Fan the Flames

Natural solutions to improve your sex drive

Fan the Flames

If you’re looking to heat things up in the bedroom, simple diet and lifestyle changes can help you find more of what you’re looking for between the sheets.

When you find yourself saying “not tonight” more often than you wish to, your sex drive may need a jumpstart. Identify the things that zap desire. Then try new, natural libido boosters to get your bedroom mojo back.

The lowdown on low libidos

Sex therapist Kelli Young in Toronto says one of the most common questions she receives from clients is whether their libido is up to snuff.

“There really is no ‘normal’ when it comes to sex drive,” she says. We all vary greatly in how hot our engines run, and no two people are exactly the same. Some of us may want to have sex daily, some monthly, and some even less frequently—and that could be perfectly fine! “If you and your partner are satisfied with your level of desire, then in all likelihood your sex drive would be considered normal and healthy.”

“However, if you notice a persistent absence of any sexual thoughts or interest, and you feel particularly distressed by this, it may be a good idea to get support from a qualified health care professional,” says Young.

For many Canadians, a few lifestyle, diet, and supplement changes can help us get back on track in the sack.

1. Balance the hormones

“Sex drive in women is dictated by hormones like estrogen, testosterone and oxytocin, and brain chemicals … like dopamine,” says Dr. Pamela Frank, a licensed naturopathic doctor in Toronto.

Dopamine and testosterone play a key role in firing up a man’s sex drive, too. And whenever these chemicals get thrown out of whack, our libido stalls.

Signs of low testosterone in men include hair loss, extreme fatigue, and increase in body fat, coupled with a loss in muscle mass. For women, a major sign of hormone imbalance is irregular ovulation. “Ovulation increases sex drive,” says Frank. “There’s a biological urge to reproduce when a woman ovulates.”

Eating well is important

Proper nutrition can help bring our hormones back to balance.

  • Stay away from diet extremes, such as very low-fat diets. “Your body needs some fat to make hormones such as testosterone, a hormone that’s essential for sexual drive,” Young says.
  • Prioritize protein. “Protein-rich foods stabilize blood sugar, which helps maintain hormone balance,” says Frank. Try nuts, eggs, legumes, and fish. “They’re a rich source of tyrosine for dopamine production … so they may positively affect sex drive.”
  • Eat foods that nourish the endocrine system, which regulates our hormones and influences our sexual health. Frank recommends anything rich in zinc, selenium, magnesium, and B vitamins, such as kelp or shellfish.
  • Don’t underestimate classic aphrodisiacs. “Oysters are a rich source of zinc,” says Frank. “Chocolate is a rich source of magnesium. And everyone knows that the way to a girl’s heart is through chocolate!”

2. Sweat your way to sexy

We burn approximately three calories per minute during sex. When we’re having difficulties with our bedroom workouts, a gym workout can enhance our sex drive and performance. For example, exercise releases endorphins, which trigger hormones that get us feeling frisky. It also improves circulation, so blood flows down to the areas we want.

An important exercise to squeeze in—pun intended—is Kegels, which work the pelvic floor. “Strong, healthy pelvic floor muscles contribute to improved genital sensation, enhanced sexual pleasure, and stronger orgasms,” says Young. “If they don’t get a regular ‘workout’ they can become weak … and eventually atrophy. This is truly a ‘use it or lose it’ scenario!”

Kegels may improve orgasms and erections for men. And for women, Young says it can help with common menopause-related symptoms that cause discomfort during sex.

3. Address stress, then undress

What happens outside the bedroom can have a profound effect on what’s happening (or not happening) in the bedroom.

Almost a quarter of all Canadians say that most of their days are quite a bit or extremely stressful. Chronic stress throws water on our passion’s fire by blocking the production of sex drive-related hormones. “Get help with the issues that are causing you the most stress,” says Young. Natural remedies include

  • deep breathing, meditation, and yoga
  • aromatherapy with bergamot, lavender, or clary sage essential oils
  • vitamin C, Panax ginseng, and L-theanine supplements

4. Be proactive

If we wait for our sex drive to kick in, we may be waiting a long time. Like a manual car, sometimes we need to get it rolling before the engine starts. “Many of us lead very full, busy lives, so expecting that sex will just happen spontaneously is unrealistic,” says Young.

Young suggests that instead of waiting for spontaneous desire, create responsive desire. Here’s how it works:

  • Schedule date nights to be intimate. Choose a specific date, and block it off in both of your calendars.
  • Get into bed and put your bodies next to each other.
  • Caress each other in whatever ways you each find pleasurable, arousing, and fun. “Your arousal triggers sexual desire and motivation to continue to be sexual,” says Young, “leading to emotional and sexual satisfaction, which in turn contributes to your motivation to have sex the next time—a positive feedback loop.”

Sexy supplements

These natural supplements and sex aids can make for a better romp in the sheets. Remember, always check with your health care practitioner before taking a new supplement.

Nitric oxide

“It acts … to boost blood flow into erectile tissues,” says Lisa Leger, holistic health educator in Parksville, BC. To boost nitric oxide production, try eating beets or taking a supplement.

Natural lubricants

Dryness can make sexual performance difficult, which in turn can make us want sex less. Leger recommends aloe-based lubes.

L-arginine

This amino acid supplement may boost nitric oxide for men and women.

Tribulus terrestris

Both Leger and Pamela Frank, ND, recommend it for boosting testosterone and sex drive. “It’s not instantly effective and would require daily dosing to eventually take effect,” notes Leger. It may be especially effective for postmenopausal women.

Turnera diffusa

“It’s one of the most highly appreciated plant aphrodisiacs,” says Frank.

Tongkat ali

According to Frank, it is used to directly improve libido for women. Studies show it may also help men and women reduce stress.

Light therapy

Research highlights how decreased sunlight in the winter and spring may lower testosterone in men and reduce ovulation in women. As sun levels begin to peak, so do conception rates.

“Not all supplements are created equally,” warns sex therapist Kelli Young. “Look for supplements that … contain clinically proven ingredients. Choose only products that have been licensed by Health Canada.”

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