As much as we might be reluctant or embarrassed to talk about it, sex is one of the most important things for our health.
Robust scientific evidence shows that we can have better mental, physical and social health from regular, satisfying sexual encounters. A fulfilling sex life makes us glow with inner vitality and connect deeply with others.
Sexual desire is not something to be ashamed of, but rather something to be celebrated. It’s one of the most natural human acts, and the very reason that each of us is here on this planet, after all!
Unfortunately, many people aren’t meeting their “sexual quotas” simply because of a lack of desire. This troublesome phenomenon can have a “chicken and egg” effect: health imbalances cause low libido, and low libido in turn causes impaired health in other ways.
We’ve taken the time to break down some of the main reasons why you might be dealing with a case of the sexual blahs. We want to help you take the reins and get back in that randy saddle for a delicious and gratifying sex life.
Hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances
The chemical signaling network in your body is complex and finely balanced. As such, there are countless things that can throw it off, including poor sleep, stress, medications, lack of nutrients, and more.
Testosterone is the main driver behind sexual desire in both men and women, and it must be properly in balance for a healthy sex drive. While there are certain triggers that you can address to bring your hormones back into balance, we recommend an overall holistic approach to diet and lifestyle.
Insulin resistance, which is essentially a damaged metabolism associated with a junky diet of too much sugar and processed foods, is a big contributor to hormone imbalance. Later on in this article we will examine some nutritional and other strategies for keeping those hormones in line.
A number of prescription drugs can cause hormone and neurotransmitter changes, which have been linked to low libido.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a common class of antidepressants, which includes Prozac and Zoloft. These drugs can cause sexual dysfunction through several brain pathways, affecting up to 80 percent of patients.
Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) and tricyclic antidepressants also contribute to decreased libido.
Birth control pills
The pill contributes to low libido in 15 percent of women, and may also increase the levels of a substance called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) which reduces the presence of important sex hormones and may subsist in the long term even after getting off the Pill.
Blood pressure medication
Beta blockers are commonly used to reduce blood pressure and also to treat glaucoma. These drugs have been associated with poor sex drive. L-arginine (a precursor to nitric oxide) is a possible natural alternative to blood pressure medication, since it helps improve blood vessel elasticity and circulation.
Hair loss drugs (Propecia) and prostate medication (Proscar)
These two belong to the same class — 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors — but are administered in different dosages. They block the conversion of testosterone to DHT, which can result in a negative feedback loop and lower testosterone production. The result can be low libido and even long-term impotence.
The loss of libido should be temporary, but may continue if you use these drugs often for allergy relief.
Prescription weed is known to lower sexual performance in men.
These drugs work by dampening nerve impulses which may reduce sexual desire and pleasure. This class of medication also alters hormone levels, semen quality and erectile function.
Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet and others have been linked with decreased sex hormone production.
Besides seeking natural alternatives to the abovementioned drugs, there are other strategies we can all use to optimize hormone balance. High-intensity exercise, including interval training and strength training, is an excellent way to increase human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone production, not to mention self-confidence, which naturally drives an interest in sex.
Intermittent fasting can also be used to reset and improve the function of neurotransmitters and hormones. Studies show that occasional fasting prevents age-related decline of testosterone.
Another cause of chemical imbalances is the lack of certain nutrients in your diet.
In general, a nutrient-dense, real-food diet based on ancestral nutrition is the best way to provide your body with everything it needs for robust hormones and all of the other physiological functions you need for a healthy sex life.
Here are a few specific nutrients and foods you can target to improve your libido:
You need the full range of B vitamins for so many reasons, but there are a few main ones in the context of a healthy sex drive. B vitamins reduce anxiety and regulate your mood, energy and sex hormones. They also keep your mucous membranes (including sexual organs) healthy, lubricated and free of infection. Folate from the vitamin B group is necessary to have an orgasm. Eat more eggs, fish and leafy greens to get all of those B vitamins.
Omega-3 fatty acids and cholesterol are some of the main building blocks of sex hormones for both women and men. Get them from oily fish, grass-fed animal products, seeds and nuts.
Selenium and zinc
These micronutrients are vital for healthy sperm production and sex-stimulating dopamine production. Try eating brazil nuts, oysters and pumpkin seeds.
Getting enough sunshine to produce vitamin D should also be part of your nutritional regime. Vitamin D helps boost testosterone, which may in turn improve libido.
We know, you hear about it all the time. But stress truly is the most insidious health-destroyer of our time. Finding a stress management practice that works for you is vital to restoring that ravenous libido.
The reason isn’t just psychological — of course, feeling flustered and harried doesn’t leave you wanting to lay down the lovin’, but when your stress response is constantly firing, that means your body is building stress hormone (cortisol) molecules nonstop.
Cortisol is made from the same building blocks as the libido-driving testosterone. So if you’re using up all the raw materials for cortisol, you are literally cutting yourself short of vital sex hormones.
We encourage you to find a way to put an end to that “running from a tiger” feeling that we all live with these days. Try meditation or deep breathing — your libido will thank you.
Body weight that is too high or too low
If you’re overweight, it’s likely that your metabolism is also damaged. This results in lower testosterone production, and therefore lower libido.
Conversely, being underweight or having too little body fat can trigger the body’s starvation mechanisms and cause it to preserve energy by cutting sex hormone production. Sufficient body fat is crucial for all reproductive functions, including libido.
Lack of movement and circulation
In order to have a thriving sex drive and the ability to perform, you must have proper blood vessel and heart function. As mentioned above, L-arginine is a supplement that can assist with relaxing the circulatory system. Cayenne pepper, citrus fruits and fresh ginger also increase circulation.
It should go without saying, but sufficient exercise is vital for a good sex life for two reasons:
First, it boosts your self-confidence and vitality by increasing the production of testosterone and human growth hormone. Heart-pumping exercise has been shown to keep you feeling young and sexy!
Second, incorporating movement into your day is a great way to encourage a healthy sex drive by releasing stress and increasing fitness so that you not only desire sex more, but are able to physically do the deed.
For the exercise addicts out there, it’s important to note that overdoing the exercise can also exhaust the body’s nutrient and hormone supplies and result in decreased libido. Balance is key!
Lack of connection
This is where we depart from hard science a little bit and explore the emotional aspects of sex. If you (and your partner) are living in a psychological “fortress” of fear, anxiety, defensiveness, and failure to communicate, there is little to no chance you are going to want to have sex.
Sexual engagement and eventually orgasm requires a release of inhibitions and a free fall into raw vulnerability. This is something you should cultivate through intentional bonding exercises so that you can gradually chip away at those barriers and arrive at that open, juicy place in your relationship.
Don’t let yourself languish in low-libido land — take charge and put into motion those internal and external changes that must happen in order to improve your sex drive. We encourage you to do so via natural means — you’ll live a longer, happier and healthier life.