Can’t stop thinking about sex? If your sexual urges are all you think about, it might be quite distracting. From Tinder to Love Island, it can sometimes feel like we live in a society that focuses entirely on sex, so it’s normal to question your libido and wonder if your sex drive is above average, especially if your needs are not being met.
Psychosexual and relationship therapist Sarah Berry looks at when you should be concerned about your libido and offers her expert tips on lowering sex drive:
- What is a ‘normal’ sex drive?
- When is a high sex drive a problem?
- What causes a high sex drive?
- How can I lower my high sex drive?
- Help and support
- 10 Foods That Can Destroy Your Sex Drive
- 1. Dairy
- 2. Fried foods
- 3. Refined carbohydrates
- 4. Chocolate
- 5. Soy
- 6. Microwave popcorn
- 7. Sweets
- 8. Mint
- 9. Licorice
- 10. Diet soda
- Low Libido? Try These Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Sex Drive
- What is libido?
- What causes low sex drive?
- Strengthen your emotional connection to boost sex drive
- Libido boosters
- Join over 1 million fans
- 27 Foods That Kill Your Sex Drive
- Processed Foods
- Diet Soda
- Microwave Popcorn
- But Especially Beer
- Canned Soup
- Deli Meats
- Flaxseed Products
- Bottled Water
- Low-grade Meat
- Spiced Foods
- Trans Fats
- Cruciferous Vegetables
- Your Meds
- 8 ways you’re killing your libido
What is a ‘normal’ sex drive?
Every year scientists, PR reps and journalists concoct numerous surveys purporting to reveal what the average person thinks, feels and does during sex. The medical profession is rightly reluctant to link numbers to the human libidinal range.
In lieu of concrete determiners, we often gauge our personal sex drives by comparing ourselves to those of the people we sleep with, discuss sex with or choose to read about. But sexual desire is on a spectrum, which means there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to your sex drive and how often you might want to have sex.
When is a high sex drive a problem?
A high sex drive usually isn’t a problem if you do not feel ruled by your sexual urges or thoughts. If you have a high sex drive and are having all the satisfying sex you crave, then you might actually be rather pleased with it!
But you may struggle with your high sex drive if you experience any of the following:
✔️ You are not able to achieve satisfaction, no matter how much sex or masturbation you have.
✔️ You are not able to get the amount or type of sex you desire.
✔️ You are troubled or shamed by persistent fantasises.
✔️ You regularly sacrifice work, social or sleep time for your sexual exploits.
✔️ You have sore genitals from excessive sex or masturbation.
✔️ You habitually seek out unsatisfactory or risky sexual exploits.
✔️ You feel bad that your pursuit of sexual satisfaction prevents you from having a relationship.
An out of control sexuality can also be hard for those around you. You may think you are fine, but your boss, your partner or your mates might fear that you are spending too much time in the pursuit or sex. Either these people don’t understand you, or you are in denial about your problematic relationship with sex.
What causes a high sex drive?
While increased sexual desire is perfectly normal for young people experiencing hormonal surges, if you are older, a number of other factors can impact your sex drive. A high sex drive can be a symptom of something medical – either a condition or the medication you take. This can include the results of Parkinson’s medication, some brain injuries, mania, hormonal imbalances and an overactive thyroid. If you do experience an unexplained change in your libido, it’s wise to get checked out by your doctor.
Other possible psychological and social causes can include:
- Stress, anxiety and depression.
- Unresolved trauma – sexual or otherwise.
- Shame surrounding one’s sexual preferences, experiences or body image.
- A lack of fulfilment and/or control over one’s life.
- Distorted beliefs around love, sex and intimacy.
- A lack of self-esteem and/or social anxiety.
- An all or nothing approach to life which can make downtime or boredom hard to cope with.
- An inability to properly process one’s emotions.
- Feeling stuck in relationship with someone who wants to have less sex.
How can I lower my high sex drive?
If you are concerned that you have an overly high sex drive, try the following tips:
1. Talk about it
Whatever the cause, if you are not happy with your sex life, talking therapy can help you offload, explore thoughts, feelings, experiences and desires around sex, love, relationships and beyond. Establishing what you want from your life in general and then working out realistic ways to get it can help you feel more in control and less at the mercy of your urges.
2. Interrupt your urges
When I ask sexually compulsive clients if they have ever not acted on a sexual urge – whether it’s masturbating in the office loos or booking an appointment with a sex worker — they often say no. Understanding that sexual urges – much like cravings for cigarettes or cake – do pass if un-fuelled by yearning thoughts or actions, can be a revelation.
If you become aroused and you want to not act on your urges, here are a few things you can do:
✔️ Try mental gymnastics, for example practice your 26 times table.
✔️ Focus on something else; search your surroundings for squares or anything blue.
✔️ Refer to a list you’ve made about how great your partner is, or what you will gain from not acting out.
✔️ Download a CBT help sheet like this and work out what may have exacerbated your urge. Are you bored? Hungover? Hungry? Tired? Stressed? Had a row with someone? This can help you to see patterns and then gain control.
3. Channel your energy
Some people derive great relief, pleasure and pride from channelling their sexual energy into other things. This could mean doing something creative, physical, thrilling or spiritual. Popular pursuits include long distance running, dancing, learning the guitar, abseiling, DIY, cooking, yoga and Tantra.
4. Work on finding satisfying sex
High sex drives can be particularly tormenting for those who struggle to find sexual partners. I help such clients explore ways to build confidence, improve how they relate to others (including being open, curious and complimentary without seeming creepy), discover ways to meet possible sexual partners — for example online, on courses, or at MeetUp events — and learn ways to have sex with someone they might care about, which usually involves embracing the wonderful realities of non-pornified human nature.
Hook up sites, sex parties or sex professionals can help some people satisfy their urges but they aren’t always sustainable solutions for people with high sex drives. They don’t always guarantee sex – let alone satisfying sex. They may also go against the person’s moral compass, lead to overspending or preclude intimacy.
