Let’s talk about ways you can use the principles of holistic nutrition to boost your sex drive. Good sex has numerous health benefits: it is immune-boosting, anti-aging, hormone-balancing, stress-reducing, and possibly even menstrual-cycle regulating (for those still menstruating). Sex supports relaxation and detoxification, and promotes general feelings of vitality and wellness (what I’m all about!). These are all good reasons to want to support a healthy sex drive. And, holistic nutrition can help.
What is a healthy sex drive?
If you google dictionary definitions, you’ll see sex drive/libido defined not only as sexual appetite, but also more broadly as the part of personality that drives desire and appetites (i.e. for life); as the energy of our biology; or as erotic drive. When she speaks about the erotic drive, the wonderful Esther Perel defines it as not limited to sex, but encompassing desire, passion, pleasure, mystery, aliveness, and wanting.
If you’ve never thought of sex drive as meaning more than just, well, a drive for sex, then consider what Lara Briden ND says in one of my favourite books, The Period Repair Manual:
You have the right to a libido…your libido is not just for sex. It’s also an important part of your vitality and motivation for life.
That being said, you also shouldn’t feel that sex drive is just like in the movies – a constant, roaring fire that requires very little to stoke the flames. And that’s definitely not the goal here, to make you feel bad for not achieving a standard set by Hollywood that has really very little bearing on reality. The goal is to help you find the level of vitality and sex drive that feels right for you, and to give you information so that you can make changes where you’d like to. And of course, ultimately, the goal is also to help you RELEASE any burdens or expectations you’re been placing on yourself, since those are likely not helping either.
Sex drive is a tricky thing, though. Life is fast-paced and busy, and quite often we don’t spend much time focussed on pleasure – sexual, or otherwise. And we don’t often spend time thinking about what we actually NEED for that sex drive to be present, either physically or mentally. But a libido isn’t something that (for most of us) can be present without some efforts or attention.
What do you need for a healthy sex drive?
Sex drive is a particularly interesting and complex physiological AND psychological state – it’s all about how your body is functioning, but it’s equally about your emotions, and your relationships, and your mind. Sex drive is the ultimate mind-body-spirit interaction.
For women, the sex arc as defined by science includes arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. To carry out this process in the most enjoyable and pleasurable way, there are some physical and mental/emotional requirements…
- healthy blood circulation (for blood pumping and blood flow to the genitals)
- balanced and functioning hormones (a healthy endocrine system),
- a bit of flexibility or the ability to actually carry-out the, you know, required activities (a baseline level of physical health but also range of motion);
- neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemicals) including nitric oxide (important for arousal in general, in terms of dilating blood vessels and helping with smooth muscle contraction)
- positive self-image and a sense of self-esteem and self-worth
- the ability to give and receive pleasure
- a positive relationship and a positive environment, whatever that looks like to you personally
- an attitude of fun
- some sense of erotic energy – freshness, romance, fantasy, creative expression (and not all of this has to be in the bedroom. This is where the life energy part comes in). NOTE: If you’re looking for GREAT information on the ‘erotic space’ and how that changes, grows, and shifts with relationships, please check out everything you can by Esther Perel. She’s a wonderful couples therapist, and she has lots of videos on YouTube.
Factors that Negatively Impact Sex Drive
Now that we’ve covered what you DO need for a healthy sex drive, let’s talk about what you DON’T need, or, what dampens your drive/influences its ebbs and flows.
- alcohol, smoking/nicotine, drugs
- inflammatory foods including sugar
- your personal lifestyle, attitudes, upbringing
- basic hormone levels and hormonal balance – things that might negatively impact your sex drive include anything from thyroid issues (hypothyroidism) to low testosterone to estrogen dominance. Blood testing through your naturopath (preferred, for a more in-depth look) or family doctor could be helpful to give you a sense of your levels.
- hormonal stages (perimenopause, menopause)
- the birth control pill
- where you are in your menstrual cycle – typically you’ll have a higher libido around ovulation (mid-way through your cycle) and a lower libido just before/during the time of actual bleeding (this is, of course, highly variant for each person)
- not enough sleep – I don’t know about you, but I personally do not feel sexy when I haven’t slept well. A garden troll is what I feel like. And of course, this is because of sleep’s numerous mental, immune, stress-relieving, and other health benefits.
