It’s natural for your sex drive to fluctuate depending on hormonal changes and what’s going on in your life, but if it has been a constant struggle to desire and enjoy sex, it may be time to take a deeper look into your lifestyle and how you manage life’s curve balls.

Chronic stress, depression, physical activity level, sleep deprivation, food choices, and relationship struggles are just a few of the several elements that affect your gut and vaginal health and altogether directly or indirectly play a role in your sex life; which leads me to sharing my 3 keys to GREAT sex:

  • Manage your lows in life
  • Nourish your gut and vaginal microbiome 
  • Consume aphrodisiac foods

Before we really dive into these, it is important to note that even if you improve your lifestyle in a variety of ways, boost your gut and vaginal microbiome, and incorporate aphrodisiac foods into your diet, it all may not be quite enough… post-partum issues, medical conditions, medications like anti-depressants, birth control, or antibiotics, and having low levels of estrogen can reduce libido and lubrication and promote discomfort/pain during sex. Getting your sex life back can be a tricky process for some and seeking medical advice may be a necessary option. If you’re not sure where to begin, reach out to your primary care doctor, check out the Integrative Women’s Health Institute, for a list of Women’s Health providers specific to your needs and/or reach out to me (I am also certified by the Integrative Women’s Health Institute)! Don’t suffer any longer – You and your sex life deserve health and happiness!

Now, on to these 3 keys…

  1. Manage Your Lows & Take Care of Your Relationship

I have a few elements listed below to give you an idea of how they affect your sex life and ways to better manage them:

  • Stress and anxiety: chronic stress and anxiety can reduce your libido and physical arousal. When stress and anxiety hit, cortisol increases at the expense of your sex hormones – meaning byebye desire. Try to recognize your triggers and find ways to either remove them or better manage them and utilize the 4-7-8 breath Relaxation Exercise throughout your day as a stress reliever and relaxation tool. The more you can do to bring your cortisol level down, the better!
  • Blues and depression: women are twice as likely as men to experience major depression and it puts quite a damper on our energy level and sexual desire. If you are seeking non-medicated ways to get through your rough patches, try most, if not all of these, 7 coping techniques DAILY. Quick side note: it is common to not feel motivated until about half-way through… so don’t give up, you got this!
  1. Find a small way to serve someone – it’s always a gratifying feeling to be able to help others.
  2. Set at least 1 realistic, but slightly challenging goal for the day. Feeling accomplished helps to boost spirits!
  3. Schedule a 30-minute block of time to do something you enjoy.
  4. Practice self-compassion – you are your own worst critic and being a negative Nancy will only keep you down! Remind yourself to treat yourself like you would a good friend or family member and turn your negative criticism into constructive criticism. 
  5. Do not isolate yourself – surround yourself with those who bring you up and have a good conversation! Whether it be face to face or over the phone, that social interaction is important for your mental health. 
  6. Get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to help boost mood, balance hormones, reduce stress, increase energy, and support immunity to ignite libido, reduce dryness, and fight off illness, disease, and infections! 
  7. Although it can be a real struggle when you’re feeling down, make healthy food choices as often as possible and exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days/week. A poor diet is associated with an increased risk of depression, whereas a healthy eating pattern is associated with a good mood and higher energy level. In regards to exercise, besides it also boosting your happy hormones and sex hormones, it increases blood flow to your lady parts, which can increase desire and lubrication. However, beware of too much exercise! Training for strenuous events like a marathon can tank libido and possibly cause pain during sex because it tightens your lady part muscles and over-exerts your body mentally and physically. 
  • Strengthen Your Self-Love: Consistently support your psychological, spiritual, and physical health (it’s more than just exercising) for the sake of your sex life! Truly loving yourself, your body, and taking care of yourself in the ways you need are important – not doing so can lead to physical and mental health issues and can negatively affect your relationships with everyone, especially yourself. Learn ways to strengthen your self-love to encourage a healthy libido and work/life/self balance here
  • Reunite and Strengthen the Relationship with Your Significant Other: 2-way communication and frequently spending time together are key to a long-lasting healthy relationship and enjoyable sex life. Life can get busy with work, daily tasks, kids, family members, and personal schedules, making it easy to push off or even forget about the importance of spending time with your significant other. Not making time for each other can promote some serious relationship problems like lack of emotional closeness/connection, reduced communication of sexual desires, an increase in conflicts, and even trust issues – all things that can negatively affect libido and your sexual relationship. 

Here are some ideas to spend more time together throughout the week and weekend to naturally improve your bond: 

  • Reconnect through each other’s love language
  • Read the same article or book and talk about it
  • Daydream together
  • Make meals together
  • Go to bed together without screens
  • Have fun with date night boxes in the comfort of your own home or follow the adventure wherever it takes you
  • Exercise together
  • Set personal and joint weekly goals together
  • Schedule weekly or bi-weekly date nights (just you 2)
  1. Nourish Your Gut and Vaginal Microbiome

Are you familiar with the “gut-vagina-axis?” Oh yes, it’s a real thing! Having a healthy gut plays a significant role in your sex life and affects your vaginal health. 

