What is Nrf2? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Secret to Aging Well

What is Nrf2? Healthy man photo | Gapin Institute


Feel like you’re just not operating at the level you used to?

People tell us that that happens with age—that our bodies start to break down.

But the most recent science is actually calling into question the inevitability of the symptoms of aging. New research in microbiology, chemistry, and genomics is showing us that those uncomfortable symptoms of aging might not be locked in.

This is where “biohacking” comes from: it’s the idea that you can give your body exactly what it needs to properly repair and rejuvenate itself. The result? Optimized health and performance.

Nrf2 is one of the most exciting discoveries in this area and holds some real promise as an anti-aging agent and as a support for your long-term health. In this article, I’ll explain what it is, what it does, and why it matters for your aging. 

What is Nrf2?

Nrf2, short for “nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2”, is a protein that is found in your cells. It is a type of protein called a “transcription factor”, which means that it is involved in gene expression—activating and deactivating parts of a genetic sequence. 

Which genes does Nrf2 affect? It regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins and enzymes, increasing their production to help your body fight off molecules that attack your cells. 

Nrf2 has been found to be an important part of your body’s system of regulating metabolism, inflammation, and immune responses

What’s special about Nrf2?

 Nrf2 is a big deal because it could be the key to aging gracefully and healthily.

When you’re young, your body is good at balancing all the needs of your body at the cellular level. But as you age, these important chemical signallers decline. You begin to produce less of the substances that you need to properly regulate your body.

That means that there are fewer of the peptides, proteins, hormones, and enzymes that help your body repair and rejuvenate. Things start to break down.

The result is that your body gets slower at repairing itself. That’s why you feel tired more often, your body takes longer to recover from exercise, and your skin begins to see signs of aging. You might also notice issues with your sleep or even erectile dysfunction

Oxidative stress contributes to symptoms of aging

At the cellular level, what’s happening is that free radicals are constantly bombarding your cells. The damage caused by these attacks causes your cells to go into a state called oxidative stress, and stop functioning properly. 

When you’re young, your body can easily fight free radicals back. But as you get older, your body can’t do this as effectively. That’s when symptoms of aging start getting worse.

Antioxidants fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress

You’ve probably heard of the health benefits of antioxidants. Some foods are high in antioxidants and that’s why health professionals sometimes encourage you to include them in your diet. 

Antioxidants  help neutralize free radicals and minimize the damage that they cause. That helps reduce the symptoms of aging. 

But antioxidants aren’t very efficient. One antioxidant molecule neutralizes only one free radical. With more and more free radicals, we need more and more antioxidants. At some point, the antioxidants can’t keep up. 

What does Nrf2 do?

Nrf2 provides a powerful solution to overcome free radicals. It’s known as the “master regulator” of our body’s antioxidant response.

When Nrf2 is activated, it enters the nucleus and turns on several hundred genes, known collectively as “survival genes.” This, in turn, initiates the production of several of your body’s own powerful enzymes that fight free radicals. These enzymes include catalase, glutathione, and superoxide dismutase (SOD)

These enzymes are much more effective than antioxidants at getting rid of free radicals—they can neutralize over 1 million free radicals a second. What that means is that your body can clean itself out quickly and fewer of your cells get into a state of oxidative stress. 

Ultimately, that means you feel fewer symptoms of aging: better energy, better sleep, and even a better sex life

How do I get Nrf2?

Great, Nrf2 can support my health. How do I get it?

You actually don’t need to get Nrf2—it’s already right there in your cells. It comes pre-installed.

The problem is that it’s not activated. It’s a bit like an engine: it just sits in your cells not doing anything until it’s turned on. That’s what Nrf2 activation therapies do: they get into your cells to turn on Nrf2 so that it can enter the nucleus and work its magic. 

Some foods have been shown to activate Nrf2 and the Nrf2 pathway. These have been supported by studies in nutrigenomics—the study of how food influences gene expression and cellular function. 

