Acupuncture & Male Sexual Health
by Eric Kerr, L.Ac.
Whether thinking about having it, being better at it, or finding more enjoyment in it – sex is almost always on a man’s brain.
Sex can also be an area of frustration, especially for men who are experiencing physical difficulties or a lack of desire. Oftentimes, men feel embarrassed or ashamed of what they’re experiencing.
Fortunately, there are a number of Western medical treatments that can address most sexual challenges. Although many of the pharmaceutical treatments come with a number of side-effects, and more importantly, don’t address the root problem.
How can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine help to increase your libido, address erectile dysfunction, and get to the root cause of premature ejaculation?
For thousands of years, the men of China have looked to acupuncture and herbal medicine to increase their libido and address any potential imbalances that may be occurring within the body. Both a decrease and an increase in sex-drive are considered to be states of imbalance. Excessive sexual activity can actually lead to an inability to achieve/maintain an erection, as well as affect ejaculatory function. Fortunately, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine aims to bring the body back into a state of balance, no matter what the cause.
Recently I have seen a number of TV ads for “Low T” or low testosterone. These commercials usually show a man reminiscing about how he use to be more energetic, had greater sex drive, and was more active. As we progress in years, our testosterone levels start to decline. It is true that there is a connection between testosterone and a man’s sex drive, but stress, sleep deprivation, depression, and chronic medical illnesses can also diminish a man’s libido.
Recent studies actually show that stress and sleep deprivation are the main culprits for premature andropause (male menopause) and lower levels of testosterone. This is important to take into account when considering testosterone replacement therapy and if you are wanting to treat the root problem or just the branch symptoms.
Sexual function essentially relies on the integrity and balance of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Acupuncture directly taps into the ANS and has clinically been shown to naturally release the neurotransmitters responsible for erection, increase blood flow, and naturally release a significant amount of testosterone into the blood stream.
In regards to erectile dysfunction (ED), we must determine whether the problem is due to an organic cause or if it is of a psychogenic origin, or both. One of the easiest ways to determine this, is the presence of a spontaneous erection during sleep (nocturnal penile tumescence [NPT]) or ‘morning wood.’ This clearly indicates ED of a psychogenic or an emotionally-based origin (depression, anxiety, etc.).
Even if the ED is due primarily to an psychogenic cause, organic or physical causes can definitely add to the situation. Its important to first rule out any potential organic causes, as ED may be a sign of a more serious medical condition, and then the psychogenic causes can be addressed.
Organic causes for ED are usually associated with Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Prostate issues, or Substance use (alcohol, smoking, medications, street drugs, etc.). Many antidepressants can cause changes in sexual desire and erectile function.
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the cause(s) of ED may be due to an excessive or stagnant condition (think lack of flow due to a blockage) or caused by a deeper underlining deficiency (not enough energy). Through detailed and accurate diagnosis, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help facilitate movement and circulation into the genitals, as well as address any underlying deficiency.
Once things are up and ready, some men experience occasional premature ejaculations (PE). The American Urological Association reports that around 30% of men experience PE on average. Although PE is not considered to be an organically based condition, more medical practitioners are starting to view it as a neurobiologically-based condition. This associates the occurrence as being due to inexperience, anxiety, or other psychological origins effecting the ability to control the ejaculatory process. Men with prostate issues are also more susceptible to experiencing PE. Common treatments for PE include behavioral therapy and SSRI treatments like Paxil, which delays ejaculation, but can also negatively impact erection. I must note that in a recent study, acupuncture was only slightly less effective in preventing PE when compared to daily use of Paxil. Almost all of the benefit, with none of the side-effects.
As with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation is seen as either of an excess or deficient origin in Chinese Medicine. Certain dietary choices (greasy foods, alcohol), being overworked or emotionally stressed, as well as excessive sexual activity can all effect the bodies ability to control ejaculation. Acupuncture and herbs help to strengthen the bodies ability to clear out the excess factors that are contributing to the PE. It also allows for greater awareness, strength, and control over the ejaculatory function by addressing the root deficiency.
Lifestyle and Diet
With all of the these sexual challenges, it is important to look into the effects of certain lifestyle choices and/or habits. As acute and chronic stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise can all have a profound effect on your sex life.
Everyone is different – and unfortunately there is not a universal blueprint on how each of us should be living our lives. It is important to determine what really works for you. A qualified Chinese Medicine practitioner can look at your individual case and guide you in the right direction, but here are some general suggestions that will help sexual function.
-Limit your consumption of heavy, greasy, processed foods
-Limit or avoid the use of alcohol and other drugs
-Reduce smoking habits or consider stopping
-Exercise regularly: Refrain from excessive, stress-inducing physical exercise (chronic-cardio) as it increases cortisol levels, an antagonist to testosterone. Excessive levels of cortisol produce insulin resistance, fat gain, and muscle wasting.
-Reduce stress: meditation, mindfulness practice, acupuncture, etc.
-Get more sleep
-Attend to your emotional life
-Look at zinc, Vit D, magnesium levels: All are closely linked to urogenital function and testosterone levels.
-See your doctor for regular checkups and medical screening tests
For thousands of years, the men of China have benefited from the use of this medicine for increased sexual performance. Acupuncture not only treats sexual dysfunction symptoms, but also helps with the physical and psychological causes of these symptoms.
Having an enjoyable sex life is an important part of every man’s health and is something that men should experience throughout their lives. Now is the time to face these challenges and start experiencing a fuller and more pleasurable sex life.
Schedule your appointment with Eric and learn more about his practice at his website.