Have You Lost Your Libido?
If your desire for sex isn’t what it used to be, there may be a simple explanation — and a natural solution to boost your libido. Learn how your diet, medications and hormone levels can affect your love life.
as your urge to “get it on” simply… gotten up and gone? Don’t panic. The reality is that approximately 43 percent of American women and 31 percent of American men report having sexual issues. But beyond these you’re-not-alone stats, you can also take heart knowing that there are a plethora of reasons why your sex drive may have hit the skids.
“Libido is directly related to diet, sleep patterns and stress levels,” says Dr. Mark Anderson, coauthor
of Executive Medicine: Optimizing Your Chances for a Longer Life and partner at Executive Medicine of Texas. “While there can be hormonal deficiencies and other medical reasons for a lack of libido, sometimes it’s also psychological.” In other words, getting to the base of your own personal decline in sexual interest is the first step towards reinvigorating your lovemaking sessions.
|Large deficiencies in testosterone may cause a loss of libido.|
With that in mind, we decided to explore some of the potential reasons that might explain a lackluster libido — as well as offering some ways to hit your sexual reset button.
Do you know your androgen level? These sex hormones are more prevalent in men (testosterone is an androgen), but women also possess androgens in smaller amounts. Post-puberty androgens —testosterone, in particular — are largely responsible for your sex drive. Large deficiencies in testosterone may cause a loss of libido, just as excessive amounts may spur heightened sexual desire in both genders. Androgen levels do tend to subside with age for both men and women, but only slightly.
If your libido has taken a major hike recently, it may be helpful to have your blood levels tested, but about 95% of men and women tested are likely to be in the normal range. If there is a problem, a scan of your pituitary gland is the next order of business, because that is where any issues originate. However, keep in mind that testosterone is a “threshold” hormone. “Consider stepping over a 12-inch threshold — you must lift your foot a little past 12 inches; you won’t get over any better if you lift it 20 inches,” says Dr. Joel D. Block, a sex therapist and the author of Sex Over 50. “Same thing with testosterone… if your levels are within the normal range, adding more — that is, via hormone supplementation — will not boost your libido.”
Most of the antidepressants (SSRIs) on the market impact the user’s libido because of their interference with testosterone production, though this can be difficult to ascertain, since depression itself also commonly affects the human sex drive. There is also evidence that progestin-heavy oral contraceptives, Valium, Xanax, Tagamet (for ulcers), statins (e.g., Lipitor) and even some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and cold medicines can affect desire.
Swallow more than one and you could have a cumulative libido-crushing interaction as well. If your sex drive has never been an issue previously, be sure to take a look at any new medications you may have introduced into your system recently, as trying a different medication or simple dosage adjustment may help correct (or at least explain) your dysfunction.
If your prescriptions are definitely screwing up your sex life, consider trying to alter, lower or eliminate your doses, if possible (with medical supervision, of course). Also, exercise! Mild to moderate exercise can ameliorate many depression symptoms on its own and increase your sexual appetite.
No doubt, emotions play a big role when it comes to your sex drive. How you’re feeling about your life and your mate will factor into what happens in the bedroom. So what can you do on the psychology side to regain your lost libido? Bring
romance back (as in, drag out the candles and massage oils). “Being in a relationship that is open, sexy and fun — yes, sexy humor boosts libido! — helps a lot,” says Block. “Winning at something also boosts androgen levels — more so for men than women, but for women, too. Go to a casino, hit the jackpot, and voila! Up goes the libido.” Any upbeat experience can boost your libido, so think outside the box and re-invigorate your sex life by throwing some friendly competition or exciting activities into the mix.
|Do this daily to shift your sexual energy.|
This could also include taking a vacation or changing up your routine. “Sunshine helps; so does being on the beach with a lot of sexy people,” says Block. “A little alcohol can also assist you, but beware that a lot of alcohol over time does the opposite — it decreases testosterone levels.” Oh, and what about Monday night football? Tune if your libido is flagging, because it’s been shown that watching a heated game can further boost testosterone levels!
Traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of successfully treating libido issues with the use of acupuncture and herbs. “When patients come to me for fertility or libido problems, they may be coming in with different causes, so treatment is customized for each patient,” says Dr. Ed Lamadrid, DAOM, L.Ac., LMT, who suggests visiting the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Web site (www.nccaom.org) to find a licensed acupuncturist near you. If needles aren’t your thing, however, Dr. Lamadrid also offers up these awesome libido-increasing acupressure exercises, which can easily be incorporated into a leg and/or foot massage.
When you get to these acupressure points, use your thumb or knuckle to press in and hold for about a minute. Some of these points will be tender to the touch, so go in slowly — and if it hurts, lighten up. Do this daily to shift your sexual energy. Here are three acupressure techniques to try:
Nosh Your Way to Nooky
- Zu San Li — With the leg held out straight, find the lower, outside edge of the knee cap. Go down (towards the foot) about three inches. Pressing this point gives you more energy.
- San Yin Jiao — Find the inside anklebone and from this area, go up three inches to the inside calf muscle. Pressing this point gives “fuel for the fire.”
- Tai Chong — On the foot, find the depression between the big toe and second toe. This point will be extremely tender in anyone cranky or irritable, so tread carefully.
According to Judy Gaman, a health and wellness expert and coauthor of the book, Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health, food can play a major role in raising your libido. She explains that “what you eat can actually change your mood and your perception of your mate. Certain foods may activate or deactivate your sex drive, and it is important to know which ones to have in your diet and which ones to avoid.” Check out her recommendations for a libido-boosting feast below:
- Dark chocolate — The serotonin in this food boosts your mood while phenylethyamine causes the body to release the same chemicals that it does when you are in love.
- Asparagus — Rich in folate, it increases the sex drive.
- Watermelon — Contains citrulline, which increases blood flow to the genitals, making orgasms stronger. It has been called the “natural Viagra.”
- Pumpkin seeds — High in zinc. This snack food increases testosterone production. Good for both men and women because they also contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for good sexual health.
- Garlic — The allicin found in garlic increase blood flow to sexual organs. If you’re eating tomatoes (which contain lycopene and phytofluene, both of which decrease testosterone production), be sure to add garlic into the mix.
- Avocados — Increases stamina and gives more energy for sex.
- Beans — One of the sexiest foods on the list, the high levels of zinc found in beans increases the urge for sex.
- Celery — If you’re a man, this is a must-have item on every grocery shopping list. Eating celery increases the pheromone levels in your perspiration and makes you more attractive to women.
- Eggs — Good for both men and women, they help to regulate both testosterone and estrogen levels.
- Nuts — The L-Arginine found in nuts can produce stronger erections. A little tip: eat almonds, because the smell of almonds is known to arouse women. Overall, nuts have multiple sex benefits for both men and women.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Fitness, Prevention and Marie Claire.