OBESITY, DEPRESSION, LOSS OF LIBIDO, AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO POOR GUT HEALTH
I love it! My wife comes home from the gym with a testosterone buzz and attacks me. A patient explaining one of the benefits of his wife's new-found love of Strength Training.
When I woke up mom and dad were rolling on the couch. Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my Kiss records out. Cheap Trick from 1978's Surrender.
When you look at lists of the things that most commonly affect one's sex drive in an adverse manner (whether male or female), there are two that seem to come up over and over and over again; Depression and Obesity. If you follow my blog, you'll see that I have written about both topics extensively. My goal is to help those of you dealing with this unhappy triad of OBESITY (be aware that it's possible to fall into this category even if you are 'SKINNY'), DEPRESSION, and Low Libido, get your lives back without feeling the need to resort to dangerous and addictive drugs.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SEX
- Relieving Stress / Lowering Stress
- Lowering Blood Pressure
- Immune System Booster / Less Illness / Less Cancer
- Heart Healthy
- Improved Self Esteem
- Increased levels of Oxytocin / Increased Intimacy / Increased Connectedness
- Endorphin Release / Natural Pain Relief
- Look Younger / Live Longer
- Strengthens Pelvic Floor and Core Muscles / Can be a form of Exercise
- Improves Sleep
- Improved Mood / Anti-Depressive Qualities (INTERESTING STUDY ON THIS TOPIC)
Unfortunately, not only are increasing numbers of couples not having much sex, many are actually in marriages that are, by definition, "sexless" (less than once a month or less than 10 times per year). This begs the question as to how much sex is "normal"? Although every couple is different, over the past twelve years, the average for married couples here in America has dropped from 132 times per year to 103 times per year (-22%). After a little study on the matter, it's not difficult to figure out why.
IF SEX IS SO GOOD FOR PEOPLE, WHY IS THE FREQUENCY DROPPING SO DRAMATICALLY?
Obesity is associated with depression.... Persons with severe obesity may represent an “at-risk” population...... This association between severe obesity and depression is also of interest to clinicians, since depression is associated with poorer treatment outcomes. Is Obesity Associated with Major Depression? Results from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Johns Hopkins University, from the 2003 issue of The American Journal of Epidimiology
Overall, poor health has a negative impact on sexual function. Illnesses that interfere with endocrine systems are particularly important in the impairment of female sexual desire. Several lines of evidence have revealed a link between sexual desire and levels of androgens [Too little or too much testosterone --- PCOS] in women. Consequently, disorders of ovarian function and of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis have been associated with decreased sexual desire and arousal..... Some drugs (especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and antipsychotics) have also been linked to orgasm disorders...... Untreated depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders have been linked to problems with sexual desire and arousal. Excerpted from From Hence Comes HSDD? Sharon J. Parish, MD Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Department of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Director of Psychosocial Training, Department of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York, from the July 2009 issue of the Journal of Family Practice.
The numbers speak for themselves. 12% of American women and nearly 7% percent of American men aged 18 and older (over 12 million and 6 million respectively) deal with Clinical Depression --- numbers that skyrocket far beyond this if you figure in sub-clinical Depression as well as those who have never been 'officially' diagnosed. If you factor in the fact that Depression is characterized as a disturbance in one's mood, which is characterized by feelings of sadness, anger, low self-esteem, general loss, and loss of interest in pleasurable activities, you begin to see where this is headed. Take it a step further and notice that the scientific-medical literature on the subject also strongly associates Depression with a PATHOLOGICAL CRAVING for processed carbohydrates. Once you understand that the vast majority (90 - 95%) of the body's serotonin (a 'feel-good' neurotransmitter) is manufactured in the Gut (HERE), the link between Depression and loss of libido starts to become more clear.
A 1995 study done at Massachusetts Institute of Technology called Brain Serotonin, Carbohydrate-Craving, Obesity and Depression, and published in the medical journal Obesity Research, had this to say on the subject, "Serotonin-releasing brain neurons are unique in that the amount of neurotransmitter they release is normally controlled by food intake: Carbohydrate consumption. Serotonin release is also involved in such functions as sleep onset, pain sensitivity, blood pressure regulation, and control of the mood. Hence many patients learn to overeat carbohydrates (particularly snack foods, like potato chips or pastries, which are rich in carbohydrates and fats) to make themselves feel better. This tendency to use certain foods as though they were drugs is a frequent cause of weight gain, and can also be seen in patients who become fat when exposed to stress, or in women with premenstrual syndrome........"
I would think that we would all agree that Depression needs to be treated. The problem though is that treating Depression with anti-depressant medications can be a double-edged sword that often produces a vicious (and sexless) cycle. This is because not only is Depression a libido destroyer in and of itself, but so are the medications used to treat it.
