Loss of libido is a problem that affects many men and women at some point during their lives. It is often linked to stress, tiredness, and relationship issues and can also be a result of some medical problems.
Every person’s sex drive is different, and there is nothing known as normal libido. However, if lack of desire to have sex is troubling you or causing problems in your relationship, you must get help.
What is libido?
Libido is a term used to describe a person’s overall sexual drive or desire for sexual activity. According to the World Health Organisation(WHO), sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being concerning sexuality (1).
Libido can be affected by different factors including medical conditions, psychological problems, medication, hormonal changes, fatigue, stress, and relationship issues.
Factors that affect libido
Numerous things can lower libido including physical, emotional and biological factors. Here are some of the common reasons for low libido –
1. Relationship issues
One of the first things to consider in case of low libido is if you have any relationship problems. Loss of sexual attraction, frequent arguments with your partner, trust issues, poor communication can all lead to loss of sexual desire.
Your doctor may refer you to a relationship counselor in such cases.
Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on your libido. When we are stressed or anxious, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol. Chronic stress can interfere with the hormone levels in the body and lower libido.
Arteries narrow and restrict blood flow in response to stress and this can lead to erectile dysfunction.
Depression is a severe illness that affects every aspect of your life including your sex life. It can change the body’s biochemistry, and this lowers libido.
It is difficult to feel sexual when you are feeling low and sad. The side-effects of anti-depressants can also cause a low sex drive.
4. Sexual problems
Any physical issue that makes sex difficult and unfulfilling can also lower libido. A low sex drive can be a result of ejaculation problems, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, vaginismus, painful sex and inability to orgasm.
5. Alcohol or drug abuse
Excessive amounts of alcohol taken over a long time can lower sexual desire. It can impair the nervous system and lead to fatigue and low sex drive.
Drug abuse can also lead to loss of sex drive. Marijuana suppresses the pituitary gland, which plays an essential role in regulating the production of testosterone.
6. Lack of sleep
Lack of sleep can elevate cortisol levels, which can lower your libido. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, men with obstructive sleep apnea experience reduced testosterone levels (2), and this leads to lower libido.
During another study, one week of sleep restriction for up to five hours a night led to a 10 to 15 percent decrease in testosterone levels (3).
7. Hormonal imbalance
Libido is directly related to testosterone levels. Low testosterone levels cause low libido. There can be many different reasons for lower testosterone levels including injury, inflammation, and tumor in the testicles.
An endocrine disorder, pituitary diseases and cirrhosis of the liver can also cause hormonal imbalance. The liver helps in the break down of estrogen. When the liver fails, the estrogen levels go up, and this causes low libido.
Low sex drive is not an inevitable part of aging, but some men and women experience it as they grow old. During menopause, the estrogen levels suddenly drop, and this makes the vaginal tissues dry.
This condition can lead to intense pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse. Menopause also lowers testosterone, which reduces libido.
Loss of interest in sexual activity is common during pregnancy and after childbirth. This may be because of a change in hormonal levels, exhaustion or body issues.
Birth control pills and other forms of hormonal pregnancy prevention medication can have an adverse effect on a woman’s desire for sexual activity (4).
10. Health problems
Any long-term illness can affect libido. This may be due to the physical and mental strain caused by the disease or the side effects of the medications.
Cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, underactive thyroid and even surgeries like removal or ovaries and womb can lower libido.
Foods that improve libido
Low libido can be enhanced in many different ways. The various options include lifestyle changes, changing the medication that may be affecting testosterone levels, hormonal replacement therapy, and counseling.
Your diet plays a significant role in improving libido. Here is the list of foods that you must eat more of and those that must avoid.
Foods that help
1. Collagen-rich food
Collagen production in the body declines as we age. This condition makes the skin less firm and can lead to looser vagina walls in women and make it difficult for men to maintain an erection.
Collagen levels can be improved by consuming more bone broth and taking supplements that contain bone broth.
2. High protein food
Protein-rich foods like eggs, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised poultry, and grass-fed beef can help increase serotonin and boost mood and libido.
Watermelon is low in calories and rich in libido-boosting phytonutrients. According to a 2008 research, lycopene, citrulline, and beta-carotene found in watermelon helps to relax blood vessels and provides a natural enhancement for revving up your sex drive (5).