- stress – this is a HUGE one, physically and mentally. Stress throws off many of the underlying systems that support your sex drive – your adrenals, your gut microbiome, your reproductive hormones. For me, personally, stress just SHUTS. IT. DOWN. Your body is built so that the stress system and the libido system (to put it overly simply) toggle back and forth. The logic? You don’t need a sex drive when you’re running from a lion. The downside? Typically you might be running from that lion (work, traffic, a fight, self-criticism, over-scheduling) ALL the time, which means your libido system (also called the sympathetic nervous system, which includes your digestive system, immune system, and more) is constantly being overridden.
To learn more about STRESS, check out this post on acne and stress for a nice description of stress and hormonal balance, or grab a copy of my free e-book here to learn more about the impacts stress has on your vitality, skin, and hormones).
Supporting a Healthy Sex Drive with Holistic Nutrition – 11 Ways to Nourish Your Libido
Here are some options for fueling your sexual vitality. My goal, with any of these suggestions, is to support the underlying body systems that are important for a healthy libido. We’re talking hormones (and with that, liver health), gut microbiome, brain, adrenals, and cardiovascular system, among others.
1. Eat a diet that provides a base level of health and nourishment for your whole body.
That includes focusing on whole foods and reducing processed foods or foods with additives and chemicals. Science seems to agree that a Mediterranean type diet is good for the heart, brain, and hormones, all things you need for a healthy sex drive. So focus on…
- nuts & seeds
- leafy greens
- salmon and fatty fish
- legumes and beans
- dark chocolate
2. Seek out sources of L-arginine.
L-arginine is an amino acid that supports arousal and blood flow (oh yeah). Food sources include high quality proteins (animal products, but also tofu), dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, walnuts, seaweeds, spinach, seafood, most legumes and lentils, spirulina, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds/tahini, and winter squash, among others. Lots of wonderful whole-food variety there.
3. Supplement wisely, with supplements that support hormonal balance, arousal, and help manage stress.
Good choices might include maca, l-arginine (caution here if you have herpes virus), and ginseng root. Damiana leaf is reputed to be an aphrodisiac. You might also look into supplements that help you manage stress, like ashwagandha, rhodiola, or schizandra berry. Basic foundational supplements for hormonal health for women include essential fatty acids/omega oil, Vitamin D, and possibly calcium/magnesium (or just magnesium). Do a little research first to see what’s right for you (or ask your health practitioner).
4. Hydrate wisely with options that support your hormonal and general health.
Drink lots of water, of course, and make efforts to choose water as your main beverage. You might also enjoy green tea, which is is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols and other health-promoting compounds, or you might seek out some other teas for hormonal health or stress relief.
5. Boost your antioxidant intake and focus on vibrant colours.
The more vibrant, the more antioxidants, This includes green tea, as mentioned above, but also dark chocolate, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, broccoli, zucchini, avocado, carrots, and so on. Don’t forget about spices like turmeric and cinnamon. Look into spirulina. Most people eat a beige diet, also known as the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) – you know, bagels, bread, white rice, crackers, chicken strips, cream cheese. It doesn’t look vibrant, and it won’t make you feel vibrant. The more foods you eat that have a gorgeous, cheerful, amazing vibrant colour, the more vibrant you will feel as well.
6. Incorporate foods that provide other sex nutrient superstars.
This includes nutrients that support your reproductive organs and your sex hormones, such as…
- Zinc – oysters, animal products, pumpkin seeds, whole-grains, beans
- Vitamin E – almonds, sunflower seeds, almond butter, spinach/leafy greens, avocado
- Vitamin A – organ meats, eggs, grass-fed butter, cheese, oily fish, sweet potatoes, carrots, cod liver oil
- Vitamin D – fatty fish, animal products, eggs, certain fortified foods (like fortified almond milk), cod liver oil, gentle sunlight (not a food source, but a way to make vitamin D yourself)
7. Be kind and loving to yourself.
If you’re struggling with self-esteem, or you don’t like your body, give yourself the gift of compassion and kindness. Cultivate positive self-talk, tell yourself that you are vibrant and sexy, and commit to finding and celebrating your personal vibrance throughout the stages of your life. Release your expectations about how things ‘should’ be and seek out materials that realistically and compassionately discuss the complexities and joys of female sex drive. Check out some of these great posts about breaking down the myths of sex drive, understanding female arousal, and embracing sexuality without shame. And/or, consider visiting with a qualified therapist or psychologist who can help you build your self-esteem.
