Can Alcohol Consumption Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Erection problems such as impotence affect most sexually active men, regardless of age or background. One of the most common causes of temporary erectile problems is alcohol use. Alcohol affects many things in our body, particularly communication within our nervous system. The erection process involves such a fine balance of nerve signals that it can therefore easily be disrupted as a result of excessive alcohol use, even if a person doesn't feel particularly inebriated.
How alcohol affects your erection
When a man becomes sexually aroused, the brain sends nerve impulses to the penis that cause blood vessels in the penis to dilate, allowing more blood to reach the penile tissues. This increase in blood causes penile tissues to expand and harden, resulting in an erection. Any disturbance in this process can cause difficulty in gaining or maintaining an erection that is strong enough for sexual intercourse.
2016 Alcohol Guideline For Men
While it might loosen your inhibitions, making you feel happy and relaxed, excessive alcohol intake can act as a depressant on the nervous system, resulting in communication problems between the body and the brain.
This is because alcohol can affect a number of neurotransmitters (hormones) in the body, which are compounds that relay impulses between nerve cells. Alcohol in particular has an influence on serotonin, dopamine, GABA and glutamine. Its effect on glutamine is quite significant, as inhibition of this particular hormone is what results in a person finding it difficult to control muscle movement, affecting co-ordination.
In 2016, the government introduced new alcohol guidelines, which saw the alcohol limit for men lowered, to the same as women.
According to Alcohol Research UK, the revised drinking guidelines for both men and women recommend that:
- Men and women should not frequently drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. Ideally, this should be spread evenly over three days or more.
- Drinkers should limit the amount they consume on single occasions, and combine drinking alcohol with eating food and drinking water.
- Pregnant women should avoid drinking altogether.
To read the full revised guidelines visit: www.gov.uk
Ways excessive alcohol consumption can affect your sex life
Although drinking in moderation is unlikely to affect your sex life, heavy drinking can have an impact in various ways such as:
Short-lived erectile dysfunction:
According to researchers, a high intake of alcohol can affect both your brain and your penis. As alcohol is a nervous system depressant, it can block nerve impulses and messages between the body and the brain. In past studies, men who have consumed high volumes of alcohol were unable to achieve an erection compared to men who were sober and were able to successfully maintain an erection suitable for penetration.
Long-term erectile dysfunction:
Chronic use of alcohol has been heavily linked to erectile dysfunction. Research has found that men who consume large levels of alcohol on a regular basis, are 60 -70% more likely to suffer from sexual dysfunction problems. Common sexual problems include, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and loss of sex drive.
Smoking and alcohol:
Smoking after having one too many is a common occurrence amongst heavy drinkers. For men, smoking and drinking can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction. Smoking is considered to be the number cause for erection problems for men under 40. Research has found that men who smoke, are 60% more likely to experience erectile problems.
Alcohol and sexually transmitted infection:
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is considered to be a key risk factor for getting an STI. According to various studies, almost 50% of unplanned sexual encounters involve high consumption of alcohol, with more than half of STIs being transmitted when excessive alcohol has been consumed. Young people who consume high volumes of alcohol are more likely to have unprotected sex.
Avoiding alcohol-induced impotence
Sometimes even a little bit of alcohol is enough to have an effect on your erection, but it's unlikely that you'll be affected by erectile dysfunction if you stay under the recommended daily limit for both men and women. Men are advised to not take in more than three to four units of alcohol a day on a regular basis, regardless of the type of alcohol they consume.
However, if you find that you are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, you might want to avoid alcohol when you intend on having sexual intercourse. Eating while drinking can also be helpful, as this can space out the effects of alcohol on your system more evenly over the course of an evening.
Drinking during special occasions
Whether it's birthdays, a stag do, wedding or holiday, binge drinking during special occasions can see your alcohol levels, double that of the recommended alcohol guidelines. One day in particular is St Patrick's Day – an annual day that celebrates the culture and heritage of Ireland. Although it is widely considered a fun celebration, some experts are concerned with the amount of alcohol consumed during this celebratory day.
St Patrick's Day drinking statistics:
- 5.5 million Guinness are consumed everyday worldwide
- This more than doubles to 13 million pints on St Patrick's Day
- 19% will go to an Irish - themed Pub or restaurant
- 5% will go attend a dedicated St Paddy's day party
- 43% of 16-34 year olds are expected to celebrate
- 26% of 35 – 45 year olds are expected to celebrate
- 18% over 55 year olds are expected to celebrate
Other dangers of alcohol
Alcohol isn't always bad and there is some research to suggests that small amounts can be beneficial, however regularly exceeding your recommended daily intake of alcohol units can be damaging to your body.
In the UK there are 33,000 alcohol related deaths every year
There are at least 33, 000 alcohol related deaths in the UK each year. These deaths occur mostly as a result of road accidents or health problems related to excessive alcohol use has been associated with diabetes, liver damage, depression, dementia, high blood pressure, stroke and weakening of the heart, to name a few. Alcohol can also increase a person's risk of becoming obese, because of the high calorie content of alcoholic beverages.