According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, around 30 million adult men in the United States are affected by erectile dysfunction (ED), making issues with getting and maintaining an erection far more common than many people think. 

Physiologically speaking, healthy erections — and a healthy sex life, in general — are all about blood flow.

When blood is able to flow freely into the erectile tissue inside your penis, assuming you have no other health problems, you’ll find it much easier to get and keep an erection when you feel sexually aroused.

When your blood flow is restricted, whether due to a health condition, a habit or something you ate or drank, you’ll find it more difficult to get an erection. 

If your blood flow is very restricted, it’s possible that you might not be able to get an erection at all.

Whether you’re concerned about your sexual performance and want to take action or just want to improve your general health, taking steps to improve blood flow to your penis can pay major dividends when it comes to your sex life.

Below, we’ve explained how to increase blood flow to your penis, with several evidence-based tips, techniques and habits that you can use.

We’ve tried to cover every possible base, from simple changes that you can make to your daily routine and diet to FDA-approved medications and more.

Prioritize Foods That Help With Penis Blood Flow

The foods you eat can have a significant impact on your blood flow. Eating a healthy diet that’s rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients can improve your cardiovascular function and allow blood to flow easily around your body, including to your penile blood vessels.

On the other hand, eating a diet that’s high in unhealthy fats, salt and other nutrients can affect your blood supply and may make it harder to get and maintain a strong erection. 

If you want to improve blood flow to your penis, as well as elsewhere throughout your body, try to add the following foods to your diet: 

  • Cinnamon. Cinnamon is thought to improve heart health. In a study published in 2021, researchers found that cinnamon reduces blood pressure and improves lipid profiles in people with hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Garlic. Garlic is believed to cause improvements in blood flow. In a three-month study involving people with coronary artery disease, researchers found that the consumption of garlic may improve endothelial function.
    However, it isn’t yet clear if consumption of garlic is linked to better blood flow in other areas of the body or stronger erections.
  • Fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, are good for blood flow and serve as excellent sources of dietary protein.
    While the evidence on their benefit to overall heart health still needs more investigation, omega-3 fatty acids do have a proven range of health benefits, including a reduction in resting blood pressure.
  • Onions. Onions are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, which can help to dilate your arteries and improve your cardiovascular health. In a 2013 study, researchers found that regular consumption of onion extract may be beneficial for improving heart health in men.
  • Citrus fruits. Lemons, oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits contain large amounts of flavonoids, which are linked to improved blood flow and a healthy heart.
    However, grapefruit and grapefruit juice both have the potential to increase blood levels of certain medications, including ED medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®) and other PDE5 inhibitors.
  • Dark chocolate. Like onions and citrus fruits, chocolate with a high cacao percentage is rich in flavonoids that can improve heart function.
    Since it’s cacao that produces improvements in heart health (and not the milk, sugar and other ingredients in chocolate), try to select chocolate with a cacao content of 70 percent or more.
  • Nitrate-rich vegetables. Certain vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, contain large amounts of nitrates. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide within your body, which is an important natural chemical for promoting optimal blood flow.
  • Nuts. Certain nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, are rich in minerals such as iron and magnesium that can improve blood flow and cardiovascular health. They’re also packed with important vitamins that can contribute to good overall health.
  • Red hot peppers. Red hot peppers — more specifically, the capsaicin in these peppers contain — are linked to improved blood flow. Research has found that capsaicinoids can promote healthy blood flow, partly by stimulating the release of nitric oxide.
  • Turmeric. Like red hot peppers, turmeric is linked to an increase in blood flow. In a 2017 study of curcumin — a compound found in turmeric — researchers found that regular use improves blood flow by a significant amount.

As well as emphasizing the blood flow-promoting foods listed above, it’s also important to avoid foods that can damage your cardiovascular system and reduce blood circulation.

These include:

  • Salt. Foods that are high in salt can increase the amount of sodium in your bloodstream, which increases blood pressure. This can damage your arteries and affect blood flow to your penis, affecting your ability to get and maintain an erection during sex.
    Try to limit your sodium consumption to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, which is the maximum amount recommended by the American Heart Association.
  • Sugar. While sugar doesn’t directly affect blood pressure like salt, overconsumption of sugar can increase your risk of developing diabetes — a disorder that can damage your blood flow and significantly increase your risk of dealing with erectile dysfunction.
  • Trans fats. Trans fats are the worst form of dietary fat, with no health benefits and many negative cardiovascular effects (particularly for LDL cholesterol). As such, they’re best avoided in favor of healthier types of fat.

In addition to prioritizing foods and ingredients for improving erections, it’s also essential to keep yourself properly hydrated. 

Your blood is primarily made up of water, meaning it flows best when you drink a normal amount of hydrating fluids. When you become dehydrated, there’s a lower volume of blood that’s able to travel through your body to muscles, organs and specific tissue, such as your penis.

While there’s no ideal amount of water for everyone to drink daily, the eight-by-eight rule of eight glasses of eight ounces each is a helpful guide. If you’re highly physically active or it’s a hot day, consider adding an extra glass or two. 

