Sexual desire is hard to define. It not only has a slightly different meaning to every individual, but its force and frequency varies too. The feelings, both emotional and physical, engendered by your sex drive, or libido to give it its Latin name, cannot be standardised into a one-fits-all rule. So how can you know for sure if you have low libido?
Definition of Low Libido
Sigmund Freud borrowed the word libido, the exact meaning of which was desire or lust. He used it to describe a concept of his own theories appertaining to the instinctual energy associated with sexual activity. The word libido is now commonly used as a synonym for the term ‘sex drive’ and low libido therefore applies to when enthusiasm for sexual activity, or even sexual thought, begins to wane. This is not something abnormal or even unusual and is often a temporary blip in an otherwise active sex life.
Over the years it is quite usual for interest in sex to vary and for the libido of partners not to always be in tune, and this is an inevitable part of being in a relationship. When sexual interest and desire disappears for a lengthy time, it is advisable to discover exactly what’s going on to cause an absence of what has formerly been a healthy sex drive.
Causes of Low Libido
Loss of sexual desire can be caused by underlying health issues, both psychological and physical. In finding a way of treating low libido it is necessary to establish the underlying issue. Here are some of the common causes:
Bad Food Choices
Regularly choosing to eat foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar and simple carbohydrates will gradually clog your arteries, inhibiting your blood flow to the areas needed for a vigorous and satisfying sex life. These foods include confectionary, pastries, high-fat dairy products, fast-foods including burgers and fried chicken and processed meats. Drinking too much alcohol is also a bad choice for your libido. One or two drinks can help you relax and lose inhibition but one too many has the effect of diminishing your ability to perform even if you still feel like doing so.
When suffering from depression many of life’s pleasures are put on hold and sex is no exception. Depression or low mood are conditions where medical support is very necessary to help you over a challenging and debilitating illness.
Certain medications prescribed for depression may cause the side effect of further reducing libido, particularly during the early stages of use. These drugs include the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors such as duloxetine (Cymbalta) and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft). If you are taking these medications and have noticed a reduction in your libido, this side effect may ease after a while. If not, your doctor may be able to adjust the dose or change your medication.
Low Self-Esteem or Self-Image
Sometimes in life things happen to cause self-esteem and confidence to reduce. This may be due to appearance, or it may be more pertinent to how you feel about your own worth or personality and magnetism to others. Extreme weight loss or gain can have a big effect on deep-down feelings of sexual attractiveness, and this can have the knock-on effect of making you fight shy of thinking of yourself as desirable to the opposite sex. This is almost always unfounded as sexuality is down to many other things than a few pounds of flesh here and there, but when in this state of mind, it’s very hard to be convinced enough to shake off those inhibitions.
Trauma such as bereavement, divorce, loss of job and resultant financial struggles are amongst the things which can have a big effect on libido. They can shake self-confidence to its roots and climbing back to that place where self-esteem is once more restored can take a while, but with patience and support it can be done and it is important to know that what you are feeling is not for ever.
Help is available for anyone struggling with low self-esteem and reaching out to take advantage of this help is the first stage in regaining the courage to make positive changes in your life. The NHS give excellent advice on their website to anyone needing support with low self-esteem and they have a helpline to find councillors local to you who can either be contacted direct or via a GP referral. When you have learned the technique of banishing these demons, your libido may well be restored to its normal state of health.
Emotional Effects of Low Libido
A reduced sex drive can have an upsetting impact on your emotional health and if not dealt with can lead to various physical and mental side effects such as erectile dysfunction (ED). It can also cause anxiety about sexual activity with the result that you may develop a tendency to avoid intimacy which could lead to relationship issues.
Muscle building, bone mass and the production of sperm are all dependent upon testosterone. It also plays a part in the strength of sexual interest and activity, so if you have low testosterone, it could also be a contributory factor to low libido.
