A few weeks ago we discussed causes of reduced libido in women approaching menopause. This week we explore some evidence based approaches to managing and preventing the causes of a decline in your libido.
1. Eat a Predominantly Plant-based diet: To optimise our blood circulation, overall general health and hormonal balance, epidemiological studies illustrate that we must emphasize a plant-based diet which can be complemented with the occasional high-quality animal proteins
A. Organic and free-range eggs, wild fish, fresh goat cheese, organic meats, etc.- basically food low in saturated fats.
B. Leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli are high in magnesium, folate, nitrates and nitrite contributing to a healthy blood circulation in our bodies. Nitrates and nitrite improve blood flow by converting into nitric oxide, a signaling molecule and vasodilator.
C. Fatty fish contain omega-3s fatty acids which are great for improving the body’s circulation and boosting blood flow to the genitals. Omega-3s can also raise levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, a major precursor to ‘getting in the mood'.
D. Nuts, seeds and avocados also supply healthy fats, which can help increase libido. Good fats can also help to minimize vaginal dryness, making sex more pleasurable.
E. Flaxseeds contain precious phytoestrogens – herbal compounds which have estrogen-like effects in the body – that can reduce symptoms associated to estrogens deficiency.
2. Exercise to the Rescue
Almost all menopausal symptoms can be alleviated by exercise, including low libido. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that intense, short-duration exercise (20 minutes with a target heart rate of 70 percent) significantly enhances the physiological sexual arousal of women.
3. Nutritional Supplements
Women’s sexual appetite depends on a multitude of complex and intricate factors. There is no magic bullet when it comes to our sex drive, but certain supplements can assist us in the process of restoring our mojo.
Adaptogens and adrenal extracts
The use of botanical preparations aimed at supporting the body’s inner balance, or homeostasis, is a traditional practice worldwide. The efficacy of adaptogens such as Ashwagandha, Maca, Ginseng, Licorice, Holy Basil, Bacopa, etc. is now validated by scientific studies.
Clinical experience has long endorsed the use of glandular extracts to support the activity of the target gland. Glandulars provide peptides and nutrient cofactors which are found in the gland itself when it is healthy and fully functioning, and which are required for the gland to carry out its biological functions.
Glandular extracts are not suitable for vegetarians but for most people needing more support for their adrenals, glandular extracts represent a time-tested way of providing key factors directly to the gland in a way that conventional, single nutrients or botanicals cannot. Formulas combining botanical remedies with adrenal glandular extracts are superior since their various mechanisms of action complement each other to modulate the multiple pathways affected by stress.
Aswagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is a plant in the nightshade family used in India as a ‘vitalizer’ for more than 2,500 years. In the Ayurvedic tradition, it has a long-standing reputation as a rejuvenative tonic to support energy, including sexual vitality.
Modern science confirms the adaptogenic properties of this revered tonic often called the ‘Indian ginseng’ due to its energy-enhancing quality. Adpatogens help support the stress response, which translates into a better tolerance to physical and emotional stress. Ashwagandha was shown to improve blood circulation and to stabilize hormones that help improve sexual vigor. In a clinical study, individuals taking ashwagandha experience heightened sexual desire within three days of taking the herb. In another study involving 51 menopausal women, a significant reduction in symptoms such as hot flashes, mood fluctuations and anxiety was reported.
Several conditions also affect libido, including hypothyroid. Clinical studies show that ashwagandha improves the functioning of the thyroid gland responsible for regulating reproductive hormones. Not in the mood for sex? A study shows that ashwagandha relaxes the mind and decreases anxiety, thus stabilizing the mood in people with behavioral disturbances. By decreasing the stress response and promoting relaxation, ashwagandha can be a wonderful allied in helping to restore neurotransmitters and hormonal balance, resulting in a healthier libido.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca root is considered a vegetable and a food staple in the Andean diet for thousands of years. It has also been revered by the Incas for its medicinal properties. According to the ancient tradition, Maca is well-known for its legendary ability to deliver energy, mental clarity and to enhance sex.
Closer to us, western scientists confirm that maca is loaded with minerals like zinc, iodine, and essential fatty acids. We also learn that it may help balance sex hormones and improve mood. A few randomized control trials conclude that Maca could benefit both women and men with low libido. Studies suggest that it may relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances and depression.
In another study, the researchers examined the effectiveness of maca supplementation for remedying sexual dysfunction in women as a result of taking commonly-prescribed antidepressants (SSRIs). Women reported enjoying an improvement in sexual satisfaction, even when taking the highest dose of SSRIs (3 grams per day). Maca’s ability to restore libido in clinical trials - even in the context of chemically-induced sexual dysfunction – clearly supports its traditional use.
Boost Nitric oxide (NOx)
As mentioned previously, nitrates and nitrites found in in fruits and vegetables such as beets and leafy greens increase the production of nitric oxide (NOx) in our body. This simple molecule carries out numerous functions including improving blood flow and thus, oxygenation and nutrient delivery to the tissues. Improved irrigation of our sex organs may help increase sensitivity and sexual response. As a signaling molecule, NOx is also involved in cellular communication, immune responses, bone formation and other aspects of our overall health.
Contrary to the widespread fatalistic and reductionist narrative that our libido is doomed to dim out as we age due to menopause-related hormone deficiency, it is absolutely possible (and desirable) to maintain a healthy and satisfying sex life throughout our whole life.
Our sexual drive depends not only on our ovaries and hormone balance, but also on our cardiovascular system, our brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. Our libido is also under the influence of our psychological state, sociocultural beliefs, interpersonal relationships and our environment. Since our biology and our emotional issues are interconnected and interdependent, we can’t address one without the other.
Women’s sexual function and desire are complex, integrated phenomenon reflecting the overall health status of the individual on every level, as well as our relationship to self and others. To ensure maximum safety and efficacy, adrenal and other glandular extracts should always come from a trusted source which handles them in a way that guarantees their purity and preserves the integrity of their various components.
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