Why Low Iron or Anemia May Be Causing Erectile Dysfunction
While researchers have not found conclusive evidence that low iron or anemia directly causes erectile dysfunction (ED), surprisingly strong links exist between the two disorders.
This gives men who experience ED an intriguing new way to manage their symptoms. While sexual performance drugs like Viagra remain essential to the ED management toolkit, iron supplements may also provide sought-after benefits.
Read on to learn exactly whether iron deficiency causes erectile dysfunction – and, just as importantly: What you can do about it!
Can Low Iron Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
We’ll keep this straightforward:
Yes, low iron can cause erectile dysfunction.
There are a few different ways low iron leads to this challenging situation.
- Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, the protein that shuttles oxygen around your body within red blood cells. Without enough iron (and hemoglobin), your body’s tissues won’t receive enough oxygen to do their jobs properly. For the penis, this can result in impaired erectile function.
- Iron deficiency can lead to lower levels of nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide is essential for normal, healthy blood vessel dilation – or the process by which your blood vessels get a little bigger so more blood can reach various body parts. To get and maintain an erection, you need a lot of blood flow. Without nitric oxide (and vessel dilation), that’s a lot more difficult.
- Low iron levels can also lead to lower testosterone levels. Testosterone is a male sex hormone. Having lower levels of testosterone can lead to erectile dysfunction and related issues.
Low iron can also contribute to a condition called anemia.
Recently, the link between anemia and erectile dysfunction has been in the limelight.
What is this connection, and can you do anything about it?
Anemia and Erectile Dysfunction
Like low iron, anemia can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Anemia is a condition that occurs when patients have lower-than-optimal levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin in their blood.
Red blood cells and hemoglobin are responsible for moving oxygen around your body. Not having enough of them is a big deal. Being anemic comes with many symptoms, including weakness and fatigue.
People can have anemia for many reasons. Typical causes include vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiencies, genetic disorders, chronic diseases, and blood loss.
Iron deficiency can also lead to anemia by reducing the body’s ability to make hemoglobin.
Roughly speaking, this means that low iron can lead to low blood oxygen, which, in turn, leads to fatigue, dizziness, and weakness.
Can Anemia Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is not listed among anemia’s official symptoms. Still, considering how you might feel when fatigued, dizzy, and weak, it may not be surprising that ED is a side effect.
The link goes deeper than that.
Anemia’s physical effects can contribute to erectile dysfunction.
- People with anemia usually have fewer healthy, oxygen-rich red blood cells. This results in a decrease in the rate of oxygen delivery to the tissues in and surrounding the penis, accompanied by reduced blood flow. As a relatively swift and efficient flood flow is required to achieve and maintain an erection, any impairment in that process can lead to erectile issues.
- Anemia can lead to a lower sex drive. Reduced interest in sexual activity can make it more difficult to become aroused, making it much more challenging to maintain an erection.
- Anemia often causes fatigue, weakness, and tiredness. We feel it when our bodies don’t get as much oxygen-rich blood as we need! This can make us feel less interested in sex or make it difficult to get aroused, even if we want to engage in sexual activity.
Can Supplementing with Iron Help with Erectile Dysfunction?
Now that we’ve gone over the link between iron deficiency and ED (and iron-deficient-anemia and ED), that leaves us with a fascinating question.
Do iron pills help with erectile dysfunction?
It stands to reason: If low iron can cause ED, getting your body more iron should help.
While this logic seems sound, biology is often far messier than logic dictates.
Since everyone has different life circumstances and different biology, you may find that iron pills don’t do anything for you – and that’s okay. (We’ll discuss alternative erectile dysfunction treatments in a moment.)
Even though many iron supplements are available over the counter, that doesn’t mean you can take them casually. Even vitamins and supplements can cause powerful changes in your body, for better or worse.
Speaking with a licensed healthcare provider about your ED, if possible, is always in your best interest – at the very least, to make sure you don’t have any conditions and aren’t taking any medications that would make supplementing with iron innately dangerous.
That disclaimer stated, let’s talk about alleviating erectile dysfunction with iron pills.
The Link Between Iron and Erectile Dysfunction: Treatment Options
If it seems that anemia or an iron deficiency is causing erectile issues, iron supplements may help.
But you do have to be taking the correct type of iron pills.
Not all iron supplements are made the same. Several types of iron pills are available on the market, including ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate, ferrous fumarate, iron complex pills, and heme iron polypeptide.
