Low Libido

Picture of woman with low libido

Low Libido? Here’s Why You Aren’t in the Mood

You love your partner, but your low libido is causing problems. Between late nights, early mornings, work stress, family obligations, and a million other balls in the air, there is little time and energy left for sex. Relationships change, and sex drive softens as we age… so, it’s perfectly normal, right?

Not necessarily. In fact, some reports suggest that our best love-making years are the ones that may lie ahead of us. A recent survey of 5,000 singles of all ages, ethnicities and income levels across the U.S. revealed that the best sex happens at age 66 for women and at 64 for men. It is at this time that our youthful self-consciousness wears off, communication becomes more comfortable, and greater creativity is embraced. So, if others are having the best sex of their lives as they grow older, perhaps it’s worth considering why you’re not interested in sex at all?

What Causes Low Libido?

There are multiple causes of low libido. These may be physical, cultural, emotional, medical, psychological or due to your relationship with your partner. Some common causes of low libido include:

  1. Hormones
  2. Fatigue
  3. Sleep apnea or lack of sleep
  4. Stress
  5. Sedentary lifestyle
  6. Physical issues

Hormones

One of the biggest influences on libido is our hormones. Hormones affect so many different parts of your body that when one such chemical is out of sync, it can cause a nasty mix of symptoms in many areas. Hormones that specifically have an impact on libido include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Estrogen & Progesterone

When our bodies slow down on progesterone production, it can lead to an estrogen dominance, which causes low libido in women. This can happen naturally during perimenopause, or it can also be brought on by stress, poor diet, and sluggish liver detoxification of estrogen.

Symptoms of a progesterone deficiency can include decreased clitoral sensitivity, vaginal dryness, loss of vaginal muscle tension, as well as more general mood killers like fatigue, weight gain, headaches, and depression. Interestingly, a lack of estrogen can also cause similar symptoms. If any combination of these issues sounds familiar to you, it might be your hormones blocking your path to pleasure. We can help sort them out.

Testosterone

If you’ve always thought testosterone was only important for men, think again. Reduced testosterone levels can have an impact on libido for both sexes.

In women, testosterone is what gives orgasms their oomph, heightening the sexual experience. As you can imagine, low testosterone is going to have the opposite effect, reducing sexual desire and satisfaction. Low testosterone levels in women can also result in lethargy, depression, and muscle weakness. In post-menopausal years, reduced ovarian function and adrenal fatigue can reduce the amount of testosterone a woman produces.

Meanwhile, testosterone levels in men gradually decline with age. Testosterone deficiency in men not only diminishes libido and cause erectile dysfunction, but it can also result in a wide range of other symptoms including anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, poor memory, and reduced muscle and bone mass. Low testosterone levels can now be found in men of all ages. Environmental pollutants, like BPA from plastics, that behave like estrogen can disrupt the normal production of testosterone. Helping your liver with efficient removal of these toxins may help restore normal testosterone levels and libido.

Low Energy

Another one of the reasons people often associate a low libido with aging is due to the decrease in energy that comes with getting older. The same could be said about life after kids. As we age or when we become parents, our sleep patterns are interrupted with more frequent awakenings. If you’re going to bed exhausted at the end of the day or waking up tired, the last thing on your mind is intimacy with your partner.

And as mentioned before, fatigue and lethargy can also be a result of hormonal imbalances in women. You see, when it comes to our bodies, everything is connected, which is why it is so important to think of our health as a whole and not in separate parts. In order for us to get better, we need to identify and treat the cause, not the symptoms.

Having an underactive thyroid can contribute to low energy and low libido. Think of your thyroid like the gas pedal for your body. It regulates the speed that all of your systems run. If it is sluggish, everything slows down, which leads to lower energy, weight gain and low libido because the reproductive organs may produce lower hormone levels.

Lack of sleep

The libido-crushing effects of a poor-quality sleep do not only impact seniors and parents, but feeling sleepy and irritable can happen to the best of us. Those who suffer from insomnia, irregular sleep patterns, who short-change ourselves on sleep or have sleep apnea may also relate.

In one study, sleep apnea was shown to have an impact on testosterone levels in men, which would then lead to lower sex drive.