5. Work through relationship issues
Some high sex drive people in monogamous relationships frequently beg their partner for sex. This is very bad form. It’s not sexy and, whether or not they give in, can kill off whatever sexual feelings their partner has for them, as even tender affection is viewed as a hopeful route to sex.
When couples with mismatched libidos come to me, I ask them both what they wish their sex life would look like. Sometimes it’s helpful to schedule times to connect and be intimate. During these times they could choose to do things like go on a date, have a top half only make out session, be naked without worrying about being aroused (maybe holding each other or having a bath), or having sex.
I’ve heard clients with higher libidos argue that they be allowed to have sex outside the relationship. While open relationships can work, it’s best when it’s seen as an exciting thing that both partners can participate in.
6. Take something to lower your sexual urges
If your sexual urges are occupying your every waking thought and becoming problematic, there are a few things you can take to decrease your sex drive:
Anaphrodisiacs: Just as aphrodisiacs such as oysters or chocolate are said to enhance the libido, anaphrodisiacs are said to dull it. There are a number of food ingredients, herbs and supplements that fall into this category including soy, liquorice, chasteberry, hops and wild lettuce.
Antidepressants: much has been much written about antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, dulling the libido. Antipsychotics can also have this side affect. While they are not specifically designed to lower the sex drive, some doctors do prescribe them for this reason.
Reversible chemical castration: hormone drug therapy can often be seen as a last resort. While women can have problematic sex drives, at present these drugs are only being prescribed to men. Cyproterone and Triptorelin both lower the production of testosterone. This treatment is basically a reversible chemical castration.
Change your medication: if your medication is causing you to feel more aroused than usual, it may be possible to change your medication or lower the dosage – enough to take the edge of the urges but still to help what whatever it is you are taking it for. Always seek medical advice before changing your medication.
Help and support
If you need further advice or support about anything related to sexuality, try one of the following resources:
- Association of the treatment of Sexual Compulsivity and Addiction: find resources and therapists UK-wide.
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sex And Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA): support groups based on the 12 steps approaches:
- StopSo: a charity helping to stop sex offending, with resources and a UK-wide therapist directory.
- Lucy Faithful: victims and sex offenders can call the Stop It Now helpline on 0808 1000 900 or visit lucyfaithfull.org.uk, a charity devoted to stopping child abuse.
- Paula Hall: Sex Addiction therapist Paula Hall has written the seminal books Understanding & Treating Sex Addiction and Sex Addiction: The Partner’s Perspective.
Last updated: 13-11-19
Sarah Berry Sex and relationship therapist Sarah Berry is an accredited and experienced sex & relationship therapist, who helps individuals, clients and groups with issues covering all aspects of the gender, sexuality and relational fields.
10 Foods That Can Destroy Your Sex Drive
Ever feel sluggish and uninspired after a dinner date? A lagging sex drive could be the result of what you’ve been eating. Previously, we covered the foods that can boost your libido, and now we turn to the ones that could be sabotaging your sex life. Of course, it’s not always about food. Low libido can be attributed to a number of factors, including sociological, psychological, and hormonal influences. Often, antidepressant medications are the culprit. Other times, stress or drug and alcohol abuse can play a role. In men, low testosterone levels often contribute to a low sex drive, and hormonal changes in women can have a similar effect.
Smoking, along with all of its other terrible health effects, can diminish sexual desire and satisfaction, especially in men. “Smoking has a direct, negative effect on the sexuality of a man on every level,” Panayiotis M. Zavos, PhD, told WebMD. Altering bad habits, like smoking and excessive drinking, in order to encourage better overall health, will no doubt be beneficial to your sexual health as well. And one of the most important ways we stay healthy is by eating right. Generally, any dietary choices that lead to excessive weight gain can kill a man’s sex drive.
“The worst food that a man can have for his sex drive is too much of it,” Corey B. Schuler, functional medicine nutritionist at the Metabolic Treatment Center, told Men’s Fitness. And smart food choices can benefit every gender and body type. Here are some of the specific foods that have the potential to kill your sex drive.
Dairy products like ice cream and cheese may be your favorites, but stay away from them if you want to get busy with your partner later. The lactic acid in dairy can squash libido levels, according to Fitness Magazine. Products derived from cow’s milk can also be loaded with synthetic hormones, throwing off the natural hormone production in men and women. Calcium, on the other hand, has been linked to better sexual health, so make sure you find it elsewhere, such as in a fortified milk alternative or some leafy greens.
2. Fried foods
Greasy foods definitely don’t do your sex life any favors. Trans fats found in fried foods dramatically decrease the male and female libido, according to Medical Daily. Consuming trans fatty acids can also cause abnormal sperm production in men and interferes with female gestation. You and your significant other would be wise to skip the french fries at dinner, since they could be at fault for more than one sexual problem.
3. Refined carbohydrates
Any refined carbohydrates, like those found in bleached white flour, are bad news for your sex drive. This includes many pastas, cereals, breads, and snack foods like crackers, cookies, and chips. Men’s Fitness explained that large amounts of refined carbs will cause your testosterone levels to decrease. The sugars from these carbohydrates can make men gain weight and raise estrogen levels as testosterone is depleted. Reach for good carbs like vegetables and whole grains instead.
OK, so we actually included chocolate on our list of libido-boosting foods, but in large quantities, it can have the reverse effect. While chocolate’s anandamide and phenylethylamine cause the body to release endorphins, some say chocolate also lowers testosterone levels. Methylxanthines in chocolate make the skin sensitive to touch but can also make people lethargic. “Most folks think of chocolate as an aphrodisiac but, for my female patients, chocolate makes them tired and I hear it temporarily lowers their sexual drive and libido,” Dr. Fran Walfish told Medical Daily.
Men can have small amounts of soy without worry, but because of its estrogenic properties, large quantities of soy products will mess with your libido. Research has shown that too much tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, or other soy products can lower testosterone levels and even sperm count. In a study, 120 milligrams of soy per day had negative sexual effects, so keep your soy intake to a minimum, otherwise you might regret it later in the bedroom.
