Intimacy is at the crux of well-being, with our sexuality affecting everything from our cognitive function to our mental outlook and physical health.
But at times, fanning those flames of passion may feel like…well, more work than pleasure.
Sound familiar? Know that you’re not alone. An estimated 63 percent of women—and roughly 19 percent of men—experience some level of sexual dysfunction during their lifetimes, with their most frequent concern coming down to diminished sexual energy and desire.
Some conventionally-trained doctors may tell you that your interest in sex simply fades as your hormones change over time. A weakened libido, however, can happen at any point in your life, all the way from your 20s to your twilight years. Meaning, no matter your age, at times you may notice that your sexual spirit lacks that certain electrical oomph you once felt.
Here’s the excellent news: Your body is designed to be sexually energetic for your entire life. True, your sexuality goes through transformations over the course of your existence, but those alterations don’t necessarily have to mean loss. Rather, reduced sexual drive may be an indication that something is amiss with your health, from underlying hormone imbalances to adrenal fatigue.
Even better news? At any age, you can take action to restore a healthier, more youthful hormone balance—and sex can once again be a point of delight and exhilaration. Here’s how:
Detox Your Diet
While love, fueled by emotional bonding, intimacy, and trust, is your most powerful aphrodisiac, paying attention to your diet can contribute to hormone harmony and heightened sexuality. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fatty foods should be avoided or consumed in great moderation, as all can reduce your long-term sexual health. Instead, nourish your body with high-quality food to increase your energy, enhance hormone production, and build stamina. Choose organic whenever possible—pesticides used in non-organic farming can disrupt your natural hormone balance— and pack your plate with Omega-3s, that promote vibrancy on the inside and out.
…and detox your home while you’re at it
Purging your living space (and bathroom shelf) of any cleaning agents, personal care products, or other items that contain toxins or additional unhealthy ingredients may also work towards healthy hormone balance and, thus, a more primed, passionate you.
Realize the Impact of Estrogen
Noted for its ability to foster femininity, encourage feelings of intimacy, and enhanced sexual pleasure, estrogen is also linked to your overall state of health. A dearth of the “feminine hormone” may leave you feeling indifferent to the idea of sex—or too antsy, testy, angry, and sleep-deprived to be open to your partner’s charms. Specific foods, however, can markedly—and naturally— facilitate your body’s production of “friendly” estrogen (and reduce “unfriendly” estrogen). Cruciferous vegetables support healthy estrogen metabolism through their inclusion of a phytochemical known as indole-3-carbinol. Seaweed’s high iodine content, meanwhile, encourages the same, and seeds—flax and sesame, to name two of the best—offer lignans, a type of fiber that can bind to estrogen so that excesses of it are excreted from the body. And speaking of fiber: ensure to eat it regularly, as it too can cultivate estrogen metabolism.
…and Assess Your Cortisol Levels
Calling cortisol the “stress hormone” is a misnomer—or at least to an extent. While cortisol is one of the hormones released when we’re under duress, it’s smarter to think of it as your energizing hormone—in that appropriate levels of it can support immunity, bolster self-confidence, and boost enthusiasm for life (including sex!) Nurturing your adrenal glands’ daily cortisol production is one of the secrets to decreasing the fatigue and apathy that’s often associated with low libido while also increasing overall energy. In addition to reducing stress where possible—and introducing savvy coping strategies when impossible—you may want to consider phosphatidylserine, a supplement that can support your facility to handle the anxiety and sleeplessness commonly linked to stress, adrenal fatigue, and high cortisol.
Try an Herbal Aphrodisiac
Forget chocolate and oysters: While certainly delicious—albeit not together—herbal aphrodisiacs may electrify your libido while also offering further assistance in terms of your hormone health. How? Certain herbs and botanicals may intensify neurotransmitters that brighten your mood and stimulate sexual energy, in part by supporting your adrenal glands—thereby boosting your libido by helping you manage stress more successfully. Others still increase your level of nitric oxide (NO), which can promote blood flow to your pelvic region and heighten pleasure.
Chinese ginseng, which can rouse your sex drive when you’re tired, but help you calm down when you’re anxious, is a superb, reliable choice. Further, Damiana—whose botanical name Turnera aphrodisiaca, leaves no room for questioning—can enhance genital sensitivity, treat low sexuality due to a compromised nervous system, and support hormone balance in women, thanks to its progesterone-like effects. (Progesterone is praiseworthy for its calming impact.) And while you may be already taking gingko biloba for cognitive health, do know that it can also elevate hormone health through its ability to bolster desire, excitement (including increased lubrication), and pleasure. It, and the other recommendations outlined here, may remind you that sexuality touches your entire life, affecting myriad aspects of your being. Nurture your hormones and chances are your libido will go from in limbo to downright limitless.
Adapted from Growing Younger Every Day: The Three Essentials Steps for Creating Youthful Hormone Balance At Any Age
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, Lac, is a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, and passionate spokesperson for educating and empowering women to transform their lives with better health through natural medicines and practices that work with the body’s own healing processes. She is the Naturopathic Medical Advisor to Daily Wellness Company, and the coauthor of three books: the bestselling Natural Choices for Women’s Health, the critically-acclaimed Great Sex, Naturally, and her latest, Growing Younger Every Day. Dr. Steelsmith is the medical director of Steelsmith Natural Health Center in Honolulu, and is an associate clinical professor at Bastyr University, America’s leading center for the study of natural medicine. DrSteelsmith.com.