Stress

Stress can negatively impact sex drive by throwing your hormone balance out of whack. When we’re running at top speed on life’s hamster wheel, we produce an excess of cortisol – our stress hormone. The spike in our cortisol levels can then end up blocking our progesterone receptors. Your body may also deplete your progesterone to turn it into cortisol. The irony is that sex can usually be a huge stress buster. If stress or other emotional factors are killing your sex drive, it may be worth a consult with our resident psychotherapist, Ichih Wang.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Lack of physical activity negatively impacts mood, decreases your energy and endurance, lowers your self-esteem and negatively impacts hormone balance.

Physical issues

There are a number of health concerns that may make intercourse uncomfortable or painful. As a result, there is a negative association with intimacy and a natural aversion to it. Vulvodynia, endometriosis, menopause, vaginismus, chronic yeast/BV or recurring bladder infections can all lead to low libido. Our naturopathic doctors can help address and relieve all of these issues.

Natural Treatments for a Low Libido

1. Get Your Hormone Levels Checked

Our bodies are constantly changing, and the longer we ignore symptoms, the more out of balance we can get. When it comes to conditions brought on by our hormones, there is no reason why we have to “learn to live with it”. Start by getting your hormone levels tested properly in order to identify if an imbalance might be at play. Natural hormone replacement options exist and can help get you back on track to feeling like yourself again. Blood work to assess hormones related to libido should include tests for LH, FSH, estradiol (done on day 3 of your period for women), total testosterone, DHEAs, prolactin, TSH, free T3, free T4, and day 21 progesterone for women.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Sure, “mindfulness” might sound like a cure-all buzzword, but there is a lot of truth to its power. Mindfulness, whether practised through meditation, yoga or other means, helps us to reduce stress. When we reduce stress, we lower our cortisol levels. And as we already know, when our cortisol levels spike, it has a way of messing a lot of things up inside our bodies.

A moment of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By starting each morning with a few minutes alone in quiet reflection, we can set the stage for a better day, and more easily ground ourselves when life begins to get busy. Let’s not forget that a more mindful day can also help lead to a more restful night. According to the Journal of Sex and Medicine, getting just one more hour of sleep per night could increase your libido by 14 per cent. So it’s important not to skip sleep for a healthy libido.

3. Herbs for Low Libido

These are just a couple of the many options to help address low libido in men and women. There are several others. Our Naturopathic Doctors can guide you as to the right herb and the right dose for you.

Maca Powder

Have you heard of Maca before? This interesting Peruvian plant has become a popular natural aphrodisiac and fertility booster, reputed to boost sex drive in both women and men. In one study, men reported heightened sexual desire after taking Maca for 8 weeks. In another study, men and women who took 3g of Maca daily reported an increase in libido, normally diminished by their prescribed antidepressants.

Saffron

This pretty little herb has been proven to safely and effectively improve some sexual problems in women, including arousal, lubrication, and pain. Saffron has shown a positive effect on men with erectile dysfunction as well. In one study, men who took a 200mg tablet of saffron for only ten days showed an increased number and duration of erectile events.

Fenugreek

An extract from fenugreek has been shown to be effective at increasing libido in women after 8 weeks of taking a standardized 600 mg dose. Treatment caused an increase in free testosterone and estradiol, accounting for the increase in libido.

Watermelon

Tasty, refreshing, and full of libido-boosting phytonutrients, a juicy slice of watermelon isn’t just nice to share on a romantic picnic. It also contains various beneficial compounds that have been shown to relax blood vessels and enhance your sex drive.

Yoga

Yoga has been studied and found to be as effective as medication in helping with male sexual dysfunction.

Exercise

Being physically active benefits sex drive through several different mechanisms:

  1. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers there is.
  2. Physical activity can enhance hormone levels.
  3. Even one bout of physical activity can enhance your self-esteem and body image. Feeling good about your body is a good way to bolster libido.

Make time for even 15 minutes per day of physical activity to reap the libido-boosting benefits of exercise.

Are you worried that you’ve lost your mojo? Fear not. We can help you get it back. If you have been experiencing a low sex drive or suspect imbalanced hormones might be at play in other areas of your life, please do not hesitate to contact us at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca. We can help rebalance your system naturally. A low libido can affect your enjoyment of life and your relationships. There is no reason you should have to settle for less.

