If you're a woman over 40, you may be wondering if you're ever going to get your sex drive back. You used to get excited about sex with your partner, now it’s the last thing on your mind (and your to-do list). Sometimes you’re too exhausted, other times you just can’t get in the mood. What happened to the sex kitten you used to be?
Of course sex isn’t compulsory as you get older, and many women are happy not to worry about it anymore. But sex is really good for you and if you still want to have a good sex life, you may just need to check to see if it’s your hormones.
Hormones contributing to low libido
Cortisol – your stress hormone
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 run away).
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 – your metabolism regulator
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, which is not 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.
Here are my top tips on balancing 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, this ancient superfood has libido boosting properties! Try Femmenessence MacaLife (if you're perimenopausal) or MacaPause (if you're postmenopausal). Both available in my Shop at LiveBetterWithMenopause.
7. Check your medications – the Birth Control Pill is designed to suppress ovulation, and therefore your own sex hormone production, so loss of desire 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 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 Shop at LiveBetterWithMenopause);
- Promensil – red clover extract (not to be taken if on HRT)
- Femmenessence MacaLife and MacaPause
- 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.
You don't have to accept low sex drive as a permanent fixture! By working with a health practitioner you find out if you have an underlying hormone imbalance so that you know what you’re dealing with and can put a personalised plan in place.
Contact us for details of our hormone testing and 1-1 coaching.
I hope that has been useful. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
PS Whenever you’re ready… here are 4 ways we can help you balance your hormones:
1. Grab a copy of my book
“It's not you, it's your hormones – the essential guide for women over 40 to fight fat, fatigue and hormone havoc”. Click here
2. Join the Hormone Connection Facebook group
It’s our private Facebook community where you get daily access to me and the team, plus a whole load of super supportive like-minded women. Click here
3. Find out more about the 30 Days to Happy Hormones online programme
If you're ready to take action and need a structured plan to get you there, along with a supportive community and coaching, this could be the programme for you. Click here
4. Apply for a free Discovery Call with me or one of the team
If you’d like to speak to us about your own personal hormone issues OR how we can help support female employees at your organisation… just send me a message and I'll send you a link to our bookings calendar to arrange a call. Click here
Panzer et al (2006) Impact of oral contraceptives on sex hormone-binding globulin and androgen levels: a retrospective study in women with sexual dysfunction http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16409223
West SL, D’Aloisio AA, Agans RP, et al. Prevalence of low sexual desire and hypoactive sexual desire disorder in a nationally representative sample of US women. Arch Intern
Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. “Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review.” BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44[/accordion-item]