February is the month of love, a time of celebrating the connection we have with our partner and expressing our love for each other. Intimacy is one way that we connect and bond with our partners and is an important part of any romantic relationship. But what if the intimacy is lacking? What if you and your partner are not on the same page when it comes to your desire for sex?
It’s normal for sex drive to fluctuate up and down but when your desire for sex remains low for a prolonged period of time it can put a strain on your relationship with your partner and become a source of stress and tension. Low libido (lack of interest in sex) affects both men and women and can be caused by multiple factors including physical and emotional well-being, diet and lifestyle choices and your relationship with your partner.
Causes of low libido
- Low testosterone—as men age their testosterone levels decline which can decrease libido and sexual performance and function
- Menopause—the decline in hormones that occurs during menopause can decrease sex drive as well as cause vaginal dryness leading to painful sex
- Hormone changes during Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Chronic Health Conditions such as Diabetes, High blood pressure, High cholesterol, Obesity/Overweight
- Sleep problems—lack of quality sleep can cause fatigue and hormone imbalance
- Too much alcohol
- Too much or too little Exercise
- Medications (anti-depressants, pain meds, blood pressure meds, beta-blockers, corticosteroids)
- Depression and Anxiety
- Stress—when we’re stressed our body goes into fight or flight mode and sex becomes the last thing on our mind
- Fatigue—when you are overworked, sleep deprived or you have a lot on your plate, sex can seem like an added chore
Natural Ways to Improve Libido
This may seem like a no-brainer but often the simplest changes have the greatest impact. Start with the basics which are the foundational components to health:
Sleep: Lack of quality sleep is one of the main reasons for low sex drive. A good night’s sleep = falling asleep within 20 min of lying down and sleeping uninterrupted for 7-8 hrs.
Water: optimal hydration is important for energy. Drink at least half of your body weight in fluid ounces per day with the addition of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium). A 5% reduction in hydration results in a 25% reduction in energy.
Regular Exercise at least 30 min per day improves mood, energy, sleep, body composition, reduces stress and boosts libido.
Whole foods diet: avoid sugar and processed foods and focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats.
Stress Reduction: practice stress-relieving exercises (meditation, deep breathing, walking outside, yoga) and reduce your work load by asking for help, hiring a nanny or babysitter, and taking on less obligations so you have more time for self care.
Communicate with your partner: sex is not always a comfortable subject to talk about but having an open and honest discussion with your partner about your needs, wants and dislikes can help bring you closer and create a more satisfying sex life. Consider going to couples therapy to work through relationship issues.
Balance Hormones: stress, unhealthy eating, poor sleep, and aging have an impact on your hormone levels which directly effects your libido and sexual health. If you suspect your hormones are off, get your levels checked and work with your naturopathic doctor to bring your hormones back into balance.
Top Herbs and Supplements for enhancing libido
Damiana (Turnera diffusa): improves sexual arousal and blood flow to the genital area as well as enhances mood. Doses range from 400-800mg per day.
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris): a dose of 7.5mg per day of Tribulus extract in pre-menopausal women and 750mg/day (in tablet form) in menopausal women improved desire, arousal, lubrication, and orgasm satisfaction in women with decreased sexual function.
Horny goat weed (Epimedium grandiflorum): this herb contains a compound that blocks the effects of an enzyme that restricts blood flow to the penis. Studies have used between 6 grams and 15 grams a day.
Maca root (Lepidium meyenii: studies have shown that 3.5 grams per day improves sexual desire.
L-Arginine: an amino acid that increases nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels and can increase blood flow to the penis. L-arginine is much more effective when combined with Pycnogenol (pine bark extract). Studies show that 1700mg of L-arginine combined with Pycnogenol 40mg twice daily significantly improved sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction.
While it would be so much easier if we could just pop a pill to enhance our libido, taking a holistic approach is the best way to address the multiple causes at the root of this common complaint.