Going with the flow for great sex
January 12th, 2012
07:46 AM ET

Going with the flow for great sex

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

When you hear the words 'heart' and 'sex life' in the same sentence, odds are the speaker is probably talking about love. But your heart - or, more accurately, your cardiovascular system - actually has a lot to do with your ability to perform in the bedroom.

This concept was brought home to me recently when I caught up with my colleague, Dr. Madeleine Castellanos, author of a recent book dealing with male sexual issues. She reminded me that there’s no way we can talk about sexual issues like erectile dysfunction (ED) or other arousal disorders without talking about cardiovascular health.

"When you break it all down, everything in the body, including sex, is dependent on good blood flow," says Castellanos. "Our body's way of nourishing itself and keeping itself vibrant and alive is by carrying oxygen, hormones, and nutrients via the bloodstream to all tissues and cells. The more activity that a certain part of our body engages in, the more blood flow is directed to that area."

Although you might typically associate blood flow with your heart, brain or muscles, it's also a crucial factor in the way your genitals function. In men, blood flow to erectile tissue produces an erection and stimulates the prostate gland to start releasing pre-ejaculatory fluid. Blood flow also benefits women by increasing the clitoris’s size and sensation and by enhancing vaginal lubrication.

Good blood flow also affects our biggest sex organ - the brain - by ensuring proper flow of hormone signals back and forth from the brain to the genitals.

Often, a sexual issue like ED is the first sign that blood flow is impaired throughout the body, and a trip to the doctor’s office for a Viagra prescription could end with a diagnosis of atherosclerosis or another serious cardiovascular problem. A recent analysis of 12 previous studies, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that men with ED are significantly more likely to have cardiovascular disease.

So how can you keep blood flowing optimally? Dr. Castellanos recommends addressing these three areas:

Arteries. When arteries become clogged, or 'hardened,' due to atherosclerosis, they can’t respond as well to the hormonal signals that occur during sexual arousal. As a result, “there may not be enough increase in blood flow to engorge the erectile tissues in either men or women,” says Castellanos.

Eat a balanced diet low in sugars (including fructose and high-fructose corn syrup), trans fats, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and salt to keep arteries in good shape. For more on eating for a healthy sex life, see my previous column on the topic.

Nerves. If your nerves aren’t working properly, you lose sensation and your body - including your genitals - doesn’t respond as well as it should. Diabetes and elevated blood sugar are the biggest threats to nerve damage, so keep blood sugar under control, eating smaller, more frequent meals, and limiting alcohol intake.

Tissues. Just as the advice 'move it or lose it' applies to our muscles, it also applies to sex.

"If you want to have good blood flow to your genitals," explains Castellanos, "you need to keep using them." In fact, people who have sex at least once a week are more likely to retain good sexual function as they get older.

If you’re following the steps above but want to do more to encourage proper blood flow, consider this: Your body depends on the molecule nitric oxide to keep blood vessels healthy and relaxed so that blood can flow through them.

"If you want more nitric oxide, you need more of the amino acid L-arginine," says Dr. Elizabeth Owings, a Missouri-based physician who is passionate about the benefits of L-arginine. Viagra and other members of a class of drugs called phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitors also influence nitric oxide - but they only enhance its effects. On the other hand, L-arginine helps your body produce more nitric acid, improving blood flow all over.

L-arginine is naturally found in protein-rich foods such as peanuts and walnuts, meats, seafood and legumes such as soybean and chickpeas, but you may need a supplement to give your sex life that extra boost.

Although more research is needed, some evidence suggests that supplemental L-arginine may have sexual benefits for both men and women. A 1999 study of men with ED found that those who took L-arginine for six weeks had greater improvement in symptoms than those who didn’t take this supplement. And a 2002 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior showed that women who took a combination of L-arginine and the herb yohimbine experienced more signs of sexual arousal while watching an erotic film than those who took a placebo.

Dr. Owings recommends that healthy people try taking 5 grams of L-arginine a day and points out that this supplement appears to lack the side effects associated with PDE inhibitors, including visual disturbances and hearing problems. That said, some research does suggest that L-arginine isn’t a good idea for people with liver or kidney failure or cancer.

As always, it's best to talk to your doctor before taking any type of supplement. It may seem difficult, but sharing your concerns with a professional can help open an honest conversation about sex, and about health in general - and that's always a good thing.

soundoff (896 Responses)
  1. 24 hour road service

    Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really know what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my web site =). We could have a link exchange agreement between us!