Decreasing testosterone levels are a natural part of ageing but normally this happens gradually and there is no sudden diminishing of the libido.
Testosterone deficiency (TD) has very specific clinical signs and symptoms according to guidelines published by the British Society for Sexual Medicine. If you have reason to believe these are relevant, then it’s important to seek medical verification and advice. It is possible to take medication or supplements to increase your testosterone levels.
Home-testing kits are available for checking your testosterone levels.
From clinical studies on young, healthy men it has been found that sleep problems can result in impaired testosterone production. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, men of a healthy weight but who suffered from sleep apnoea were prone to lower testosterone levels which could lead to a lowered libido.
Too much alcohol is linked to a lowering of testosterone production and eventually this will have the effect of lessening your sex drive. The NHS recommend that you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across 3 days or more. That amounts to six medium glasses of wine or six pints of beer. They state that sticking within these guidelines lowers your risk of harming your health.
Alcohol Change UK have a unit calculator app to help you work out how many units you drink.
The Right Amount of Exercise
Findings of research into exercise and how it can affect sexual desire and arousal have found that regular exercise may lessen your risk of obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, all of which are illnesses linked to low libido.
Moderate exercise has been found to reduce cortisol levels and reduce stress and this can increase sex drive.
A study has found that high levels of prolonged and intense endurance training on a regular basis is significantly associated with a decreased libido score in men, to the point where doctors who treat male patients for sexual disorders or couples for infertility problems are advised to consider the degree of endurance exercise training the man is doing as a complicating factor.
During periods of ill health, you are unlikely to be much interested in sexual activity and when suffering with pain or certain chronic illnesses your sperm production is reduced. There are certain illnesses that are known to sometimes reduce libido, some of these are:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Diabetes UK make the very good point that because you have diabetes it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have problems with sex, and if you do, the problems may be temporary and can be managed.
- If your blood sugar levels have been consistently high for some time, this may have resulted in damage to nerves and blood vessels. This is called neuropathy and it affects various parts of the body, particularly the extremities but also it could affect blood flow to your sexual organs. This can cause a loss of sensation in the areas affected and lead to erectile dysfunction.
- You may be concerned about the effects of fluctuating blood sugar in connection with sexual activity in case the exercise involved causes your blood sugar levels to dip. This is a valid concern, particularly if you have also had alcohol, and it may sometimes result in you having a hypoglycaemic episode (hypo). This is when your blood glucose levels become too low. It’s a good idea to know how to deal with a hypo, and Diabetes UK have excellent guidelines, advice, and support on their website.
- High Cholesterol
- An excess of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your bloodstream can cause plaque to form in the arteries and this blocks free blood flow. If these circulatory problems reach the sexual organs they can result in erectile dysfunction. High levels of cholesterol have also been found to reduce testosterone production and as this is the main male sex hormone this can inhibit feelings of sexual desire.
- Commonly prescribed medications for reducing cholesterol can also have the side effect of erectile dysfunction. However, much can be done to reduce your cholesterol levels and boost your circulation naturally with certain lifestyle changes. You may find our blogs on cholesterol and circulation helpful.
- Heart Failure
- Your cardiologist or care team will have given you information on when it is safe to resume your sexual activity following treatment or surgery but if you feel uncertain and this is causing anxiety, you may find information and advice from the British Heart Foundation helpful. They also answer many of the questions on how cardiology issues are likely to affect your sex life and libido.
There are ways to still enjoy intimacy despite suffering with these chronic conditions. Advice and information available here.
Certain drugs are known to lower testosterone levels and thereby result in a lowered libido:
- Medication used for lowering blood pressure, such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers can potentially compromise erection and ejaculation.
- As already mentioned, certain antidepressant medication can have the effect of lowering testosterone
- Cimetidine which is taken to control gastroesophageal reflux may be a culprit
- Anabolic steroids taken by athletes to boost muscle mass may also be responsible for lowering testosterone
- Drugs used for chemotherapy
- Hormone medication used to treat prostate cancer
It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor if you suspect that your drugs may be responsible for low libido issues. There may be the option to find a different medication.
