(Low Carb and Erectile Dysfunction, written by David Jaynes)
The good news about low carb diets is they can help you with rapid weight loss.
The better news about low carb diets is they basically let you eat like you would if your gal was out of town.
Steak and eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch, and a brick of cheese for dinner?
Don’t mind if I do.
The bad news about low carb diets is they can hit you with erectile dysfunction.
Not every man who goes low-carb is going to experience this common side effect…but enough men do that you should be on the lookout and have a backup plan.
Who would have guessed that cutting out one of the three important macronutrients might cause problems in the human body?
A lot of people, actually.
Study after study have demonstrated that carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient in your body’s production of hormones in general. More specifically, research into its importance to testosterone production has been conclusive.
In 1997, a Pennsylvania study among weightlifters found that high-protein, low-carb diets led directly to reduced testosterone production. More, they found the further protein and carbs were out of balance, the greater the reduction of testosterone (source).
Ten years earlier, a study of men who didn’t exercise found the same relationship: fewer carbs eaten meant less testosterone produced (source).
More recently, a North Carolina study in 2010 had two groups of men exercise regularly.
One was fed a diet consisting of 30% carbs, the other fed a diet of 60% carbohydrates. The group with the higher carbohydrate content in their diets saw a corresponding increase in serum testosterone (source).
You’d have thought eating lots of red meat — preferably rare — would have boosted testosterone no matter how few scones you snarfed down.
Your body needs carbs to make hormones, and that includes the hormones responsible for getting and keeping yourself hard.
Sure, men experience some amount of stress any time they go on a diet. If diets were pleasant, none of us would be fat.
But there’s experiential stress — just feeling kind of cranked about something — and then there’s clinical, hormonal stress. Hormonal stress means your body is releasing cortisol and triggering a cascade of responses designed to keep you alive in an emergency.
You know what else cortisol does?
It simply wrecks your erectile health both by reducing your production of the most important hormones for your boner and by increasing your levels of harmful ones.
Remember that study in 1987 where they tested testosterone levels in men who didn’t exercise?
While they were at it, they also tested cortisol levels. Turns out, the relationship between cortisol and carbohydrates was directly inverse.
(That means the more carbs you ate — within healthy limits — the less cortisol your body produced).
Other research found that eating too few carbs robs your liver of glycogen: and reduces your ability to regulate blood sugar.
Poor blood sugar regulation puts your body under so much stress it produces cortisol just like it would if you were in physical danger.
“But wait! That’s not all!”
Earlier I mentioned how carbohydrates are essential for your body’s production of all kinds of hormones.
Your thyroid regulates and runs best when your hormones are in the zone.
Just like with testosterone, if you don’t get enough carbs your body won’t produce enough of the TSH hormone necessary for your thyroid to work.
If you’re just talking weight loss, it’s bad enough. Your thyroid is a huge part of weight loss and gain. If it’s not working properly, that low-carb diet is getting in its own way.
But when you add your sexual health into the equation, this gets downright disastrous.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism looked at 71 men with thyroid problems.
Just under 80% of them also suffered from ED! (source).
Science is less strong on exactly why ED and thyroid problems are so closely linked, but the connection is very clear.
The reason low carb diets are popular is that they work, mainly because they’re so effective at reducing appetite.
You can lose a lot of fat in a few months by taking one on and doing it right.
This can even have some short-term benefit for your erections, since your confidence goes up and it helps with other aspects of health.
But medium and long term, they are bad news.
Sure, you’ll lose some belly fat — but you can also lose erectile function, testosterone and thyroid function — a lot of the stuff that makes being thin worthwhile.
I can’t stress this enough: avoid low carb diets if you’re worried about your testosterone and your erectile health.
But if you do go with a low-carb option for whatever reasons are important to you, load up on carbs once a week on your cheat day.
This resents your thyroid function and enhances hormone production. It’s not as good for you as not going low-carb, but it’s better than nothing.
Turns out, you need carbohydrates in your system to make your erections and hormones function properly…but there are right and wrong carbohydrate sources.
Your best bets for good carbs include white rice, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, veggies, and all the fruit you can stand.
Just avoid the following carb sources, all of which are known to negatively impact health for various reasons:
Whole grains are a middle ground — a grey area. On the one hand, they’re okay for some people. But if they cause bloating or intestinal inflammation, they’re bad news.
That bloating and inflammation increases serotonin production in your gut, which lowers dopamine production, which reduces erectile health.
Bottom line, gents: be smart about what you eat. Low-carb diets offer short-term gain at the cost of long-term pain. And eating carbs means eating the right carbs in the right amounts.
Article edited by Mark Wilson. Mark currently owns 5 sites in the men's sexual health niche and has published more than 5,000 articles and blog posts on dozens of websites all over the world wide web.