A Case of ED & Sperm Morphology Issues Resolved!
(Part of the Case Report blog series)
Pat (his real name, but surname withheld), called me in early 2016 not because of fertility concerns per se but because at just 30 years old he was suffering from ED. He also wanted to start a family but hadn’t been TTC’ing for real just yet. From the get go it wasn’t known if Pat had any issue with his sperm but he clearly had difficulties both getting and maintaining an erection. With no further information I can tell you that this problem does not happen in isolation and so I was confident that we’d uncover more to the story if we looked deeper. Firstly an overview of ED is warranted: An erection is actually quite a complex affair that involves signals from the brain to both initiate and terminate the erection, blood flow to fill out the muscles, nerve sensory feedback, hormones like testosterone, and then when it's all over there are special enzymes to turn the erection off again once the moment has passed. Men typically get several erections per day as normal, some of which are due to sensual thoughts and others which are simply to do with metabolic housekeeping and happen almost unconsciously in that they dont involve any element of desire. Of course all of these functions in turn depend on the availability of the right soup of nutrients both in the brain and in the penis (the second brain…right!!). The enzyme that brings erections to an end is called phosphor-di-esterase type 5 or PDE5, without it erections would never subside. The obvious humorous comment from the girls here would be..."Wow..if only we could find a way to turn off this PDE5 in our partners then we'd be able to prolong the fun!!" Well as it happens this is exactly what the most famous ED drug on the market does. Sildenafel (marketed as Viagra) supplies a compound that temporarily inhibits the action of this PDE5, so it prolongs erections by inhibiting the body’s ability to end them. There is also a second effect of the drug…it causes a release of a substance called Nitric Oxide in the body. Nitric Oxide causes vasodilatation, which is an increase in blood flow due to relaxing of the blood vessels. Basically if blood vessels are too stiff then blood can’t flow freely in them, but once they relax blood can flow better, thus creating an erection. (Stiff blood vessels = No stiff penis!) So Viagra causes a flush of blood to the penis and then it stops the PDE5 enzyme from ending the erection. This is interesting because most guys are never fully checked out for the real underlying cause of ED, which are many, and yet they are prescribed products like Viagra under the assumption that this is the only thing that is needed. So any given guy might be fine with PDE5 and therefore doesn’t need a PDE5 inhibitor - yet they get it anyway. This probably accounts for one of the side effects of the drug in some men…a boner that won’t subside! It might sound funny but it’s not when it happens to you. Anyway, back to Pat. The underlying causes of stiff blood vessels are many. Nutritionally speaking it is fair to say that much of it is caused by blood sugar imbalances…or basically consuming too much sugar over a number of years. This triggers a near continuous amount of inflammation in the body whilst blunting the effect of insulin. Blunting the effect of insulin has wide ranging effects on the body and one of those is to harden blood vessels! Now to be sure this is not the only cause of ED, there are some diseases that predispose a person to it…like heart diseases, obesity and diabetes. But wait a minute…aren’t those diseases also linked to blood sugar issues? You bet! Psychological concerns that cause stress and worry can also lie behind ED, and whilst these may not be directly linked to blood sugar issues it is fair to say they are indirectly linked. This is because stress causes us to release cortisol, a type of hormone known as a ‘gluco-corticoid’. Spot the ‘gluco’ part there…glucose…blood sugar. Cortisol is a potent modulator of blood sugar because that’s its job, it causes a rush of stored sugar to enter the blood. Was Pat stressed? Absolutely! Is every guy with ED stressed out? No, but from a functional point of view one needs to look at stress and blood sugar as foundational issues. So what did we do? First I analysed his diet and found that he was eating a high carb, high protein, low fat diet. How did I figure this out? By putting a week’s worth of his diet into an online diet calculator, but honestly at this stage I can pretty much tell by talking to people. I use the calculator more as a way of illustrating graphically to clients what kind of balance is in their diet because seeing it in a pie chart is a very effective teaching tool. The carb portion of his diet was very high in simple carbs…refined grains, sugars, processed foods, white rice, white bread etc. You should be able to see a pattern here already, he was eating a diet that supplies a lot of sugar in a form that easily slips into the blood, in other words ‘simple carbs’…as opposed to ‘complex carbs’! But what about the high protein component? This was coming from lean meat and protein powders mostly, it was a holdover from Pat’s training days when he used to do bodybuilding years ago. One of the negative effects of high protein consumption is that it causes a gradual depletion of Vitamin A from the body. This is because vitamin A comes in the fat not the protein part of meat, so a diet of lean meat is also lean in Vitamin A, plus it is used up rapidly when metabolising protein. What is of concern here is that Vitamin A is absolutely crucial for sperm production, but it is also crucial for maintaining flexibility in the walls of blood vessels. Now think back to what we said about ED…it’s a problem with blood flow right! How does Viagra work…it relaxes the walls of the blood vessels. Why would they need relaxing? Because they have become too stiff! Why have they become too stiff? Well there are a few potential reasons…but a deficiency of vitamin A, along with high blood sugar and the inflammation that brings are all prime candidates. So here, after just a basic investigation, we have two targets to aim at:
- High blood sugar, which at this stage is not yet confirmed by blood tests but would fit the pattern of Pat’s diet
- A potential case of vitamin A deficiency due to a low fat diet and excessive protein consumption.
