Rekindle your libido | Maryon Stewart

Women regard their loss of libido as their lot.  They accept it as part of their fading youth, even if it happens in their late twenties! Our libido levels are most often a well kept secret, and not something we consider an acceptable part of social chit-chat over cocktails.  There are no hard and fast rules about what is a normal level of libido, and is no such thing as a ‘‘normal” sex drive. What is normal to one couple may be abnormal to another.  So you can only judge your libido by your own standards, and if you feel that your sexual desire has diminished, for whatever reason, you will need to take action to restore it.

In our youth, before the responsibilities of life settle on our shoulders, many of us take our libido, or appetite for sex, for granted, never dreaming that anything might influence it.  However, the passionate nights of a new relationship live on in the dreams of most, but only the reality of a few.  Childbirth, sleepless night, the stresses and strains of life and general preoccupation all contribute to a waning sex drive.

Most of us were designed to have a natural interest in sex initially, and for it to continue well into old age.  There are, however, a number of reasons why sex drive can decrease over time, apart from hating the sight of your partner!  Many women continue to love their partners dearly and feel very guilty about sex being an occasional event, and in some cases off the menu completely.  Amazingly, the common denominator is that they accept  that, for whatever reason, their libido has gone for good, and is never likely to return.

In truth, our sex drive does not usually disappear over night, unaided.  Instead the loss of libido, be it sudden or gradual, is likely to be due to a physical or hormonal problem, or mental stress, or indeed any combination.

Causes of loss of libido

  • After childbirth, many women lose interest in sex because of their rapidly changing hormone levels, their disturbed nights and the fact that Mother Nature makes a woman treat her baby as a priority rather than her husband’s needs.
  • Excessive weight gain, weight loss, irregular periods, hair loss or excessive hair growth may all signify hormonal problems which can also result in a low sex drive.
  • Other hormone disturbances like thyroid problems, or galactorrhea, a white milky discharge from the nipples, can cause low libido
  • Sometimes people are put off sex as intercourse becomes painful.  The pain can be due to infection, vaginismus, when the vaginal muscles go into spasm, an enlarged or displaced womb or other hormonal abnormality
  • Hormonal changes at the time of the menopause causing night sweats and insomnia often result in a reduced libido
  • Long-term illness and lack of energy
  • Psychologically distressing past experiences which still haunt you
  • Stress, worry and depression often take their toll on sex drive.  When you are mentally preoccupied with pressing problems the body naturally diverts its energy to helping you through the troubled times and sexual desire may take a back seat.

Unless your diminished libido is linked to a lack of affinity for your partner, which would obviously need to be addressed as a separate issue, it is very often your body’s way of communicating that all is not well in other departments.  Other common symptoms that you are likely to experience along with reduced libido are a lack of vitality and constant fatigue.

Most of us have, hopefully, experienced fatigue after a period of hard and fruitful work, and then noticed a return in our energy after a good nights sleep or a relaxing holiday.  Some of us however, suffer from fatigue day in, day out with no respite, despite the amount of sleep or rest we have.

If we eat an inadequate diet and have several vitamin and mineral deficiencies we are more likely to suffer with low energy levels, fatigue and general lethargy

Many of us  however, experience episodes of fatigue for no apparent reason and, in fact, fatigue is probably the most common reason we visit our doctors.  There is usually a relatively simple solution to lacking energy levels, but this is not always the case.  Fatigue which is persistent, or prevents you from working and requires you making drastic changes to your home life and social calendar, should be regarded as possibly being due to a serious cause.   This also goes for fatigue that is associated with weight loss, fever, significant pain or any other troublesome symptoms.

It is therefore advisable, if symptoms of fatigue persist, to have a thorough check-up to eliminate any serious underlying causes.  In the majority of cases low energy levels are associated with our diet and lifestyle.

Our energy is largely determined by our nutritional status.  If we eat an inadequate diet and have several vitamin and mineral deficiencies we are more likely to suffer with low energy levels, fatigue and general lethargy.  A nutritious diet, plus a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement will help to restore energy and improve health and well being.

At the Natural Health Advisory Service we have found that a programme of diet, exercise and nutritional supplements helps 90% of women get their sex drive back within three months.

The body depends on important vitamins and minerals in order to function properly.  During childbirth and pregnancy significantly increased nutritional demands are placed on our bodies.   Because we lack education about the foods which contain the  important nutrients,  these increased demands  are usually not  met.  Mother nature  makes sure that the  good nutrients cross the  placenta to the baby and go out through the breast milk, and the result at the end of the day is that its the mum that ends up depleted.