Some Nrf2-activating foods include:

  • Dark chocolate 

  • Legumes, like lentils, beans, and peas

  • Vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like spinach and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and bok choy

  • Spices, especially ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, and yellow mustard

  • Herbs, like oregano

  • Red wine

  • Tea, especially green and white teas

What about Nrf2 supplements? Do they work?

In addition to activating Nrf2 through the diet, there are now supplements that activate Nrf2 and significantly reduce oxidative stress. 

These have been extremely well-researched by the scientific community and some of the supplements have very strong evidence supporting their use. 

Protandim®, for example, is a supplement designed to activate Nrf2. There have been numerous studies that demonstrate that it improves your body’s antioxidant response capacity. Peer-reviewed, human clinical studies show that it reduces cellular stress in humans by an average of 40 percent in 30 days. Research even suggests that it could be effective in preventing age-related diseases like:

The takeaway for your health: Nrf2 activators could help you feel younger. A men’s health secret.

We often think that there isn’t much we can do about the declines in our bodies that come with age. But science is showing us that that’s not necessarily the case. 

There actually may be ways that we can give our body what it needs to better regulate, repair, and rejuvenate itself.

Nrf2 appears to be one of those ways. Activating the Nrf2 pathway could be a relatively simple—but powerful—way to help you feel younger again. 

It might be as easy as making good diet choices or taking a supplement. 

Schedule a consultation to learn how to personalized health advice so you can live your life to the fullest. 

Ready to take the next steps?

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In Male 2.0™, Dr. Tracy Gapin has turned everything we once thought we knew about men’s health and performance upside down. The old model of how to be “a man” is broken. A man who works himself to death.  Unfortunately, a man who tries to NOT get sick but isn’t really healthy either.  And a man who takes a pill for every ill but is never really cured. That was Male 1.0. Now, imagine being THE MAN ─ owning your performance in the bedroom, the weight room, and the boardroom. Living a fully optimized life. Becoming limitless. This is Male 2.0!

Tracy Gapin, MD, FACS  is a board-certified Urologist,  world renowned Men’s Health & Performance Expert, Author, and Professional Speaker. Using state-of-the-art biometric monitoring, nutrition and lifestyle intervention, Dr. Gapin coaches Fortune 500 executives and evolutionary leaders of business, sports medicine, and high performance. He specializes in cutting-edge precision medicine with an emphasis on epigenetics, providing men with a personalized path to optimizing health & performance. www.GapinInstitute.com

Want more tips to optimize your health?  Listen to the latest podcasts. Click HERE


Houghton, C. A., Fassett, R. G., & Coombes, J. S. (2016). Sulforaphane and other nutrigenomic Nrf2 activators: can the clinician’s expectation be matched by the reality?. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/7857186

Hybertson, B. M., Gao, B., Bose, S. K., & McCord, J. M. (2011). Oxidative stress in health and disease: the therapeutic potential of Nrf2 activation. Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 32(4-6), 234-246.

Lim, J. L., der Pol, V., Susanne, M. A., Baron, W., McCord, J. M., De Vries, H. E., & Van Horssen, J. (2016). Protandim protects oligodendrocytes against an oxidative insult. Antioxidants, 5(3), 30. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox5030030

Men, What is stress doing to your Testosterone?

stress and our testostereone man at desk

Stress is ubiquitous—it affects all of us in one way or another.

Low level stress that you can easily overcome is usually not bad for you. In fact, it can even be good for you. Stress can motivate you, improve your athletic performance, and help you adapt to your environment. 

But long-term or excessive stress can have a profoundly negative effect on your health and even reduce your lifespan. Research shows that stress reduces testosterone levels, which may be one reason why stress is strongly linked with weight gain, poor sleep, and erectile dysfunction (ED)

Getting your stress under control is one of the most important ways to achieve a healthy, satisfying life. In this article, I’ll dive into exactly what stress is and what it is doing to your health, testosterone, and sex life. Then I’ll explain exactly how to beat it. 

What is Stress

We throw the term around all the time, but what exactly is stress?

