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How to Increase Blood Flow to the Penis

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 06/07/2019

Updated 01/10/2024

Let’s talk erectile engineering for a moment. Physiologically speaking, healthy erections are about one main thing: blood flow. Blood flow is literally the center of the universe when it comes to erections — it’s the helium to your balloon. So if you’re wondering how to “fix” ED, what you’re really wondering is how to increase and maintain blood flow to the penis naturally or with medication.

There are many ways to do it, of course. Diet, exercise, changes in your habits and behaviors… Even your vices can impact your erectile health.

We put together a guide to help you do just that. Below, we cover every possible base — simple changes to your daily routine, FDA-approved medications, and more.

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When blood is able to flow freely into the erectile tissues inside your penis (also called the corpora cavernosa), assuming you have no other health problems, you’ll find it much easier to get and keep an erection when you become sexually aroused.

When your blood flow is restricted as a result of a health condition, a habit, or effects of your diet, you’ll find it more difficult to get an erection. Very restricted blood flow could prevent you from getting an erection at all.

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. 

So how do you improve blood flow? Boy, do we have some recommendations.

Here’s our first piece of medical advice: skip the gas station supplements. You don’t need to be looking for L-arginine and amino acid values on some packet of pills with a picture of a timber wolf that’s been sitting next to lottery tickets for two years. 

If you’re concerned about ED, you should speak to a healthcare provider. They can do more than encourage you to get healthy. In fact, the most straightforward solution to blood flow issues in your penis — medications — are what a healthcare provider will likely offer to solve the problem.

There are a number of these medications on the market, all approved by the FDA to solve this exact problem. Many of them are called phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors, or PDE5 inhibitors. 

PDE5 inhibitors increase blood flow to your penis by relaxing the smooth muscle in your blood vessels and penis. The NIH reminds everyone that these blood flow pills don’t cause an erection, but with sexual stimulation, they can help you harden up. 

There are several of this class of ED treatments 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 30 to 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.

A different type of FDA-approved drug for ED is alprostadil, which is an injectable medication

These medications are specifically used to treat erectile dysfunction, making them a treatment option worth considering.

Most sexual dysfunction medications can be used before sexual activity, allowing you to get relief from erectile dysfunction exactly when you need it. Certain medications can also be used on a daily basis, so that you are ready for spontaneous activity whenever you need to be.

We offer a range of medications for erectile dysfunction online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate for you. 

Lastly, there is a newly FDA-authorized ED treatment called Eroxon, which is a non-medicated topical gel that is available without a prescription.

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There are several proverbial levers you can pull to promote increased blood flow to your penis. Experts generally suggest the following lifestyle changes for optimizing your erectile health:

  • Eat Foods That Increase Blood Flow to Penis

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Exercising regularly

  • Keeping your stress level under control

  • Dropping cigarettes from your life.

Let’s take a look at why these habits are so important in more detail.

1. Eat Foods That Increase Blood Flow to Penis 

If you’re having blood flow issues downstairs, another management option your healthcare provider will likely explore with you if you're concerned about blood flow to your penis is your diet. 

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. 

It turns out, despite popular belief, there may be a pretty negative correlation between bacon and boners.

Anyway, if you want to improve blood flow to your penis (and other parts of your body, of course), try adding the following foods to your diet. Keep in mind that the impact of diet and foods on sexual function is long-term and requires disciplined and consistent better eating for at least a couple of months to see significant effects: 

  • Cinnamon. Some research suggests that cinnamon may reduce high blood pressure and improve lipid profiles in people with hypertension. 

  • Garlic. In a three-month study of people with coronary artery disease, researchers found that consuming garlic may improve endothelial function, though further research is necessary.

  • Fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, serve as excellent sources of dietary protein. But studies also suggest that they could promote a reduction in resting blood pressure.

