GABA and Erectile Dysfunction – 10 Scientific Facts You Need to Know
What do 20 million men in America have in common? Erectile dysfunction.
What else do they have in common? They probably aren’t aware of how GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric Acid) may affect ED. Heck, they’re probably like me and had no clue what this natural ingredient can do for their sexual health!
No one wants to talk about erectile dysfunction, also referred to as “ED” or “impotence.” We avoid the topic so much that WebMD highlighted a study reporting as many as 75% of men suffering from ED don’t seek treatment!
Let’s do the math, guys! As many as 15 million men (not to mention their partners) suffer from erectile dysfunction without even seeking a solution.
I don’t know about you, but that seems to me like way too many men who need some help solving erectile dysfunction.
But, where do you start? What is the best treatment for erectile dysfunction? Should you use a pharmaceutical ED medication? Are there alternative ED treatments? What about a GABA supplement? Well, guys – I have good news…
There are many treatments for ED, one of the ways is with therapies that include an effective ingredient called GABA.
We’ve scoured the internet and identified 10 Facts You Should Know About GABA and Erectile Dysfunction. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
#1 – Healthy Sexual Function Requires GABA
GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are like chemical carrier pigeons. They help move messages within our brains, and between brain cells and the rest of our body.
Neurotransmitters control the regulation of every system in the body, including sexual function. But, neurotransmitters are like a finicky soufflé. Everything has to be in perfect quantity and balance to make it rise. And, all it takes is a kid jumping in the kitchen to make it fall.
There are over 40 neurotransmitters at work in the human body. Like actors, a neurotransmitter may be the “star of the show,” with its own vital role to play. Other times, they may play a supporting role, working with other chemicals to maintain healthy sexual function.
#2 – GABA Controls Orgasms
The human sexual response cycle has four parts: Libido, Arousal, Orgasm and Resolution. Each phase has a primary neurotransmitter link:
- Dopamine helps drive sexual desire and libido.
- Acetylcholine levels impact arousal and achieving a healthy erection.
- Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) controls orgasm release
- Serotonin works on sexual resolution, including the refractory period in men.
GABA is the main neurotransmitter related to sexual climax. (Can I get a big “THANK YOU” for GABA!?!) But, GABA also works with other neurotransmitters impacting all four parts of the human sexual response.
#3 – What Causes ED?
To understand how GABA may affect ED, we need to understand ED. Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection strong enough to satisfy both partners.
No wonder no one wants to talk about it, right? And, when we do, we’re often told taking a pill will solve everything. But, that oversimplifies erectile dysfunction. ED isn’t actually a disease, per se. Rather, it’s almost always a symptom or side effect of an underlying health issue.
Not long ago, ED was considered a psychological problem or an unavoidable side effect of aging. Now, we understand much more about erectile dysfunction. Urologists believe that physical factors lead to most cases of chronic or reoccurring ED in men over 50.
Do you hear that guys?!? It’s NOT all in your head. With the right treatment men can continue to enjoy a healthy and active sex life well into their 60s and beyond.
But, you do have to manage your health. That means addressing the common causes of erectile dysfunction that include:
- Heart disease, especially high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- Hormonal imbalances
- Vascular issues that block blood flow to the penis, including atherosclerosis and diabetes
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- Obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Depression and anxiety
- Sleep disorders and fatigue
- Some prescription medications also contribute to ED.
- The biggest offenders include:
- High blood pressure medications
- Some cancer treatments
- The biggest offenders include:
There is no magic bullet when it comes to treating erectile dysfunction. But, increasing GABA may help reduce symptoms and underlying causes of ED.
#4 – GABA Can Help Lower Blood Pressure
Over 100 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure, making it a leading cause of erectile dysfunction.
High blood pressure doesn’t just hurt your heart, it damages and narrows blood vessels, limiting blood flow to the penis. Less blood flow means fewer, weaker erections. Also, some prescriptions used to control high blood pressure may contribute to impotence.
GABA can help lower blood pressure in 2 Ways:
- GABA can stimulate receptors in the brain that lower blood pressure. One study showed patients who took a GABA supplement for 12 weeks significantly improved blood pressure.
- GABA also helps lower stress and increase fitness, both of which can help control high blood pressure.
#5 – GABA Helps Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety disorders are the single most common mental illness in the U.S. More than 40 million American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Depression is another common problem. More than 16.2 million American adults report suffering a major depressive episode in the past year.
Depression and anxiety regulation go hand-in-hand in the brain. So, it’s no surprise that 50% of people diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder.
On a personal note:
Guys … please don’t skip this section. I know talk of “mental illness” often makes us uncomfortable. But, it’s an illness like any other. Managing your mental health is part of managing your overall health. Anxiety and depression cause mental and physical distress, including low libido and ED.
Also, ED isn’t “your grandpa’s problem.” Yes, the likelihood of experiencing impotence increases with age. However, men in their twenties and thirties are not immune to impotence. 30% of men in their thirties will experience ED. Additionally, poor mental health is more likely to be the cause of erectile dysfunction in men under 40.
