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How to Have Better Sex + Boost Your Libido By Naturally Balancing Your Hormones

Balance Hormones

18 February 2020

As a mom of a 16-month old and someone who’s had her fair share of hormone imbalances (hypothyroidism, dysmenorrhea, etc.) let’s just say my libido has been through quite the ringer!

While I’m not alone in this (in a recent study 36% of women in the US reported low sexual desire while 60% said they were sexually unsatisfied) I’m not down with it either. Just because a symptom is common does not mean it’s normal. A healthy libido is a sign of healthy hormone balance, and when it feels off it’s our body’s way of telling us something bigger is off as well.

So I thought it was high time to dive into this topic, as embracing our female sexuality is incredibly empowering and innate. All women deserve to have good sex, intimacy and connection, no matter where you’re at in life, and I hope this post can be used as a resource to help you get there!

 

DO YOU HAVE A LOW LIBIDO? HERE ARE THE SYMPTOMS TO LOOK OUT FOR

Alright, I think it’s pretty obvious when your libido is low you’re rarely in the mood for getting on, but there are still other symptoms that can be an indicator. They include:

+ Lack of sexual of sexual thoughts or fantasies

+ Inability to get or stay sexually aroused

+ Lack of desire to have sex, including masturbation

+ Distress due to lack of sexual thoughts or desire

+ Relationship strain with a partner due to lack of sexual thoughts or desire

You can also try taking this free quiz to explore whether or not you have a hormone imbalance that may be affecting your libido. 


HOW YOUR HORMONES IMPACT YOUR LIBIDO

Your hormones are intricately tied to your libido, and a low libido can be a symptom of a more complex hormone imbalance at play. Here’s how your hormones impact your libido + vice versa.


+ Testosterone

This sex hormone is necessary for a normal sex drive in BOTH women and men. While it’s considered a male dominant sex hormone, our ovaries produce it, and we also convert DHEA, DHEA-S and androstenedione into testosterone in our fat and skin. Testosterone is primarily responsible for increasing libido. Specifically in women, it works to enlarge the clitoris. Low testosterone can cause weight gain and fatigue, which also tend to interfere with sex drive, causing a domino effect of challenges.  Bottom line, low testosterone is directly linked to a low sex drive.


+ Estrogen 

While estrogen doesn’t directly impact sexual desire like testosterone does, it plays an important supportive role by helping keep the vulva and vagina lubricated and elastic and the clitoris sensitive. Without estrogen, clitoral stimulation has almost no effect, however too much estrogen can block testosterone production, so there needs to be a balance between the two. Estrogen dominance is a leading cause of low sex drive.


+ Progesterone 

This is your calming, feel good sex hormone that promotes relaxation and happiness. It’s also a precursor to testosterone, so a healthy level of it is key, especially since low progesterone is also commonly associated with estrogen dominance. Too little progesterone can also impact sleep, mood, mindfulness and sexual desire (which can heighten PMS symptoms as well).


+ Oxytocin 

Sex and orgasm release oxytocin in both women and men. It’s been shown to help decrease cortisol levels and contributes to an overall sense of wellbeing. Seriously, an orgasm is one of THE BEST stress-relievers. Women with low levels of oxytocin are more likely to have postpartum depression, so it’s especially important for new mamas to find a way to carve out regular time for pleasure and intimacy (this doesn’t have to be sex, hugging, touching/cuddling etc. all induce oxytocin).

If any of these symptoms ring true for you try taking this free quiz to explore whether or not you have a hormone imbalance that may be affecting your libido. 

 

COMMON CAUSES OF LOW LIBIDO 

You now know the symptoms and hormones directly tied to a low libido, but what are the root causes that imbalance your hormones and lead to low libido in the first place? Let’s investigate some of the most common root causes:

+ Stress

When your body overproduces cortisol, which it does during times of chronic stress, it directly interferes with the production of sex hormones. This happens in a few different ways, but the primary cause is known as the “pregnenolone steal.” Pregnenolone is a precursor to both progesterone and cortisol, so when the body is demanding excessive cortisol output, it steals the pregnenolone progesterone uses as the body prioritizes survival (aka stress response) over your menstrual cycle and fertility. This leads to low progesterone production, which can cause estrogen dominance and low testosterone, both of which impact your libido.


