"You need to breathe deeply, move more, and most importantly, have more sex—either with your partner or by yourself," I told Jen during our third consultation. "Your prescription is more orgasms." Jen initially seemed surprised to hear that recommendation from me, but as a doctor who helps women reverse autoimmune disease and balance their hormones, I suggest orgasms a lot for stressed-out patients like Jen. As a tenure-track researcher at a nearby university, she sat most of the day, got regular headaches, frequently felt anxious meeting with her colleagues, and was under nearly constant pressure—which meant her sex drive had crashed to nearly zero.
In my practice, self-care and stress management are not luxuries, and regularly releasing hormones like oxytocin is a great way to help manage a hectic schedule, as this bonding hormone buffers against stress hormones like cortisol that can make you tired, old, and overweight. Oxytocin plays a role "in a wide variety of physiological and pathological functions such as sexual activity, penile erection, ejaculation, pregnancy, uterine contraction, milk ejection, maternal behavior, social bonding, stress, and probably many more," write Navneet Magon and Sanjay Kalra in a study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Knowing all those benefits, you definitely want more oxytocin in your life. Luckily, there are a bunch of ways to get it. Hugs release this bonding hormone and moms release oxytocin during childbirth and breastfeeding so they can bond with their babies. But you don’t need to get pregnant to release oxytocin. Here are nine feel-good, health-boosting benefits of regular orgasms:
1. Orgasms increase circulation.
Whether you’re driving or at your desk, you probably sit. A lot. Constantly sitting can lead to muscle imbalances and decreased pelvic circulation. Here's why orgasms can help: They increase pelvic floor circulation, distributing nutrients and hormones where your body needs them. I set an alarm every 30 minutes when I’m not in with patients to remember to stand up, stretch, and move my pelvis. Hula hooping, hula dancing, and belly dancing also make fun ways to get your pelvis moving.
2. Orgasms give you great skin.
Glowing skin after great sex isn’t just your imagination. Orgasming releases oxytocin, which reduces cortisol. In excess, cortisol can increase oil (sebum) production, which can clog pores, leading to inflammation and breakouts.
3. Orgasms might improve menstrual cycles.
Studies show sexually active women are more likely to have normal menstrual cycles, and less-frequent sex makes menses more sporadic. Studies show that less sexually active women have shorter menstrual cycles, potentially indicating low progesterone and estrogen dominance that create weight loss resistance and symptoms like mood swings. However, the connection is unclear. Irregular cycles could be the cause of low sex drive, meaning orgasms don’t improve menstrual cycle, instead an already healthy menstrual cycle improves orgasms.
4. Orgasms can lower pain.
Speaking of regular cycles, orgasms can help menstrual cramps. Oxytocin and other endorphins can take away the pain, period. For Jen, more frequent orgasms meant fewer tension headaches, an observation that studies confirm: Researchers in one found regular sex can help relieve miserable headaches.
5. Orgasms boost your immune system.
Regular sex modulates your immune system, and it makes sense considering women who have more sex shift their immune system to be conception-ready—a state that carries on throughout pregnancy. Dialing down stress also means fewer bouts of colds and flu. One meta-analysis of more than 300 studies over 30 years found what you already know: Chronic stress can also crash your immune system. The feel-good hormones orgasm releases become the perfect way to dial down that stress and boost your immune system.
6. Orgasms may lower anxiety.
One study showed a rat injected with oxytocin can remain calm even when surrounding rats are anxious. You’ve probably experienced that anti-anxiety boost after sex, and researchers find oxytocin can reduce social anxiety.
7. Orgasms can dial down aging.
Among its benefits, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) improves muscle strength, bone density, body fat, sexual satisfaction, and overall well-being. Here’s the bad news: This anti-aging hormone declines in your 20s. But wait: Every orgasm (and every time you get sexually excited, for that matter) helps increase DHEA levels.
8. Orgasms can help you sleep better.
If you find yourself or your partner drifting off into a pleasant slumber right after sex, you can thank your orgasms. Oxytocin reduces cortisol levels, calming your mind so you can sleep better. Orgasms also release vasopressin, which accompanies the release of your neuroprotective hormone melatonin.
9. Orgasms may help you live longer.
I’m not exaggerating. One study among middle-aged men (Score for you guys!) found a 50 percent lower mortality rate among those with high orgasmic frequency compared with the low-orgasm group. In my own practice, women who regularly have orgasms look better, feel better, and stay healthier. An orgasm a day could literally keep the doctor away.
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Jolene Brighten, N.D., is a women’s health expert currently working as the President and Chief Medical Officer at Rubus Health in Portland, Oregon. She received her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at the National University of Natural Medicine and a bachelor’s in Nutrition Science from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She is the best-selling author of Beyond the Pill, in which she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. Dr. Brighten has been featured in the New York Post, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, ABC News, and The Guardian.