Depression is bad news for the libido because while it is sapping one's sex drive, the antidepressants prescribed to treat it are doing the same thing. The conclusion of a large meta-analysis of studies on this topic was published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry in 2010. The study called, Overweight, Obesity, and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies, said that, "This meta-analysis confirms a reciprocal link between depression and obesity. Obesity was found to increase the risk of depression, most pronounced among Americans and for clinically diagnosed depression. In addition, depression was found to be predictive of developing obesity." And the kicker is that despite most drug's warning labels saying that somewhere between 2 and 16% of those on antidepressants (SSRI's) will develop sexual side effects, many experts say that 40% of those on anti-depressants develop diminished libido. Both groups might be significantly underestimating the problem.
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published a study clear back in 2001 that looked at the medical records of 1,000 individuals who were being treated for Depression at the University Hospital of Salamanca (Spain). A whopping 57% of the women reported sexual side effects of their treatment --- mostly SSRI's. The most common were loss of libido and orgasm dysfunctions such as inability to orgasm or painful orgasm. And while the women's side effects were considered to be more severe, men were affected at a rate that was actually 5% higher than the women. The results were similar in a South Korean study that was published in a 2010 issue of the medical journal Psychiatry Investigations. After looking again at the effects of SSRI's on sexual health, the authors concluded that, "The incidence of sexual dysfunction was substantially high during antidepressant treatment..... Our study suggests the need for clinicians to consider the impact of pharmacotherapy on patients' sexual functioning in the course of treatment with antidepressants."
The bottom line is that I could quote the scientific research all day long, as there are literally hundreds --- probably thousands of studies on the topic. Instead of doing that, I want to leave you with a few things that you can do to boost your sex drive naturally. These are not gender-specific and unless otherwise noted, will work equally well for both men and women. They are in no particular order.
BOOSTING LIBIDO NATURALLY
- KILL STRESS: I get it. Getting rid of stress is not as easy as simply wishing it away. But remember this. Prolonged stress leads to ADRENAL FATIGUE (the older name for Fibromyalgia). If you cannot get the stressors in your life under control (family, relationships, job, diet, etc), it will be difficult to deal with the underlying causes of diminished libido. By the way, there are lots of studies saying that sex itself is a great stress reliever. Think about this treatment cycle for a moment; more sex, less stress, increased libido, more sex, less stress, increased libido. I realize it's not that easy, but it is definitely a noble goal.
- WORK ON THE RELATIONSHIP: I do not claim to be some sort of 'Relationship Sherpa'. However, my wife is --- she's a marriage counselor, and some of her wisdom has rubbed off on me (she might sometimes debate this). You'll need to communicate well, spend quality time with your spouse (can anyone say "Date Nite"?), along with MANY OTHERS. Remember though that even though the emotional side of diminished libido gets a lot of play, you cannot neglect the physical side and hope to solve your problem(s).
- CONTROL YOUR BLOOD SUGAR: Let me qualify this statement by saying that many people (both men and women) who are at or near a 'normal' weight, are, metabolically speaking, obese (HERE). Virtually everything that is related to health comes back to blood sugar, and whether or not it is being regulated properly --- even if you have not (yet) been told you have DIABETES. One of the single most important things that you can do for your sexual health and libido is to deal with UNCONTROLLED BLOOD SUGAR. Listen up men. Your POT BELLY is FEMINIZING YOU! You are not only causing Depression, lethargy, and diminished physical performance, you are essentially castrating / neutering yourself with high blood sugar, high insulin levels, and the subsequent weight gain which, sooner or later, is sure to follow. By the way, if you are a woman who is struggling with female issues in general, please take a few minutes to read my piece called BEATING INFERTILITY NATURALLY (it is not just about fertility). Oh, and what is the best way to control your blood sugar...............?
- EAT A LOW CARB DIET: Have you picked up on the fact that the scientific literature is showing that both depressed and obese individuals lean heavily toward SUGAR / CARB ADDICTIONS? Despite this, there are MANY PEOPLE who promote high carbs to boost both Serotonin and mood. HERE is the information on using a Low Carb Diet to break the cycle and provide A SEROTONIN BOOST. As I stated earlier, over 90% of the "feel good" neurotransmitter Serotonin is found in the gut. Thus, it only makes sense to........
- FIX YOUR GUT: I have already shown you that Gut Health is intimately tied to Depression. My blog also happens to be full of posts on the relationship between Gut Health and Obesity. But did you know that POOR GUT HEALTH is being tied as a root cause of nearly every health issue you can imagine (MAKE ABSOLUTELY SURE YOU READ THIS)? If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who (almost always unknowingly), is dealing with LEAKY GUT SYNDROME, there is no way that you are going to have a healthy sex drive. One of the best ways to positively affect Gut Health is to....
- GO GLUTEN FREE: Gluten Free is not a big leap if you are already eating Low Carb. In case you have not been reading my blog on a regular basis, let me just remind you that almost every health problem you can name is being linked back to Uncontrolled Blood Sugar and GLUTEN --- HERE is one example. Just a few short years ago (2010), a study published in The Journal of Reproductive Health showed how Gluten was directly involved with a plethora "Reproductive Symptoms" seen in prior studies on sexual health. The bottom line is that sick people usually see incredible improvement when they go GLUTEN FREE. Oh, and if you do not understand GLUTEN CROSS REACTIVITY, read the link.
- EXERCISE: Do I even need to talk about this? There are about a jillion studies linking moderate exercise to lower incidence of Depression, Stress, and Obesity. There are probably just as many showing the link between exercise and improved sex drive (I Googled 'exercise sexual health' and got nearly 17 million hits). I am not going to belabor this point, but you should value yourself / your spouse enough to EXERCISE 20-30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week. If you are discouraged about exercising, READ THIS.
- BEWARE OF MEDICATIONS: Have you seen the list of meds that can ruin one's sex drive? It is downright freaky (HERE). There are a host of meds (including birth control pills, high blood pressure medications, ANTIBIOTICS that all destroy Gut Health, and STATINS) that diminish sex drive. It is critical to remember though, that the number one class of medication for fouling up libido is anti-depressants. Of these, SSRI's lead the way. Interestingly enough, another leading class of drugs known for messing up one's sex drive are meant to affect the Gut (anti-nausea and ANTI-ULCER DRUGS).
- UNDERSTAND INFLAMMATION: Although everyone has heard the term "INFLAMMATION" used about a million times, few people really have any idea of what it is. And since Obesity, Depression, and Diabetes are all considered to be "Inflammatory Diseases", it would behoove you to understand a little bit more about Inflammation, what drives it, and how to squelch it.
- UNDERSTAND YOUR THYROID: If you Google "Thyroid Low Libido", you get over three quarters of a million hits. I would suggest you take the time to visit the THYROID EPIDEMIC site for a better understanding of how this all works together. The really cool thing is that many thyroid problems can be effectively dealt with by following the bullet points on this list. Blood Sugar Dysregulation and Thyroid Problems are both problems of the Endocrine System. Do you recall the quote from earlier in the post from the Journal of Family Practice? "Illnesses that interfere with Endocrine Systems are particularly important in the impairment of female sexual desire."
- TAKE THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENTS: What do I recommend? Firstly, I recommend WHOLE FOOD SUPPLEMENTS as just that ---- a "supplement" to a healthy diet. The problem is that most people want a Viagra-like supplement that allows them to keep on destroying themselves with their crappy diets and self-destructive lifestyles (INTERESTED IN FEMALE VIAGRA?). The best natural Testosterone booster is Tribulus Terrestris. A great general libido booster is Ginkgo Biloba (both by Medi-Herb). I am also sold on Symplex M and Symplex F by Standard Process (for men and women respectively). Again, it is far more about your diet (what you are eating or not eating) than it is about spending a lot of money on supplements. And while you are at it, READ THIS ARTICLE on why boosting Serotonin might not be the panacea it has been made out to be.
- GIVE UP THE SMOKES AND DRINK ONLY IN MODERATION: One of the biggest problems with SMOKING is that it hinders blood flow. Without good blood flow, both men and women are going to struggle with satisfactory sex. Too much alcohol not only does the same thing, it is metabolized very similarly to sugar.
- BALANCE YOUR HORMONES: The big driver of libido for both men and women is Testosterone. That's right ladies, the very substance that drives your husband's libido, also drives yours. However, more is not always better. Increased Testosterone in women is heavily associated with (diagnostic of) PCOS --- the most common female hormonal problem in America ---- a problem that actually decreases sex drive. Although I have a lot of information on balancing hormones on ENDOGUT, the best thing you can do for yourself (other than following these bullet points) is to make sure you are getting just a little bit of high quality protein every two hours. Also make sure to visit our post on XENOHORMONES as well. Understanding this concept is critical to those of you who are in a state of ESTROGEN DOMINANCE (possibly the majority of you, both women and men). Remember just a few points back when I accused overweight men of feminizing themselves? Estrogen causes weight gain, while fat cells (along with the female organs) manufacture Estrogen. Repeat. See the vicious cycle setting up?