Stress is a feeling of psychological strain or pressure. It occurs from our own perception of an event or stressor as threatening or challenging to us.

To be clear, stress is not the actual events or stressors in your life.  Your response to those stressors is what triggers your feeling of stress.

Psychologists sometimes classify stressors into four types (1):

  1. Ambient stressors, like noise in a cafe or traffic
  2. Hassles or micro stressors, like not being able to find your keys
  3. Major life events, like getting fired, getting married, or having a child
  4. Crises or catastrophes, like a natural disaster

These have different effects on your overall well-being, but even hassles or micro stressors, when they are constant, can create levels of stress that ultimately affect our health. 

traffic jam - angry stressed businessman driving car

How Stress Affects Health

Stress has a massive physiological effect on our bodies. When we feel stress, our brain sends out a signal to our body and activates a “fight or flight” response. Our pupils dilate, our heart rate increases, and our body releases a number of hormones and chemicals to get us ready to react, such as adrenaline, endorphins, and cortisol.

This response is useful if we’re encountering a situation where we really do need to fight or get away. Athletes, soldiers in combat, or even firefighters benefit from this reaction to stressful situations.

But for most of us, this bodily response is unnecessary. And, when stress is chronic, occurring over a long period of time, these effects can be toxic and dangerous to our health. The amount of stress that you have, and your stress resiliency, can even predict how long you will live.

Risk of disease

One of the most worrying effects of stress on our health is its relationship to disease; research shows that chronic, severe stress vastly increases a person’s risk for several chronic health conditions. 

For example, there’s significant evidence that stress increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and hypertension as well as diabetes and certain types of cancer (2, 3, 4). 

Stress is also clearly associated with mental illness, including depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety (5, 6).

Immune Function

Stress has been found to reduce immune function (7). Research has demonstrated that stress can cause a person to be more susceptible to illnesses like colds (8). Scientists have suggested that stress can affect immune system function at the cellular level, changing the body’s chemical immune response. They’ve found that individuals that report more stress tend to have lower immunity and increased inflammation (7).

Poor lifestyle habits

The way that we cope with stress may also have an impact on our health. When individuals cope with stress by consuming excessive alcohol, smoking, or binge-eating, the result is poorer health. Stress can cause some people to engage in unhealthy habits as a way to cope with the psychological discomfort (9). 

Stress can affect your genes

Epigenetics refers to a process whereby gene expression, or activity, is altered by the environment although the actual genetic sequence is not changed. 

Researchers have found that stress can cause epigenetic changes resulting in negative health outcomes. 

What does all this mean? It means that stress may be able to actually change how your genes are expressed such that you are predisposed to have worse health outcomes. 

How Stress Affects Testosterone and Erectile Dysfunction

Stress has such a powerful effect on us in part because it’s psychological. It affects the hormonal balance in our body, but it also affects our mental health. Both of these things can impact sexual function and performance.

One of the ways that stress impacts sexual function is through testosterone.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is often called the “male sex hormone”. It plays an important role in several bodily functions for men, including the initial development of the testes and prostate. In adults, testosterone has many surprising effects including being critical to the production of sperm and semen, healthy libido, and even muscular development.

Many men suffer from “low T”. What is low T? It’s a condition where a man’s body does not produce sufficient testosterone for optimal function.

Low testosterone can be caused by various lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, and poor sleep. Age alone may also be a factor since the production of testosterone tends to decrease with age. Men over the age of 50 tend to experience a 1% decline in testosterone levels every year.

Some of the symptoms of low testosterone include: 

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low fertility
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Weight gain
  • Low libido and sex drive
  • Weaker bones
  • Reduced energy
  • Less body hair
  • Foggy brain

Stress has been shown to directly affect testosterone levels. When you’re stressed, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. And high cortisol levels crush your testosterone. Research has found a clear association between high cortisol levels and low levels of testosterone (13). 

The lower testosterone levels caused by stress, in turn leads to low energy, weight gain, loss of mental focus, and loss of sexual function.