Tips on Boosting Libido
You may wish to try some of these natural self-help tips on boosting your libido:
- Make a few changes in your routine to help yourself get more sleep
- Tap into stress management; meditation and yoga are very effective
- Revise your diet to include healthier choices
- Certain foods are known to increase blood flow to the genitals; some of these are figs, bananas, avocados, watermelon, and asparagus
- Dark chocolate releases the chemicals phenethylamine and serotonin, both of which may have aphrodisiac and mood enhancing properties
- Limit your alcohol consumption – too much can inhibit your ability to orgasm
- Use evidence-based natural supplements
- Work on boosting your self-confidence. This link includes an audio tutorial by an NHS doctor giving excellent advice to anyone needing to boost their self-esteem.
- Strive for better communication and trust with your partner
Natural Remedies for Enhancing the Libido
Claims that certain foods have magical aphrodisiac powers are rarely borne out by scientific study, yet in many cases the foods heralded as libido boosting do contain the properties needed by your body to supply the functions needed for sexual performance, so this is most probably where their reputation originates. The functions needed to allow you to have an active and happy sex life are a robust nerve system, healthy hormone levels and a free-flowing bloodstream to the genital areas. The other important aspect of a healthy libido is an active mind. Keeping these faculties running smoothly is greatly dependent on having the right nutrients, enough sleep, managing stress and nurturing feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem.
In terms of good nutrition, your diet should include complex carbohydrates with legumes and wholemeal grains. Fruits, including citrus with vitamin C for strong blood vessel walls, lots of leafy green vegetables and a moderate amount of lean protein. Dried fruits are good for iron stores.
Zinc is important for sexual function and in particular the production of sperm. It is found in foods such as seafood, especially oysters, meat, poultry, liver, eggs, milk, beans, nuts and whole grains. The reputation of oysters as an aphrodisiac is no doubt due to its special nutritional value.
Things to avoid are saturated fats because they cause atherosclerotic build-up in the blood vessels. Once circulation is slowed by blockages in the blood vessels there are problems of erectile dysfunction because the penis is unable to respond even when messages from the sex-drive hormones are being sent. It should be stressed however, that this is by no means the only cause of erectile dysfunction.
Alcohol and nicotine are bad news. For men who drink heavily, alcohol can cause impotence by shrinking the testes. Nicotine causes the formation of plaque in the blood vessels causing them to constrict.
Herbs and Supplements for Revitalising the Libido
Vajikarana, the area of Ayurvedic medicine that deals with sexual health and reproduction, uses certain formulations of natural compounds to help enhance libido. The wisdom of this ancient practice is based on treating the brain’s hypothalamus and limbic functions. The hypothalamus is a tiny part of the brain with big responsibilities such as releasing hormones and managing sexual behaviour as well as regulating body temperature, controlling appetite and initiating emotional responses. The limbic system encompasses areas of the brain responsible for coordinating and controlling how you process emotions. Such things as anger, fear, happiness, and love are managed by your brain’s limbic system.
One of the tried and trusted herbs used for many centuries of Ayurvedic medicine to boost libido is ashwagandha root. The botanical name of ashwagandha is withania somnifera, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. Ashwagandha has been used for over 3000 years for its sedative and rejuvenating powers. It is often used as an energy-enhancing tonic and is believed to be helpful in the treatment of certain psychosomatic conditions, improving tissue vitality, physical and mental strength as well as neuromuscular ability. Based on these properties, Ashwagandha was chosen as the trial drug in a clinical study into psychogenic erectile dysfunction.
Our award-winning KSM-66 Ashwagandha capsules are sourced from India and extracted only from the root of the plant. KSM-66 is the highest concentration full-spectrum root extract on the market today and this supplement retains all the natural constituents of the herb, maintaining its original balance. Our extraction process has resulted in KSM-66 having a full-spectrum extract of very high potency.
