Between the Sheets

If your bed has seen about as much action as an abandoned monastery lately, these steps can help.

Between the Sheets

We’ve all had dry spells. But there’s a big difference between no sex due to circumstance (e.g. not finding someone swipeable on Tinder) and no sex due to flagging sex drive (e.g. saying “not tonight” more often than you’d like). If you’ve got the lover but not the impulse to make love, it’s time to do two things: 1) Identify the things that zap desire, and 2) Try new, healthy tactics to get back to your sheet-tangling ways.

The lowdown on low libidos

Sex therapist Kelli Young 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,” says Young. “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.”

For many Americans, 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 Pamela Frank, ND.

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, 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.”

Your plate could be the start of a home run

Proper nutrition can help bring our hormones back into balance.

  • Stay away from diet extremes, like 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 and legumes. “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.

2. Sweaty times lead to sexy times

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 starters, 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 Kegels 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.

Seventy-nine percent of American adults say they frequently or sometimes feel stressed in their daily lives. 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 approaches include

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

On top of reporting high rates of stress, nearly half of Americans say they don’t have enough time to do the things they want. “Many of us lead very full, busy lives, so expecting that sex will just happen spontaneously is unrealistic,” says Young. She suggests that instead of waiting for spontaneous desire, we can create responsive desire by scheduling date nights to be intimate. Choose a specific date, and block it off in both of your calendars. When that date rolls around, get into bed (no excuses!) and take your time to build to a sheet-tousling conclusion.

Sexy supplements & more

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

“Not all supplements are created equally,” warns sex therapist Kelli Young. “Look for supplements that … contain clinically proven ingredients.”

Nitric oxide

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

L-arginine

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

Panax ginseng

Ginseng has been used for centuries in China to boost energy, improve general health and banish bedroom blues, and recent research suggests that’s sound. Compounds called ginsenosides worked to increase blood flow to gonadal tissues and the central nervous system in male subjects.

Maca

Lepidium meyenii, also known as maca, is a Peruvian plant that has shown promise in studies for improving sexual function for both men and women. The plant, used as food for both humans and animals, is well tolerated and has few reported side effects.

Natural lubricants

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

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. Those summer nights deserve all the harmonies and key changes they got in Grease!

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