6. Microwave popcorn
A quiet night in watching a movie is a popular precursor to an intimate night with someone special, but do yourself a favor and skip the microwave popcorn. The popcorn bags contain perfluoroalkyl acids, such as PFOA or PFOS, which significantly lower sperm counts, according to a 2009 study. These chemicals found in the inner lining of the microwave popcorn bag can cause a lower sex drive, so try your hand at homemade popcorn, cooked right on the stove top. You might impress your date as well as your taste buds.
You’ve probably heard of the infamous “sugar crash,” and it’s the last thing you want to happen when it’s time to get in the mood. After sweets first cause your blood sugar level to spike, both your energy and your blood sugar then fall dramatically, eliciting fatigue, food cravings, and brain fog. Not surprisingly, you might not have the focus and energy required for a dynamic sexual experience. Processed baked goods also contain trans fats, which can trap vital food glucose in the blood, raising blood sugar levels and reducing libido.
Reaching for a mint probably seems logical if you think kissing may be in your future, but the menthol in mint reduces testosterone, therefore lowering male libido. Mint can also allow more air to enter the body causing frequent burping, which isn’t exactly a turn-on. Mint tea is a better choice to fight bad breath, since it has a lower level of menthol. Alternatively, you could use other natural herbs or simply brush your teeth.
Candy is already a bad idea because of the sugar content, and if you are licorice fan, we’ve got more bad news. Too much of this candy will mean a significant hit to your libido. According to The Daily Meal, it’s because of a natural ingredient in licorice called glycyrrhizin that reduces testosterone levels in men. If you can’t live without your licorice fix, save it for when you won’t be having sex anytime soon.
10. Diet soda
In addition to being addictive and horrible for your body in all kind of ways, diet soda could wreak havoc on your sex life. It’s the artificial sweeteners that are to blame here. Eating and drinking anything with fake sweeteners, especially aspartame, affects your serotonin levels, which are crucial to sexual enjoyment. Let’s be honest, no health-conscious individual should be drinking these beverages anyway. Let this be one more reason never to touch diet soft drinks.
More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet:
- Men Don’t Like Talk Therapy: Myth or Fact?
- 7 Foods That Can Help You Sleep Better
- 9 Nutrients That Most Men Don’t Get Enough Of
Aphrodisiacs have a rich and often-told history — but what about their opposite? Throughout history, people have tried to find ways to suppress sexual desire. People have used methods ranging from saltpeter to cornflakes to modern-day chemical castration, with mixed success.
Why do people want to discover a way to kill sexual desire? Find out the weird history of anaphrodisiacs below.
Top image: Iakov Filimanov/.com
Quick: What’s the first email you’d find if you looked in your spam filter right now? Now just imagine if it was advertising the opposite of what it’s actually selling right now.
Anaphrodisiacs are a (mostly) foreign concept to modern Western society. There’s an entire marketing system geared to delivering more sex, either in fantasy or reality, to the population at large. And a lack of sexual desire is generally perceived as a problem. And yet, anaphrodisiacs have been around seemingly as long as humans have, and have as strange a history as any aphrodisiac.
Take a look at the options that people chose, rather than experience any pesky sexual inclinations.
You Are What You Eat
Oysters, champagne, and green M&Ms are all supposed to get the engine revving — but what about foods that kill it and roll it downhill into a ditch? There are a lot of things that, it has been rumored at one time or another, can be sprinkled on food to kill the libido. No less a source than Pliny the Elder recommended the appropriately named Chasteberry or Monk’s Pepper, a bush in the Mediterranean. Camphor has a strong medicine smell that might keep people away rather than taming desire in the consumer. Some herbs on this fabled list are still eaten today, including marjoram and coriander — neither of which has been shown to have any effect.
But a sex drive isn’t something you can put in a burlap sack and wallop unconscious with a stick just by sprinkling a little something on your food. It takes a full diet to knock out your libido, according to sex-killing pioneers John Harvey Kellogg and Sylvester Graham.
Kellogg and Graham hit their creative stride in the second half of the nineteenth century. The deprivations of the frontier were gone, the Civil War was over, and America was in the full flush of Utopianism. People all over the place thought they had discovered the single principle that would make the world perfect — and Kellogg and Graham independently latched on the same idea. Out-of-control libido, especially masturbation, was the source of all the troubles in the world. And all of that horniness, in turn, came from heavy, rich, and spicy food that angried up the blood.
Kellogg built and ran Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. It was a boot camp for Utopia-seekers, putting them on a strict schedule with plenty of exercise and food so bland it could cause nightmares. The corn flakes we eat now were originated by Kellogg, but don’t resemble what the Battle Creek convalescents ate. Theirs were made out of cracked wheat berry flakes that had been over-dried when an employee forgot to see to the thin layers of bread that the residents also ate. Bread and yogurt, with minimal fruit and stewed vegetables, comprised the whole diet of any person unfortunate enough to stay there. It’s quite possible that the residents were too bored to think about sex. Then again, with Battle Creek’s policy of regular yogurt enemas, perhaps they were too tired and sore to get up to much mischief.
Graham Crackers were invented for much the same reason that corn flakes were, and have undergone a similar sweetening process over the years. The original crackers were more cracker-like, in the traditional sense. They were also made of coarse wheat and formulated to be nutritious but dry, without arousing the slightest bit of interest in any part of the body. There was to be no meat, salt, sugar, tobacco, or alcohol.
Even healthy adults, Graham said, should have sex only once a month, and men should abstain entirely until after the age of thirty. Graham was a city mouse, not a country one, and set up boarding houses that served up his special diet in Boston and New York. This worked against him, because he couldn’t be surrounded by his acolytes. He was assaulted by three different angry mobs of butchers and bakers, who believed he’d drive them out of business.