We know that the mineral magnesium is necessary for normal hormone function and that B vitamins and the mineral zinc are particularly important in sex hormone  metabolism  and maintaining  your  sex drive.   So it stands to reason that if your diet does not provide you with a constant supply of good nutrients, the body will eventually  stop functioning normally, and your sex drive may well be affected.

By eating plenty of ordinary foods like grains, milk, eggs, meat, chicken, nuts, beans, dried fruit, green vegetables, and fish, in particular oysters which contain extremely high levels of zinc.

It is important to avoid drinking too much alcohol as it tends to knock most nutrients sideways.  Whilst you are trying to consume lots of good nutrients it would defeat the object to wash them away with alcohol.  Try to limit yourself to no more than three drinks per week

If  you are overweight it  is important to get  yourself back into shape.   Apart from the  health benefits of  being trim your  self esteem will improve  and you are likely to feel more desirable. Knowing  what your body can  and cannot tolerate is  fundamentally important for good health anyway.  You might like to obtain a copy of  the  book  called The Model Plan,  which is  published by Vermilion, which will enable you to find the right kind of  diet  for your body and to lose those extra pounds.

In addition to a deficiency of certain nutrients, sometimes other dietary problems can create unbalanced energy levels.  There is evidence in those who have certain types of allergy, that poor energy and fatigue may be some of the associated symptoms.  Intolerance to certain foods seems to be a factor, and this can be suspected if there are symptoms of allergy, including eczema, asthma, nettle rash, migraine headaches and bowel problems including irritable bowel syndrome.  In one study, for example,  allergy to wheat protein was linked with increased complaints of waning energy, fatigue, headaches and bowel problems.

Frantic modern living is also likely to contribute to low energy. Not enough sleep, stress at home or work, lack of exercise and a poor quality diet can all reduce our energy level.

Addressing the problem directly by taking a much-needed holiday, embarking on a regular exercise programme and taking steps to improve your nutritional intake may well be all that is needed to restore your vitality and as a result your libido.

Exercising regularly to the point of breathlessness and losing weight, if you are overweight, can also help raise mood and vitality.  Regular exercise is of great benefit to people of all ages, because it is necessary for the optimum function, structure and preservation of muscles, bones, joints and heart.  Aside from these benefits, exercise boosts our energy levels and promotes circulation.

Cardiovascular exercise, the type that gets your heart rate up significantly higher than your resting rate,  is excellent for boosting energy.  The higher the heart rate, the heavier the breathing becomes,  which means that more oxygen is being inhaled.  The heart and blood vessels become more efficient, therefore their ability to carry oxygen to the cells,  and to carry away waste products is increased.   Oxygen is necessary for living, and the more efficiently the cells can utilize it and dispose of the toxins and waste, the more energy you will have.

Exercise also  helps to increase your basal metabolic rate – or the rate at which energy is used up, plus regular  exercise has a positive effect on our mood as it stimulates the brain to release chemicals called endorphins which improve our mood and we know that  if you are in a good mood, you are more likely to have bags of energy!

Being overweight can lower energy levels, leaving you feeling lethargic to the extent that becomes a persistent problem.  Certain foods can encourage weight gain such as saturated fat and sugar, as well as foods that you are either allergic or intolerant to.  If you have been battling with your weight for years, it is quite possible that your body is fighting against the foods being eaten.  The whole system slows down, in particular, both the digestive system and immune systems. When these are not functioning ‘normally’ you are more likely to be tired and run down.  Once you have found the correct eating plan for your body, it apparently has a normalising effect on metabolism.

Digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome often have a knock on effect on energy levels.  Being constipated is as a consequence of a sluggish bowel.  When the bowels are not working efficiently, toxins build up within the body and can leave you feeling tired, ‘heavy’ and generally under par.  A good diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoiding suspected allergens will improve the condition.

Conversely, diarrhoea can also effect energy because the physical opening of the bowels for long or frequent  durations literally ‘drains’ the body.  Diarrhoea, if persistent can lead to problems of malabsorption, which basically means that nutrients are not being absorbed from the food.  Once again, diet plays an important role, and cutting out foods like dairy and caffeine can have almost immediate results.

Working long hours and not eating wholesome food regularly is likely to make your blood glucose levels fall, which results in symptoms of lethargy.  The solution is not merely to suddenly eat more glucose, as the body finds it hard to adjust to the rapid rise and fall that this causes.  Rather eat wholesome food little and often.  So aim for three good meals, with nutritious between-meal snacks, such as fruit, nuts and raisins, a sandwich with cheese, meat or fish, or rye crackers and peanut butter, which will give a more sustained rise in blood sugar.

