We’ve all been there. Our partner is ready for action right before we’re about to fall asleep and it’s the last thing we feel like doing! And sure, we can attribute it to the demands of children or work, or even an overall inability to relax. But functional medicine practitioner Dr. WIll Cole says there may be more to your low sex drive than just exhaustion. Read on for 12 things that may be killing your sex drive and Dr. Cole’s recommendations on how to fix it!
Millions of people are struggling with a low or no sex drive, and it’s time to talk about it.
I’ve seen hundreds of patients in my functional medicine practice, yet only a few have ever mentioned their low sex drive as a problem. But after a little digging, the naked truth comes out. I hear from women who dread having sex with their partner, and men who can’t get an erection. And these aren’t new problems! In many cases, they’ve been suffering in silence, missing out on what could be a healthy intimate relationship with their spouse.
I’m always blown away by the number of times people learn to live with various health problems, like low libido, either because they think it’s normal or they aren’t sure what to do about it. Just because it’s common, it doesn’t mean it’s normal. As a functional medicine practitioner, I strive to find the root cause of health issues, including low sex drive. And instead of just taking another pill, functional medicine doctors work to find out why there’s a problem in the first place.
These are some of the most common causes for low sex drive that I see in my practice and my recommendations on what to do about them. Maybe there’s something here that will help YOU in your struggle for greater intimacy.
1. Low iron
Iron transports oxygen to the body’s cells, and a common symptom of low iron can be low sex drive. If you’re worried about it, have both iron and ferritin levels tested to see if there’s a problem.
My recommendation: It’s important to find out the cause of low iron levels. Work with your doctor to rule out internal bleeding. If that’s not the problem, eat iron-rich foods such as grass-fed liver or beef, green leafy vegetables and beets. These will start replenishing your iron reserves.
2. Adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue occurs when your brain fails to communicate well with your adrenals. Brain-adrenal-axis problems cause cortisol levels to be either too high or too low, and this can leave you feeling exhausted. You’ll want to eat junk food more than you’ll want to have sex. (Not a good feeling to have!)
My recommendation: Because I’ve struggled with adrenal fatigue in the past, I know how to heal the body. This includes reducing stress, getting better sleep, and incorporating adaptogenic herbs and healing foods in your diet.
3. Sluggish thyroid
If your thyroid hormones are sluggish, there’s a good chance your sex drive will be low.
My recommendation: First, undergo comprehensive thyroid testing. Many underlying thyroid problems aren’t revealed on routine thyroid labs. Once you have answers, visit my list of thyroid health strategies to see what may help you.
4. Gut problems
Your gastrointestinal system is known in the medical literature as your “second brain.” Issues like leaky gut syndrome can weaken the brain-hormone connection, which can also leave you with low sex drive or fatigue.
My recommendation: Start with your diet! (Of course!) Try an elimination diet to see if you react to any specific foods. Or, consider “food medicines” like bone broth and celery juice, which both help gut health.
5. Sex hormone imbalance
Balanced hormones are healthy hormones. When your estrogen, progesterone or testosterone levels are out of sync, you may lose all your interest in sex.
My recommendation: Start with lab testing, specifically a comprehensive sex hormone panel. Suggest that your provider run a blood test as well as a saliva hormone test to see the full picture. If you find that your hormones are low, I recommend incorporating the herbs shilajit and mucuna pruriens in your diet to help balance your hormones.
6. Insulin resistance
High insulin levels can also lead to low sex drive. Insulin conditions such as metabolic syndrome and PCOS can also cause facial hair growth in women, balding and acne as well.
My recommendation: Blood work that includes a fasting glucose and Hgb A1c level reads will determine if you are in fact insulin resistant. If so, I recommend adding the nutrients chromium, NAC and bitter melon into your diet because these can help your body’s insulin supply be more effective again.
The role of medications is frequently overlooked when it comes to low libido. Antidepressants, blood pressure medications, painkillers and antihistamines can be the reason behind low sex drive or erectile dysfunction.
My recommendation: Discuss medications and possible alternatives with your healthcare provider. Or, work with a functional medicine doctor to focus on getting healthy and eliminating the need for medications.
You can be a healthy eater, but if your mind is full of stress, it can obliterate your sex drive.
My recommendation: Mindfulness meditation, yoga and tai chi are some of my favorite stress-reducers. Consider other ways to relax that are helpful for you, whether it’s exercise, music or talking with a counselor.
9. Leptin resistance
Leptin resistance happens when the hypothalamic brain cells are not communicating with leptin, a hormone that comes from fat cells. Leptin resistance has been shown to lower testosterone levels, which can decrease sex drive in men and women.
My recommendation: If your leptin and CRP inflammation levels are high, completely avoid simple starches, refined sugars, grains and fructose. This diet can help your body recover.
10. Low growth hormone
Studies show that high insulin levels reduce the body’s ability to make growth hormone, which can change testosterone levels and cause low sex drive. (See how your hormones are connected?!)
My recommendation: Two herbs I frequently use to support growth hormone levels are Ginkgo biloba and “horny goat weed.” (Yes, that’s its actual name!)
11. Nutrient deficiencies
Did you know that low levels of nutrients, including zinc and vitamin D, can cause low sex drive?
My recommendation: Work with your doctor to find out what nutrients your body is lacking and adjust your eating to make sure you’re getting the ones you need to thrive. Your body and your partner will thank you.
12. Insufficient healthy fats
Healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, ghee and olive oil are necessary for building hormones and supporting the brain’s functions. One study found that people who eat a low-fat diet have significantly lower testosterone levels than those who do not. (That’s not good for your sex life!)
My recommendation: Healthy fats can be your friend! Add them to your diet slowly to wake up your gallbladder, and give yourself time to figure out which fats help you feel your best. Check out my guide on healthy fats for more ideas.
So remember, while it’s not easy to pinpoint what may be causing a low sex drive, there are tests and nutritional changes that you can do to help yourself. Finding the underlying cause and following some of my recommendations will leave you with a healthier body, and you’ll likely also find that you have a healthier relationship with your partner.
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