Those who didn’t want to go to dietary extremes turned to chemistry. The most famous libido-reducer of all time was a little chemical called saltpeter. Also known as potassium nitrate, saltpeter is used in fertilizer and fuses — and so it seems like a bad idea to put it in anyone’s body. Surprisingly, though, it does have a medical purpose. Involuntary muscle fiber, like the kind that constricts blood vessels, relaxes when coming into contact with it.
Asthmatics relied on it to stop attacks, and it brought down high fevers, especially in the lower body. All this relaxation and loss of heat got people’s minds working, and soon they suspected saltpeter was the ultimate anaphrodisiac. Suspicion turned to full-blown conspiracy theory when members of the British sailors found out that saltpeter was being used to preserve their meat. Although there’s no evidence that saltpeter works, or that it has ever been given to inmates in any all-male facility, rumors abound to this day.
Well, if you can’t make them behave, knock them out entirely. Another rumored drug that was secretly given to enlisted or incarcerated men was potassium bromide. (Yes, pretty much that stuff.) Unlike saltpeter, potassium bromide would work to reduce anyone’s sex drive. Also anyone’s social drive. Really, any drive at all gets eliminated with potassium bromide. It was a sedative in the late 1800s, and it made people sleepy for days. It also, if consumed in quantity, caused copious diarrhea and vomiting. Since few armies are served well by drugged, chronically-ill patients, it’s doubtful that any bromide found its way into their ranks.
As we’ve seen, most anaphrodisiacs throughout history simply didn’t work. But recently, anti-aphrodisiacs have started being tested in a systematic way — and there are a few things that actually do work.
The most controversial one is chemical castration. The most common kind of chemical castration is the kind that cuts off the testosterone supply. Like saltpeter, it has other medical uses. Hormonal birth control, drugs meant to fight breast cancer and prostate cancer all mess with people’s hormones, thus indirectly decreasing sex drive. They generally do this using a drug called a GnRH agonist, which stimulates the pituitary gland until it simply stops encouraging hormone production. There is good evidence that these drugs lower sexual drive, and at least so far, they are almost exclusively used on sex offenders. One study done on released sex offenders showed the recidivism rate cut from forty percent to five percent. Some say, though, that’s it’s an extreme solution that works in the short term at best before increasing hormonal rushes when people go off the twice-monthly drugs.
And then there are the substances that affect your sexuality indirectly. Alcohol and cigarettes take out your blood circulation, indirectly killing sex drive. High-fat diets do the same. Many recreational drugs make people either too wired or too lethargic – and that’s to those who aren’t physically addicted. According to physiology, everybody — especially rock stars — has been wolfing down down the anaphrodisiacs for thousands of years. You can judge whether or not that seems right.
But what of the good old-fashioned days when diet could control sexual appetite? Is there truly nothing there? After a lot of testing, research showed there is: Licorice. Yes, that stuff that they sell at the store in glossy black spirals comes from the licorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra, and it lowers testosterone. It is potent enough that eating about twenty-five grams has a strong effect. So if you’re planning to end a date fast or have an early night, keep some licorice on hand. If you’re eating licorice now . . . maybe weigh carefully just how much you like the taste.
Potassium Bromide Image: Ondřej Mangl Cornflakes Image: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos Licorice Image: Pikaluk on Flickr
Via The Straight Dope, UCSD, Snopes, and CSUN.
Low Libido? Try These Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Sex Drive
- Libido is simply your sex drive — how often you think about sex and physical intimacy throughout the course of any given day.
- Since sex carries with it physical, emotional, and biological elements, there are a zillion things that affect your libido.
- What can you do to help increase a low sex drive? Finding out what sparks your interest in sex involves a little trial and error. Keep reading to find ways to boost your low libido.
Sex is an important part of being human, and everybody deserves a satisfying sex life. But, what happens when you lose interest in sex? In addition to losing a part of your life that you once enjoyed, your relationship could suffer.
Everyone experiences a rut in their sex life from time to time. Read on to find out what might be causing it and what to do to find your mojo again.
What is libido?
Libido is simply your sex drive — how often you think about sex and intimacy throughout the course of any given day.
Of course, your sex drive changes from day to day, even hour to hour. Fluctuations in libido largely depend on what you’re doing. Most likely, sex is far from your mind when you’re visiting your grandma or giving a big presentation at work, but if you’re relaxing on vacation with your honey, naked time pops into your head a lot more often.
So, when you’re considering how strong your sex drive is, it’s a general sense of how much you want to have a pants-off dance-off over a typical week or two — not necessarily how much you thought about it this morning.
What causes low sex drive?
Since sex carries with it physical, emotional, and biological elements, there are a zillion things that affect your sexual desire. Here are some of the more common reasons why you may have little to no interest in sex these days.
The testosterone, hormonal birth control and low sex drive connection
You probably think of testosterone as the male hormone, but that’s only part of the story. Women have testosterone, too, and while it’s not enough to sprout a mustache or pop an Adam’s apple, you need to have just enough to keep your mojo humming.
Birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives contain a ton of synthetic estrogen. When your body realizes that all this estrogen-like stuff is pumping through your system, your liver responds by sending out a surge of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that snaps up excess sex hormones so that they don’t wreak havoc on your body.
SHBG doesn’t know that it’s responding specifically to estrogen. Once released, it indiscriminately snaps up all the estrogen, testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone it can hang onto. You’ll still have some hormones left, but your levels will fall considerably — except estrogen, because a daily hormonal contraceptive delivers a fresh surge of estrogen every day.
Your SHBG levels drop back down after you quit the pill or other hormonal contraceptive, but studies show that even just six months of use is enough to keep your levels elevated long after you’ve stopped. In fact, one study shows elevated levels over six months after stopping. If you have too much SHBG eating up that little bit of testosterone that you need to keep libido in normal range, you’ll end up minimally interested in sex.
The longer you’re off of hormonal birth control, the more likely your body is to approach normal hormone functioning. When you’re coming off of birth control, you’ll want to keep your liver happy by keeping your toxic load low, so it’s a good time to clean up your diet and your environment.
