What foods and supplements help libido and sexual desire?....
We have discussed libido and sexual desire, and I have tried to break it down into 3 main parts:
1. Psychological and personal issues of the individual
2. Social and interpersonal issues of the individual and ‘couple’
3. Medical and Hormonal problems and Testosterone
Before finishing this topic of significant interest to women, I wanted to dedicate some time to list and review what is out there with regards to foods that could increase libido and supplements that have been known to help.
It is important to note that I am a physician trained in allopathic, traditional medicine and I am sharing these foods and supplements with you as a person who has an interest in the topic and not as an expert in non-traditional medicine, nutritionist, dietcian or homeopath. There are specialists that know and speak about this topic in further detail. Having said this, I hope to invite guest bloggers in the future to discuss more in depth this particular topic. If you feel like you would like to add something and or comment about what I am about to say, please feel free to do so and we can all learn.
On the other hand, as an endocrinologist, I AM writing about these substances because they are interesting in how they work, and I want to become aware of what is out there so I can be a better provider for my patients, and have options that one can consider in addition to treatment with medications. Always keep in mind that some supplements also go through the same metabolism pathways that prescription drugs do and in excess even vitamins or supplements can become toxic, or can present with drug to drug interactions and be quite dangerous. By being able to share with your physician all the meds you are taking; the over the counter substances including vitamins, nutra-ceutical and or supplements, you can be comfortable in knowing that these interactions are watched for and being monitored. Always try to discuss with your physician all the prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, vitamins and supplements that you take or wish to take.
Libido enhancing supplements and foods
The American Medical Association has estimated that several million US women suffer from a female sexual arousal disorder. As I have stated in my previous blogs, there are many factors which can reduce a woman’s desire for sexual activity, and these can be psychological or physical. In both men and women, relationship issues may cause a decrease in sexual desire with a diminishing interest in sex due to a lack of connection with the partner, unresolved conflicts or fights, poor communication of sexual needs and preferences or trust issues stemming from infidelity or breach of trust. Reduction in libido can also be due to loss of privacy and/or intimacy, stress, distraction or depression. It may also derive from the presence of environmental stressors such as prolonged exposure to elevated sound levels, bright light or not enough light. Who would ever think light and sound have an influence on desire?
Sexual desire problems are more common in women, than in men. Erectile dysfunction is more common in men and may be a cause for lack of or decreased sexual desire, however, men can also experience a decrease in their libido as they age (I will dedicate a series of blogs for men in the future). Causes for a decrease in sexual desire in men include alcohol (among the most common), drug abuse (usually very strong such as cocaine and/or marijuana), and chronic medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes among other causes.
Other physical factors that can affect libido include hormonal issues (which I have discussed at length), thyroid disorders, and weight issues. Being very underweight or malnourished and on the other hand being severely obese can cause a low libido due to disruptions in normal hormonal levels. As I stated before, anemia, due to the loss of iron during the period can particularly affect libido in women.
In today’s blog, I will discuss several things a woman, and for that matter a man, can do to improve libido without seeking the help of a physician; consulting with a psychologist, nutritionist, a homeopath and possibly acupuncture can also be helpful. Lifestyle changes such as exercising, quitting smoking, decreasing the consumption alcohol, and monitoring the use of prescription drugs, may help increase one's sexual desire. Moreover, learning stress management and coping skills along with better communication techniques can be helpful for individuals who experience libido impairment due to a stressful life.
Aphrodisiacs are known to improve individuals' libido due to either their chemical composition or their consistency, even the appearance of a food can stimulate libido. If you think you have a lower than normal libido, eating the right types of foods and cutting down on the wrong foods can help increase your libido and rebuild your sex drive. For example, decreasing processed foods and improving on one’s food choices along with exercise can naturally restore and improve your desire and energy without the use of medications. This simple change will do you no harm, and can certainly help you feel fitter and healthier. Studies have proven that even the smells of certain foods can be sexually arousing (for men the smell of pumpkin pie and butter and for women sweet smells and licorice have been known to stimulate libido). Testosterone production in the body deserves all the attention that it can get because of its power in the sexual department. Testosterone production depends on zinc and vitamin B and vitamin E, and these substances are abundant in some foods. It makes sense to increase their intake, even if it means via supplements.
Foods that increase testosterone, libido and sex drive include:
1. Raw oysters: Oysters have very high zinc content which can raise testosterone production and sperm count. Make sure to get them fresh and scrub the shell well prior to opening them.
2. Avocado: Avocadoes are a great source of folic acid, B6 and potassium. It is thought that avocadoes help metabolize proteins, increase testosterone production and regulate the thyroid gland.
3. Asparagus: Asparagus have high vitamin E levels and stimulate the production of sex hormones including Testosterone.
4. Bananas: Bananas are rich in potassium and B vitamins in general, but it is its phallic shape that is said to be partially responsible for its aphrodisiac qualities.
5. Figs: Figs are high in amino-acids and some researchers believe them to increase libido and sexual stamina.
6. Almonds and nuts in general: Almonds are a prime source of essential fatty acids and provide the raw material for a healthy production of hormones.
