Written by Dr. Shannon Sarrasin, ND
Are you lacking spark in your love life? Valentine’s day; with its roses and chocolate may ignite a spark or two, but how is your libido during the rest of the year? Unfortunately low libido is a relatively common occurrence. For some people it can be a sign of a medical condition, but more commonly it is reflective of a busy or overstressed lifestyle. Many of us pack so much into the day that by the time we hit the bedroom, our only fantasy is a good night’s sleep.
Libido refers to a person’s sexual drive. It is influenced by physical, psychological and social factors. Stress is the biggest culprit in “putting out the fire”. When we are overwhelmed with stress and feeling exhausted, sex is usually the first to go. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint where times of stress were not an ideal time to conceive a child.
Physical factors that can contribute to low libido include hormone imbalances (sex hormones, thyroid), nutrient deficiencies, pain during intercourse, smoking/alcohol abuse, and medications such as antidepressants or blood pressure lowering meds.
Mental-emotional factors such body image and how you feel about yourself are significant influences on sexual desire. Relationship issues such as feelings of intimacy, trust and connection with your partner can also contribute. Privacy may be an issue if you are living with extended family or co-sleeping with children.
For women, the ebbs and flow of desire is often related to the menstrual cycle. Stronger urges occur during ovulation due to a peak in testosterone and an increase in natural lubrication. Understanding your menstrual cycle can be a key to deciphering your body’s impulses.
Emerging research is showing that the birth control pill may contribute to low libido in some women due to an increase in sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG binds to sex hormones including testosterone, rendering them unavailable.
For some post-menopausal women (but not all!), the decrease in estrogen and testosterone can affect libido. Decreased blood flow to the vagina can result in tissues that are low in lubrication and easily irritated. But intercourse is good for you! It helps to increase circulation and prevent vaginal atrophy.
What can we do?
Focus on Self Care
Support your overall health by finding ways to de-stress: simplify your life, get adequate sleep, do yoga, make time for the things that inspire you. Exercise and incorporate clean living foods into your diet to support vitality and help you build a strong healthy body that you will be proud of! If you suffer from bloating or constipation, work to improve your digestion.
Love your body and the story it tells. Love yourself at any and every weight, embrace your pregnancy stretch marks and wear your scars as a survivor! Your body is amazing, have gratitude for all that it allows you to do. Don’t put off loving yourself until you look a certain way or loose “x” many pounds.
Nurture Relationship Intimacy
Intimacy is defined as an interpersonal relationship involving physical or emotional closeness. Intimacy and touch leads to the release of “feel good” hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Work to build a foundation of trust and emotional stability for your relationship (see a counselor if needed). Connect with each other and make time for intimacy. Decrease distractions by turning off the T.V or taking a holiday together. Communicate your sexual desires with your partner. If it’s been ages since you have had sex, find a way to “break the ice”.
Feed your Libido
We have all heard about aphrodisiac foods. Is there any truth to them? Some foods such as figs, asparagus, caviar and oyster are sexually suggestive in nature. Many of the foods
touted as aphrodisiacs have a nutritional foundation that contributes to sexual health. Here are a few to take note of:
- Avocado, nuts/seeds, and wild salmon are a great source of essential fatty acids.
- Eggs are rich in vitamin B5 and B6 which supports hormones and fights stress.
- Dark Chocolate known by the Aztecs as “nourishment of the Gods” causes the release of endorphins which stimulates a sense of excitement and well-being.
- Chili peppers stimulate circulation and arousal and are one of the few foods that have been proven to affect our libido.
- Watermelon contains citrulline which delivers a Viagra-like effect on the blood vessels in the body.
- Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc which promotes testosterone levels and sperm production.
“Herbal adaptogens” are a category of herbs that support the body in adapting to stress. They are restorative in nature, boost energy, balance stress hormones and many are known for their libido enhancing effect as well. Good examples of these herbs are Ginseng, Ashwagandha, and Schizandra. Others herbs have the potential to balance female hormones and are prescribed on an individual basis. Talk to an ND about finding a plan that is right for you.