

Exercise

Exercise is important in helping a person maintain a moderate weight. This means that it also helps reduce the risk of obesity-related sexual health concerns.

Exercise may also benefit sexual health more directly. For example, one 2015 study investigated whether or not regular walking exercise could help improve erectile dysfunction in men who had recently had a heart attack.

Those who took part in the regular walking program reported a 71% decrease in erectile dysfunction symptoms. Those who did not take part in the program reported a 9% increase in erectile dysfunction symptoms.

The researchers conclude that regular exercise may help reduce symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

A 2011 meta-analysis investigated the effects of aerobic exercise on erectile dysfunction. The researchers analyzed five studies involving a total of 385 participants.

All the studies showed improvements in erectile dysfunction following aerobic activity. The researchers conclude that men with erectile dysfunction may benefit from aerobic training, though further studies are necessary to confirm this.

Alcohol and tobacco use

Drinking a lot of alcohol can negatively impact many aspects of a person’s health.

According to the CDC, excessive drinking can interfere with male hormone production, potentially contributing to impotence and infertility.

Alcohol also increases the likelihood that a person will engage in risky sexual behavior. Such behavior puts a person at increased risk of contracting or transmitting an STI.

Tobacco smoking can also have a negative effect on penis health. According to the Truth Initiative, smoking may play a role in the following sexual health issues:

  • erectile dysfunction
  • infertility
  • decreased libido

Health conditions that may affect penis health

There are several health conditions that can directly affect penis health. Some of the more common ones include:

  • STIs, such as chlamydia, herpes, or genital warts
  • phimosis, which occurs when the foreskin cannot extend over the head of the penis
  • balanitis, which is inflammation of the head or foreskin of the penis

Other conditions not directly related to the penis can also affect its health. Many of these conditions may cause erectile dysfunction or issues with fertility. These include:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • stress
  • certain heart conditions

When to see a doctor

Anyone who is sexually active should check for symptoms of STIs regularly. They should look for:

  • rashes, sores, or blisters on the penis
  • burning or itching sensations in the penis
  • abnormal discharge from the penis
  • a foul odor coming from the penis or groin area
  • pelvic pain
  • pain when urinating or passing stools

Anyone who thinks that they may have an STI should visit their doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Importantly, many people who contract an STI will not experience any symptoms. Regular sexual health screenings will help detect STIs that a person may not have noticed otherwise.

Anyone who thinks that they may have erectile dysfunction should also see their doctor, who will work to diagnose the cause.

How to care for the penis

A person should clean their penis at least once per day using a mild soap. Using abrasive or heavily scented soaps could irritate the skin of the penis.

A person should wash all parts of the penis, including:

  • the pubic hair
  • the scrotum
  • the area between the legs and scrotum
  • the penis shaft
  • the area underneath the foreskin, if uncircumcised

Tips for a healthy penis

The tips below can help a person keep their penis healthy:

  • using a barrier method during sex
  • limiting the number of sexual partners they have
  • undergoing a sexual health screening at least once per year if in a monogamous relationship
  • undergoing a sexual health screening as often as every 3–6 months if having sex with multiple partners
  • keeping the penis and genital area clean
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • avoiding the use of tobacco products
  • exercising regularly
  • eating a healthful, balanced diet

Summary

A person can take several steps to maintain the health of their penis. This includes exercising regularly and eating a healthful diet. A person may also wish to avoid having unprotected sex, drinking a lot of alcohol, and using tobacco products.

To maintain a healthy penis, a person should thoroughly wash the penis at least once per day. Those who are sexually active should also go for sexual health screenings at least once per year and perform regular self-checks at home.

If a person has any concerns about their penis, they should talk to a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the issue and provide appropriate treatments.

 

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