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

Resources:

http://www.bumc.bu.edu/sexualmedicine/publications/testosterone-insufficiency-in-women-fact-or-fiction/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9766760

https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/87/7/3394/2847341

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472620

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18801111

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25954318

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27130118

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23280545

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19427775

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30283244

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25914334

Hormones: Common Symptoms

picture of glands that produce hormones

Are your Hormones the Cause of your Health Issues?

Have you been experiencing nagging symptoms, affecting your daily life that you just can’t shake? It may be that the balance (or imbalance) of your hormones is the culprit.

Often we think of hormones as only being related to sexual function, but the truth is that a variety of hormones govern all of our body’s functions in some way or another because of the interplay of messages they relay to the body through the glands that produce them.

If you thought that the only hormones we have are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, well, you’d be in a majority. In actuality, a number of other chemicals that we talk about all the time at Forces of Nature are also hormones and have a lot to say in helping our bodies to experience optimal health.

There are several hormones that, depending on their current balance, most readily affect your overall health.

Some common symptoms and their hormones:

Our hormones are like an orchestra.  They play together to synchronize and harmonize our beings to create optimal health patterns throughout the day and night. Their job is to keep us healthy and balanced, physically and emotionally. Sometimes, our modern lifestyle creates habits and workloads that can disrupt our body’s natural ability to control and balance our hormones.

So, when we start to exhibit symptoms that just won’t go away, such as long-term anxiety or stress, brain fog, sleep or weight management issues, mood swings, and long-term shifts in libido, investigating and caring for the glands that produce our hormones could address and solve the root of the problem.

Symptom Glands Associated Hormones
Adult Acne/Cystic Acne Ovaries

Testes

Estrogen and Androgens (Testosterone, DHT, DHEAs, Androstenedione)
Anxiety/Stress Adrenals Epinephrine/Adrenaline, Norepinephrine, Glucocorticoids, Mineralocorticoids,  Cortisol, Cortisone
Concentration Issues/Brain Fog Pineal, Enterochromaffin Cells in the Gastrointestinal Tract, Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Thyroid, Ovaries, Testes Melatonin, Serotonin, Dopamine, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Estrogen, Testosterone, T4/T3
Digestive Issues Thyroid, Pancreas  

Thyroxine (T4), T3, Insulin

 

Libido Adrenals, Testes, Ovaries Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, DHEAs, DHT
Mood Swings Pituitary, Enterochromaffin Cells in Gastrointestinal Tract, Ovaries, Testes Endorphins, Serotonin, Dopamine, Estrogen, Testosterone, DHEAs, DHT
Sleep Issues/Insomnia Pineal, Adrenals Melatonin, Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, Aldosterone, Cortisol, Cortisone
Weight Maintenance  

Adrenals, Adipose tissue, Pancreas

 

Cortisol, DHEA/DHEAs (as a precursor to Estrogen and Testosterone), Leptin, Insulin

How you can help your hormones

Your General Practitioner will have many suggestions to help treat the symptoms you’re experiencing.  But working with your whole health team including our integrative medicine practitioners (naturopathic doctors, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapists & psychotherapist) will yield the greatest benefits because the therapies can complement each other.

For example, your GP might prescribe antidepressants or sleep aids to help manage your symptoms and ‘get you over the hump’ and on your way to recovery. Our Naturopathic and Integrative Health Practitioners will work on utilizing nutrition, supplements, stress reduction, exercise, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, massage and herbs to get at the root cause of the problems you’re experiencing and get your hormones back into balance.

Naturopathic medicine looks extensively at the whole body to determine what is causing your problem.  We often uncover a myriad of issues that all work together to create the person’s current health condition. Hormones often play a role but we also must uncover why they are imbalanced.

What Causes Hormones to Become Imbalanced?

There are a number of factors that may cause or contribute to hormone imbalance:

  • Chronic stress
  • Nutrient deficiencies – particularly vitamins B5 & B6, magnesium, zinc, L-5MHF (active folic acid) and vitamin B12
  • Poor diet – diets high in carbs and sugar provoke the need for plenty of insulin that then creates hormone imbalance
  • Lifestyle – lack of exercise, lack of sleep, working long hours, lack of exposure to sunlight, exposure to artificial light in the evening
  • Environmental pollutants – BPA from plastic, dioxin, PCB’s etc are all endocrine disruptors

How can we help your hormonal imbalance?