What negatively influences your gut health? 

  • A multitude of factors such as poor food choices and alcohol, toxins in our everyday products (endocrine disruptors), smoking, physical inactivity, chronic stress, medications, and inadequate sleep.

An unhealthy gut can be the root cause of many health issues such as gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or diverticular disease related to stress, inflammation, low microbial diversity, etc. and also weight gain due to a disrupted metabolism and pathogen invaders. The health of your gut microbiome also influences your mental health via the gut-brain-axis, which can affect serotonin levels (~95% resides in your gut) and your risk of developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related conditions. Battling gut disorders and mental health conditions all contribute to low libido, reduced response to physical stimulation, discomfort/pain, and even sexual health dysfunction, so improving your gut microbiome through foods and probiotics could make a big difference for you – but where to begin? Like most things in life, it’s a process. You need to heal your gut first before you can effectively support it. The most powerful healing process for your gut entails analyzing your inflammatory-inducing food and beverage choices, getting rid of pathogens and toxins camping out in your gut, learning how to restore your gut health and immune system, and lastly nourishing it to avoid problems in the future. Sounds intense, right? It is. But, I can guide you through it if it’s of interest to you to not only improve your sex life, but your overall well-being because as you can see, your gut health is basically connected to everything – including your vaginal health and it’s obvious role in sex!

Your gut and vagina share Lactobacillus bacteria and low levels of that good bacteria in the gut can encourage bad bacteria like strep, E. coli, and candida to over populate, travel to the vaginal canal, and develop infections. Your vaginal microbiome is not very diverse and the primary beneficial bacteria that makes up over 90% of your vaginal microbiome is the Lactobacillus species. Lactobacilli bacteria work very hard to protect the vagina against infection, disease, and cancers by maintaining an acidic environment, so avoiding chronic imbalances is crucial for a healthy sex life, not to mention your overall health.

Besides the well-being of your gut, several other factors can disrupt your vaginal microbiome like menstruation, perimenopause-menopause (lowered estrogen level), sex, lubricants, medications like antibiotics or birth control, tampons, and personal hygiene products. Disruptions in your vaginal flora are associated with low libido, dryness, a higher risk of developing bacterial vaginosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, and an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Additionally, pelvic muscle tension and pelvic floor dysfunction can also induce discomfort/pain during sex, which can take quite the toll on desire and sexual arousal. 

Fortunately, there are several options to choose from to support your gut and vaginal microbiome; but keep in mind, in order to effectively support your gut health, you need to slash that inflammation and heal it first. Here are some recommendations:

Gut Health

Vaginal Health

  1. Incorporate Aphrodisiac Foods

The term “aphrodisiac” originates from the Greek Goddess of love, Aphrodite, and refers to any substance that enhances sexual desire, pleasure, or performance. Foods that end up on the aphrodisiac list may not have hard evidence to support their effectiveness, but there is “a scientific explanation as to how they can potentially increase sexual drive, mostly due to the chemicals [they] can help stimulate or vitamins and minerals that can potentially stimulate feelings of arousal.” Aphrodisiac foods and herbs may or may not work for you, especially if you have endothelial damage, but there’s certainly no harm in testing these foods out to liven up your sex drive! You may notice several of these foods relate to testosterone production – it’s not a mistake! Females need adequate testosterone for a good sex drive and to regulate estrogen levels. 

  1. Strawberries (high in zinc which stimulates testosterone production & increases lubrication & is also high in Vitamin C which can increase libido)
  2. Pineapple & Bananas (contain bromelain which stimulates testosterone production)
  3. Watermelon, Onions, & Garlic (rich in citrulline which is converted to arginine and then to nitric oxide, which increases blood flow)
  4. Pomegranate (stimulates testosterone production)
  5. Artichokes (rich in magnesium to stimulate sex hormone production)
  6. Arugula, Kale, Spinach, Beets, Celery (high in nitrates which converts to nitric oxide to increase blood flow)
  7.  Spicy chili peppers (stimulate release of dopamine & endorphins = pleasure, stress-relieving, positive mood)
  8.  Oysters (high in zinc which stimulates testosterone production & increases lubrication)
  9.  Pine nuts, Walnuts, Almonds, Brazil nuts, Pistachios (rich in arginine that converts to nitric oxide to increase blood flow)
  10.  Honey (contains boron which stimulates testosterone production & contains nitric oxide to increase blood flow)
  11.  Chocolate (contains tryptophan which is necessary for serotonin production & stimulates release of dopamine = happiness, pleasure, & sexual arousal)

 

As you can see, there are many potential reasons your sex drive is not where it used to be, but there are several ways to improve it and your whole body’s health should be taken into account. If you would like more resources and guidance to achieving optimal gut health and wellness, click here to get started now !

Yours in health and wellness,

Lindsay Pennington

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