+ Feeling Overweight or Self-Conscious Thoughts

In addition to body image issues, excess weight can also have real effect’s on a person’s libido. For both women and men, high body fat can cause an increase in estrogen, which can decrease testosterone production. This is because DHEA is converted to estrogen in your body’s fat cells. Both estrogen dominance and low testosterone cause low sex drive, which can greatly compound any body image issues that may already be present.

+ Systematic Inflammation + Gut Issues 

Chronic inflammation inhibits normal sex hormone and neurotransmitter production, causing the body to put more emphasis on healing instead of reproduction. This makes sense on a basic, primal level as a body that’s in poor health isn’t viable for supporting a healthy pregnancy, and thus won’t be focusing it’s energy or resources on reproduction. A person’s sex drive naturally goes down so the body can conserve its energy.

Additionally, excessive amounts of cortisol as a result of inflammation directly decrease the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. When levels of these hormones are low, it can result in depression and anxiety. Not only does this directly affect sex drive, but the medications that are used to treat them can also have a huge impact, causing decreased libido and a decreased ability to become aroused and achieve orgasm.

When leaky gut is associated with inflammation, the gut releases lipopolysaccharides, which have a direct and toxic effect on the brain, causing fatigue, brain fog and a decreased sex drive. It can also result in metabolic syndrome where the body is unable to maintain its blood sugar within a strict level. This, in turn, affects the production of both neurotransmitters and sex hormones.


+ Healthy Amount of Body + Dietary Fat 

When the body fears starvation, which can happen with significant fat loss, a diet too low in fat, or over-exercising, it doesn’t feel like having sex. Instead the body conserves energy to keep itself alive.

Sex hormone production, especially testosterone, decreases when body fat levels are below 15% in women. Cholesterol is broken down from fat and forms the backbone of sex hormones, so if body fat is low then there’s not enough cholesterol to produce these hormones, which can stop a woman from menstruating altogether.

Over-exercising, such as marathon training or intense body-building, can drive body fat levels so low that the body stops producing adequate amounts of sex hormones. The stress of over-exercising can also increase cortisol levels, which as you learned earlier keeps the body from producing sex hormones.

+ Birth Control Pills

Oral contraceptives are well known for lowering levels of natural sex hormones, especially testosterone, which can hurt a woman’s libido, mood and energy. Birth control pills are also a leading cause of estrogen dominance in women as they contain a potent synthetic form of estrogen that keeps the body from producing its own.


+ Certain Medications 

These medications are known to decrease libido as well as the ability to achieve orgasm:

+ Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) which include antidepressants, such as Prozac and Zoloft
+ Tricylic Antidepressants, not commonly prescribed anymore but include amitriptyline and notriptyline
+ Antihistamines
+ Marijuana
+ Certain anti-seizure drugs
+ Opioids, including Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet
+ A common type of blood pressure medication called beta blockers
+ Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and Valium


+ Medical Conditions + Hormone Imbalances

Such as:

+ Hypothyroidism — elevates inflammation and interferes with production of sex hormones

+ Vascular Disease — decreased circulation affects both erection and clitoris stimulation

+ Depression — this causes a person to not be interested in much of anything in life, including sexual activity

+ PCOS — can cause weight gain, increased body hair, acne, irregular periods and dampen your sex drive

+ Diabetes — can affect the nerves of the vulva, decreasing sensation and diminishing the ability to lubricate and have an orgasm. In men, it can affect erections and ejaculation

+ Low Estrogen — associated with decreased clitoral sensitivity, vaginal dryness, less blood flow to the vagina and difficulty achieving orgasm

+ Pelvic Pain — including pelvic inflammatory disease, ruptured ovarian cysts, endometriosis and tubal pregnancies

+ Vulvodynia — chronic pain of the vulva

+ Ovulation Pain aka Mittelschmerz — cramp-like abdominal pain associated with ovulation

+ Dysmenorrhea — painful, heavy periods

+ Chronic Pain of Unknown Origin — correlated with IBS, chronic bladder infections, endometriosis and scar tissue


HOW TO NATURALLY BALANCE YOUR HORMONES TO BOOST YOUR LIBIDO 

+ DUTCH Hormone Testing To Address The Root Cause

A Dutch Hormone Test is simple, easy to administer, relatively inexpensive and extremely comprehensive. It measures a range of hormone metabolites from a dried urine sample, including cortisol, cortisone, estradiol, estrone, estriol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and melatonin, which as you read above many can have a huge impact on your libido. Look to work with a functional medicine practitioner who’ll have an in-depth knowledge on true biomarkers for hormone balance.