Bananas contain bromelain, which helps to increase libido and reverse impotence in men. Studies have shown that bananas improve female hormone levels and improve sex drive (6).
Avocados are rich in minerals, monounsaturated fats, and vitamin B6, which help in keeping your energy and sex drive up. Avocados are also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which help boost mood.
6. Beneficial spices
Certain spices like nutmeg, clove, and saffron are loaded with antioxidants that are great for overall health and libido.
According to a study published in the BMC Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the extracts of nutmeg and clove enhance the sexual behavior of male mice (7).
Saffron has also shown beneficial aphrodisiac effects. According to studies, it improves fluoxetine-induced sexual problems including arousal, lubrication, and pain (8).
Many herbs are also helpful in improving libido. Garlic contains allicin, which promotes blood flow. This quality of garlic helps men with erectile dysfunction.
The smell of basil stimulates the senses. Fenugreek helps regulate poor testosterone levels and can significantly improve libido (9).
Gingko Biloba, derived from the leaf of the Chinese gingko tree is another herb that is helpful in the treatment of antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.
Maca root is also a sexual stimulant that increases sexual desire and decreases sexual dysfunction.
Dark chocolate contains tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin, a chemical that plays a role in sexual arousal (10). Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which is a sexual stimulant.
Foods to avoid
Certain foods and drinks have a hormone-altering effect and can have a negative impact on your libido. It is best to avoid such foods.
Alcohol can have a severe impact on your sexual functioning. It is known to decrease sexual desire, arousal, and sensitivity and is also known to lower testosterone levels.
You can opt for polyphenol-rich red wine instead. The antioxidants in red wine help to increase the blood flow to crucial arousal areas.
Caffeine increases cortisol levels, which can induce stress and lower libido. Though a moderate amount of caffeine can improve testosterone, overindulging can have an adverse effect.
3. Processed and canned foods
These foods contain high levels of sodium, which can elevate blood pressure, which may decrease the flow of blood to sex organs. Processed food can also lead to obesity which is linked to low libido.
4. Microwaveable popcorn
A chemical found in the lining of microwaveable popcorn bags has been linked to lower libido. According to a 2009 study, microwaveable popcorn bags contain perfluoroalkyl acids like PFOA or PFOS which lower sperm count (11).
Sugar creates leptin resistance in the body, and this leads to a decrease in libido. Sugar also has a negative impact on testosterone levels. Decreased testosterone levels directly impact the libido.
Lifestyle changes that can help improve libido
There are a variety of changes that you can make in your everyday life that can boost your libido.
Make sure you exercise every day as it helps in improving circulation. Exercise also helps by increasing the production of sex hormones and endorphins in the body.
2. Reduce stress
Stress raises cortisol levels in the body and this lower your libido. Women are more susceptible to the ill effects of stress on their sex life. Meditation and yoga are some natural methods to reduce stress.
3. Sleep well
Inadequate sleep has been linked to erectile dysfunction. Sleep helps to revitalize your body and releases beneficial hormones in the body. Boost your sex drive by taking naps and eating a healthy diet.
4. Limit smoking
Cigarettes are known as vasoconstrictors. They tend to narrow blood vessels, thus causing damage to arteries and veins. The veins of the penis can also be damaged, and this can hamper sex life.
Supplements to improve libido
Ginseng: The ginseng plant root has been used to enhance vitality and sex drive in both men and women for centuries. It has a positive impact on nerve function and the central nervous system.
Tribulus: Tribulus Terrestris helps treat a variety of sexual problems like erectile dysfunction and infertility in men. It also improves sexual desire in women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
Maca: Maca root helps improve sex drive. Some studies suggest that it improves semen quality and reduce enlarged prostates.
Velvet bean: Also known as Munaca pruriens, velvet bean naturally enhances fertility for men. Velvet bean is also useful in increasing libido in men and women.
Gingko Biloba: Gingko Biloba is effective in treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction in men and women.
Low libido is a common problem that many men and women face during their lives. Different factors like medical conditions, psychological issues, medication, hormonal changes, fatigue, stress, and relationship problems can affect libido.
We can improve this condition in many different ways by making lifestyle changes, changes in diet, and using supplements. Consult with your doctor even if you are opting for natural strategies to improve your sex drive.