Stress Causes Erectile Dysfunction

Stress is one of the most common causes of ED (14).

Sexual function depends on the complex interaction between physiological and psychological factors. Stress affects both. It causes your body to produce less testosterone, which contributes to difficulty getting an erection. It can also affect the psychological processes associated with sexual arousal. 

Finding ways to effectively cope with stress is an essential part of creating a healthy lifestyle, achieving optimal testosterone levels, and supporting a fulfilling sex life. 

Reduce Stress to Improve your Health, Testosterone, and Sex Life

Great, we need to address stress for better health, more testosterone, and great sex. 

But how?

Develop stress resiliency

This is one of the most important things that you can do to reduce stress: develop ways to cope effectively with stress and create stress resiliency

Stress resiliency refers to your ability to respond to and cope with the stressors that you face in everyday life. Creating resilience to stress can help you experience it less often, for less time, and thus reduce the negative health effects.

To develop stress resiliency, try the following.

  1. Start to think of stress as an opportunity for growth. Ask yourself: What is the stressor? Why am I stressed about it? Where can I feel the stress in my body? What can I do right now to cope and calm myself down? What can I learn to grow from it?
  2. Develop healthy coping habits. These include exercise, meditation, breathing techniques, hobbies you enjoy, and even sex.
  3. Sleep! Sleep is critical for optimal health, but especially when it comes to stress resilience. Good quality sleep allows your body to heal and recover. And good quality sleep lowers cortisol.
  4. Get social support. Engaging with the important people in your life is one of the most effective ways to cope with stress. Even giving social support can improve your stress. 
  5. Focus on eating good quality food. The foods you eat can directly promote or reduce inflammation in your body, and thus affect cortisol production. 


Exercise is one of the most effective ways to beat back stressors (15). Research shows that people who exercise consistently  are better able to develop stress resilience and reduce the health consequence of stress (16). 

man exercising for stress and testosterone levels


Research is increasingly finding the benefits of meditation on everything from cognitive health to physical energy levels. Meditation also turns out to be an effective way to cope with life stressors, even if you do it for just five to ten minutes a day. 

The benefits of meditation include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Better sleep
  • Feeling relaxed
  • Better focus and attention
  • More positive mood
  • Reductions in depression and anxiety. 

Solutions for Erectile Dysfunction and Low T

Do you think your stress is lowering your testosterone? Here are a few ways that you can increase your testosterone naturally

Lose weight

Body fat and testosterone are connected. When guys have higher body fat levels, their bodies create and release less testosterone. And low testosterone causes your body to store more energy as fat. It’s a vicious cycle.

However, you can reverse it and turn it into a positive cycle. When you start to lose weight, you’ll find that your testosterone levels naturally increase. And, as the testosterone in your body increases, you’ll find it easier and easier to lose more weight (17). Losing weight will also help you to stop ED in its tracks

If you are overweight, make this a priority: lose weight to naturally boost your testosterone. improve sexual function, and improve stress. 


It’s not only effective for coping with stress, but also for increasing testosterone. Numerous studies have found that guys that exercise more tend to have more testosterone. 

The best exercise to boost testosterone is strength training and lifting weights. Studies have found that guys of all ages get a boost of T from weight training (18). Moderate cardio exercise is also great. 

And for another added benefit, exercise is an effective way to prevent and help treat ED.

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)

Testosterone hormone therapy can be an effective treatment for some guys that suffer from low T. Testosterone therapy can be given topically, by subcutaneous or intramuscular injection, pellets, or more recently oral medication.  Some of the benefits of TRT include (19):

  • Improved energy
  • Better sexual function and sex drive
  • Increased endurance
  • Enhanced ability to gain lean muscle mass
  • Increased mood and energy
  • Improved cognitive function

There can be risks of testosterone replacement therapy, so make sure you consult with a doctor specialized in men’s health and hormone therapy before deciding whether it could be right for you.

Precision Medicine

These recommendations will help the majority of men reduce stress and improve their health. 

But everyone is different. Every man obviously has unique genetics, and thus responds to his environment differently. This is epigenetics.

