What Every Man Wants: Sexual Vitality at Every AgeMay 31, 2023 ● By Carrie Jackson
For men, sexual health is a key, but often overlooked, component of overall wellness. A man in optimal physical shape is able to fully enjoy and participate in sexual activity with an active libido and the ability to sustain an erection. Poor sexual health can lead to depression, prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction and other troublesome symptoms and conditions.
Fortunately, male sexual function is better understood medically than ever before, and it is more common for men to talk with their doctors and other professionals about topics that seemed taboo not that long ago. New technology is making it easier to diagnose and treat common problems, and it is widely understood that physical, neurological, hormonal, interpersonal and mental factors all play into sexual wellness. By taking a proactive and holistic approach to their overall wellness, men can enjoy a robust sex drive and performance long into their later years.
Maintaining Libido and Energy
Eric Plasker, a licensed chiropractor and author of The 100 Year Lifestyle, attests that sexual health does not have to decline with age, and men can proactively counter that myth with mindful lifestyle choices. “If you’re aging in a healthy manner, your libido does not have to decline. By taking part in activities you find fulfilling and nurturing your mind, body and spirit, your sexual energy can stay naturally high,” Plasker explains.
He recommends that people take an energy inventory to assess which activities and lifestyle choices are serving them. “Make a list of all the things you do that help you gain energy and those that drain your energy. This includes the food you eat, hobbies, habits, even people you spend time with. Then see how you can turn the drainers into gainers. For example, if driving in traffic makes you angry, put on relaxing music and do deep breathing exercises to shift yourself into a more positive state. These shifts will make you more energetic, stronger, more passionate and present with your partners, and you’ll have more energy to be sexual and loving,” he says.
Sexual health depends on a healthy nervous system, and maintaining a balanced flow of hormones and neurotransmitters is essential for proper neurological function. According to Plasker, disease, inactivity and inflammation—especially in the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints—can cause a communication breakdown.
“Blockages in the nervous system flow can cause disruption to the sexual organs and lead to a compromised libido,” he explains. “Chiropractic adjustments, combined with regular exercise, will help raise cortisol, reduce stress and open up these pathways in the body. I recommend that patients find an activity they enjoy, such as swimming or tennis, so it becomes an enjoyable part of their routine,” Plasker says.
According to Tracy Gapin, a board-certified urologist in Sarasota, Florida, strong sexual health and desire is a window to overall health. He helps patients reach their sexual potential with a combination of science-based medicine and holistic practices. “The body is one connected system, and great sexual function is an indication that your body is optimized,” he advises.
While testosterone is widely known to affect sex drive, Gapin looks at the interplay of a variety of other hormones, too. Hormone optimization, testosterone therapy and peptide therapy, which utilizes the body’s own amino acids to increase hormone levels, are non-invasive outpatient tools that men can use to analyze and optimize their sex drive.
“The body produces over 50 hormones, which all contribute to regulating biological processes,” he explains. “Low testosterone can lead to weight gain, anxiety, erectile dysfunction and other serious health issues, including diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Men want to optimize their thyroid and DHT [dihydrotestosterone] levels, both of which can lower the sex drive when compromised. Vitamin D helps regulate the gut, which controls the health of the entire body. Neurotransmitters, which help release feel-good endorphins such as serotonin and dopamine, are made in the gut and can affect depression, anxiety and other issues that lower libido.”
Gapin stresses that it is more important to think about “optimal” levels of hormones instead of “normal” ranges and encourages patients to move beyond the basic blood tests to assess their health. “Besides sex drive, testosterone also affects cardiovascular health, muscle and bone strength, fat mass, cognitive health and even longevity, so it’s important to be aware of your own levels,” he says. “Every man is different, and the range in which you feel and perform your best is what’s right for you. With medical advice constantly changing, it can be a challenge to keep track of all the recommended tests. DNA testing, epigenetic age assessments, advanced lipid panels, inflammation markers and thyroid testing can all give insight to how the body is functioning as a whole.”
Treating Prostate Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. It is, in fact, the most common cancer among American men. Prostate cancer is more likely to develop in older men and in non-Hispanic Black men. About six cases in 10 are diagnosed in men that are 65 or older, and it is rare in men under 40.
Gapin asserts that preventative and proactive lifestyle choices can drastically reduce the risk. “New, non-invasive MRI treatments are making it easier to detect and diagnose cancer earlier by highlighting suspicious areas in the prostate and targeting them for biopsy,” he explains, adding that men diagnosed with prostate cancer have a number of treatment options.
“Traditionally, patients would have the prostate removed and undergo radiation. However, these procedures come with a list of disturbing side effects. A newer, FDA-approved treatment called high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a non-invasive procedure that eradicates prostate cancer,” Gapin notes. “HIFU is an outpatient procedure with excellent oncologic outcomes, minimal side effects and quick recovery times.”
Incorporating Lifestyle Solutions
As an osteopathic doctor and integrative medicine practitioner at the Masley Optimal Health Center, in St. Petersburg, Florida, Tarin Forbes looks at the root causes of disease and dysfunction. She, too, considers sexual health an integral component of overall wellness and gives patients the tools to achieve their desired sexual potential. “While every person is different, optimal sexual health usually means that men wake up with a morning erection, desire intercourse on a daily basis and can reach an erection without stimulation or genital contact,” she remarks.
Making mindful choices that prioritize nutrition will naturally improve sexual health. “Nourish yourself with a whole food, plant-based diet rich in nutrients, including nitrate-rich foods and foods rich in vitamin C and folate, which boost nitric oxide, the main compound that increases blood flow,” Forbes says. “Beans, citrus fruits, beets, celery, cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens boost nitric oxide or its bioavailability to improve blood flow. While getting nutrition from food is ideal, supplements such as zinc, magnesium, vitamin D and boron can help regulate sex hormones. Avoid certain medications, including over-the-counter medicine such as NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] like Advil, acid blockers and even mouthwash, which blocks nitric oxide.”
Forbes also recommends engaging in high-intensity exercises and weight resistance that help increase testosterone and blood flow to the penis. Reducing environmental toxins is another important step, she notes, as plastics, pesticides and other chemicals can rob men of their testosterone, which not only affects blood flow but also libido.
Forbes cautions that while erectile dysfunction drugs work in the short-term, they can produce unwanted consequences. “Viagra does work to help men achieve an erection by stimulating blood flow to the penis. However, it can cause troublesome side effects including headaches, vision problems and nasal congestion. Non-pharmaceutical alternatives can provide good results without undesirable repercussions. Low-intensity shock wave therapy, a non-invasive outpatient procedure, uses targeted sound waves to improve blood flow to the penis and can be done once or in a series of treatments. Platelet-rich plasma injections use the patient’s own plasma to stimulate new tissue growth in the penis, which can lead to larger and more frequent erections,” she explains.
Forbes says that by having an open dialogue with their medical professionals and exploring holistic treatments, men at any age can feel sexier and more energetic than ever. “Talk about your concerns with your doctor, who may offer referrals to other specialists until the issue is solved. A physical therapist can teach men to strengthen their pelvic floor with Kegels and other exercises. Sexual therapists help men work through mental and psychological issues, which can be as debilitating as physical ones. A psychologist can offer tools for managing depression and anxiety, both of which can contribute to sexual dysfunction, including low libido and performance anxiety,” she says, noting that if a man does not feel comfortable talking with their doctor, it may be time to find a new one.
Many factors contribute to sexual health, and every man’s needs and desires are different. By addressing physical, hormonal, neurological and mental wellness with a combination of conventional and holistic treatments, men can experience sexual performance and enjoyment at any age. “There’s more awareness than ever before about sexual health, and men don’t have to compromise this integral part of their overall wellness,” says Forbes.
Carrie Jackson is a Chicago-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.