Low Libido: When Sex Leaves Something To Be Desired
Low libido, or low sex drive, is a common complaint I hear from many of my patients. A low libido is defined as a diminished motivation for sexual activity. This is a difficult topic to cover! Low “motivation” can be the caused by a multitude of factors that range from social to physical to interpersonal to pathological. My aim in this brief article is to keep things simple but also to persuade you that so much can be done to assist those who struggle with low libido.
A basic assessment should start with a visit to a physician. It is important to discuss your concerns with a medical professional to rule out the presence of any disorder that might be the cause of your lower sex drive. Loss of libido be can be caused by several different factors including stress, chronic disease (e.g. diabetes), hormone imbalances, certain medications (like antidepressants, oral contraceptives and blood pressure medications), and an unhealthy lifestyle (poor diet, lack of exercise, being overweight, etc). Many herbal, nutrient and food-based options can optimize your health and reverse these unhealthy trends.
Simple testing exists (even for those who have no insurance) that will reveal whether or not any early disease process such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease is leading to inflammation, occlusion of small and medium blood vessels, or poor nerve function. These conditions may lead to diminished blood flow to the pelvis and manifest as loss of libido. A laboratory panel should include testing for inflammatory markers, lipids, iron, sex hormones and cardiovascular testing at a minimum. For example, testosterone and DHEA are very important for your sex drive (for both men and women). As you age, your testosterone levels decline. In men it can drop up to 1.5% a year after age thirty. If identified early in the process, both naturopathic medicine and acupuncture excel at correcting any imbalances without the use of prescription drugs. The cost of these tests is extremely affordable.
One other hormone, oxytocin, deserves some mention. Oxytocin’s role in the brain appears to link social contact with pleasure. Evidence is emerging that oxytocin plays a central role in many aspects of human life, including romantic interactions. “It’s the glue of society, so simple yet so profound,” says Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies in Claremont, California. Plasma oxytocin levels increase during sexual arousal in both women and men and are significantly higher during orgasm/ejaculation. For those who have difficulty achieving orgasm, an oral lozenge of oxytocin may be something you wish to discuss with your physician.
The power of herbs and nutrients to restore sexual function is profound; however, I must emphasize that herbs work best when matched to your unique constitution. In other words, my herbal recommendations for libido loss will be different if the cause is stress vs. inflammation. That being said, many herbs and nutrients can help with libido. Zinc is an important nutrient to increase libido. A deficiency of zinc can contribute to a low sexual desire, low sperm count and irregular periods for women. Eat foods high in zinc such as legumes and Brazil nuts. L-Arginine is an amino acid that is very popular for the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Arginine will relax blood vessels and allow more blood to flow through arteries and to the organs and is will help men achieve and maintain an erection. The herb Damiana has been used for centuries in Mexico to treat sexual dysfunction and low sex drive. Maca, also known as Peruvian Ginseng, has been used traditionally to increase libido and sexual stamina. One study looked at Maca use in men and compared it to placebo. After eight weeks, there was an improvement in sexual desire in the men taking maca.
I hope you have not found this article to be anti-climactic! In short, both comprehensive testing and supportive herbal therapies can help to steer your romantic encounters in a better direction.
Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave. He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.