All too often people reach for stimulants to boost their energy and make them feel more ‘alive’, but this is a fallacy,  because over-reliance on them can be addictive and destructive to our overall health.  Continual long term use of stimulants, can indeed lead to addiction or abuse, very similar to drug dependency.

Common stimulants typically used in the Western diet are caffeinated drinks, coffee, tea,  cola and chocolate.  Stimulants give us a quick ‘fix’ of energy, in a similar way to sugar.  Soon after the fix, energy levels drop and , another coffee or bar of chocolate is reached for, so the roller coaster continues.

Herbs are sometimes referred to as ‘system boosters’ as they have natural energy boosting properties.  The advantage they have over stimulants is that they are natural,  and provide a more sustained and gradual release of energy.

The herb ginseng is considered to be non-addictive and far safer to use than stimulants, and is  used to reduce the effects of stress, improve performance, boost energy levels, enhance memory, and stimulate the immune system.   It contains vitamins A, B6 and the mineral Zinc, which aids in the production of thymic hormones, necessary for the functioning of the immune system.

Ginseng is an ‘adaptogen’,  which means that it has the unique ability to normalise body functions.  For example it helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which is of particular use in treating diabetes, and lowers  blood pressure if it is too high.  Ginseng’s adaptogenic properties will stabilise the system and return the body to normal levels of activity.

Energy levels often begin to wane prior to the menopause as women become progressively more tired during this time.  This is due hormonal imbalances when oestrogen levels decline and symptoms of oestrogen withdrawal manifest.  Symptoms subside once nutrient levels have been replenished and the body is supplied with naturally occurring oestrogens.  These naturally based plant compounds are called phytoestrogens which and predominately found in soya products, golden linseeds, red clover and to a lesser extent exist in ginseng.  Phytoestrogens reduce hot flushes and night sweats, and help to restore energy and vitality.

St John’s Wort is another herbal product that has been shown to have influential properties of waning libido.  A German study published a few years ago, on a group of 111 women having libido problems before their menopause, showed that 60% o the participants had regained their libido significantly after a twelve-week course of 900 mcg of St John’s Wort per day.

Vaginal dryness, and as a result, painful sex, can become a problem leading up to and during the menopause, when oestrogen levels are falling.  Until recently, the only options available were lubricating or oestrogen creams.  Consuming isoflavone rich foods including soya products and linseeds and taking Promensil, the standardized red clover supplement that contains 40 mg of isoflavones, has been shown to help to alleviate vaginal dryness. In addition, two new products to the market have also shown in clinical studies to maintain the health and integrity of the mucous membranes in the vagina.  The first is Phyto Soya Vaginal Gel made by Arkopharma, which is inserted into the vagina twice a week and the other is a product derived from Sea Buckthorn, a berry bush naturally found in Asia and Europe, called Omega 7, which comes in capsule form and needs to be taken twice daily.

Horny goat weed is a herbal aphrodisiac that has been used as part of Chinese medicine for centuries, and shown to increase sexual interest in both men and women, and tribulus, another herb, is thought to increase the production of testosterone in men, increasing their sex drive.

All this good news means that there is no need to accept falling libido levels as a sign of age.  There is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel if you learn how to meet the needs of your body.

About the author

Maryon Stewart is well known in both the UK and Australia as a pioneer in the field of non drug medicine. In 1984 she set up an Advisory Service specialising in women’s health, which now helps both men and women as the Natural Health Advisory Service. To date she has written 26 popular self-help books, co-authored a series of medical papers, written regular columns for numerous daily newspapers and magazines, had her own radio show, made two films as well as contributing to many TV series, including being the Nutritionist for Channel Four’s Model Behaviour and now she presents The Really Useful Health Show. Her formal training has included preventive dentistry, nutrition, counselling and health promotion and she regularly lectures to both the public and the medical profession. She helps individuals in her clinics and via her telephone consultation service and she is passionate about making a difference through her health promotion work in order to improve health prospects, and as a result make quality of life and relationships more rewarding. In the late 90’s Maryon was voted the 51st most influential woman in Great Britain in a Good Housekeeping survey and in December 2009 she was voted one of the 5 most inspirational women in the UK by Fabulous Magazine. She is the Founder of the Angelus Foundation whose mission it is to make society a safer place for young people. She has already transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world and intends to turn that number into millions.

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