The Real Truth About Male Enhancements

black and white photo of man looking out of window(BlackDoctor.org) — Men seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction are bombarded with bold ads for medications that fight ED or promise male enhancement through supplements. And you may be tempted to try these alternatives before taking more traditional erectile dysfunction medications or erectile dysfunction surgery. The question is, how do you discern the truth from the hype when it comes to non-medical erectile dysfunction treatments?

Male Enhancement Products: Too Good To Be True?

The marketplace is full of products that promise amazing results, guaranteed to give you an erect penis. But if a claim seems too good to be true, it probably is, warns naturopathic doctor Dean Neary, ND, chair of physical medicine at Bastyr University, a natural medicine university in Seattle.

“You’ve got all these products out there that sound like they’ll not only make your erections work, but make it bigger,” says Dr. Neary. “Making it larger is a no-go — you only have limited tissue. There may be some hope of fixing a weak erection by stimulating blood flow, but the tissues aren’t going to magically grow an inch.”

Alternative Erectile Dysfunction Treatments That Can Work

Neary prefers to treat erectile dysfunction in the context of a man’s overall health.

“My approach usually is more holistic. I am looking at getting weight off and increasing exercise, which can kick up testosterone levels,” explains Neary. He cautions that if you try to self-medicate with alternative treatments, you might miss an opportunity to learn about a more serious health problem, such as heart disease, that could be causing your erectile dysfunction.

Here are some of the alternative approaches you could try with the help of a trained health professional:

• L-arginine. “Probably the only thing that I’ve seen some results with is a high dose of sustained release L-arginine, which works like Viagra and Cialis,” Neary says. L-arginine is an amino acid that stimulates nitric oxide, part of the chemical chain reaction that gets blood pumping into the penis during an erection.

• Acupuncture. This alternative treatment, involving placement of thin needles into the skin at strategic locations, has been practiced for thousands of years in China. There are several sites on the body that practitioners believe can be stimulated to help ease erectile dysfunction.

 Exercise. Being more physically active can help erectile dysfunction in many ways, including improving heart function and boosting testosterone levels.

 Ginkgo biloba. Besides its purported use as a memory aid, this herb is said by some to improve sexual function.

• Ginseng. Ginseng is often recommended as an herbal treatment for erectile dysfunction. According to a recent scientific review of the results of seven clinical trials of red ginseng for ED treatment, the herb may be better than a placebo.

• Iodine supplements. If you’re low in iodine, you and your erection could benefit from iodine supplements, says Neary. There is a simple test your doctor can order to help you find out if you are lacking iodine.

• Nutritional supplements. Along with a balanced, varied diet low in fat, you may want to take supplements to ensure that you are getting all your vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, B, and E are particularly helpful, as are omega-3 fatty acids.

• Homeopathy. Homeopathy is a form of treatment that takes a holistic approach to health problems while stimulating the immune system to fight the causes of specific conditions, such as erectile dysfunction. Although homeopathy claims to offer more than 200 possible remedies for erectile dysfunction, the effectiveness of these treatments has not been supported by clinical studies.

• Traditional Chinese medicine. This holistic treatment approach involves changing a man’s environment as well as identifying herbs that can treat ED, and may be particularly effective in combination with acupuncture.

• Yohimbine. An extract of the bark of the Corynanthe yohimbe tree found in Africa, this herbal remedy for erectile dysfunction is said to be effective. But also has strong side effects and many people do not like the way they feel when they take it, notes Neary.

Open Up About Erectile Dysfunction

Open communication is the key to success in treating erectile dysfunction. Neary says most of his time with ED patients is spent educating them and their partners about how the penis works and how the ability to have erections is tied to their overall health. That leads naturally to a discussion of what can be done to improve the situation.

If you want to try alternative treatments, always make sure that you keep your urologist and primary care provider informed so that there are no conflicts with medications you may be taking. Likewise, your alternative medicine practitioner should know which traditional medications you have been prescribed.

Protect Your Eyes In Winter

close up of woman wearing sunglassesWinter can be especially harsh on your eyes. Damaging sun reflections off snow and dry indoor air conditions can irritate your eyes and impair your vision.

Here’s how you can care for your eye health this season and help prevent long-term eye health problems, such as a damaged cornea or cataracts.

Problem 1: Dry Air Conditions

The most common eye complaint in winter is dryness, which creates a burning or itchy sensation or the feeling that a foreign object is in your eye. The cause may be the lower humidity levels inside your home or office when the heat is on and the windows are closed. Spending time outside on windy winter days can also have a drying effect.

People who wear contact lenses are the ones most likely to experience this problem, but it can affect anyone, particularly peri- and post-menopausal women who may have eye dryness because of loss of estrogen. “Sometimes people come in complaining that their eyes are watering too much,” says Dr. Pierre Faber, chair of the department of ophthalmology at Providence Health Care in Vancouver. “That’s because their eyes don’t tear as they should and when they get dry and irritated, it makes them water like crazy.” Over time, dryness can cause blurred vision or damage the cornea, which can also lead to blurriness.

What can you do?

• Moisten your eyes. Drink extra fluids and use a hot- or cold-air humidifier while you’re awake and your eyes are open.

• Add tears. Lubricating eye drops provide comfort. “These saline or tear gels or ocular lubricant drops, available over the counter at drugstores, help supplement the natural tear layer and keep the tears from evaporating so quickly,” explains Ralph Chou, an associate professor in the school of optometry at the University of Waterloo.

• Blink more. When you’re concentrating on a complex visual task, such as using a computer, you just don’t blink as often, which can exacerbate winter dryness, says Chou. If your eyes feel dry at work, make a point of blinking more often.

• Wear glasses. If you’re outdoors on a blustery day, sunglasses will protect your eyes from the drying effects of the wind.

Problem 2: Sun On Ice or Snow

When you spend several hours or more skiing, skating or shovelling snow, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun’s reflection on ice or snow can damage the eye’s surface, causing an inflammation of the cornea called keratitis, says Dr. Lorne Bellan, head of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Manitoba and president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society.

Keratitis makes the eyes red, sore and sensitive to light, and may require treatment with antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection. Too much exposure to UV light also plays a key role in the formation of cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Extreme cold is usually not an issue, as our eyes have built-in defences against cold, including tearing up and squinting.

What can you do?

• Shield them. Wear sunglasses that protect against UV light. “New snow on a ski slope has an almost 100 percent reflection of UV light, so you’re getting a double dose of sun—from above and below,” says Chou. Look for glasses with a minimum UV 400 protection (they block both UVA and UVB). And make sure every family member wears them. Since cataracts are the result of cumulative damage, even children should don sunglasses on bright winter days, says Faber. When skiing, wear goggles that have polycarbonate lenses, which block UV radiation.

• Limit time outdoors. If you’ve forgotten your goggles or sunglasses, don’t spend more than a few hours outdoors on sunny or bright overcast days.

While cooler weather can create some unique challenges, especially when it comes to more sensitive areas of your body, like your eyes, taking a few extra steps can help protect your health.