Other Ways to Increase Blood Flow to the Penis Naturally

In addition to eating a balanced diet, there are several other things that you can do to promote increased blood flow to your penis.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

While there’s no need to obsess over your body fat percentage or weigh yourself every day, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight for optimal blood circulation, cardiovascular function and sexual performance.

Obesity and erectile dysfunction are closely linked, with men who are overweight or obese more likely than average to experience some sexual performance issues.

While obesity isn’t a direct cause of ED, it’s also closely associated with hypertension, diabetes and other health issues that can increase your risk of developing erectile dysfunction. These are also factors that can affect blood flow, stopping blood from properly reaching your penis. 

There are also other sex-related issues related to obesity, such as the risk of developing lower testosterone levels than average. All of these make it important to maintain a healthy weight if you’re concerned about blood flow and overall sexual performance.

Use Exercise to Increase Penis Blood Flow

Exercising is one of the most effective ways to improve your cardiovascular health and increase blood flow, including to the erectile tissue in your penis that’s responsible for helping you get and keep an erection during sex.

Regular exercise can produce a reduction in your blood pressure levels, promoting steady blood flow and improving your general health. This makes it important to exercise regularly even if you aren’t specifically concerned about your sexual performance.

In a 2018 scientific review, researchers stated that both resistance training (which can include weightlifting and calisthenics) and endurance training are effective at lowering baseline blood pressure. In short, exercise, in any form, is a great way to improve your body’s blood flow.

Reduce Your Alcohol Intake and Nicotine Consumption

Alcohol can have a serious negative impact on just about every aspect of your sexual health as a man, from blood flow to your penis to sexual arousal.

Similarly, nicotine, whether it’s inhaled through cigarettes or a vaporizer, can affect your vascular health and affect your sexual vigor.

Let’s cover nicotine first. Regardless of how you inhale nicotine, it will produce multiple negative effects once it’s in your body. Your heart will start to beat faster, your blood pressure will begin to rise and the arteries that control blood flow throughout your body will start to constrict.

The end result is a reduction in the ability of your heart to pump blood effectively, reducing blood circulation through your body — including the flow of blood to the erectile tissue of your penis.

In short, nicotine — regardless of how you opt to ingest it — isn’t a good choice for optimal blood flow and sexual performance.

Likewise, although alcohol might not always directly restrict your blood flow (it’s actually a mild vasodilator when it’s used in normal amounts), it can affect your sexual performance.

In a 2007 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, heavy alcohol consumption was closely linked to a range of male sexual dysfunctions, including ED.

Take Steps to Regulate Your Stress Levels

When you begin to feel stressed, your body activates its sympathetic nervous system, resulting in an increase in your levels of hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol.

These stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure levels and reducing blood flow throughout your body. 

Just like nicotine and certain foods, stress can have a vasoconstricting effect, meaning it lowers blood flow. This can lead to a variety of issues, including erectile dysfunction. In fact, stress is a known cause of ED and other sexual health issues in men.

While some stress is unavoidable, reducing your average stress level can be a simple, effective way to promote healthy blood flow to your penis and improve your sexual performance.

This can be as simple as changing your day-to-day habits and routine to avoid major sources of stress.

Alternatively, if you’d like to speak to a mental health specialist about stress.

Consider Using a PDE5 Inhibitor for Better Penis Blood Flow

Phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors, or PDE5 inhibitors, are medications that increase blood flow to your penis by expanding the size of your blood vessels. This can make it easier to develop an erection in response to sexual stimulation, improving your sexual function.

Currently, there are several PDE5 inhibitors used to improve blood flow and erectile function, all of which require a prescription:

  • Sildenafil. The active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil provides relief from ED for around four hours per dose and is typically used 60 minutes before sex.
  • Tadalafil. The active ingredient in Cialis®, tadalafil is a long-lasting medication that can provide relief from ED for up to 36 hours per dose.
  • Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil typically lasts for slightly longer than Viagra and is also used 60 minutes before sex.
  • Avanafil. Available as Stendra®, avanafil is a newer ED medication that can work in 15 minutes and provide relief from ED with fewer side effects than older drugs.

These medications are specifically used to treat erectile dysfunction, making them a treatment option worth considering if you don’t experience any improvements in blood flow by exercising, changing your diet, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding unhealthy substances.

Most ED medications can be used before sexual activity, allowing you to get relief from erectile dysfunction exactly when you need it.

The Bottom Line on How to Increase Blood Flow to Your Penis

When it comes to treating erectile dysfunction, developing habits and medications that increase blood flow to your penis naturally can be extremely helpful.

So, what helps with blood flow? The best approach is to use multiple habits, from maintaining a healthy diet to exercising frequently and limiting your alcohol consumption, to ensure your heart functions effectively and blood flows freely throughout your body. 

When habits alone aren’t enough, you can also use erectile dysfunction medication to stimulate penile blood flow and make it easier to get and maintain an erection. 

If you’re not sure how to increase blood flow to your penis, or just need help getting started, you can take part in an ED consultation online.

Categorized in:

Erectile Dysfunction,

Last Update: 10 May 2024