Which of these is best for erectile dysfunction?
As iron is not yet an approved, official treatment for erectile dysfunction, there’s no direct or official iron supplement linked to better erectile dysfunction outcomes.
However, there are two general strategies you can take for supplementation if your doctor approves.
- Take the iron pill most likely to help iron-deficiency anemia. The Cleveland Clinic recommends ferrous sulfate supplements for this purpose.
- Take the iron supplement that helps you fill in any iron nutritional deficiencies you may have, with the goal of having a good supply of varied types of iron in your system.
If you choose the second strategy, your mission is to ensure that your body has enough heme and non-heme iron to work with between your supplements and your diet.
Heme iron supplements are derived from animal-based hemoglobin. You can also get heme iron by eating a diet rich in meat, poultry, and seafood.
Non-heme iron supplements are not derived from hemoglobin. Instead, they’re derived from mineral sources – e.g., ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, and ferrous gluconate.
If you recognize that you may be deficient in one or the other type of iron (for example, if you don’t eat animal products, or if you don’t get enough minerals in your diet), it may be worth taking a look at heme iron supplements for more animal-based iron, and non-heme iron supplements for more mineral-based iron.
This may not always work for you – for example, if you’re vegan and don’t want to take a supplement from animal products.
For what it’s worth, ferrous sulfate supplements are relatively inexpensive (especially when purchased through an international and online Canadian pharmacy) and are a common first step for people interested in resolving iron deficiencies through supplementation.
With the right supplement and dose, you may see improved iron levels and body functionality in 3-6 months.
Can Too Much Iron Cause ED?
Unfortunately, as with many good things, there’s certainly a time when too much iron causes more problems than it solves.
If you don’t have an iron deficiency and take iron pills, you could have excess iron.
As excess iron can cause erectile dysfunction and reduced sex drive, among other things, you need to be careful.
Working with a doctor or healthcare provider to ensure you have iron deficiency before starting iron supplementation is crucial.
Beyond Iron Supplementation: Other Methods for Treating ED
If you don’t have an iron deficiency or are simply interested in exploring other avenues for relief, you’ve got options.
Consider the following strategies for overcoming erectile dysfunction:
- Overhauling your lifestyle to prioritize healthy erectile function. There are some types of diet and lifestyle changes that you can work towards that can help with erectile dysfunction. They include reducing alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, getting a balanced diet, and pursuing therapy with a partner to ensure your relationship is healthy and enjoyable for all concerned. This list is highly aspirational and may be more possible for some than others, so do not feel bad if these lifestyle goals do not seem tenable for you. If you’re able, working towards one or two of these goals could help with your ED.
- Exploring your other supplementation options. Iron pills aren’t the only supplements that may help with ED. Studies have shown that vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead to similar struggles. Sometimes, supplementing with vitamin D or calcium can result in more optimal sexual health and performance.
- Taking prescription medications to boost sexual performance. If determining the cause of your ED is tricky or if you don’t feel that supplements are the right choice, there are effective prescription medications that can provide reliable support. In America, some of these medications, such as Viagra, are very expensive. Fortunately, buying your brand-name ED meds through an online pharmacy can help you save on these prescription sexual performance drugs.
While Low Iron and Anemia Can Cause ED, Remember These Things…
If you think you have anemia, that’s significant – and it can have health consequences beyond ED. Anemia is not always caused by low iron, so taking iron supplements may not help automatically. If you think you’re anemic, talk to a doctor and address the cause.
Supplements aren’t regulated in the United States. Since it’s easy to get supplements over the counter, dismissing their potential side effects or taking them casually is easy. Don’t do that. Talk with your doctor, get a good recommendation for a good iron supplement, and get it from a trusted source.
If supplementing with iron doesn’t cure your ED, don’t worry. Iron deficiency and ED are often correlated, but that may not be true for you. ED has a long list of both physical and psychological causes! You have other options for relieving the symptoms of ED, which include lifestyle changes and effective ED prescription medications such as Viagra.
Your sex life is important. It’s worth investing in. While the strategies we’ve listed here aren’t always possible for everyone, it’s worth talking to a doctor and having a frank conversation about your symptoms and goals. We’re dedicated to giving you as much information as possible to ensure you’re informed about your health, but there’s no substitute for speaking with a trained healthcare professional.
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