According to a Chinese study, the findings of which were published in the journal Spermato Genesis, Ginseng has shown a positive correlation between treating sexual behaviour and dysfunction as well as enhancing libido and sexual performance. These effects have been confirmed in case-control studies with human participants. Ginseng, a favourite aphrodisiac held in great esteem in traditional Chinese medical practices, has also been found to improve sperm quality in healthy men as well as those being treated for infertility. These results are attributed to ginsenosides, the active components of ginseng. Our Panax Korean Ginseng Extract capsules are standardised to contain a minimum of 80% ginsenosides.
The botanical name of Maca is lepidium meyenii, sometimes also known as Peruvian ginseng. With a long history of medicinal and culinary use in its native Peru, it can be found growing in harsh climatic conditions and at high altitudes in the Andes. Maca is of the same family of vegetables as broccoli, kale and cauliflower so is classed as a cruciferous plant but its libido boosting properties come from the dried root. Based on a study consisting of a twelve-week double blind placebo-controlled, randomised, parallel trial where different doses of maca were compared with a placebo, the study concluded that, notwithstanding peripheral circumstances such as depression, anxiety or testosterone levels, that maca conclusively improved sexual desire. Peruvian Maca Root Extract is available as a supplement in capsule form.
L-Citrulline raises nitric oxide in the blood and this helps to relax hardened artery walls. This lowers blood pressure and increases blood flow throughout the body. L-citrulline is found in watermelon but you would have to eat a great deal of watermelon every day to get enough to help on a regular basis. L-Citrulline is available in powder form.
This dietary supplement contains a blend of eight natural and powerful ingredients with proven ability to support men’s health, particularly stamina and increased libido.
Natural Viagra Alternatives
We offer two products that are the ideal choice for those wishing to find a natural alternative to the pharmaceutical drug sildenafil citrate (Viagra):
- Zuyosa Vitality Capsules have been expertly developed blend of eleven powerful natural ingredients, Zoyosa is a highly effective supplement for counteracting the problems experienced by those struggling with ED. It may assist in the improvement of sexual desire as well as building confidence.
- Viapro™ capsules are natural and formulated from herbal ingredients including Maca, Ginseng, Ginger, Zinc and Vitamin B6. This blend is designed to optimise your sexual vitality by increasing arousal and stamina.
Take Time to Improve Your Relationship
Most people have spells in their lives when they experience a loss of sexual desire, and sexual activity becomes less frequent. This may be due to many different things, including being very tired and stressed or sometimes the relationship may be under strain with conflict causing a rift between two people who once had a more loving attitude to one another. Sometimes it can even be due to a couple having been together for a very long time and becoming very used to each other. Whatever the cause, there are things that can be done to help put things right and by focusing on improving the relationship, it is often possible to bring the magic back.
Open and honest communication can work wonders to banish bottled-up feelings and inhibitions that may even prove to be completely unfounded once they are openly discussed. Make a pact to plan special nights out together, as you may not have done for a very long time. Find an activity that is new to both of you and give it a go. You might discover a whole new side to your partner and something that you can both enjoy sharing. Mainly, set aside special times to be together, where you just concentrate on each other and give thought to what might make your partner happy. It could just happen that in trying to please them, you also find that you are feeling much more sexually alive yourself
The libido is a complicated mixture of both psychological and physical components. It is quite possible to improve your sexual feelings and responses by enhancing the emotional side of sexuality even if you are struggling with a physical condition that affects your libido. Sex therapy, although you might initially find accepting the idea difficult, is something that can be highly effective in helping to dispel negative thoughts and lead to a better understanding of what may be contributing to reduced feelings of sexual desire. Relate offer various ways, some via the internet, of getting some help with relationship and sexual issues.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932.