8. Move your body and don’t forget about your hips flexors.
Yes, this includes your basic strengthening workouts and walking and cardio, but also flexibility. Consider some weekly yoga or stretching, and definitely don’t forget about those hip flexors. I’ve already written about the connection between tight hip flexors and PMS (this post has all the info plus some good exercises for your hip flexors), and of course anything that affects your reproductive organs will affect your sex drive as well. You hold a lot of energy and emotion in your hips. To that point…
9. Support your sacral chakra.
In the chakral system, the sacral chakra is the energy centre that governs the reproductive organs, sexuality, and relationships. The sacral chakra is located in the base of the pelvis, and is about pleasure and enjoyment. Try this sexy workout circuit that support a healthy psoas, a balanced sacral chakra, and a little body flexibility, all in one. Maybe a sacral chakra meditation is for you. This post has lots of info on ways to open the sacral chakra – essential oils, yoga practices, and so on. There are lots of options. Interestingly, opening the hips (see #8) is a way of opening the sacral chakra – it’s all connected. Also, remember that orange is the colour of the sacral chakra. Maybe you need to add an orange throw pillow? (I never need an excuse to buy another throw pillow.)
10. Keep having sex, or at least, orgasms.
I think of this as exercising the gaskets. As Jerry says on Seinfeld, George, you must exercise the gaskets. I’ve read some articles that suggest at least an orgasm a week (solo or with a partner) or thirty minutes of self-pleasure per week, and so on. I think the key here is that its regular (as in, regularly occurring) and its enjoyable. The more you practice and prime the body, the easier it becomes to maintain and become aroused the next time.
11. Manage that stress.
This is hugely individual one, but really really important, maybe even more important than all the rest. Whatever stress management looks like to you – regular exercise, meditation, massages, vacations, nature walks, music (for some fun songs check out this post), therapy, swimming, spending time with friends or family or pets, quiet hours/days alone – make it a real priority. Do whatever you can to combat stress. Stress really is the adversary of vitality and sex drive.
So there you have it! 11 actions you can start taking now to support your healthy sex drive, and ultimately, your personal vibrancy and wellness.
To Sum It Up:
Sex drive is a highly personal and variable thing, but one that connects to feelings beyond the bedroom – feelings of aliveness, energy, vitality, and curiousity, among others. Having a healthy sex drive – whatever that looks like to you personally – helps create that spark and zest for life, and vice versa. Stress, smoking, poor quality sleep, poor quality diet, the birth control pill, menstrual cycles, and hormonal stages in life can all negatively impact libido.
To boost your sex drive using diet and lifestyle measures, focus on a healthy whole-foods diet incorporating nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, fatty fish, leafy greens, and dark chocolate. Lots of vibrant, antioxidant-rich foods are beneficial too, like berries, green tea, and turmeric. Important nutrients for your reproductive organs and hormones include Vitamins A, D, and E, as well as zinc, while helpful supplements for libido might be maca, L-arginelle, and ginseng. Stress-supportive supplements like ashwagandha and rhodiola might also have a role in helping you manage stress, a major sex drive dampener. Other helpful practices for nourishing your sex drive include regular physical movement with a focus on the hip flexors, activities that support the sacral chakra, emphasizing pleasure and self-compassion, and, of course, having regular orgasms!
Oh, and there’s always libido-boosting dark chocolate maca truffles too.
Clear Skin, Balanced Hormones, Vibrant Living
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© Emily Joldersma, R.H.N. Eat Well, Live Vibrantly