Men’s Sexual Health Supplements: Are They Safe?

Check with your doctor first to reduce risk of complications

Illustration for story on men's sexual health supplements.

Check with your doctor first to reduce risk of complications

Pills and bottles touting that they can boost your sex life may be appealing, but you might want to think twice before putting down your money. While their claims are tempting, they may not be backed by evidence and may even lead to unwanted side effects.

“Most supplements for sexual function have not been studied scientifically,” says Luigi Simone, MD, a primary care physician at Scripps Clinic in Encinitas. “They may have a placebo effect, which is not insignificant, but as far as the claims of increasing libido or sexual endurance, those have definitely not been proven.”

In fact, using male sexual enhancement supplements to boost your libido or address erectile dysfunction may do more harm than good. Ingredients can trigger side effects, cause allergic reactions and interact with other drugs. Some may even contain potentially dangerous impurities or small amounts of hidden pharmaceutical drugs that can produce dangerous reactions.

Talk with your doctor before trying a sexual enhancement supplement.

“Don’t be afraid to bring up a sexual health concern,” says Dr. Simone. “We’ve heard them all and are always ready to help you.”

What are supplements?

Supplements are products intended to supplement your diet. They are not drugs and can be purchased without prescription at grocery stores, drug stores, natural food stores and other retail outlets.

While the FDA has the responsibility to approve the use of any conventional pharmaceutical and to monitor how it is manufactured, the FDA has no such responsibility with regard to supplements. In fact, supplements are not approved by the FDA for the treatment of any medical condition and cannot be marketed that way. By law, dietary supplements must contain at least one vitamin, mineral, amino acid, enzyme, or other substance used by the body. But the rest of the ingredients may include drugs that are untested for safety or effectiveness.

That means unscrupulous companies and manufacturers can sell any products they like without regard to veracity or science. The supplements won’t be pulled from the shelves until and unless the FDA proves they’re unsafe.

The FDA can take action if it finds any supplement to be unsafe once it reaches the market and can remove the product from the marketplace.

You can check online at the National Institutes of Health for more information about supplements. Your doctor should also be able to answer your questions.

Men’s sexual health supplements

Sexual enhancement supplements are supplements made from a natural substance. They may contain nutrients called amino acids, vitamins and minerals or herbs like palmetto, yohimbe or maca. Most products are tablets, caplets or tablets.

Sexual enhancements supplements have become more prevalent as the population ages and more people are diagnosed with disorders that require medication that may lead to sexual problems as side effects. In addition, increased consumption of alcohol and smoking have increased the prevalence of sexual health problems, such as erectile dysfunction.

Lifestyle changes can help boost sexual health

Remember, it’s always best to talk to your doctor about any sexual health problem that you may be experiencing.

“Do not self-diagnose and think that supplements are going to cure or prevent a problem from occurring,” Dr. Simone says. “Your doctor can discuss any sexual concern you may have and determine if there is an underlying cause for your symptoms that needs to be treated. If you have sexual side effects from medication you can ask your doctor if you can change your medication. Your doctor can also help you determine which supplements, if any, might help you.”

Lifestyle changes — such as losing weight and getting more exercise or smoking cessation — can help boost your sexual health without medication. Weight loss, decreased stress and a healthy lifestyle have all been shown to increase testosterone levels in men, according to Dr. Simone.

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