Is there a connection between aromatase and erectile dysfunction?
Yes there is, especially if you’re producing this enzyme is high volume, which many men are.
But before we get into this, lets talk briefly about what aromatase is.
Aromatase is an enzyme produced in men’s livers. Its main job is to convert testosterone into estrogen, thus maintaining healthy hormone balance.
For decades, science has mostly investigated aromatase in terms of its connection with breast cancer.
Because of this, we’ve discovered that aromatase inhibitors are some of the first used and most effective treatment and prevention methods.
More recently, though, research has expanded into how aromatase interacts with men’s hormones, and with our erectile health.
Here’s what you need to know.
Aromatase and Testosterone
Aromatase exists to help efficiently achieve and maintain hormonal balance by converting some of your testosterone into estrogen, and it does this job extremely well.
This is so well understood, you won’t find any recent studies investigating if it even happens, because the fact that it does is a given in scientific circles.
Instead, you see studies about how the relationship between aromatase and testosterone impacts other aspects of health, for example:
- A 1999 study in Georgia investigated how interrupting aromatase production could reduce obesity in men (source).
- Work in 1997 investigated the impact of aromatase deficiency on sexual and overall health as it related to testosterone, estradiol, and estrogen.
- In 1994, researchers looked at how aromatase conversion of testosterone to estrogen impacted the pituitary gland and endocrine system.
As a man, you need testosterone not just for erectile function, but for your overall health. Too little testosterone can lead to heart problems, excess fat, depression, fatigue, and even higher risks of some cancers.
Aromatase and Estrogen
All of the above is true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean aromatase is 100% bad for you. Men need estrogen too, so wiping it out isn’t the objective here.
A human body — male or female — needs both testosterone and estrogen to function. Just a few of the effects of having too much testosterone in relation to your estrogen levels include:
- Oily skin
- Cognitive issues
- Poor judgment
- Testicular shrinkage
- Reduced sperm production
- Lowered libido
- Increased aggression
You might remember experiencing many of these symptoms during puberty — those memorable years when your testosterone production was off the charts while your body was busy turning from a boy into a man.
Researchers at the University of Miami have further demonstrated that estrogen plays a key role in men’s sexual health, regulating sperm production, erectile health, and libido (source).
In a 2016 study, they found that it had both “an inhibitory and stimulatory influence.”That means it both increased and decreased erectile health — based on the balance of estrogen and testosterone in the body.
Bottom line: yes, aromatase reduces testosterone. But it’s supposed to.
Without that function, your testosterone-estrogen balance would get out of whack.
Aromatase and Erectile Dysfunction
If you look at the lists of effects for too much testosterone and too much estrogen, you’ll notice that lots of things that happen in both cases.
When it comes to erectile dysfunction, what you need is the right ratio of testosterone to estrogen. Aromatase helps your body maintain that ratio — if the aromatase is present in the right amounts.
Too much aromatase means your estrogen gets too high. Too little, your testosterone spikes. Both extremes can impact your sexual health, leading directly to performance problems in the bedroom.
I know — it’s not the simple advice you were hoping for. But, like most aspects of health, the truth isn’t simple.
Optimal Testosterone & Estrogen Levels
It’s possible to test your estrogen and testosterone levels, to make sure the aromatase in your body is maintaining the proper balance. But you shouldn’t do it too often.
Think about this like losing weight.
If you jump on the scale every day, the simple variations of water weight, food in your stomach, and similar factors will frustrate you with their fluctuations.
That’s why most weight-loss coaches recommend weighing in only once a week.
Similarly, hormone levels swing wildly according to all manner of short-term stimuli like what you ate, the time of day, how you’re feeling, and even the weather. Frequent testing will only drive you nuts.
Instead, you should test once a year. In between tests, focus daily on lifestyle factors which can keep your hormonal balance in the healthy range.
- Dietary factors, like eating plenty of fats and proteins, avoiding alcohol and sugar, going big on pro-testosterone foods like oysters and onions, periodic fasting, and drinking enough water.
- Testosterone-friendly activities, like powerlifting, going outdoors, high-intensity interval training, and having sex with an affectionate partner.
- Lifestyle choices, like stress relief, avoiding harmful chemicals, getting sufficient sleep, being smart about medication, avoiding BPAs in plastic, and pursuing work-life balance.
For details on all of these factors and more, read my article here.
When you do test once a year, you want your Free Testosterone levels to fall between 20 to 25 pg/mL of blood.
Your estradiol (the form of estrogen tested for in men) should be >below 30 pg/mL.
If your testosterone is lower than that range, you need to increase your activities that boost testosterone.
If your estradiol is too high, you need to reduce your aromatase levels. I’ve written an article on how to reduce aromatase production naturally here.
Aromatase and Erectile Dysfunction-Conclusion
Your body’s relationship with aromatase is like the relationship status of that one girl you used to want to date…”it’s complicated.”
Aromatase itself is almost never the only problem for men with erectile dysfunction. However, its impact can cause erectile dysfunction, or worsen the impact of other factors responsible for your erectile woes.
My advice is to focus on the simpler, more direct things that contribute to your erectile health.
If your blood tests show a hormonal imbalance, recruit your understanding of aromatase to help you fix the imbalance.