With Valentine’s Day upon us, love is in the air and passion is on the rise. Or is it? If you’re struggling with low libido, you’re not alone, because a recent survey suggested that over one third of women in the UK have reported feeling a loss of sexual desire. It’s always wise to check in with your GP to rule out any potential medical cause, but here are five common concerns that could spoil the mood for you and my energy-boosting solutions to help you get things back on track.
Passion killer 1 - too stressed for sex
If you’ve got a nagging headache, a bit of bedroom action is probably the last thing you feel like. When your stress hormones are sky-high after a difficult day at work, this will cause your blood vessels to constrict, which is a common cause of headaches. Your muscles are also likely to tense up making it generally very difficult to relax and feel amorous and if your vaginal muscles are tight it can make intercourse very painful. While an orgasm is an amazing stress buster, it certainly won’t happen until you’re feeling relaxed and in the moment.
Va Va Voom solution: The naturally calming properties of magnesium could make a huge difference here because it helps to regulate the nervous system. It acts as a buffer to help us cope with stress so that things suddenly don’t seem so bad after all. Studies have shown that a magnesium deficiency is a key factor in headaches and migraine. Magnesium also supports muscle function and can help to relieve tension.
A quick and easy fix would be an Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) bath. Add two to three handfuls of salts in the bath and relax for about 20 minutes. The magnesium will absorb through the skin, relaxing your muscles and relieving your stress so that you soon get the glint back in your eye.
Passion killer 2 - too dry down there
Vaginal dryness can happen at any age, but it’s most common as women approach the menopause, due to a drop in oestrogen production. The most frequent symptoms include irritation, inflammation and painful intercourse. It’s only natural to shy away from sex if you know it’s going to hurt.
Va Va Voom solution: Eating a diet rich in foods that contain plant compounds called phytoestrogen may help because these mimic the action of oestrogen in the body and are found in foods such as fermented soya, flax seed and legumes. Make sure that your diet contains plenty of essential fats because these act as natural lubricants – salmon, sardines, mackerel, avocado, nuts and seeds are all good sources. Make sure you’re keeping your fluids up too because dehydration is another cause of vaginal dryness. You may also want to consult your GP for advice on topical oestrogen or natural lubricants.
Passion killer 3 - gale force wind
It’s difficult to feel sexy if you’re struggling with flatulence, bloating and abdominal discomfort. Not only will it affect your confidence so that you’re less likely to initiate sex, but you’re also probably feeling pretty grumpy as well, so there’s little chance of any amorous activity. If flatulence is a problem for you, then it’s going to make sex pretty awkward, especially in a new relationship, as you’re likely to be very self-conscious and far too busy holding things in to relax and go with the flow.
Va Va Voom solution: Avoiding heavy meals is the trick here – tucking into a large steak at a Valentine’s meal may not be the smartest move. Steak is a very dense source of protein which can be hard to digest and it may sit in the stomach for a long time, leaving you quite uncomfortable. Some people find that high levels of refined wheat can cause bloating, so avoiding pizza or large portions of pasta or bread might be wise.
Large amounts of fruit in your diet can often cause flatulence especially if you eat it for dessert. Fruit breaks down very quickly in the gut and so it can back up behind more slowly digested food and start to ferment in the small intestine, which causes bloating and wind. Lentils, beans and chickpeas are also common causes of wind in sensitive individuals. Chewing your food properly, so that you’re not swallowing large lumps of food can also help to reduce the risk of bloating and flatulence. If this is a regular problem for you, try keeping a food diary to help you identify which food may be problematic for you.
Passion killer 4 - iron deficiency anaemia
Although fatigue, palpitations and headaches are more well-known symptoms of anaemia, it can also lead to a reduction in sex drive. If you experience heavy periods, follow a vegan diet or have a gastrointestinal condition which inhibits nutrient absorption, you may be more susceptible to iron deficiency anaemia and should consult your GP for advice if you’re concerned.
Va Va Voom solution: Animal forms of iron (haem iron) found in meat, fish or egg yolk are more efficiently absorbed by the body than plant sources of iron (non-haem iron), so vegetarians and vegans have to work harder to keep topped up. Menstruating women require 14.8mg of iron from food each day and non-menstruating women need 8.7mg per day. 100g of rump steak contains about 4mg, an egg yolk contains 0.5mg, a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds or 50g of spinach leaves both contain about 1mg of iron. If you’re taking iron tablets, make sure you don’t drink tea or coffee at least an hour before and after, as this can inhibit the absorption.
Passion killer 5 - they're not up for it
For Valentine’s Day sex to be a success, you both need to be in the mood and if your other half is struggling with erectile dysfunction, that’s going to be difficult and disappointing for both of you. Excessive levels of alcohol are probably the best-known cause of the infamous ‘brewer’s droop’, but stress, anxiety, fatigue and sleep disorders are all potential factors.
Va Va Voom solution: If this is a recurrent issue, then the GP should be the first port of call, to rule out any medical condition. Reducing alcohol intake and losing excess weight can be a big help and if stress or tiredness are factors, then magnesium could be the answer (see Passion killer 1 above). A dietary approach to support circulatory health is essential, as this will ensure optimum blood flow to the penis when your partner is aroused.
Eating plenty of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids will help with this, for example, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines two to three times per week and snacking on walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds. It’s also important to avoid excessive amounts of sugary food and drink, because high levels of dietary sugar can affect the structure of blood vessels and inhibit blood flow.