So, what causes anxiety or depression? As you may guess there is no easy answer. It’s complicated. But, for the sake of a discussion we’ll boil it down to the two neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
Let’s talk about dopamine first.
Low dopamine levels cause many problems including anxiety, trouble sleeping and reduced libido. Each contributes to ED.
GABA can boost dopamine levels, thus reducing symptoms including ED.
Next, let’s look at serotonin.
#6 – Serotonin, GABA and ED
The neurotransmitter serotonin is also called the “happy chemical.” Low serotonin levels cause feelings of unhappiness, anxiety and low sexual desire. But, there’s a catch:
While too little serotonin causes unhappiness, feelings of anxiety and depression, and low libido, too much serotonin can also inhibit sexual function. It leads to low libido, impotence and inability to reach orgasm.
Furthermore, SSRIs are a common treatment for both depression and anxiety. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. They are highly effective for treating anxiety and depression in many patients. But, many men who use SSRIs experience lack of libido, impotence and inability to reach orgasm.
When it comes to regulating serotonin, the treatment can be as bad as the disease.
So, where does GABA come in? GABA supplementation may help improve mood and energy, thus allowing patients to reduce SSRI doses. Lower doses of SSRIs can greatly improve sexual function.
#7 – GABA Lowers Stress and Promotes Quality Sleep
Uncontrolled stress and sleep disorders lead to erectile dysfunction. They are also highly correlated. High stress leads to poor sleep, poor sleep contributes to stress. Lack of sleep and stress lead to ED.
We’ve talked how GABA works with other neurotransmitters. Now, let’s look closer at how GABA directly impacts our brains. GABA is the body’s most important inhibitory neurotransmitter. It “inhibits” versus “excites”. As such, it lowers brain activity and has a calming effect. It sort of shifts your brain into a lower gear and helps promote sleep and reduce stress.
Better sleep and lower stress both help improve libido and reduce ED symptoms.
#8 – 2 Ways GABA Helps Reduce Obesity
More than 160 million Americans are considered overweight or obese. Obesity leads to many health problems including:
- heart disease
- high cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- some cancers
Obesity leads to erectile dysfunction through the host of health problems that cause ED. It also causes small arteries to fail. The penis is full of small arteries, and they need to function well to achieve an erection. Finally, obesity is associated with low libido, impotence and avoiding sexual activity altogether.
So, what do we do? Lower your body fat. Increase your lean mass. Eat healthy foods. Control your appetite. Achieve a healthy weight and BMI for your age. No problem, right? (Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes, too.)
GABA may help combat obesity in two ways.
First, GABA helps reduce body fat and increase muscle, by increasing our ability to produce Human Growth Hormone (HGH).
Higher levels of human growth hormone are associated with a wealth of anti-aging benefits including:
- fat loss
- muscle gain
- increased energy
- healthy sexual performance.
We do produce HGH naturally, but our ability to do so begins to decline around age 25. GABA supplementation helps us produce more HGH, providing the anti-aging benefits noted above.
Second, GABA helps us regulate what we eat.
GABA plays an important role in our cognitive ability. Healthy cognitive ability is required to make good choices, including choosing what we eat. Low levels of GABA have been associated with poor food choices and lack of portion control.
Reducing obesity improves our health and combats physical factors that cause erectile dysfunction. But, there is a psychological effect, too. At a healthy weight with good muscle tone, we just feel better about ourselves. That’s true at any age. When we feel better about ourselves we feel sexier and more attractive. So, we feel less self-consciousness and have less anxiety about sex, which also improves your sexual function. In other words, you want to have more sex, and the sex is better!
#9 – Are GABA and Sildenafil a Good ED Treatment?
Several prescription medications that treat ED have emerged over the past several years. But they treat a symptom, and are not a cure. They have had a positive impact on the sex lives of millions of men, and that is an awesome thing.
However, as with any medication, there are side effects. The most common side effects of ED drugs are headaches and vision impairment. And, not all men are good candidates for ED prescriptions. Men with high or uncontrolled blood pressure shouldn’t take many of the most common ED medications.
A recent study looked at men taking sildenafil (brand name Viagra) and GABA. The results were promising. They showed that taking GABA with a lower dose of sildenafil achieved the best results. Lower sildenafil dosages means fewer side effects. But, when combined with GABA, men may actually see better results than with a higher dosage of sildenafil alone.
#10 – The Jury is Still Out on GABA and Erectile Dysfunction
We’ve talked a lot about GABA as a promising therapy for ED. But, I’m all about transparency, and you need to know that the jury is still out. This is a common challenge with any new treatment. It takes some time for scientific research to prove out the hypothesized results.
There is a lot of research on GABA and how it works (check out the sources!), but few studies look precisely at GABA and ED. There is plenty of strong evidence, but it’s still largely “circumstantial” … not quite enough to convince the “scientific jury”, if you will. More research, and hard evidence is needed.
But, don’t let that stop you. Educate yourself. Stay on top of GABA supplementation research. And, talk to your healthcare provider.
I hope these 10 things you should know about GABA and ED can help you, or someone you love, overcome erectile dysfunction.
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