As women age, they must adapt to many changes. Shifts in hormonal balance can lead to moodiness, hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia. Wrinkles and gray hair appear. Muscle tone and stamina may shift.
Perhaps most unsettling, libido may decrease significantly, typically due to a decrease in the production of sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. Where once there may have been natural patterns of attraction, desire, and pleasure, many women feel an absence. It is as if a core experience of being alive has simply disappeared.
Women do not have to cope with a flagging libido alone. This widely shared experience has both explanations and solutions. Below are common reasons for decreased female libido, as well as a rundown on natural ways to support its return.
Causes of Decreased Female Libido
Reduced sexual desire is also known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). If you believe you are experiencing HSDD, you are not alone. Among women of all ages, it is the most common form of sexual dysfunction. And while there might be mental factors involved, HSDD is not all in your head.
Women’s sexuality is affected by a number of factors, and treating a loss of libido can be a complicated process. The first thing to understand is that a lowered libido and normal sexuality is different from person to person. While one woman might be particularly amorous on a regular basis, another might experience that desire infrequently. The question then is, how important is sex to you, and is a lowered libido affecting your life?
If you are experiencing distress because of a loss of interest in sex, then it is time to consider it a problem. But another good reason to seek help is that a lack of libido can be a signal that there are other underlying health concerns that can turn into bigger issues if left unaddressed.
Sex psychologist Sheryl Kingsberg explained to Endocrine Today that desire is more than just a low libido or sexual drive, which is the biological component behind desire. Desire is driven by a combination of these biological/neurochemical processes and psychological components.
As Rosemary Basson notes, a person’s willingness to respond to sexual stimuli involves brain chemicals and hormones, most notably testosterone.
In addition to the normal biological changes a woman experiences as she ages, there are interpersonal issues and the often unrealistic expectations women are subjected to via movies, television, and the written word.
If a woman is unhappy
in her relationship, for whatever reason, she might experience a lowered
libido. Job stress, or any form of increased stress, can cause fluctuations in
cortisol, the stress hormone, which can also affect sexual desire.
All too often, women compare their experience with sex drive and feel less-than when friends have more satisfying sex lives. That kind of talk can be depressing to women who aren’t as sexually active, and obviously, self-esteem has a lot to do with how attractive you feel. If you don’t feel good about yourself, despite your physical condition, you might not feel very sexy.
Other factors affecting sexual desire include:
- A low mood or depression
- A fear of not meeting society’s expectations for sexuality
- The fear of a negative outcome
- Not being comfortable or happy with a partner
- Chronic illness
- A thyroid disorder
- A hormonal imbalance
First Steps for Improving Libido
First and foremost, a woman concerned about her sexual desire should consult with her physician to rule out obvious medical causes related to a reduced libido, and then consider visiting a sex therapist or couple’s counseling. Many people have an outsized fear of sharing their deepest desires and what they perceive to be their shortcomings in their sexual performance with a therapist. But most people who enter into counseling realize those fears are overblown, and a couple’s counselor can be incredibly helpful in guiding you and your partner toward a fulfilling sex life.
A counselor working in conjunction with your healthcare provider can also help determine if there are physiological reasons behind your loss of sexual desire—it might be as simple as altering the dose of a medication, getting more exercise, or eating a healthier diet.
Vaginal dryness is often a factor in reduced libido. It can easily be treated with vaginal estrogens and is a common therapy for postmenopausal women.
Best Supplements for Improving Women’s Libido
Because talking about sex can be embarrassing for many people, they often turn to over-the-counter medications or supplements that are big on promise but not always effective. In some cases, because supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA in the same way prescribed medications are, they can result in an undesired outcome or even be dangerous. It is always important to talk through supplement use with a trusted health professional.
While research has shown there are some natural supplements that might help in supporting female libido, the risks of using other products touted as aphrodisiacs, such as yohimbine, Spanish fly, mad honey, and Bufo toad, may outweigh any benefit. However, there is promising research being conducted in the use of supplements such as l-arginine, kava, maca, tribulus, ginkgo, and ginseng in the promotion of sexual health and as libido enhancers.
The amino acid l-arginine aids in the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow. In addition to being used by men suffering from erectile dysfunction, l-arginine, because it helps the body produce nitric oxide, has also been shown to be effective in improving women’s sexual desire, helping them achieve orgasm.