Why should you care? There may be things that you should be doing to reduce stress and get healthy that wouldn’t work for other men. Whether it be

Precision medicine is a way to get a health plan tailored to your individual genetic makeup. If you’re suffering from stress, low T, or ED, look for solutions designed specifically for you and your genes. 

Optimize your Health with Dr Tracy Gapin. The body is a complex system.

Conclusion: Don’t Let Stress Get You Down

Everyone experiences stress. If stress becomes chronic, and you lose your ability to cope with it, stress can crush your health, leading to weight gain, low testosterone levels, poor energy, and increased risk of erectile dysfunction.

But when you have effective coping mechanisms and view stress as helpful not harmful, you can overcome it and rise to the occasion. Learning to beat stress will help you boost your immune system, lose weight, feel healthier, and enjoy the benefits of higher testosterone.

If you’re concerned about what stress may be doing to your health and testosterone levels, schedule a consultation to learn how to personalized health advice so you can live your life to the fullest. 

In Male 2.0™, Dr. Tracy Gapin has turned everything we once thought we knew about men’s health and performance upside down. The old model of how to be “a man” is broken. A man who works himself to death.  Unfortunately, a man who tries to NOT get sick but isn’t really healthy either.  And a man who takes a pill for every ill but is never really cured. That was Male 1.0. Now, imagine being THE MAN ─ owning your performance in the bedroom, the weight room, and the boardroom. Living a fully optimized life. Becoming limitless. This is Male 2.0!

Tracy Gapin, MD, FACS  is a board-certified Urologist,  world renowned Men’s Health & Performance Expert, Author, and Professional Speaker. Using state-of-the-art biometric monitoring, nutrition and lifestyle intervention, Dr. Gapin coaches Fortune 500 executives and evolutionary leaders of business, sports medicine, and high performance. He specializes in cutting-edge precision medicine with an emphasis on epigenetics, providing men with a personalized path to optimizing health & performance. www.GapinInstitute.com

Want more tips to optimize your health?  Listen to the latest podcasts. Click HERE


  1. Wheaton, B., & Montazer, S. (2010). Stressors, stress, and distress. A handbook for the study of mental health: Social contexts, theories, and systems, 171-199.
  2. Dimsdale, J. E. (2008). Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 51(13), 1237-1246.
  3. Harris, M. L., Oldmeadow, C., Hure, A., Luu, J., Loxton, D., & Attia, J. (2017). Stress increases the risk of type 2 diabetes onset in women: A 12-year longitudinal study using causal modelling. PloS one, 12(2), e0172126.
  4. Moreno-Smith, M., Lutgendorf, S. K., & Sood, A. K. (2010). Impact of stress on cancer metastasis. Future Oncology, 6(12), 1863-1881.
  5. Bartolomucci, A., & Leopardi, R. (2009). Stress and depression: preclinical research and clinical implications. PloS one, 4(1), e4265.
  6. Corcoran, C., Mujica-Parodi, L., Yale, S., Leitman, D., & Malaspina, D. (2002). Could stress cause psychosis in individuals vulnerable to schizophrenia?. CNS Spectrums, 7(1), 33.
  7. Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: A meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 601.
  8. Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Skoner, D. P., Rabin, B. S., & Gwaltney, J. M. (1997). Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA, 277(24), 1940-1944.
  9. Steptoe, A., Wardle, J., Pollard, T. M., Canaan, L., & Davies, G. J. (1996). Stress, social support and health-related behavior: a study of smoking, alcohol consumption and physical exercise. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 41(2), 171-180.
  10. Mulligan, C. J. (2016). Early environments, stress, and the epigenetics of human health. Annual Review of Anthropology, 45, 233-249.
  11. Glad, C. A., Andersson-Assarsson, J. C., Berglund, P., Bergthorsdottir, R., Ragnarsson, O., & Johannsson, G. (2017). Reduced DNA methylation and psychopathology following endogenous hypercortisolism–a genome-wide study. Nature: Scientific Reports, 7, 44445.
  12. Wein, H. (2010). Stress Hormone Causes Epigenetic Changes. NIH Research Matters. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/stress-hormone-causes-epigenetic-changes
  13. Rubinow, D. R., Roca, C. A., Schmidt, P. J., Danaceau, M. A., Putnam, K., Cizza, G., … & Nieman, L. (2005). Testosterone suppression of CRH-stimulated cortisol in men. Neuropsychopharmacology, 30(10), 1906-1912.
  14. Rosen, R. C. (2001). Psychogenic erectile dysfunction: classification and management. Urologic Clinics of North America, 28(2), 269-278.
  15. Bond, D. S., Lyle, R. M., Tappe, M. K., Seehafer, R. S., & D’Zurilla, T. J. (2002). Moderate aerobic exercise, T’ai Chi, and social problem-solving ability in relation to psychological stress. International Journal of Stress Management, 9(4), 329-343.
  16. Hsu, Y. C., Tsai, S. F., Yu, L., Chuang, J. I., Wu, F. S., Jen, C. J., & Kuo, Y. M. (2016). Long-term moderate exercise accelerates the recovery of stress-evoked cardiovascular responses. Stress, 19(1), 125-132.
  17. Yassin, A. A., & Doros, G. (2013). Testosterone therapy in hypogonadal men results in sustained and clinically meaningful weight loss. Clinical Obesity, 3(3-4), 73-83.
  18. Craig, B. W., Brown, R., & Everhart, J. (1989). Effects of progressive resistance training on growth hormone and testosterone levels in young and elderly subjects. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 49(2), 159-169.
  19. Osterberg, E. C., Bernie, A. M., & Ramasamy, R. (2014). Risks of testosterone replacement therapy in men. Indian journal of urology: IJU: journal of the Urological Society of India, 30(1), 2.


Are Low Vitamin D Levels Linked To ED?

Studies have concluded that vitamin D deficiency and erectile dysfunction are strongly correlated. In fact, a study published in Dermato-endocrinology found that men with a vitamin D deficiency have a 30% greater prevalence of ED and an 80% greater prevalence of severe ED compared to men with optimal levels of vitamin D.

But why is this? What’s the link between vitamin D and the ability to have an erection?

More importantly, what can you do to ensure that a vitamin D deficiency isn’t killing your sex life?

What Is ED?

Erectile dysfunction, also called “impotence,” is when a man has difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection long enough to have satisfactory sexual intercourse. This could mean that the erection quickly fades or that he can’t have an erection at all.

Erectile dysfunction has a lot of moving parts. The causes of ED can be varied, which can make it difficult to treat in the long-term. ED can be neurological (brain), vascular (blood vessels), muscular, hormonal, and even psychological. Oftentimes, ED is a vascular problem caused by endothelial damage or inhibition of vasodilation. Basically, this means that the blood vessels are damaged and can’t properly transport blood to the penis (which is what gets the penis hard).  

ED is often a symptom of another underlying disease or concern, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes. In fact, erectile dysfunction is often one of the first and primary indicators of heart disease.

What Is A Vitamin D Deficiency (VDD)?

A “deficiency” of a vitamin means that your body doesn’t have the amount of that nutrient in the body for proper function. A vitamin D deficiency is usually classified as anything below 20 or 30 ng/mL. The Vitamin D Council recommends optimal vitamin D levels between 40 and 80 ng/mL.

Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D. Often called the “sunshine vitamin,” scientists are realizing more and more just how important vitamin D is to overall health. In fact, research has shown that a deficit in vitamin D can be linked to a number of health concerns, from cancer to diabetes to bone loss to heart disease… to erectile dysfunction.

Vitamin D plays a role in the health of:

  • Bone
  • Immune system
  • Muscle function
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Respiratory system
  • Brain development

Did you know: Vitamin D is the only vitamin that your body produces. Your body can’t make other vitamins; it receives those vitamins from foods. But your body can make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight.

