Understanding and Improving Your Libido
By: Dr. Jennifer Landa, Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD
Has your sex drive been declining as you've been getting older? If so, you're not alone. Low libido is a common complaint for both men and women, but it's not an inevitable consequence of aging. There's a lot you can do to increase your libido, especially when you know what's going on in your body.
The Hormones behind Your Libido
In order to take charge of your reduced libido, you need to know what caused it to plummet in the first place. There are many potential causes for changes in your libido, and hormone imbalances are quite often the likely culprit. It's important that you don't narrow down on just one hormone. The three major hormones that have the greatest effect on libido are:
You could think of your health as a symphony, with your hormones performing as different instruments in the orchestra. If one part of the orchestra is not functioning properly, you won't have a beautiful melody. Our hormones need to be in a proper balance to make us function, look and feel our best.
Testosterone and Your Libido
Testosterone is often referred to as the "the hormone of libido," and it does, indeed, play a significant role in your sex drive - whether you're a man or a woman. Proper levels of testosterone have many benefits for your libido, including:
- Desire. Just not interested in sex? That's one sign of low testosterone levels. Improving these levels can help you get in the mood for intimate activity.
- Energy. If you've been feeling drained and exhausted, you're probably too tired for sex. Testosterone can increase your energy levels.
- Mood. It can be hard to think about sex when you're feeling down. Testosterone can help improve your overall mood, so you'll feel good enough for sex again.
- Improved erection. Testosterone plays a major role in the process of a man's erection. Without it, you may have difficulty reaching or maintaining an erection strong enough for sex.
- Increased genitalia sensitivity. Testosterone increases blood flow to the genitals, which elevates sensitivity. You need this sensitivity for satisfying sex. And, without it, you take longer to feel aroused and to reach orgasm.
The Roles of Estrogen and Progesterone
While testosterone is the hormone most commonly linked to libido, you can't ignore estrogen and progesterone. All three hormones play an equal role in your libido. Your levels of progesterone and estrogen can affect your testosterone levels - balance is the key. Even if your testosterone levels are sufficient, an imbalance with your estrogen or progesterone can interfere with how your body uses that testosterone. Inadequate estrogen levels in women can reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of testosterone, and too much estrogen in men can have the same effect.Estrogen and progesterone have their own effects on libido, as well ? particularly in women. Too much or too little of these hormones can lead to several physical changes, including:
- Vaginal dryness. You need lubrication for the best sexual experience. But when your hormones are out of balance, your body doesn't produce enough vaginal fluids. This can make sexual activity painful.
- Vaginal atrophy. As estrogen levels decline, the walls of your vagina become thinner and less elastic. This can also cause pain during sex, as your body is less accepting of penetration.
- Uterine contractions. In some women, an imbalance in hormones can cause painful contractions in the uterus during and after orgasm. The anticipation of this pain turns off many women, who may not feel that the sex and orgasm are worth the pain that follows.
Stress: The Libido Killer
Hormone imbalances aren't the only causes for a loss of libido - stress is another important factor. Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, dramatically increases when you under stress. This increase in cortisol can interfere with the binding of testosterone to its receptor sites, which renders the testosterone ineffective. That means even if your testosterone levels are optimal, if you are stressed out, testosterone can't do its job properly. Relaxation is extremely important in helping reduce your stress levels, and there are many different things that can help you to relax. Some of the relaxation techniques that I recommend to my patients include:
- Relaxation tapes or videos
- Meditation, prayer or spiritual reading
- Yoga, tai chi or qi gong
- Conscious breathing
- Massage or soothing baths
Relationships and Sex
Relationship issues can also have a huge effect on your libido. It's important to communicate with your partner, and work through any issues that may be separating you. While relationship counseling may be the best option for some couples, many find that the problem is purely sexual. It may simply be that you've fallen into a rut, and just need to spice things up in the bedroom.Novelty is very important. A lot of couples have been together for a very long time, doing things the same way every time, yet expect to be as excited as when they first got together. They may have simply grown bored with the entire process. If that's the case, then it's time to shake things up. If something you used to do always got you aroused, but you've stopped doing it, go back to it. That alone could give your sex drive the push it needs. You could also try something new to increase the excitement.
Alcohol and Libido
It may not come as a surprise that what you put in your body can also have an effect on your libido. Alcohol is a great example of that - but not in the way you might think. Many people think that alcohol will decrease inhibitions and enhance their ability to have sex, but it can actually have the exact opposite effect. That's because alcohol is a depressant. It can make you tired and, if you're a man, it can interfere with an erection.
Bioidentical Hormones and Libido Reboot
Optimal health and libido is created by hormone balance. If your hormones are out of balance, restoring your sex drive will likely include hormone replacement. Hormones can be safely and effectively replaced when they are bioidentical. Bioidentical hormones are exact copies of the hormones used by the body. The key is in the testing. In order to completely understand what is going on in the body we must test all hormone levels. Using comprehensive testing methods that include blood, saliva and urine are essential in understanding the whole picture.
The Big Picture
While bioidentical hormones can make a big difference in restoring one's libido, they're only part of the big picture. It's critical to focus on all aspects of your life; your relationship, your health, your fitness and nutrition routines as well as your overall sense of balance in order to have a healthy and satisfying sex drive.
To learn more about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) and testing, visit www.bodylogicmd.com or call my office at (888) 799-5821.
About Dr. Landa
Dr. Jennifer Landa earned her medical degree from Albany Medical College of Union University in Albany, NY in 1996. She completed her internship and residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in NYC, where she was distinguished as the Administrative Chief Resident in OB/GYN. Dr. Landa is Board Certified by the American Board of of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine and serves as anAdvanced Fellow in the Fellowship for Anti-Aging, Regenerative and Functional Medicine. In addition, Dr. Landa has made appearances on a number of nationally-syndicated television shows, and was featured in a cover story by Florida Trend magazine in December of 2009, as a leading expert in anti-aging medicine.