For men, nitric oxide relaxes the muscles of the penis, increasing blood flow and facilitating an erection. For women, nitric oxide allows for increased blood circulation, swelling the clitoris and entire pelvic region, making them more sensitive to touch and enhancing sexual satisfaction.
Kava is often used by people who are stressed out and are looking for a supplement to help them calm down. Anxiety and tension are two of the major reasons men and women suffer from a lowered libido, so it’s only natural that something that helps relieve stress can also help people feel more sexual.
Some people classify kava as an empathogen, a substance that produces feelings of human connection and allows people to lower their defenses and make them more open to new experiences. Those feelings can help some women be more intimate and increase their libido.
Maca root, grown in the Andes Mountains of South America, has earned a reputation as a superfood because fans have been taking it to boost their physical stamina and reinforce their immune systems. It is also used to address the hormonal imbalances related to menopause and can increase sexual desire in some women. Maca root is also high in vitamins and micronutrients and can help your body metabolize the food in your diet and increase your energy level.
Tribulus terrestris, which is also known as the puncture vine, was once native to Asia but is now grown around the world. A study conducted by Brazilian scientists has shown Tribulus terrestris to be an effective natural supplement for increasing desire and arousal, while aiding in vaginal lubrication and increasing the likelihood of orgasm.
Gingko biloba and Panax ginseng both are well-known for their anti-anxiety properties. Gingko has been shown to increase blood flow and helps the body to produce nitric oxide. It also helps the smooth muscle tissues, such as those found in the genitalia of women, to relax. Ginseng has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to help the body enhance its immune response while also assisting in the reduction of stress hormones.
Eating foods high in essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as omega-3s and omega-6s may be helpful for sexual health because they are essential to general mental wellbeing and overall health, and in the treatment of certain diseases. EFAs can also change how your body processes food and turns it into energy and can improve physical performance and the way your brain functions. All of those things can help boost libido and result in increased, and more satisfying, sexual activity.
Vitamins and other micronutrients are also important in the proper functioning of the human body. A multivitamin supplement should contain vitamins A, B, C, D, and E. It should also contain minerals such as selenium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. But the generic multivitamins you might find on the shelf of your local market or drug store are not designed for your specific metabolism or needs.
While we often hear how lowered testosterone production affects the sexual drive of men, we don’t often hear how important testosterone levels are for women as well. As women get older, the level of androgens such as testosterone in the bloodstream diminishes.
Testosterone therapy is not approved by the FDA for women in the United States. However, for some women, testosterone therapy might help, but such therapy should not be taken without consulting with a hormone specialist or a medical professional well versed in the treatment of sexual dysfunction in women.
Further Enhancement of Women’s Libido
This is why it’s
vitally important that women seeking solutions for their health issues,
especially those related to hormone imbalances and reduced libido in women,
consult with a professional who is attuned to their needs and can listen
without judgment. The healthcare professionals within the BodyLogicMD network are
trained in regenerative medicine to recognize the signs of a hormonal imbalance
and take the steps necessary to ameliorate symptoms.
The health and wellness experts within the BodyLogicMD network will take the time to listen to your concerns, followed by an evaluation of your physical symptoms, hormone levels, and general health. With this information in hand, they can design a treatment plan that is specific to your needs and goals. This plan might include lifestyle changes such as the introduction of regular, but appropriate, exercise, such as walking, swimming, aerobics, yoga, or weight training. You might also need some advice on what to eat and how much to get the right nutrition for your circumstances.
BodyLogicMD-affiliated practitioners are practiced in designing unique supplement regimens to support specific conditions. These supplements often include vitamins and minerals and can be tailored with female libido enhancers.
Your practitioner might also recommend bioidentical hormone replacement therapy if they determine that you are suffering from a hormonal imbalance. Bioidentical hormones are created from natural substances and are designed to supplement your own production of hormones, which may be on the decline due to age and other factors such as an illness or an exposure to environmental toxins in food, air, or the products you use.
Contact the health and wellness expert within the BodyLogicMD network closest to you today to discover how personalized medicine can bring dramatic changes to all aspects of your health—including your sexual health.
Dr. Jennifer Landa is Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD and the owner and operator of BodyLogicMD of Orlando. Dr. Landa dedicates her practice to bioidentical hormone therapy, customized nutrition and fitness programs to help women and men resolve menopausal and andropausal symptoms, including weight gain, sexual dysfunction, declining energy levels and stress. As a former gynaecologist, Dr. Landa has always desired to help patients achieve wellness through hormone balance and preventive medicine.