In aid of World Menopause Day, Dr Marion Gluck, founder of The Marion Gluck Clinic explains how menopause can affect sex drive.
Loss of libido is a common problem affecting up to one in five men and even more women at some point in their life. It is often linked to professional or personal stress, declining hormones or life-changing events such as pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and the menopause.
Menopause is a natural transition and happens to every woman. The term is generally used to encompass the entire long-lasting process that relates to the end of a woman’s fertility. There are many menopause signs and despite what many women believe, it can be easily managed.
This change is perfectly normal, and a healthy body will constantly adjust to change. However, in today’s environment, a number of factors can change the body’s ability to that adaptation, including environmental toxins, poor nutrition, a lack of essential minerals and the stress of juggling work and domestic life.
How does hormonal imbalance affect sex drive?
Low sex drive will affect almost every woman at some point in their life, either during their reproductive years or in menopause. Particularly during menopause, changes in the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can greatly affect sexual desire and arousal. Therefore, menopausal and postmenopausal women may notice that they’re not as easily aroused, and they may be less sensitive to touching and stroking. That can lead to less interest in sex.
Also, lower levels of estrogen can cause a drop in blood supply to the vagina. That can affect vaginal lubrication, causing the vagina to be too dry for comfortable sex.
By balancing these hormones, women can enjoy a healthy sex life and get back to feeling themselves again. Estrogen works to regulate body temperature, promote healthy sleep, improve blood flow and has effects on the brain that help memory and concentration, regulate collagen production important for healthy skin and nails and maintain vaginal wall health and libido. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory so crucial for joint health.
Progesterone is the body’s natural antidepressant and vital for mood regulation and sleep. It is also a natural diuretic so reduces fluid retention. Progesterone helps protect against breast cancer and endometrial cancer and it stimulates the action of other hormones such as insulin and thyroid hormone.
Testosterone in small amounts is essential for all women. It improves energy and libido, boosts muscle mass and strength, helps motivation, concentration and memory and can even lift the mood and improve wellbeing.
Bio-identical HRT for Menopause
Bio-identical HRT with specific hormone balancing is personalised by testing the blood of each patient to ensure the treatment is unique to each deficiency. For the individual patient, this can be life-changing, increasing sex drive and helping the woman to feel herself again. Bioidentical hormone treatments are 100% identical to human hormones produced in the ovary and adrenal gland. BHRT can be offered in a variety of applications including transdermal creams, lozenges, tablets and vaginal creams according to individual needs and preference. Adjustments to the doses of each hormone may be made over time and through regular follow up, the treatment can be compounded to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Too tired, too exhausted, too busy to have sex
Sometimes other issues such as a simply being too busy can influence our sex lives. Work and family commitments, along with other demands that we see in our ‘always on’ lifestyle means that sometimes intimacy can be bottom of the list. For women who are experiencing low mood or depression due to menopausal changes, this can compound the feelings of low libido and only enhances the problem.
Testosterone creams can be prescribed which can help increase sensitivity and help enhance orgasms.
Give yourself a break
While on holiday, women may find that their sex drive seems to suddenly awaken. This is likely a result of stress levels going down and consequently reducing cortisol in the body. High levels of cortisol produced during stress suppress our sex hormones, leading to a lower sex drive. Bringing in restorative practices into daily life such as meditation, yoga, walks in nature can help manage stress, switch off and therefore reduce cortisol levels.
Nutritional Support for lack of libido
Herbs and supplements can be a great aid to improve libido naturally, and when it comes to this topic there is no herb better known than Damiana. Damiana (Turnera diffusa) has been historically known for its use as a natural female aphrodisiac and relaxant. Originally from Central and South America, its use dates back to the time of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. It works by increasing circulation and sensitivity to female organs. Its pro-sexual effects are due to flavonoid compounds present in the leaves. Damiana can be taken on its own or in combination with other herbs for an extra boost such as ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba).
For women experiencing low sensitivity for any type of taste, touch or smell, zinc levels should be tested. Zinc is such an important nutrient for the senses. One of the richest sources of zinc is oysters, which is why they are commonly referred to as an aphrodisiac (actually, all shellfish contain zinc). Likewise, caviar is rich in zinc. Other good sources include pine nuts, spinach, rye, almonds, and sesame seeds, as well as whole grains, particularly brown rice.
Also, consider taking magnesium as well as herbal adaptogens such as Ashwagandha and Rhodiola.
Women will experience so many changes in their sex drive, from first becoming fertile to experiencing childbirth and beyond. The menopause certainly can affect libido but there are usually other contributing factors, such stress. For anyone experiencing a low sex drive the first step is to find out exactly what is causing the issue, and this can be done by a simple hormone level check.
Low sex drive is just one of the symptoms of menopause, so for women who embark on bio-identical hormone replacement treatment may find other ailments reducing and a happier, healthier, more sexually active lifestyle on the horizon.