These days, I'm seeing many female patients—even younger ones—with libido-crashing mood disorders and other problems that interfere with their personal lives. They have low sex drive or otherwise aren't "in the mood."
For many of these women, I connect the dots between how lifestyle factors including drinking and smoking, exposure to environmental toxins, and being chronically stress contribute to and exacerbate sex hormone imbalances.
Truthfully, one of the biggest culprits I frequently see that knocks sex hormones out of balance is sugar, including sugar in "healthy" foods like wheat flour, which converts to sugar. Sugar raises insulin and creates a hormonal domino effect. Subsequently, high insulin adversely affects other hormones. Simply put, excessive sugar can wreck your sex life.
Sugar also lowers testosterone in men and alters testosterone metabolism in women. Women, testosterone isn't just a guys hormone. Out-of-balance levels can reduce desire, increase body fat, lower muscle mass, and create fuzzy memory. Furthermore, sugar increases stress and decreases energy.
Simply put, to feel energized and maintain a healthy sex life requires reducing sugar and artificial sweeteners, which jack up insulin that increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity. When you normalize insulin levels, other hormones also fall into place.
Besides cutting out sugar, I've also found these five strategies help women balance hormones naturally so they feel vibrant, lean, and sexy:
1. Reconsider your medicine cabinet.
A major side effect of medications like antidepressants and birth control pills is low libido. Birth control pills can decrease testosterone. Work with a functional doctor to find safer alternatives to these medications.
2. Heal your gut.
A diet high in processed foods, as well as antibiotics and other medications, can wreak havoc on the gut, making it difficult to produce your feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. To minimize bad bugs, eat a clean diet rich in whole foods. Avoid antibiotics when possible, and supplement with a quality probiotic to promote digestion and reduce inflammation.
3. Stick to real food.
A whole-foods diet is anti-inflammatory and helps your body produce healthy hormone levels. Phytonutrient-rich foods include leafy greens like spinach, collards, kale, cruciferous vegetables, and healthy fats like grass-fed meats, wild-caught fatty fish, and nuts and seeds. Bone broth and high-fiber foods like berries and lentils also provide libido-supporting nutrients.
4. Remove toxins from your environment.
Minimize environmental toxins, which contain endocrine disruptors that interfere with your sex drive. Plastics and chemicals in cleaning products, paints, and makeup can contain powerful endocrine disruptors like lead and Bisphenol A (BPA). Choose natural products when you buy makeup and household products. Living clean and green becomes a big step toward rebalancing your hormones. Check out the Environmental Working Group to learn the safest products for your home and your body.
5. Make relaxing lifestyle changes.
Stress management is crucial to optimizing your libido. Unwind and utilize relaxation techniques that work best for you. I recommend meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and massages.
Sleep is also crucial. Aim for seven or eight hours of quality, uninterrupted, deep sleep every night. And exercise and movement are extremely important (but often underutilized) ways to optimize libido. Increase pleasure throughout the day with aromatherapy, creative expression, dance, and music therapy. These make great ways to increase your happy vibes.
If you still struggle with libido, please work with a functional medicine doctor to pinpoint underlying causes. Age and other factors should never limit your ability to feel sexy and vital.
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.