“My lack of libido is destroying my relationship,” writes this week’s house call. “I haven’t had sex with my partner in over six months. I just feel tired and uninterested in sex. What can I do to get my mojo back?”
I see this problem among many women in my practice who suffer libido-crashing mood disorders and other problems that interfere with their personal lives.
While easy to discount low sex drive as just a part of getting older, lately even younger women mention struggling with not being “in the mood.”
Conventional medicine often fails to connect the dots between how lifestyle factors – including our diet (especially low-fat, high-carb and sugar-packed diets), drinking alcohol and smoking, exposure to environmental toxins, and being chronically stressed – contribute to and exacerbate sex hormone imbalances.
One recent patient had gone through menopause. She was eating tons of sugar, she was overweight, and she had no sex drive.
I put her on a low-sugar, whole-foods diet plan with plenty of healthy fats. I also gave her vaginal estrogen and testosterone. Only when we addressed lifestyle habits could we reset her hormones, energy levels and libido.
The Number One Thing that Kills Your Sex Drive
Lifestyle factors matter, but no contest: The biggest culprit that knocks sex hormones out of balance is sugar in its many forms, including flour which converts to sugar.
Sugar raises insulin and creates a hormonal domino effect. Subsequently, high insulin adversely impacts other hormones. Simply put, excessive sugar can wreck your sex life.
Sugar also lowers testosterone in men and alters testosterone metabolism in women. Testosterone isn’t just a guy’s hormone. Out-of-balance levels can reduce desire, increase body fat, lower muscle mass and create fuzzy memory.
Furthermore, sugar increases stress and decreases energy.
Simply put, feeling energized and maintaining a healthy sex life requires reducing or eliminating sugar. When you normalize insulin levels, other hormones also fall into place.
Beyond that, I’ve found these seven strategies help patients balance hormones naturally to feel energized and maintain optimal libido.
7 Strategies to Increase Sex Drive
- Restock your medicine cabinets. A major side effect of medications like anti-depressants and birth control pills is low libido. Birth control pills can decrease testosterone, as can statin or cholesterol lowering medications. Testosterone, in fact, is made from cholesterol. Consult a Functional Medicine doctor to find safer alternatives to these medications.
- Support your hormones with natural supplements. Quality supplements like maca and tribulus help boost your libido. Others like fish oil lower inflammation and support healthy hormones. To decrease stress and balance energy, take a really good multi-vitamin/mineral, magnesium, iron, and zinc daily. You can find these and other quality supplements in my store.
- Heal your gut. A diet high in processed foods, as well as antibiotics and other medications can wreak havoc on the gut, making it difficult to produce your feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. To minimize bad bugs, eat a clean diet rich in whole-foods. Avoid antibiotics and supplement with a quality probiotic to promote digestion and reduce inflammation. I recommend possibly working with a Functional Medicine doctor to effectively test for and treat gut imbalances.
- Stick to real food. A whole-food, anti-inflammatory diet will help your body produce healthy hormone levels. Eat phytonutrient-rich foods like leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale, etc.), cruciferous vegetables and healthy fats like grass-fed meats, wild-caught fatty fish and nuts and seeds. Bone broth and high-fiber foods like berries and lentils also provide libido-supporting nutrients.
- Remove toxins from your environment. Minimize environmental toxins, which contain endocrine disruptors that interfere with your sex drive. Plastics and chemicals in cleaning products, paints and makeup can contain powerful endocrine disruptors including lead and Bisphenol A (BPA). Choose natural products when you buy makeup and household products. Living clean and green is a big step toward rebalancing your hormones. Check out the Environmental Working Group to learn about the safest products for your home and your body.
- Lifestyle changes are key. Stress management is crucial for optimizing libido. Unwind and utilize relaxation techniques that work best for you. I recommend meditation, deep breathing, yoga and massages. Sleep is also crucial. Aim for seven or eight hours of quality, uninterrupted, deep sleep every night. Practice sleep hygiene including avoiding electronic devices before bed and reserving the bedroom only for sleep and sex. Experiencing pleasure and joy outside the bedroom makes experiencing joy in the bedroom easier. Increase pleasure throughout the day with aromatherapy, creative expression and music therapy.
- Get moving with exercise. Exercise and movement are extremely important (but often underutilized) ways to optimize libido. Find what works for you.
If you still struggle with libido, please work with a Functional Medicine doctor to pinpoint underlying causes. Age and other factors should never limit your ability to feel sexy and vital.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD