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Can you take arginine for ED?

Does arginine help treat erectile dysfunction?

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ED happens in about 10% of men on a long term basis. Yes, we do know alcohol can make it difficult for the little guy to rise to the occasion every now and then. So if you do encounter some episodes of ED do not be too hard on yourself, it is only natural. However, if this tends to be an everyday thing and something just doesn't feel right, visit your GP and they will investigate this further.

Erectile dysfunction is not a part of getting older but it can affect ageing men. Older men might need more help getting their gears moving to achieve an erection, but it should not profoundly impact their sex life.

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Arginine 

I’m sure you all heard about the little blue medication that took the ED market by storm, Viagra, but it is not the only medication out there that can help ED. Have you heard of arginine? What does it do? How does it work? Keep reading and I will answer your burning questions for you! 

L-arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid in the body that helps protein building and is found in a variety of foods such as protein-rich foods including fish, red meat, poultry, soy, whole grains, beans and dairy products. If taking L-arginine as a supplement, it is available as an oral tablet or as a topical cream. L-arginine is used to treat ED as it acts as a vasodilator, dilating blood vessels in the penis to help increase blood flow into the penile tissue.

Side effects

Using L-arginine as a supplement orally or topically has been deemed safe for use, however, every medication comes with side effects. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal (tummy) pain
  • Bloating 
  • Gout
  • Allergic response
  • Inflammation of the airway 

Worsening of asthmatic symptoms in a person suffering from asthma
If you are an asthma sufferer, it is advised to use L-arginine with caution as it can worsen asthma symptoms. L-arginine is not advised for use in people who have just had a heart attack as it increases the risk of death. Be careful with L-arginine if you have had cold sores or genital herpes in the past as too much L-arginine can trigger the virus responsible for the conditions and cause reinfection.

Interactions

There are certain medications that are known to interact with L-arginine. If you are on any of these medications, make sure to let your doctor know so they can assess if L-arginine is suitable for you.

  • Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs: These medications reduce the clotting of the blood. By taking L-arginine with these medications, it can increase the risk of bleeding in a person 
  • Blood pressure drugs: L-arginine has blood pressure lowering effects. By combining this with blood-pressure drugs, it might increase the chances of blood pressure dropping too low. 
  • Diabetes drugs: L-arginine might interact with the blood sugar levels of people with diabetes. Your dosage of diabetic medication might need to be altered and adjusted if you are also taking L-arginine.
  • Isoproterenol: L-arginine has blood pressure lowering effects. By combining this with isoproterenol, it might increase the chances of blood pressure dropping too low. 
  • Nitrates: L-arginine has blood pressure lowering effects. By combining this with nitrates, it might increase the chances of blood pressure dropping too low. 
  • Water-pills: L-arginine should not be used with potassium-sparing diuretics such as amiloride, spironolactone or triamterene as these medications can increase potassium levels in the body which can be dangerous.
  • Sildenafil (Viagra): L-arginine has blood pressure lowering effects. By combining this with Sildenafil, it might increase the chances of blood pressure dropping too low. 

Trials 

A paper by the Journal of Psychosexual Health compared the use of L-arginine on its own and in adjunct with other ED medications. The paper found that using L-arginine at a dose of 3g/day is ineffective as an ED treatment alone. It was reported that a dose of 2.8-6 mg/day for 6 weeks might have some beneficial effects on ED but the results remain circumspect. 

PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra and Sildenafil are currently first-line medications for ED treatment. It is hypothesized that using L-arginine and PDE-5 inhibitors might be synergistic as the 2 medications act on different points in the physiological process of erection. There have only been 2 studies done so far evaluating the use of L-arginine with PDE-5 inhibitors compared to PDE-5 inhibitors alone. Both studies have concluded there is a significant advantage, though, small in adding L-arginine to PDE-5 inhibitor treatment of ED. 

Worth it?

There has not been a lot of evidence on the use of L-arginine as a singular treatment form for ED. More studies need to be conducted to determine the efficacy of L-arginine in combination with other ED treatments. If this is something that interests you, speak to your doctor about L-arginine to find out more.

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