A third ‘target’ showed up later on when Pat confided in me that he hated his job! That’s a tough one I admit, and whilst I don’t have a direct solution to this particular problem I do have some very valuable tools that can help. First I could and often do refer clients to various other complementary practitioners who are specialists at finding and opening the pressure release valve in people. EFT, NLP, counseling and a few other modalities are well worth trying out in these cases. Let’s be clear…when we are stressed it is hardly ever because the situation is really a threat to us…rather it is to do with our perception of the situation…and the above therapies can often help us change our perception. Or in the case of EFT in particular it can perform seeming miracles in people by simply altering the neural wiring that links the event to our stressful interpretation! It’s amazing stuff. I do tend to find guys more resistant to this idea than women…but it works just as well for both. I encouraged Pat to give EFT a go and after just a single session he had a huge shift in his perception and lost most of his job associated stress. He did continue for a few more sessions to finish out the job all the same. During this time I encouraged Pat to have his sperm quality tested and sure enough there was a problem here too…he had sperm morphology issues. Basically this means a significant percentage of his sperm are misshapen and thus can’t swim properly. A second test confirmed that his HBA1C reading was borderline high. HBA1C is a measure of how much your blood is exposed to sugar…it’s used to determine diabetes. Pat wasn’t near diabetic but his levels were heading towards pre diabetes. I tell ya…stress and a high sugar diet are terribly damaging to the body over time! We restructured Pat’s diet to one that included a lot more animal and plant fat, with less protein and simple carbs - mainly I eliminated lean meat and then added raw cheese, liver, organic bacon, salmon, eggs and a lot of vegetables. I also used a specific herb that quickly helps with blood sugar metabolism and getting the proverbial monkey off your back, and a specific supplement to supply the nutrients I estimated to be low in his diet…particularly vitamin A, D E & K2 plus zinc and iodine. Vitamin K2 helps the body lay down calcium in the right places, and one of the reasons behind ED is that the blood vessels are stiff because of calcification (in turn due to inflammation) So whilst I can’t claim that K2 reverses this calcification (I mean it could…I just don’t know for sure) it certainly will assist in preventing further calcification. Getting calcium metabolism right is also crucial for proper sperm production, so the K2 will help here also. I also prescribed digestive enzymes for 2 months to help Pat extract more nutrients from his food. This is because being stressed for prolonged times down-regulates digestion and so it needs to be coaxed back to normality. There are supplements that can boost ones nitric oxide levels, and I do sometimes avail of them, but not this time because I didn’t need to. Pat responded really well…and at that he didn’t even stick to the diet 100%. With NO OTHER intervention…no drugs…no surgery Pat was able to resolve his erection problem AND his sperm morphology issues within 6 months. By the time we parted ways he had a new lease of sex life and an obvious increase if ejaculate volume…which is a good sign. That was over two years ago as of this writing, and after I emailed several past clients looking for testimonials he did contact me to give permission for this article but also told me that his son was born in the meantime!! Love it! Life is good. Brendan O'Brien NT MSc (As a teaser to any of you interested, I did use one other supplement to drive on the process of reestablishing penile blood flow! Since I can't be making these sort of claims openly...if you drop me an email with the subject line...What Was Pat's Secret Supplement? I'll send you an email telling you about it and where you can get it! 😉