+ Add Adaptogens

Maca is an adaptogen that has been shown to increase sexual desire and libido, while Ashwagandha works to increase orgasms, arousal, lubrication and sexual satisfaction. Try adding a teaspoon of either adaptogen herb to your smoothie, coffee or oats in the morning.


+ Better Manage Stress

As you learned earlier, stress is a MAJOR contributor to low libido and overall hormone imbalance. While we can’t avoid stressors, we can work to create more calm in our lives. Try gentle yoga, meditation, going for a walk, being out in nature (especially barefoot), reading a good book, taking a hot bath or shower, cuddling or having sex (more on that later).

+ See a Pelvic Pain Specialist 

This is especially important if you have any sort of pelvic pain or inflammation, which can cause pain during sex and thus dramatically impact your libido. Make sure you’re tracking your symptoms and working with a specialist who can address the root cause of the pain and treat it accordingly. PS — I did this after giving birth and it was incredibly helpful, as I initially had a lot of scar tissue that was causing me pain during intercourse.


+ Eat Libido-Boosting Foods

Girl, you know this one is my FAVE! Try incorporating more pumpkin seeds into your diet, which are rich in zinc that can help you achieve higher testosterone levels (key for libido) and help your man have healthy sperm production.

Another awesome addition is dark chocolate, which is loaded with bioflavonoids that support the circulatory system, allowing for engorgement of sexual organs, arousal, lubrication and orgasms.

+ Try Supplementing

B-Vitamins are one of my go-to’s as they’re essential to creating balanced hormones, which work to support a healthy libido. Make sure to choose an activated B-Complex that contains methylocbalamin, and read this post to get the full scoop on optimal B-vitamin supplements. 

Other supplement options include L-arginine, which contains amino acids that can improve blood flow to your genitals, Yohimbine, which can improve orgasm dysfunction, and Tribulus, which can increase both DHEA and testosterone levels.

**I highly encourage you to consult with a functional medicine practitioner before taking these supplements, especially if you are currently on other medications. They will be able to help you find quality brands and proper doses for your needs.

+ Lower Inflammation 

As we covered earlier, there’s no question that inflammation contributes to a higher sensitivity to pain. Getting your inflammation under control can make your periods and sex much more enjoyable. Make sure you’re eating a clean, nutrient-dense diet, avoiding processed foods, sugar and excess alcohol, drinking plenty of water, exercising, focusing on getting quality sleep and managing your stress.


+ Look Into A Non-Hormonal Form of Birth Control 

It’s well known that hormonal birth control depletes women’s libidos. In fact, research has shown that hormonal birth control, like the pill, alters the genetics of your liver and may permanently result in a lifelong missing libido. You can opt for a cycle-tracking device, such as the MyFlo app or the Daysy Fertility Tracker.

+ Exercise 

Exercise helps to produce feel-good endorphins and lower cortisol levels, reducing stress and working to maintain a healthy sex drive. It’s also attributed to reducing depression, which can have a negative effect on your libido. Any form of exercise helps, as long as you truly enjoy it and are able to work it consistently into your routine!

+ Talk with Your Partner

I can give you every single libido-boosting solution out there, but if the root cause of your low sex drive is an issue with your partner, none of it’s going to have the effect you like. Try finding a way to communicate your needs and desires, while also making sure to seak out theirs too.

+ Self-Pleasure 

Masturbation is an awesome way to stay in tune with our bodies and what turns us on. Plus, orgasms work to balance your hormones by releasing oxytocin that can reduce menstrual cramps, anxiety and stress while improving your circulation, sleep, mood and fertility.


Looking for more hormone-balance + libido-boosting support? Try my 28-Day Guide to optimize your hormone balance, health, happiness, energy, focus, sex, confidence, sleep and life!