Once you’ve had a chance to share with your naturopathic doctor or integrative health practitioner the series of symptoms, situations, and concerns you’ve been experiencing, we can then start putting the pieces together to outline the best options for treatment just for you.

The first set of treatment and care options that your healthcare team will look at are nutrient deficiencies and habit patterns. It’s amazing how many maladies can be remedied when we have greater focus and dedication to providing our bodies with the right nutrition, nutrients, hydration, stress management, exercise, and adequate sleep.

The next set of options could be supplements and herbs. When you’ve begun to line up a more healthy routine of nutrition, exercise, and sleep, supplementation of key nutrients, minerals and herbs could yield even greater results. We have many tools in our toolbox to help get you on the right path to a balanced system, which in turn means a balanced life!

We’re here to help you. If you’re experiencing symptoms that you just can’t beat, it’s a good time to call us to investigate your hormones and provide you with a pathway to health. Our door is always open and your road to optimal health is just a phone call (416-481-0222) or email away.

Hormones Research

Schwartz DH, Romans SE, Meiyappan S, De Souza MJ, Einstein G. The role of ovarian steroid hormones in mood. Horm Behav. 2012 Sep;62(4):448-54. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.08.001. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

 

Lose Weight at Menopause

woman who wants to lose weight

Struggling to Lose Weight at Menopause?  Here’s Why.

What happens at menopause?

Aside from periods stopping, estrogen levels drop, ovulation stops and progesterone levels drop.

How do the hormone changes at menopause impact your weight?

There are a few ways that these hormonal changes can make it tougher to lose weight:

Lower estrogen levels mean that your body doesn’t respond to insulin as well as it used to before menopause. That means that if you eat carbs or sugar, your insulin levels will be higher post menopause than they were pre-menopause. Higher insulin means more fat production and also more inflammation. More inflammation means even more insulin resistance.

Progesterone helps to counter the effects of cortisol (your stress hormone). If you have less progesterone, and in menopause there is very little, then cortisol has a greater effect than it had pre-menopause. We know that higher cortisol increases belly fat.

So, how can we fix this?

I am not an advocate for hormone replacement therapy, bioidentical or otherwise. Menopause is a natural transition away from childbearing years and into golden years. The best approach in my opinion is to:

Adjust your carbohydrate intake accordingly. If you no longer tolerate the same level of carbs due to lower estrogen, it’s best to decrease your carb intake. Plug your daily food intake into an app like MyFitnessPal to get a sense of your total carb intake and where those carbs are coming from and adjust your diet to reduce your carb intake. What is the recommended carb intake? That’s somewhat individual, but you could go as low as 40-60 grams per day if you find that weight isn’t budging. Protein and fat will better serve your new post-menopause metabolism.

Reduce stress and stress inducing exercise. Anything that raises your cortisol level, will have a worse impact than it did prior to menopause.

Cortisol lowering tips:

Exercise: Exercise improves heart function, reduces the fight or flight response to stress, improves ability of tissues to use oxygen and other nutrients, improves self-esteem, and increases endurance and energy levels. The type of exercise is important though. Endurance exercise can become an additional stressor and requires more cortisol production. Short bursts of very high intensity exercise (HIIT training), with alternating days of low level relaxation type exercise like restorative yoga or tai chi is a great combination to maintain muscle mass for calorie burning, but also keep cortisol low.
Relaxation techniques: Gentle stretching, breathing exercises, yoga and visualization induce the relaxation response.
Humour: Laughter helps lower cortisol, even cracking a smile can help.
Social support: spend time with friends and family
Pets: one study showed that cortisol levels are lowest when you are with your pet and highest when you are with your spouse (I suppose it depends on the spouse)
Alone/quiet/down time: The hectic pace and never ending electronic stimulation is an additional stress to your body. Take time to be alone, out in nature, relax by 8 p.m..
Sleep: Don’t forgo sleep. Ensure that you get at least 7-7.5 hours of good quality sleep per night.
Support your Adrenal Glands: They need adequate intake of vitamins C, B5, B6, zinc and magnesium to help you deal with stress as easily as possible. Use of antidepressants, estrogen replacement therapy and birth control pills can all increase the need for vitamin B6 in the body.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

For help to lose weight at menopause, book a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors.