If you're a woman over 40, you may be wondering if you're ever going to get your sex drive back.
Some of the women I speak to say it's the LAST thing on their to-do list! They are often too exhausted, or just can’t get in the mood. Or it could be too painful due to vaginal dryness.
Of course sex isn’t compulsory as you get older, and many women are happy not to worry about it anymore. But if you still want to have a good sex life, you may just need to check to see if it’s your hormones.
You can watch the video below or listen to the podcast (episode 66).
Hormones contributing to low libido
Stress and sex? They really don’t go together! Cortisol dampens down your sex hormones, making you more likely to reach for the chocolate bar instead of your partner.
Cortisol and the sex hormones are all made from the same precursor hormone, pregnenolone. So guess what happens when you are stressed? Pregnenolone gets the message to make more cortisol instead of sex hormones (as we know that our stress response takes priority over our reproductive function when we need to survive).
Cortisol also increases another hormone prolactin, which can stop you ovulating. So your sex hormones take a back seat, your testosterone and libido disappear and frumpy takes over from frisky!
Thyroid hormones regulate your sex hormone production. If you don’t have enough thyroid, your sex drive can plummet and fertility can be affected. Thyroid also helps convert cholesterol into progesterone, essential for a healthy libido.
To feel sexy you need good oestrogen levels (which is often why you are in the mood around the time of ovulation). If oestrogen is low, and you’re feeling tired and irritable, it’s going to be the last thing on your mind.
Low oestrogen can also be responsible for vaginal dryness and night sweats, neither of which are going to help you feel sexy! And if you do manage to maintain your sex drive, orgasms may be harder to achieve and less intense.
You don’t want too much oestrogen though. Higher levels are common around peri-menopause, contributing to PMS, bloating, weight gain and low libido.
To balance oestrogen, you need healthy levels of progesterone. It’s your anti-stress hormone, and it helps to maintain your sex drive. But in the years leading up to menopause, ovulation becomes irregular and therefore progesterone declines rapidly. And any stress in your life can make things worse, as cortisol production takes priority over progesterone.
Traditionally thought of as the male hormone, testosterone is critical for women too. It helps with sexual desire, but it’s also vital for brain, bone and heart health. It can decline rapidly during peri menopause and beyond, so it’s important to know how you can naturally keep levels healthy.
Of course these are some of the physical factors behind low sex drive. Your diet, nutrient absorption and lifestyle can have a big impact too. And of course there are emotional factors to consider, as well as the obvious physical attraction to your partner.
But balancing your hormones, especially after 40, can be a game changer.
Top Tips to improve sex drive
Here are some natural ways to balance your hormones to boost your libido;
1. Chill out – reducing your stress levels can balance your cortisol and boost your energy, mood and sex hormone production. Try a daily mindfulness meditation (just 10 mins can make a difference).
2. Balance your blood sugar – if you're eating lots of carbs and sugar, you'll likely be on a blood sugar roller coaster, crashing your energy and mood. So make sure you're eating protein and fat at each meal with low GL carbs that won't spike your blood sugar.
3. Fat is your friend – your sex hormones are made from cholesterol so it's important to get plenty of healthy fats from your diet. Try avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, oily fish. A good quality fish oil supplement can help.
4. Eat your Cruciferous veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, chard, kale, rocket – they all contain an important compound that helps to regulate oestrogen levels.
5. Epsom Salt baths – the magnesium in the Epsom salts will help to relax your muscles and de-sress you. A perfect pre-bedtime routine to get you in the mood.
6. Make room for Maca – known as ‘nature's viagra' in Peru, Maca is an ancient superfood has libido boosting properties!
7. Check your medications – the Birth Control Pill is designed to suppress ovulation, and therefore your own sex hormone production, so low libido is a common side effect. Other medications often have similar side effects. Ask your doctor for a review and discuss any alternatives you could try.
8. Try HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training has been shown to increase testosterone. Great for fat burning too!
9. Get into Yoga – for strength, flexibility, mood and reducing stress – all good for your sex life!
10. Detox your world – chemicals in non-organic food, plastics, cleaning and personal care products can mimic your oestrogen and mess with your delicate hormonal balance. Go organic and switch to more natural brands of household products.
These supplements can be very helpful (these are all available in my collection at Approved Vitamins;
- Feel Menopause – with red clover extract and sage (not to be taken if on HRT)
- Femmenessence MacaLife (for perimenopause) or Femmenessence MacaPause (for postmenopause)
- Omega 7 Sea Buckthorn Oil – especially good for vaginal dryness
Do check with your doctor if you're on medication or are unsure about taking supplements.
Body identical hormone replacement therapy can be very effective if natural remedies are not improving symptoms enough.
Oestrogen only patch or gel, and Utrogestan progesterone tablets are body identical forms of HRT that can replace natural levels of hormones responsible for libido.
And you can also try localised oestradiol and/or oestriol pessaries and creams to relieve vaginal dryness. Read more on that here.
If you're not happy with how things are, you don't have to accept it as a permanent fixture!
As I've explained, low sex drive can be multi factorial. The tests we do at Happy Hormones can identify which hormones might be out of balance, and uncover other health issues (eg stress, inflammation, gut issues, nutrient deficiencies) that could be contributing to your symptoms.
Once you know what you’re dealing with we can help you put a personalised plan in place to get quicker results.
Contact us for more details of how we can help.