    May 13, 2021 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. rv service and parts near me

    Good write-up. I definitely love this site. Keep it up!


    May 14, 2021 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Authorized Dodge Sprinter Repair


    May 14, 2021 at 05:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Freightliner Sprinter Repair Near Me


    May 14, 2021 at 06:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. trailer maintenance near me


    May 14, 2021 at 06:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. repair rv slide out

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Thank you for providing these details.


    May 14, 2021 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. rv parts orange county

    A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you ought to write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people don't speak about these issues. To the next! Best wishes!!


    May 14, 2021 at 16:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rv dealers orange county ca

    May I simply just say what a comfort to discover an individual who actually understands what they're discussing online. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people should read this and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you're not more popular given that you most certainly have the gift.


    May 15, 2021 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. homes for sale rathdrum id


    May 15, 2021 at 06:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. hack slot game

    I'm impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that's both educative and interesting,
    and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something which not enough people are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy I found this during my hunt for something relating
    to this.

    May 15, 2021 at 07:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. houses for sale spirit lake id

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Thanks a lot!


    May 15, 2021 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. 2011 Maserati Granturismo


    May 15, 2021 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. 2018 Maserati Levante


    May 15, 2021 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Maserati Recall


    May 15, 2021 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. rv body repair near me


    May 15, 2021 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. real estate for sale nearby


    May 15, 2021 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Casino site

    Do you have any video of that? I'd love to find out
    some additional information.

    May 15, 2021 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. aika online download

    Having read this I thought it was really enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this content together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    May 15, 2021 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Digital Marketing Reviews

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It is the little changes that will make the greatest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 15, 2021 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Local Marketing California


    May 16, 2021 at 03:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Aika Pran


    May 16, 2021 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Aika Online Pran

    Right here is the right webpage for everyone who wants to find out about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject that's been discussed for ages. Wonderful stuff, just excellent!


    May 16, 2021 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. california collision center lancaster


    May 16, 2021 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. gun mod minecraft

    I think the admin of this web site is really working hard in support of his web page, as here every data is quality based information.

    Here is my blog post – gun mod minecraft

    May 16, 2021 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rv repair fort bragg ca

    Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after browsing through many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m certainly pleased I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!


    May 16, 2021 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. 1985 Maserati Biturbo

    Hi there! I simply wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for the great information you have got right here on this post. I am coming back to your site for more soon.


    May 16, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Chevy Van Repair


    May 16, 2021 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. priligy

    dapoxetine pharmacy priligy cost

    May 16, 2021 at 16:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sprinter Van Ecu Repair

    That is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate info… Thank you for sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 16, 2021 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Egr Def Repair Mercedes Sprinter


    May 16, 2021 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. 2008 Dodge Sprinter Exhaust Repair


    May 16, 2021 at 21:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Maserati Dealer Los Angeles


    May 16, 2021 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Howdy! This post could not be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


    May 16, 2021 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sprinter Blower Fan Repair Near Me


    May 17, 2021 at 03:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Wheelchair Van Repair Near Me


    May 17, 2021 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sprinter Van Repair

    I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your information. Your article has really peaked my interest. I am going to take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.


    May 17, 2021 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Maserati Granturismo Red


    May 17, 2021 at 05:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Van Repair Near Me


    May 17, 2021 at 05:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Mecedes Sprinter Repair

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe that this amazing site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!


    May 17, 2021 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    May 17, 2021 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Mercedes Sprinter Body Repair

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will come back once again since i have book-marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.


    May 17, 2021 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Dodge Sprinter Step Repair


    May 17, 2021 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV TV Orange County


    May 17, 2021 at 15:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Yelena Marquez

    After going over a handful of the blog articles on your web site, I honestly like your technique of blogging. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my website too and let me know how you feel.


    May 17, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Carola Marchel

    This is the right blog for everyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that's been written about for a long time. Wonderful stuff, just great!


    May 18, 2021 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. heating and air conditioning supply near me

    Hi there, I believe your site could be having browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Aside from that, excellent site!


    May 18, 2021 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Dentists Near My Home

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day. It's always exciting to read through content from other writers and use a little something from other web sites.


    May 18, 2021 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. accountability coach near me


    May 18, 2021 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Roofing Near Me


    May 18, 2021 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Commercial Roof Repair Near Me


    May 18, 2021 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.