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5 Shocking Reasons You Could Be Having ED

When your libido disappears, it’s not always the reasons you think

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From heart disease and obesity to depression and stress, the usual ED culprits are almost always to blame. Except sometimes ... they aren't. Sometimes you’re in perfect health, happier than ever in your relationship and utterly lacking in performance anxiety. And yet still, nothing. Your penis has thrown in the towel, gone to bed early, opted for “quiet quitting” as the kids like to say. What gives? 

Your penis is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, to paraphrase Winston Churchill (who definitely wasn't talking about erectile dysfunction, but whatever). Here are five shocking things that might cause your favorite appendage to be DOA.


Most microwave popcorn is loaded with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), “what we call endocrine-disrupting chemicals [EDCs],” explains Justin Dubin, M.D., a urologist and men’s health specialist at Memorial Healthcare System in Aventura, Florida. Food cans are lined with plastic rich in another EDC, bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical originally created as an estrogen supplement. Studies have found that exposure to EDCs “can potentially lower male testosterone levels, and low testosterone can be a cause of erectile dysfunction,” Dubin says.

But no need to completely forgo popcorn when you Netflix and chill. “We don’t know the threshold or amount of exposure you would have to have in order for it to cause lower testosterone levels,” Dubin says. “But I would think you would have to microwave a lot of popcorn in order to be impacted.”

Is the occasional bag of microwave popcorn going to give you ED? “The answer is no,” he says. But is avoiding packaged foods good for your health and the health of your penis? Sure is. 


This sounds like an old wives' tale. But a 2011 study links women’s “negative-emotion-related odorless tears” to reduced arousal and reduced levels of testosterone in men, according to researchers.

 “Men were really being signaled by the chemicals in the tears,” explains Judson Brandeis, M.D., a urologist and CEO of BrandeisMD Male Rejuvenation Center in San Ramon, California. “And they even confirmed their findings with MRIs of the brain.” Men may have a chemical sensor that finds women in tears to be less suitable mates.

Bottom line: An unhappy woman makes for an impotent man. In other words, her tears might be another way of saying, “Not tonight, dear.”


We all want our partners to get along with our friends, right? Be careful, it could be a boner killer. According to one study, erectile dysfunction is common among men whose female partner is closer to his friends than he is, also known as “partner betweenness.” Ninety-two percent of men in this study had trouble getting or maintaining an erection when their partner was close to their friends. 

Apparently, these friendships can cause stress or anxiety, resulting in “psychogenic ED.”  When you’re anxious, your body circulates higher levels of neurotransmitters called catecholamines, says Rajiv Jayadevan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of urology at UCLA. “These catecholamines can lead to blood level constriction, which can lead to reduced blood flow to the penis, which can cause erectile dysfunction.”


Some research shows that 40 minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week is recommended for optimal sexual health for men. But overdoing the workouts, specifically with endurance training such as marathons or intense cycling, can have the opposite reaction. 

One research study states, “Exposure to higher levels of chronic intense and greater durations of endurance training on a regular basis is significantly associated with a decreased libido scores in men.” Another study specifies that high-volume endurance workouts can even reduce testosterone levels by 20 to 40 percent.

The good news is, it’s not permanent. “Intense, vigorous, endurance exercise can limit testosterone production, but it is usually temporary,” Jayadevan says. “It does recover over time.”


Periodontitis, a.k.a., gum disease, can affect your sex life in ways beyond bad breath. Studies show a link between chronic periodontitis and erectile dysfunction due to the inflammation of the gums damaging the endothelial cells, which form the lining of the blood vessels, including those in the penis. 

“What’s good for your heart is good for your penis,” Dubin says. “Inversely, what is bad for your heart is also bad for your penis, and gum disease is bad for your heart.”