  • Onions. Onions are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, which may help dilate your arteries and improve your cardiovascular health. In a 2013 study, researchers found that regular consumption of onion extract may benefit heart health in men.

  • Citrus fruits. Lemons, oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits also 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 like sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®) and other PDE5 inhibitors.

  • Dark chocolate. Chocolate with a high cacao percentage is rich in flavonoids that may improve heart function. Since it’s cacao that produces improvements in heart health, try to select chocolate with a cacao content of 70 percent or more and avoid milk chocolate.

  • Nitrate-rich vegetables. Vegetables like 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. 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. The capsaicin in red hot peppers is linked to improved blood flow. Research has found that capsaicinoids can promote healthy blood flow by stimulating the release of nitric oxide.

  • Turmeric. A 2017 study of curcumin — a compound found in turmeric — found that regular consumption of curcumin improves blood flow by a significant amount.

As well as emphasizing the foods 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, overconsumption can increase your risk of developing obesity, which is linked to 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. 

HEY! YES, YOU! THIS IS YOUR DAILY REMINDER TO DRINK MORE WATER!

A whopping ninety percent of your blood plasma is made up of water, meaning it continues to flow 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 tissues, 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. 

Choose your chew

In addition to eating a balanced diet, there are several other proverbial levers you can pull to promote increased blood flow to your penis. Experts generally suggest the following lifestyle changes for really optimizing your erectile health:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Exercising regularly

  • Keeping your stress level under control

  • Dropping cigarettes from your life.

Let’s take a look at why these habits are so important in more detail.

2. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Obesity and erectile dysfunction are closely linked. Men who have overweight or obesity are more likely to experience sexual performance issues.

While obesity isn’t a direct cause of ED, it is closely associated with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues that are.

There are also other sex-related issues linked to obesity like the potential of low testosterone levels. 

Basically, obesity is one giant risk factor. That’s the easiest way to sum it up.

Of course, there’s no need to obsess over your body fat percentage, or weigh yourself every day. 

But it is important to eat the proper diet and exercise regularly. Not only will it minimize your risk of heart disease (and help keep you alive a little longer), but it’ll optimize cardiovascular function and, therefore,  blood flow — including blood flow to the penis.

3. Use Exercise to Increase Penis Blood Flow Naturally

Exercising is one of the most effective ways to improve your cardiovascular health and increase blood flow. 

That’s important whether your sexual health is a priority or not, but these benefits apply to the arteries that supply your penis and are responsible for helping you get and keep an erection during sex.

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. 

There are specific exercises that can help you get better erections. Kegels, when done consistently, may strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Strong pelvic floor muscles offer many benefits including improvements with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.

There are a few different pelvic floor exercises you can try, but exercise in any form is a great way to improve your body’s blood flow.

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4. Reduce Your Nicotine Consumption

Nicotine can affect your vascular health and affect your sexual vigor in a fairly straightforward way: it’s a vasoconstrictor.

When you consume nicotine, your heart starts beating faster, your blood pressure rises and the arteries that control blood flow throughout your body start to constrict. 

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

So, not only are smokers jokers, but they’re also erection chokers and can make your bedroom game mediocre…s. Close enough.

5. Take Steps to Regulate Your Stress Levels

When you 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 factor that can make ED worse.

While some stress is unavoidable, reducing your daily stress level can be an 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, exploring things like mindful meditation or even taking time to talk to a mental health professional.

If you’d like to start exploring the mental health route, you can take part in online counseling as part of our range of mental health services

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

  • Lifestyle changes are crucial. Sometimes, changes to your daily routine — like reducing stress levels or exercising regularly — can make a huge difference.

  • Call in support. When daily routine changes 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.

  • Get started now. The sooner you make changes, the sooner you’ll see results, so there’s no time like now. 

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. 

You can also learn more about your options for improving poor circulation to your penis, getting an erection and enjoying optimal sexual performance in our guide to the most common forms of treatment for ED.

Related Articles

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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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