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Rejuvenating Your Sex Drive

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 30 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Both men and women can feel a decline in their libido as a natural part of ageing – hormone levels change, medical conditions and the necessary medications may affect your ability to enjoy sex and a corresponding loss of libido, and your overall mood can also affect your sex drive.

However, it is possible to rejuvenate your libido with a few lifestyle and attitude changes, some natural supplements and in certain cases, appropriate medication.

Normal Libido Levels

It is natural for libido to wane as you get older. While fertile, most women will experience a surge in their sex drives each month around the time they would normally ovulate – this gives a natural, regular boost to your libido. For older women, especially those post-menopause, the drop or stop in ovulation combined with less oestrogen circulating in your body means that there is usually a slight loss of libido.

Oestrogen also acts as a mood elevator, so it helps to stimulate libido and ensure that your brain remains interested in sex; furthermore, it also works at the level of the genitals, increasing sensation and making sex more pleasurable.

Consequently, when oestrogen levels decrease, not only can you suffer a loss in libido but your vaginal tissues themselves can dry up and shrivel, leading to sex becoming uncomfortable – which further discourages you from having sex, setting up a vicious circle.

Another reason women can experience a loss in libido is due to declining testosterone levels. Although only present in tiny amounts, scientists believe that it plays a crucial role in sexual desire and libido.

For men, declining testosterone levels as they age lead to them experiencing a similar loss of libido as women do. In addition, the other changes that come with ageing – such as a loss of muscle mass and strength, chronic medical conditions which may lead to erectile dysfunction (e.g.. diabetes) and decreasing energy levels – all contribute to problems of confidence and self-esteem, which in turn has an adverse effect on libido – another vicious circle!

Finally, for both men and women, libido is not only affected by physical causes by emotional ones too so any stress, anxiety, fatigue or depression will seriously affect your sex drive.

Improving Your Libido

Before considering any medication or supplements, take a look at your life honestly and think about areas that could be changed to improve your overall health. Very often, just by improving your health overall, you will rejuvenate your sex life.

So think about engaging in regular exercise and eating a balanced, healthy diet if you do not already do so. Are you at a healthy body weight? Are you getting enough sleep? If you’re smoking or drinking excessively, stop. Find ways to de-stress, whether this is through a hobby, social activity, listening to music, yoga, meditating, reading…whatever works for you.

Next, see your doctor and check for the following:

  • anaemia (iron deficiency is very common in women) and low thyroid function – both these disorder can affect sex drive
  • depression (anti-depressants can affect libido)
  • medical conditions (e.g.,. diabetes, high blood pressure)
  • low nitric oxide levels and poor circulation

Your doctor may suggest certain treatments, such as:

  • localised oestrogen therapy – applying oestrogen directly to the vagina, via a cream, suppository tablets or a “ring” – this will release a low dose of oestrogen over time which helps soothe the vaginal tissue and improve the lubrication necessary for comfortable sex. These do not have the same cancer risks as oral oestrogen.
  • compounded testosterone cream - again, applied to the genitals to increase sensation.
  • natural herbal supplements – a range of herbs and natural substances have been used for centuries to improve libido and now, scientific research is providing support for their effectiveness.

For example, the Journal or Sex and Marital Therapy (2003) showed that a blend of botanicals (including evening primrose oil, borage seed, Angelica root, vitamin C and E) when applied to the genitals as a massage oil, resulted in increased libido and arousal.

Similarly, another study showed that a nutritional supplement increased libido and satisfaction in more than twice the number of women taking the placebo. Herbs that have been recommended for improving libido include Horny Goatsweed, as Tribulus terrestris, Muira puama, Avena sativa, nettle leaf, Dong Quai, Damiana Extract, Satavri Extract, Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng.

Remember, always consult your doctor before taking any supplements, even if they are derived from natural sources, as you need to be aware of any side effects and of any interactions they may have with other medications that you may be taking.

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