Other sources of libido-sapping hormones
You’re exposed to hormones from countless outside sources every single day. The hormones that farmers administer to animals make their way into your dairy, meat, and water supply, which trips SHBG production just like the pill does. You can also find endocrine disruptors and estrogen-mimicking chemicals in plastics, cleaning supplies and personal care products you use every day, which build up in your system over time and have a similar libido-dampening effect.
Sex drive during pregnancy, the post-partum months, and menopause
Women go through major hormonal shifts several times throughout life. One of the most noticeable and expected hormone changes happens during pregnancy, and everyone responds differently. For some women, sex is the furthest thing from their minds during pregnancy. Other women can’t get enough.
After the baby comes, the mother’s biology undergoes a number of changes that cause her to pour her energy and focus into her baby. Hormones change, and the brain measurably changes in structure. In addition to focus on the baby and a drop in sexy chemicals, the simple fact that babies eat every few hours for the first few months is just plain tiring. That said, a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that psychological factors, not physical ones, predict whether women regain their sex drive after childbirth. The biggest motivator: feeling connected to your partner.
During menopause, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone no longer regulate your sex hormones. The natural drop in hormone production can decrease desire and sexual function (for example: vaginal dryness, etc.). Early on, you can solve bedroom snags with simple steps like introducing lubricant into foreplay. As menopause progresses, you might want to open up a conversation with your functional medicine doctor about natural ways to rev your engine.
Low sex drive and depression
The relationship between depression and sex drive is a total catch-22. On the one hand, people who suffer from depression experience sexual dysfunction more often than non-depressed individuals. Depressed patients who seek treatment will often be prescribed antidepressants. Antidepressant medications, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), negatively affect sexual function in both men and women.
What to do? Here’s an article on causes of depression and science-backed ways to feel better without medication. If you’re on medication and wish to stop, do it under the guidance of your prescribing doctor.
Sex can help with depression itself. “Sex is very good for you. It’s good for the lungs, it’s good for the skin, it’s good for the bladder, it’s good for the muscles. And it’s a very good antidepressant, actually. Any kind of stimulation of the genitals drives up the dopamine system in the brain and can give you feelings of optimism, energy, focus, and motivation,” says sex, love and marriage researcher Helen Fisher, PhD.
Stress affects sex drive
One of the strongest libido killers is stress.
Stress has a profound effect on whether or not you want to get it on. One study showed that the stress of unemployment was tied to sexual dysfunction. Another study pointed to anxiety, anger, depression, and guilt as detrimental to sex drive.
From a survival perspective, it makes perfect sense. Your body’s stress response is the same if you’re being chased by a tiger or if you get verbally attacked by a customer. You’re not going to die from an argument, but your body springs into action like you’re fighting for your life.
If your stress response triggers over and over, your body shuts down your sexual desire until you’re feeling better. Reason being, sex leads to babies and babies born into a hostile environment have a lower chance of survival than do babies born into safety. Your body doesn’t always know when you’re safe and when you’re not — the increased heart rate, shallow breathing, the surge of adrenaline and cortisol — it’s the same either way.
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Sleep and libido
Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality kills your sex drive in several ways. Your body makes a good portion of your sex hormones while you’re sleeping, so if you aren’t sleeping enough, you’re leaving unfinished processes hanging and you won’t have enough of the hormones you need.
More practically though, lack of sleep means, honey, you’re actually tired. You might actually have a headache. When you need sleep, your bed has one draw and one draw only.
If you need help in the sleep department, check out this article on how to hack your sleep.
Fix low sex drive with sex?
In some cases, you don’t desire sex because you’re not having enough of it.
At times, that means having sex when you don’t necessarily feel like it. In women especially, time to sexual arousal is a little slower, and women often need to be touched and stimulated before they feel any desire.
Now, that’s not the same thing as begrudgingly having sex when you genuinely don’t want to. If you’re tired, if you’re ill, if you’ve had a rough day and feel unable to shake it off, if you’re feeling disconnected from your partner, or if you’re otherwise distressed…that’s not the same thing as not wanting sex just because you’re not aroused.
Barring those things, if you’re awake, content, and simply not in the mood, consider just saying yes or even initiating sex to make arousal easier next time.
Dr. Fisher points to the biological system behind this idea. She says, “When you have sex, it does drive up the testosterone system and makes you want to have more sex. So the more sex you have, so the more eagerly you’ll want to have sex soon thereafter.”
Instead of writing it off right away, give your engines a chance to warm up, and then decide. You might surprise yourself. After a while, you might feel stronger desire and more effortless arousal.
Strengthen your emotional connection to boost sex drive
Sex is the bridge between the physical and the emotional, and a solid loving foundation keeps you hot for each other. In long-term relationships, you have to be intentional about it. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Get to know each other, over and over
Sometimes life just gets in the way, and your to-do list takes priority over fostering real connection with your partner. To counter feelings of disconnectedness, spend time every night talking — really talking — about feelings and ideas, not about what needs to be done around the house. Remember how inquisitive you were when you were just beginning to date? Get to know your partner on that level again.
Need help getting started? On your next date night, download the Gottman Card Decks app and take turns asking one another the open-ended questions.
Science says keep things fresh and new
Routine has its place — you need it for day-to-day efficiency. Certain things benefit from mixing it up on the regular, and staying connected with your partner is one of those times.
New experiences help your hypothalamus pump out the brain chemical dopamine, in anticipation of an awesome outcome. You might have heard that dopamine is the reward chemical, but it’s actually the brain chemical involved in getting you to that reward.
Dopamine, the brain chemical responsible for motivation and reinforcement, is responsible for making an animal do something over and over again. Because of its role in seeking behaviors, dopamine has a major effect on sex drive. The more dopamine surges around sex and your partner, the more you go after him or her.
So, how do you get a nice dopamine surge when you need it? Try new things with your partner. When you explore a new place or try a new activity with your partner, a hit of dopamine signals to your brain that this was a motivationally significant event. Then, what’s known as an adaptive memory is created with the motivation to seek repeating the scenario again. The more adaptive memories that include your partner, the more you’ll seek each other out.
New experiences don’t have to be extravagant exotic vacations. They don’t have to be lovey-dovey romance-centered date nights. While you should certainly throw vacations and date nights into the rotation, you’re more likely to consistently explore with your partner if you opt for cheap and accessible new experiences, like:
- Trying a new hiking trail
- Exploring a new park
- Grabbing a tourism pamphlet for your own area and hitting a few spots you’ve never seen
- Taking an art class together and creating something new
- Sampling something you’ve never tried from a new restaurant
- Doing something outside your comfort zone, or something that even scares you but carries no real danger
Feeling supported at home
Back in the day, men worked outside the home and women took on childcare and housework. As more women entered the workforce, men started picking up more of the cooking, cleaning, and parenting, but studies show that the bulk of the “third shift” still falls on the shoulders of women. Married mothers take on almost twice the housework and over three times the childcare as compared to married fathers.
Even when traditional male and female roles do not apply, it’s typical for one person to take on the majority of the “third shift.” When the imbalance is substantial, one person is likely to be legitimately too tired, or even resentful. Overwork and the fatigue and resentment that come with it will certainly quiet your bedroom.
If you’re hitting some communication blocks
If your relationship is on the rocks, it might manifest as trouble in the bedroom. Communication is the solution, which isn’t always easy. Relationship counseling might help guide the conversation toward a place of understanding.
So, what can you do to help increase a low sex drive? Finding out what works for you involves a little trial and error. Here are some things to get you started:
- Look into non-hormonal birth control methods. Once you’re off of hormonal birth control, you’ll see improvement rather quickly, but give your hormones time to stabilize.
- Clean up your diet. If you’re eating food that feeds your cells and keeps your toxic load low, you have the best chance at optimal hormone function and lower chance of libido-killing conditions like depression. More info on that here.
- See if you can slowly reduce your use of plastics and swap out your cleaning and personal care products with natural alternatives.
- Minimize your stress. Start a meditation practice or explore supplementing with adaptogenic herbs.
- Sleep! See how you can restructure your day to tack on an extra 30 minutes on either end, or work in an afternoon snooze. Or, if insomnia’s your problem, read this piece on how to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Look into natural ways to increase sex drive. Don’t go into the sex supplements world willy-nilly. There’s a lot of snake oil out there. Find a qualified functional medicine doctor to help you identify your exact issues and find what will work for you.
- Communicate. If you need to lighten your housework load or if you have unresolved issues with your partner, open up the conversation.
- Prioritize intimacy with your partner. Intimacy doesn’t have to mean sex. Do the things that make you feel closer as a couple. Making a regular practice of date nights, cuddling, and meaningful conversations goes a long way to strengthening your relationship.
- Maca root increases production of male hormones without making you grow chest hair. For women, it can be just enough of a boost to get you going.
- Start before you’re feeling frisky. Sometimes, just showing up is enough to get you going.
Even if you’re in a slump now, you can enjoy a long, fulfilling sex life even as you age. Try a few of these small changes. You’ll be surprised at the difference, and how quickly your body responds.
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27 Foods That Kill Your Sex Drive
Have you ever been in a car where the driver keeps hitting the brakes? It can be sheer torture, right? That’s what these foods are to your low libido, which is typically fueled by testosterone. We often think of it as a hormone that men have zipping through their bodies. Estrogen, on the other hand, we mainly consider to be a female hormone.
The truth is that both testosterone and estrogen play vitally important roles in the bodies of both sexes and—unless we have a good ratio of one to the other—all sorts of things can get wonky. Men can grow breasts; women can sprout excessive facial hair. But in both cases, an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen can increase or decrease libido. And a surprising amount of research has gone into figuring out which foods can increase or decrease our T and E levels.
Below are some of the food items could futz with that delicate balance or be a contributing factor to a sputtering sex drive. After you’ve checked out the sneaky saboteurs below, find out how to make a comeback by munching on these foods guaranteed to turn you on.
Processing removes most of the nutrients in whole foods, including ones that are important to your desire for hanky panky. For example: When whole wheat is processed into white flour, it loses about three-quarters of its zinc, a mineral essential to men’s sexuality and reproduction. Eating refined grains can lead to insulin resistance, the last stop before diabetes. Diabetes can in turn can accelerate narrowing of the arteries, increasing your risks of heart disease and ED.
Drinking soda on the reg is a terrible idea and, for a slew of other reasons we touch upon on this website, that goes for diet soda too. Artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, directly affect your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a vital hormone in fostering a sense of well-being or happiness. Low serotonin, say researchers, is associated with lower libido in both men and women.
Dinner and a movie can be a precursor to sex, but if you like to pair your movies with microwaved popcorn, your main feature could be a flop. See, chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid found in the bag’s lining can kill your sex drive—and, over the long term, even cause prostate problems.
Cannabis is already legal in several states and could soon be legal from coast to coast. Many people like to add the drug to food, particularly baked goods. Whether you smoke it or eat it, studies show that in addition to fueling long stories with no ending, marijuana decreases testosterone levels for up to 24 hours.
According to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program, the average person is exposed to 10 to 13 different pesticides every day. Nine of the 10 most commonly used pesticides are “endocrine disruptors,” meaning they play with our male/female hormones. One of the most estrogenic is 4-hexyl resorcinol, which is applied to shrimp to prevent them from discoloration. Other seafood with high pesticide loads: tilapia, eel, and farmed salmon. While these are the kinds of foods you should buy organic no matter what, there are also some low-budget ones to take note of in these cheap organic foods you must buy.
A glass of wine or a cocktail can get you in the mood, but drink much more than that regularly, and your libido will pay the price. Alcohol is a depressant that can play havoc with a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection and dampen libido for both sexes. Slow down when it comes to drinking and you may find that you rediscover your sexual sparkle. To help do this, nutritionist Dana James suggests drinking a 2-to-1 ratio of water to alcoholic beverages. And lay-off the whiskey—it’s the opposite of the foods that make you taste good.
But Especially Beer
What’s more manly than pounding a couple of frosty brewskis? Actually, quite a lot, once you consider that beer could be to blame for a lack of pep between the sheets. While all alcohol affects the liver’s ability to get rid of excess estrogen, phytoestrogens — plant-derived estrogens that monkey with the fertility of the mammals that consume them — are present in the hops used to make beer. What’s more, severe drinking can cause liver damage, and because the liver is largely responsible for metabolizing hormones, a less-than-efficient one can convert androgens into estrogens, resulting in a diminished sex drive.
If date night regularly includes sushi, order your appetizer wisely! Another name for edamame is soybeans. And, well, 94 percent of soybeans are genetically engineered in the US, according to The Center for Food Safety. High levels of soy in a woman’s body can decrease sex hormones and disrupt her ovarian function, said a study in the Journal of Nutrition. And just a half serving of soy per day was enough to slash sperm count by 40 percent in healthy males, the Harvard School of Public Health found!
Much of the cheese that Americans consume is derived from cow’s milk is loaded with synthetic hormones. These could potentially mess with your body’s natural production of hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, thereby screwing with your sex drive.
This stuff is everywhere, so don’t think that you’re safe just because you don’t spoon it into your coffee. The sweet stuff increases levels of the hormone insulin, which can cause you to store belly fat, lose muscle mass and causing your testosterone levels to drop. In men, belly fat raises estrogen levels, which can result in low libido and erectile dysfunction; one study found that glucose (sugar) significantly reduced total and free testosterone levels. Making an effort to get rid of the sugar you consume—knowingly or otherwise—could be just what the love doctor ordered.
Could Spaghetti-O’s could be getting in the way of your O!?! Maybe! Canned soups and meals are notoriously high in dietary sodium (a can of Spaghetti-O’s has 1,780 mg—as much as 10 bags of Doritos!), which can lead to elevated blood pressure and diminished blood flow to certain parts of the body, including the genitals. Reverse the damage with a sexy serving of dark chocolate. Non-alkalized cocoa is rich in flavanols—sexy compounds that promote the production of nitric oxide in the body, causing blood vessels to open wider. Mee-ow!
The main compound in licorice — glycyrrhizic acid, which gives licorice root its distinctive flavor — can suppress testosterone production. In one study, seven healthy male subjects were given 7 grams of licorice each day via commercially available candy tablets (containing 0.5 grams of glycyrrhizic acid). Four days into the study, the subjects’ total testosterone levels had decreased by 35 percent.
Unlike the plastic wrap you use on your leftovers, the stuff that wraps meat and cheese in the supermarket is usually made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which leaches into fatty foods and causes hormonal shifts. Instead, buy your meat right from the butcher, and have it wrapped in brown paper.
Fresh breath is sexy, and mint is the fresh maker. (There are also some great health benefits, too!) But the menthol in mint lowers technically lowers testosterone. The result? Your pleasure and fun are emphatically not doubled.
So here’s a crazy story: To control a 31-year old women’s hirsutism by driving down her high T-levels, researchers told her to eat 30 grams of flaxseeds each day for four months. Her total testosterone dropped by 70 percent, and free-testosterone went down by 89 percent. The moral of the story? If you’re a woman with an amount of facial hair you find excessive, try flax seeds. If you’re experiencing low libido, find your omega-3s from other sources until things start looking up.
Conventionally grown produce with edible skins, particularly berries, have among the highest levels of estrogen-mimicking pesticides. Other culprits: peaches, apples, cherries and kale. When choosing produce, look for organic whenever you’re buying food with edible skins.
The water isn’t the culprit here; it’s the plastic bottle. Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is a chemical component found in most plastic food containers and cans and is associated with negative impacts on fertility in both men and women. A Slovenian study in the journal Fertility & Sterility found a statistically significant association between urinary BPA concentration in men and lower total sperm count, concentration and vitality. Women with the highest BPA levels in the body saw a reduction in the number of eggs that matured, according to a study out of Harvard School of Public Health.
Poor quality meat could lead to a low wattage sex drive, say experts. That’s because most deli meat, hot dogs, and hamburgers contain added hormones, preservatives, and antibiotics that can bring about cause a hormonal imbalance in your body. Choose leaner and un-processed cuts like chicken or turkey to keep your sex drive revved.
Soy is a plant that contains phytoestrogens. They mimic the same female hormone produced by women to cause the development of secondary sex characteristics. Eating too many of these phytoestrogens could disrupt hormone balance in both men and women, depressing libido across the board. High levels of soy are found in soy milk, edamame, tofu snacks and most vegetarian meat alternatives.
According to a study conducted at Oregon State University, strong, heavily scented or spiced foods have the potential to change they way your vagina smells and tastes. These foods and drinks include coffee, onions, garlic and strong spices. Researchers at OSU point out that eliminating these foods and eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables might yield a milder scent and engender more mouth to south resuscitation.
Beets are delicious, nutritious, and just about the sweetest vegetable there is. Like many other root vegetables, they contain compounds to support healthy estrogen levels in your body. That’s great when your testosterone levels aren’t depleted, but if you have an existing hormonal imbalance, you could be exacerbating things by eating too many.
If your arteries are gummed up, blood flow to your sexual organs will be less than optimal…and that’s a very bad thing for sexual function across the board. Trans fats are well known for their ability to clog arteries, and that’s why many restaurants and food brands are eager to get them out of their products. Not only can they contribute to an early death they can contribute to a lack of “little death,” the charming French term for an orgasm.
There’s plenty of evidence to show that drinking coffee is the great way for men to fluff up their erections and even put a little pizazz in your sex game. If you’re someone who gets jittery or anxious from coffee, it may have the exact opposite effect. That’s because increased anxiety can often lead to a low libido. It’s a frequent complaint of people with a sensitivity to caffeine.
While there is no evidence to suggest that these kinds of vegetables rob eaters of their desire to have sex, they may dull the sex drive of their partners. Why? Well, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts impact secretions including semen, sweat, urine, and breath…leading to unpleasant scents and tastes. Cruciferous veggies also increase the pungency of your flatulence, thanks to the raffinose and sulfate. Raffinose is a sugar found in cruciferous veggies that go undigested until it reaches the large intestine, where it’s then fermented by gas-producing bacteria.
You know how eating asparagus can make your pee smell, uh, funny? And you know how our pee parts and our fun parts can serve double duty? I think you know where I’m going with this. Like other cruciferous veggies, healthy, flavorful asparagus can taste a lot worse coming out than it went in. That could lead to partners being less than psyched to get up in your business.
Another controversial entry on this list is chocolate, which is also on our list of best foods for your penis. Dark chocolate is thought of as an aphrodisiac because it stimulates feelings of euphoria and love, but some chocolate also been shown to suppress testosterone levels and cause a low libido.
Okay, this isn’t technically a food—but it’s still something you consume, so it’s on the list. Antidepressants and other medications like Adderall and birth control (hello, irony) can interrupt how your body produces and manages hormones like serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine, which all influence your sex drive. Talk to your doctor if you think your pills might be lowering your libido.
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8 ways you’re killing your libido
1. Poor diet
It’s not about the number on the scale, but what you put in your system. A diet high in fat lowers libido. A diet of junk lowers libido. Think of healthy food as fuel not just for your body generally, but for your sex drive. Put in clean, green fuel and you will have a sexual system raring to go. Punish it with vitamin-poor, difficult to digest processed items which barely meet the qualifications of food, and your libido will slow to a snail’s pace. Not sexy.
2. Lack of exercise
Your sexual response utilises your hormones, your muscles, your circulatory system and your nerves, to name but a few. If those areas of your body are in good shape and are performing well, then you will have a libido to match. If you’re a couch potato, then so is your libido: simply not in the mood. Get your move on to get your sexy groove on!
3. Not enough sleep
Your libido is not classified as a life or death function by your body, so when it’s tired, and chronically so, your body will put its limited energy resources into its vital body processes (digesting, and doing the tasks you require it to do). Your body will tell your libido to wait until it has some energy reserves. So sleep. Can you have sex when you’re tired all the time? Sure. Will you want to? No and no and no again.
Most people know that stress lowers their libido, but do you know it’s not all bad? A little bit of stress can prompt you to have sex as a stress reliever, and that’s good for you! But chronic high levels of stress will lower your libido – and not just for a week but months on end, until the stress is taken care of. So look after your sex life: take a meditation class. It helps fight stress and the added bonus is that doing meditation actually increases thel evels of DHEA in your body which … drumroll … increases your libido.
Who wants to sleep with a grump? Almost no one. Isolated bad moods are normal. Taking all your frustrations out on your partner, or into your home environment is toxic, unhealthy and will dampen your libido and theirs. If you need to vent a lot, find a friend. And for every thirty minutes that you gripe, grump and vent, do thirty minutes of a happy, calming activity. Your mind and body need balance.
6. Playing it too safe
Your libido gets off on risk. Did you know that? Do something thrilling as often as you can in your life to keep your libido sparking. When you first meet someone, your libido is naturally excited. To excite it again, you’ve literally got to challenge yourself and get your adrenaline flowing. You don’t have to jump out of a plane, but do something regularly that gives you a thrill. A boring life outside the bedroom can translate to a dull life inside the bedroom too.
7. Negative self talk
Libido isn’t just physical. A huge part of it is mental. If you tell yourself you aren’t beautiful and if you’re silent and don’t tell yourself you’re hot, sexy and attractive, then that’s exactly what your body will reflect. Your libido just left the building that is you, probably in search of someone who does say, “Hey I’m all that, yes I am!”
8. Lazy learning
We need to feel we are evolving and growing in life. Your libido is a fundamental part of your life. It’s not instinct and it fluctuates in reflection of what is going on in our lives, minds and bodies. If you aren’t proactive in your own life, if you aren’t stimulating your mind and body, then how can you expect your sex drive to be stimulated? An active person, in mind and body, is a sexy person. Stretch your imagination, grab life by both hands, and your libido will follow you anywhere.
People don’t often think about how the food they’re eating may be affecting their sex drive, but there are foods that can make your libido plummet.
This one is particularly applicable to men. A study down at Harvard University showed a direct link between how much soy a man consumes and how much testosterone he has. The more soy he ate, the less testosterone he produced! Testosterone is a vital hormone linked to sex drive.
Mint produces menthol, which has a cooling effect on the body. However, it can also have a cooling effect on your sex drive! Chewing ginger will do the opposite, so next time you want to freshen your breath, try ginger to heat things up.
3. Microwaveable popcorn
For this one, it’s not actually the food that causes the decreased libido, but the packaging. The chemicals on the non-stick lining of microwave popcorn bags contain perfluoroalykl acids, which can kill sexual desire. Instead, try using a popcorn maker.
4. Fried foods
Although tasty, these foods are very high in trans-fats, which can kill sexual desire. They’ve actually been shown to lower testosterone in men, which greatly decreases libido. A better alternative would be a baked potato, which increases dopamine and sexual desire.
Regular drinking actually leads to a chemical reaction in the nervous system, which can decrease sensitivity. While it may increase confidence, it could lower sensitivity in the bedroom.
The caffeine in coffee has the potential to be a serious stressor on the body. Hormonal imbalances can affect a person’s sex drive drastically. Coffee may help you in the morning, but not at night!
Eating a healthy diet is a part of functioning well, and that applies to sexual functioning too. Make sure you are giving your body what it needs to keep you healthy, active and sexually fulfilled.
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