7. Soy: Soy is a natural phytoestrogen and may improve and increase hormone levels and therefore improve sexuality.
8. Eggs: Eggs are a natural source for vitamin B5 and B6, and help balance hormone levels.
9. Basil: Basil is thought to stimulate sex drive and boos female fertility.
10. Brown rice, cheese and turkey are also great sources of zinc.
11. Liver, despite its ‘not so glamorous nature’ is a great source for glutamine. Glutamine is known to enhance sex drive.
12. Celery: Celery is a great source of androsterone. Androsterone is a pheromone. A hormone released through sweat that increases sexual desire.
13. Pine nuts: Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees and are rich in zinc, and have long been thought to increase male potency and stimulate libido through increasing testosterone production.
14. Salmon and Other fish: Fish are rich in essential B vitamins (B5, B6 and B12), important in maintaining good reproductive health.
Other than foods, there are a number of herbs and supplements that can help with sex drive. A woman can consider taking supplements but make sure that they have been recommended by a dietician, homeopath, chiropractor, or someone you can trust your health. Some herbal supplements may assist with improving libido, nonetheless, please check with your practitioner for guidance on how best to use these supplements and avoid toxicity and negative drug to drug interactions with other prescription drugs or over the counter substances.
Here are some nutra-ceuticals, supplements and/or herbs:
1. Zinc: Low levels of zinc have been associated with low sex drive in women and men
2. Arginine: An amino acid, for both men and women
3. Asian Ginseng: Asian ginseng can help increase sexual energy.
4. Avena-Sativa/Oat Extract: This supplement reportedly helps with sex drive
5. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): DHEA is a precursor hormone that converts to testosterone in the body and can be useful for both women and men.
6. Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is an herb that can improve sexual function.
7. Horny Goat Weed: Used by Chinese herbalists to improve sexual functions in both men and women.
8. Kava Kava: Kava kava is a herb most known for use in relaxation but can also be useful as an aphrodisiac for women.
9. Maca: Maca is a South American herbal remedy that can help women with libido and fertility.
10. Damiana: Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is a small shrub that is popular in Mexico and Central America. It has smooth pale green oval leaves and aromatic yellow flowers and it has been traditionally used to help with male impotence, decrease anxiety and promote general wellbeing for both men and women.
11. Tribulus: In a study where 212 patients were given tribestan, an extract of tribulus, 85% of patients with reduced libido reported an improvement after 30 days and 94% of patients reported an improvement after 90 days.
12. Marapuama: In a study conducted in Paris, France, 262 males with lack of sexual desire were studied, and 62% reported an improvement with an extract of muira puama.
Here are some tips for a healthy libido:
1. Go shopping for nice sexy lingerie and consider visiting an upscale sex shop with a group of trusted girlfriends, or go by yourself (at the very least, the products will amuse you, but you may be pleasantly surprised).
2. Check out the latest books about sex. If you’re too embarrassed to browse the shelves at your local bookstore, check out some online bookshops.
3. Entertain some new techniques with your partner, or on your own — maybe something outside your comfort zone but something that you still consider safe.
4. Watch an erotic movie with your partner or by yourself, and notice what turns you on. Or watch a movie with one of your favorite actors — whoever you classify as “eye candy”!
5. Check out the website, books, and courses offered by Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. She is phenomenal and I find her amusing and very interesting….
6. Know that as we age, we change and evolve. Go with the flow and find your own ‘sexual identity’. Once we realize how much easier it is to be who we really are at every age, we’re presented with all sorts of opportunities for fulfillment, fun, and pleasure. As a woman gets older, she can be more confident about her sexual abilities. You can take the lead, showing and telling partner what you want.
7. Consider the physical aspects of sexuality (they are surprisingly straightforward to address and improve) such as the use of ample lubrication.
8. Have a GREAT diet, consider visiting a great dietician ;)
9. EXERCISE, consider starting a training program with a professional trainer... They are awesome, smart, and will motivate you in your journey...
10. Sleep well and make sure you get at least 7-8 hours every night….
11. Get a PHYSICAL and discuss your concerns with your doctor.
12. Pay attention to your vagina: At some point in a woman’s life, approximately 50% of women will experience thinning, tightening, dryness, and atrophy (a decrease in muscle mass) in the vulva and vagina. These changes can cause irritation, soreness, itching, and severe pain during sex, as well as embarrassing urinary frequency and urgency. Take action right away in order to help keep your tissues in good shape. Regular use of the vaginal muscles during sexual activity will help keep the pelvic muscles and tissues healthy and toned.
13. Get your hormones checked… Restoring balance between the three major sex hormones: Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone is KEY to a healthy life, and in particular a healthy libido. Consider hormone treatments if needed.
14. Work towards healing old emotional wounds, and being aware of stress and its effects on your health.
15. Understand your self-image and find ways to LOVE yourself. “Fewer mirrors — more laughter!”
Remember: There is no MAGIC fix for sex drive problems. For years, drug companies have been trying to concoct a Viagra-like medication for “female sexual dysfunction.” But compared to men, women’s’ libido is very complex: both physically and emotionally. To this date there is no “magic pill” that provides consistent results for all women.
With this I conclude my topics on low libido for women and invite you to read about our next topic….
All the Fuss About Hair Loss……
Margarita R. Ochoa-Maya, MD, CDE
Endocrinology and Metabolism
Advanced Health and Wellbeing, PC