Article by Dr Marilyn Glenville
Low libido? Don’t worry; your sex life doesn’t have to stop after the menopause. In fact, you might enjoy yourself more than ever! We asked Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of Natural Solutions to Menopause, who specialises in women’s health and menopause to explain, why our libido drops and how to get back it the mood again.
Not tonight, darling
Many factors can cause a drop in sex drive and these can include tiredness, stress, depression, too much alcohol and low thyroid function so see if you need to take action to make changes in any of these areas.
Also think about your relationship; is it fundamentally good and it is just that your sex drive seems to have diminished or do you feel that there are underlying issues that need to be resolved?
One other important issue for a good sex life is your general health. Women who are in good health are more likely to be sexually active compared to those of the same age in poor health. Those in good health are nearly twice as likely to report an interest in sex than those in poorer health, so it pays to look after yourself not only for your general health but your sexual health.
Your sex drive may be low because intercourse is painful due to vaginal dryness and many women I see in the clinic have almost developed a phobia to sex, tensing up every time they have intercourse because it hurts so much.
And finally, your low libido can be caused by the change in hormones since the menopause. Oestrogen production is low after the menopause but testosterone can also be reduced. It is thought of as a ‘male’ hormone but women do produce it, thought in much smaller amounts than men, which for some women reduces at the menopause to a low enough level to affect sex drive and reduce motivation and the feeling of ‘get up and go’.
Ways to keep the spark alive after the menopause
- If you don’t feel healthy, it’s extremely hard to feel sexy. So, as a first stop, make sure you eat a healthy diet. Eat or take a supplement of healthy Omega 3 fats, which come from oily fish and eggs. Fats are important for overcoming low libido because sex hormones (such as testosterone) are manufactured from the cholesterol contained within those foods. Also fats will also help to keep tissues like the vagina lubricated and soft.
- Certain nutrients and herbs can be extremely helpful if your sex drives needs a boost. Zinc is essential for hormone balance and sex drive, hence the old wives’ tale of using oysters (which contain high amounts of zinc) as an aphrodisiac. The amino acid l-arginine is important for good blood circulation in those areas, which are important for a healthy sex life. Vitamin B3 helps to reduce fatigue if you feel too tired to have sex. Try NHP’s Libido Support (www.naturalheallthpractice.com, £27.77). This botanical combination contains herdamiana, maca, l-arginine, Siberian ginseng, n-acetyl cysteine, l-histidine, vitamin B3, ginger and rhodiola to increase energy levels, protect against stress and improve sexual performance.
- Depression is another major inhibitor of sexual desire. Try to understand why you are feeling low, so that you act appropriately when low feelings come. If you feel you can’t cope alone, reach out for the support of family and friends or see your doctor for referral to a counselor.
- Get a good night’s sleep. When you are tired your sex drive is usually the first thing to go. The bottom line is that you can survive without sex but you can’t survive without sleep.
- Sex begins in the head – in a way it’s an idea that overtakes you. Your body’s physical reaction follows. A key part of starting that sexual idea is setting the mood and romantic music can help, as can low lighting, a candlelit bath, or your favourite romantic or raunchy film. If you haven’t felt sexy for a while, touching yourself can also be a way to reconnect with your body as a sensual, sexual pleasure. Once you’re back in touch with your own desires it can be easier and less daunting to connect with your partner’s.
- If you feel you haven’t got time for romance, make time. Give it a higher priority in your life. However busy or stressful your life gets, try to make sure that you have some ‘couple time’ where you can unwind together and talk about your day. And plan regular meals out, cinema trips or weekend breaks so that the two of you get some special time together away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life.
- Cut out the libido-lowerers: smoking, recreational drug use, and alcohol, which have all been shown to lower sex drive.
- Regular exercise helps, as it can boost your mood and body image. Practising Kegel exercise can give you better toned pelvic muscles in order to grip your partner’s penis and increase your enjoyment.
- Stress is one of the greatest psychological causes of low libido, so take some time out of your busy day, every day, to relax and unwind.