Because of this unique aspect of vitamin D, it’s not always the easiest vitamin to give to our bodies. Eating more of a food won’t necessarily increase our vitamin D levels that much. The process of making vitamin D is a little more complex than other nutrients.

And that’s one reason why so many Americans are deficient in vitamin D.

Most people don’t show signs of vitamin D deficiency… though most people have it. Interestingly, a 2015 study found that 67% of 160 physicians studied had vitamin D deficiencies. Even doctors—who should be the best at watching their health—are deficient in vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency (VDD) has become an epidemic.

How Are ED And VDD Linked?

A number of recent studies have proven that vitamin D deficiency and erectile dysfunction have some sort of correlation, independent of other risk factors. Researchers have concluded that “a significant proportion of ED patients have a vitamin D deficiency.” Ultimately, as researchers Sorenson and Grant wrote in their 2012 study: “We conclude that VDD contributes to ED.”

This study also found that low levels of vitamin D promoted endothelial dysfunction. Vitamin D has been shown to help improve endothelial function, while a deficiency in vitamin D contributes to endothelial dysfunction.

But what is endothelial dysfunction?

The endothelium is the inner lining of the blood vessels. This basically keeps your blood flowing smoothly and healthily. If there is endothelial dysfunction, there is an imbalance in the vessels, which restricts blood flow. This dysfunction can come from high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, plaque build-up, smoking, or other environmental factors.

In order for you to have an erection, your penis needs to fill up with blood to get “hard.” If your blood vessels aren’t working properly, blood can’t get down to your penis to fill it up. This can cause a vascular-related erectile dysfunction.

Vitamin D has been shown to promote endothelial function. In the opposite way, vitamin D deficiency can actually damage our endothelial system and injure our blood vessels. If your blood vessels are injured, they can’t do their job and get blood flowing to your penis to have an erection.

Moreover, damaged blood vessels can also lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, which we’ll discuss below.

Vitamin D also plays a role in nitric oxide synthesis. Nitric oxide is needed to relax the smooth muscles of the penis and open up the blood vessels to allow blood to flow into the penis. NO functions as a natural vasodilator that’s essential to gaining an erection.

Some studies suggest that vitamin D may regulate the synthase or production of nitric oxide. This means that vitamin D could play an integral role in boosting blood flow to the penis. In reverse, a deficiency in vitamin D could mean an inhibition of nitric oxide synthesis. Without NO, there’s no erection. If VDD prevents NO, then an erection is impossible.

How Are VDD And CVD Linked?

Moreover, as discussed, erectile dysfunction is often a symptom of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Risk factors that are associated with CVD are also associated with a high ED risk, like smoking and being overweight. If vitamin D deficiency contributes to erectile dysfunction, scientists have concluded that VDD may also be linked to cardiovascular disease.

Ultimately, vitamin D deficiency is closely associated to both erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.

And you don’t want either of those health issues.

So it’s time to get rid of your vitamin D deficiency (because, like most people, you’re probably not getting the vitamin D you need).

How Do You Get The Vitamin D You Need?

As discussed earlier, vitamin D is a unique nutrient. Your body chemically creates vitamin D when it receives sunlight. (Yes, you’re like a plant going through photosynthesis!) In this way, obtaining a healthy amount of vitamin D means committing to lifestyle changes for the long haul.

But these changes are fun, if you ask me!

  1. Sunlight

The best way to increase your vitamin D is to get more sunlight. Exposing your skin to the sun is the fastest and most efficient method of vitamin D consumption.

This doesn’t mean you need to tan or burn in order to be healthy. In fact, you shouldn’t be tanning or burning, which can end up chemically altering your cells and causing long-term problems (like wrinkles and cancer). Rather, you only need a few minutes of unprotected sunlight in order to get your full daily dose of vitamin D. You should then apply sunscreen liberally to ensure you don’t do any long-term damage with the UV rays.

Yes, the doctor is telling you to get out and go surfing, go for a bike ride, or take a walk around the park in the middle of the workday!

