By Corrie Pikul
A women's health expert reveals the surprising things that take the fun out of sex.
The Snack With a Secret Side Effect
You know...what foods to avoid before sex: beans, onions, garlic and a huge helping of anything -- chili, ugh! -- that contains all three.
But...you might want to avoid less obvious treats like peanuts, cinnamon candies, pecans and tofu. All are high in oxalate, a substance that can exacerbate vulvar pain in women who are prone to it. This news may seem like a stretch, but it was life-changing for a patient of Lauren Streicher, MD, an associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school. During an ob-gyn visit, the topic of diet came up, and the woman realized she was compulsively popping cinnamon hearts (sky-high in oxalate) all day long. As Streicher explains in her new book, Love Sex Again, when the patient gave up the candy, her pain disappeared.
The Medicine That Keeps You Going
You know...that antidepressants can boost your mood while sinking your libido.
But...other types of common medications can also make sex less pleasurable. Antihistamine allergy pills and cold medicine reduce moisture levels in the body, points out Streicher, and therefore have a drying effect on tissues from your nose to your...you know.
The Precaution That's Supposed to Relax You
You know...that some forms of hormonal contraception mess with your desire (it happens to up to 40 percent of women on the pill). This is mostly because they tamper with the way the body produces the sex hormone testosterone.
But...even when the will is there, the pills may get in the way. After starting a new birth control routine, some women notice some unfamiliar dryness during sex. This could be because the amount of estrogen in the pill is too low to give adequate lubrication but still high enough to suppress your body's own ability to make the hormone (this happens to about 2 percent of women, says Streicher). Or your body could simply be taking a while to get used to the hormones (this is pretty common). If you still don't feel normal after three months or so, by which time your body should have adjusted, talk to your gynecologist about switching pills.
The Product That Makes You Feel Clean, Fresh, and...Hunh?
You know...that certain soaps and cleansers are -- like they say on the bottle -- "not made for internal use" and can cause irritation.
But...Streicher says that if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies, any chemical or soap you use on your lady parts (besides water) has the potential to cause itching, burning and redness that can turn you off sex. That includes luxury toilet papers with chemical dyes as well as cleansing towelettes. In addition to alcohol, which is notoriously drying, the wipes may also contain glycerin or other chemical preservatives that are quickly absorbed by the delicate tissues of the vaginal area.
The Workout You’re Addicted To
You know...that positioning your bike seat incorrectly in an indoor cycling class can make you feel a little sore after your workout.
But...positioning your handlebars incorrectly can affect how much—or how little—you feel when you're supposed to be feeling really, really great. Women's health researchers at Yale University School of Medicine found that female cyclists who rode with their handlebars set lower than their seats experienced pressure on the soft tissue of the perineum and had decreased sensation in the pelvic floor. To avoid numbness that can lead to damage, make sure that you're not sticking your bottom in the air when you ride and that most of your weight is back on your sit bones, not toward the front of your pelvis.
The Sex Enhancer Women Secretly Swear By?
You know...that lubricant is essential to great, satisfying sex, and it doesn't matter if it comes from you or from a tube stashed discreetly in your night table.
But...some lubricants you buy in the store (especially the water-based kind) contain propylene glycol, a preservative that many women find irritating, explains Streicher. "Women are using this to enhance sex, and it ends up making things worse," she says. If you feel some burning or itching during or after using your lubricant, consider switching to a silicone-based version (Streicher recommends Wet Platinum to her patients, as well as Pjur Woman Bodyglide, Good Clean Love, Sylk and Pink).
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.