Holistic medicine seeks to treat the whole person and any underlying conditions, rather than just the symptoms that are currently troubling them. So when sex drive is diminished from previous levels, we must look at a broad range of factors to address the cause and treat the problem.
Diminished libido or a decreased interest in sex can be caused by physical or psychological issues or a combination of both. Sometimes the causes are easily identified and treated. When multiple factors are involved, treatment may require a multi-step process with more than one practitioner. Regardless of the cause, strengthening the ‘foundation’ of your body’s health can only help set the stage for optimal wellness and put you on the road to restored libido.
Even those who are not experiencing problems with sex drive may be able to enhance their libido by improving their overall health. As with any subject, knowledge is power. The following article provides information on checking sex hormone levels, outlines options for hormone replacement therapy, and gives information on supplements and foods for boosting libido. High stress, poor nutritional choices, lack of exercise and diminished circulation may contribute greatly to decreased levels of sex hormones that are crucial for libido. Seek out practitioners that can help you in all these areas for best results. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Sex Hormone Testing:
Figure out what is going on physiologically by having your sex hormones tested. You can have this done at our office, at your primary care doctor’s office, or you can do the testing in your own home if you order a saliva sex hormone kit online. With the test results, you can find out which, if any, hormones are too low or too high. This information is what lets you know what is out of balance. When your sex hormones are balanced and brought into homeostasis… that is when the ‘magic’ happens.
Step 2: Treatment Plan:
Once you receive the results, you will need to know how interpret them, isolate the root cause of any deficiencies, and determine a plan to correct any imbalances noted.
Treatment can come in many forms and we will discuss each of these high level.
First Approach: Hormone Therapy:
When deficiencies are identified, your practitioner can then choose how best to supplement that deficiency. There are two approaches:
The first approach is to supplement the actual hormone directly. There are studies that indicate however, that once you start direct supplementation of certain hormones, the body may become dependent upon the supplementation, so make sure you discuss risks and benefits of this with your provider.
There are two main types of hormone supplementation known as HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and BHRT (Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy.
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy):
While beneficial, hormone replacement therapy does come with risks. These risks include serious health conditions including stroke, heart disease and breast cancer, so it is important that you discuss the benefit-to-risk ratio in detail with your practitioner and/or pharmacist before starting HRT. You can also do a little at-home research on drugs.com to help you know some of the right questions to ask during your office visit. HRT is the most common form of hormone supplementation used today and in most cases requires a prescription from your attending MD/DO. HRT can be taken in pill, suppository, injection, gel, cream or even patch form.
BHRT: (Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy):
BHRT is similar to HRT with one key exception. BHRT uses a natural occurring hormone supplementation, thus the term ‘bio-identical’ rather than a chemical compound. BHRT does not have the same myriad of nasty side effects the synthetically created ones do, but do not let that fool you. You should still discuss any BHRT in detail with your physician and understand the benefit-to-risk ratio. Many BHRTs are available over the counter and others will require a prescription from your doctor. Work with your provider to be sure any form of BHRT comes from a reputable compounding pharmacy that obtains their raw ingredients from a quality source. As an example, we do not recommend use of progesterone derived from a soy source. In our opinion, BHRT is preferred over any chemical based hormone or HRT.
Whether HRT or BHRT, please understand hormone balancing takes a minimum of 3-6 months to be optimally effective. Your doctor should re-check your hormone levels once or twice a year to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the replacement therapy. Communication with your physician on how you feel will be important to get the dosage right for your body and to put a good maintenance program in place. Women, in particular, may experience increased hot flashes, temporary weight gain, bloating, night sweats, and other symptoms as the hormones rebalance. Do not be surprised if you experience this as the body resets. When needed, hormone replacement is safe for long term use with routine follow-up testing.
Second Approach: Adaptogens
Adaptogens supplement the body with known natural compounds that stimulate your own production of the sex hormone needed. This is one of my favorites because this is more of a healing approach, kicking your body in gear for sex hormone production. Adaptogens offer more benefits, in my opinion, because the body must do some of the work.
Adaptogens are more often used to increase testosterone levels in men. Women typically need hormone therapy for best results. There are some adaptogen options for women but we typically find hormones to be much faster acting for women, yielding stronger beneficial results.
Here are some examples of adaptogens for testosterone & performance: Maca, Tribulus, Horny Goat Weed, various amino acids, ginseng, immune boosting mushrooms and Long Jack extract. Please seek out a provider who can help you as many of these must be in specific forms to work correctly in the body. There are myriads of products out there not formulated in therapeutic dosage or with the correct form of a specific ingredient. These can be a total waste of your financial resources.
Chinese Rx: Ask your acupuncturist to evaluate your ‘Kidney Qi’ for deficiencies. A trained Oriental Medical practitioner has many prescription tonics and constitutional remedies which offer exceptional benefit for both men and women to restore sex health.
So what about Exercise and Aphrodisiac Foods?:
There is no question that a good healthy exercise regime will help build certain sex hormones, increasing energy and circulation for sexual activity. If you do not already have an exercise plan, try tracking your steps. Shoot for a goal of around 15,000 steps per day. Walking is best. Avoid the physically demanding exercise programs. They are too stressful on your body and joints and can create other physiological issues. Movement to increase circulation and oxygen is key. Please review any new workout program with your physician.
While there are few scientific studies that support the effectiveness of certain foods to increase libido, there’s no harm in experimenting. Figs, bananas, avocados, and chocolate, especially cacao for example, are considered libido-boosting foods, known as aphrodisiacs. These foods may provide important vitamins and minerals that can increase blood flow to the genitals and promote a healthy sex life.
The bottom line is that we are pre-wired to want and need to have sex. So if you are finding your ‘sex drive’ waning, this may be an indication that something functionally is not working correctly. You are not alone in this. This is a process that happens to most of us and can hopefully be easily corrected for you. Have your hormones tested and then find the right therapy or supplementation that works for you. Don’t shy away from having fun! Try aphrodisiacs, regular exercise and taking baths together (with magnesium). Good luck on your new path ahead.
If you are someone that is experiencing painful sex or pelvic pain, this is not normal. Please see me or another practitioner for help.