A few variables will affect the amount of vitamin D you get from the sunlight:

  • Time of day: your skin can produce more vitamin D if you get sunlight exposure during the middle of the day
  • Location: the closer you are to the equator, the more UV rays you’ll receive, and the easier it will be for your body to produce vitamin D
  • Altitude: the closer you are to the sun, the more vitamin D you’ll make (sun is more intense on a mountain than on a beach, even if the temperature disagrees)
  • Exposure: the amount of skin you expose to the sun affects the amount of vitamin D you’ll produce
  • Skin color: pale skin can make vitamin D quicker than darker skin tones
  • Age: your body’s production of vitamin D naturally slows down as you age
  • Sunscreen: wearing sunscreen can block the UV rays that are transformed into vitamin D
  • Pollution: polluted or cloudy air will soak up more UV rays than non-polluted air, stealing some of your vitamin D potential
  • Glass: glass blocks UVB rays, which are the rays needed for vitamin D production

Generally, I don’t recommend tanning beds to get the vitamin D you need. Often, you need only a few minutes of exposure to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Most indoor tanning bed sessions can cause severe burns and tans with long-lasting consequences.

  1. Supplements

The second best way to get vitamin D is through supplementation. If you don’t live in a sunny area or you don’t want to expose yourself to UV rays, vitamin D supplements are usually a good option.

Different organizations and doctors have different ideas about the correct dosage of vitamin D supplements. The Vitamin D Council recommends about 5,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D daily; the Endocrine Society recommends about 1,500-2,000 IU per day; and the Food and Nutrition Board recommends 600 IU per day and 800 for seniors. The Food and Nutrition Board is the official recommendation by the U.S. government.

Ultimately, there isn’t a “right” answer just yet on how much you should be taking. But you should definitely not be taking more than 10,000 IU per day. The Food and Nutrition Board even says the maximum dosage should be 4,000 IU per day.

Generally, you should take vitamin D3 as opposed to vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is not vegetarian, so talk to your doctor if you do not want to take an animal-based product.

You can also take cod liver oil, which contains vitamin D. However, cod liver oil has higher amounts of vitamin A than D. Taking too much vitamin A can be dangerous, so it’s important to maintain a healthy balance when supplementing with cod liver oil.

Vitamin D is fat-soluble. If you take too much, your body can’t easily get rid of it. You don’t want to be swimming in vitamin D, as high doses may cause diseases like MS or prostate cancer. Learn more about the link between vitamin D and prostate cancer here.

Talk to your doctor before adding any supplements to your regimen.

  1. Diet

Although our bodies produce most of our vitamin D, you can still get small amounts of vitamin D with your diet. However, most scientists believe that eating vitamin D won’t provide enough of the vitamin to stay healthy.

Nevertheless, adding vitamin D foods to your diet can help supplement your anti-VDD efforts.

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Raw milk
  • Caviar
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified cereal and oatmeal
  • Nutrient-Additive milk (cow and soy)
  • Fortified orange juice

  1. Workout

Working out won’t necessarily give you more vitamin D, but it can help you absorb more of the vitamin D you do get. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells. This means that the more fat you have on your body, the more vitamin D will be pulled out of use. Thus, people with a high body mass index (over 30) often have lower blood levels of vitamin D.

If you are carrying some extra pounds, you could be sabotaging any vitamin D regimen you try to implement. Moreover, being overweight is also strongly linked to erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.

If you want to lower your vitamin D deficiency and minimize your risk of ED and other serious diseases, it’s time to lose some of the weight.

Struggling to lose weight and feeling overwhelmed by health concerns? Learn about metabolic syndrome here.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin D deficiency is a common concern throughout the U.S. This deficiency can cause a number of serious health concerns, including erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.

But thankfully, a deficiency is easily solvable—by adding more of that vitamin into your body! By getting more sunlight, adding vitamin D supplements, and changing your diet and exercise, you can lower your risk of vascular problems and ED in no time.

Are you ready to finally balance your health?

Are you ready to get back to that energetic vigor of your youth?

Of course, you are!

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