by guest blogger Mark A. Moyad, MD, MPH, Director of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical CenterHere are a few quick facts:
- Only about 20 percent of women experience orgasm on a regular basis with their partner.
- At least 30 percent of women have issues with sexual desire, arousal, or orgasm.
- A low libido/desire is the most common complaint women have about their sex lives.
Low libido is a very common problem for women. But there are natural ways to give yours a boost. Here are some of the ones I know to work well:
1) Try a supplement. ArginMax, is a dietary supplement made from L-arginine, Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, damiana leaf, and various vitamins and minerals. There have been two placebo-controlled studies published (2001, 2006) showing that this combination helps to improve arousal, desire, orgasm, sexual frequency, and clitoral sensation in women. The latest clinical study showed a benefit within four weeks. And this supplement does not appear to have estrogenic enhancement properties, which means that you don't have to worry about it messing with your hormones. Interestingly, a recent randomized trial utilizing 3 grams of Panax ginseng daily and no other ingredients compared to placebo found a significant improvement in arousal for postmenopausal women and further clinical trials in premenopausal women are being conducted right now. I'll keep you posted on how that goes.
2) Use warming massage oil. An over-the-counter massage oil for women known as Zestra has some clinical results to suggest that it increases sensitivity and warmth, and may improve female desire, arousal, and overall sexual pleasure when applied to the clitoris, labia, and vaginal opening. Zestra is a blend of borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, angelica root extract, and coleus extract. Interestingly, borage and evening primrose oil contain large amounts of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid), which theoretically can get metabolized to prostaglandin, a compound that could increase blood flow and enhance nerve communication. A few participants in the trials experienced mild genital burning that lasted 5 to 30 minutes, so you might want to test it out on a small area before you go spreading it around.
3) Lube. I'm surprised that more experts aren't telling women about the benefits of lubricants! Especially since pain is often cited as a reason why women are less sexually active than they might otherwise be. And chaffing is something that happens to even the most naturally lubricated women. Choose a water-based lube for a quick romp and silicone for longer encounters. And be aware that oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly, olive oil, clear mineral oil, coconut butter, and vitamin E should not be used with condoms because they can cause them to break. Silicone lubricants are not absorbed well by the skin, and stay fluid longer, but must be cleaned off with soap and water. (But be careful when using these in the shower because they make everything slippery!)
4) Make lifestyle changes. By far, the best and cheapest option! Recent groundbreaking research from Italy demonstrated that lifestyle changes can improve overall sexual satisfaction and even prevent sexual dysfunction in women, including loss of desire, libido, arousal, inability to orgasm, pain, and dryness. The results of the study suggest that you should try to:
- Exercise at least every other day for 30 minutes or more, and break a sweat so that over time your resting heart rate decreases.
- Reduce the overall calories in your diet by 100 to 200 calories a day. (Get rid of that cookie or trade that latte, perhaps?)
- Increase your intake of fatty, omega-3-rich fish to 2 servings a week
- Increase your intake of monounsaturated fat and omega-3s from plant sources like flaxseed, chia seed, and heart-healthy cooking oils such as canola, olive, and safflower.
- Increase your intake of high-quality protein from lean grass-fed beef, fish, or eggs, or from protein powders such as those made with whey, egg white, or, if you are a strict vegetarian from soy, pea, or brown rice powders.
- Consume 20 to 30 grams of quality fiber every day. Some great sources are beans, peas, and lentils. Berries, nuts, and whole grains are also good.
5) Talk to your doctor. The female sexual response is a complex dance between your neurovascular, hormonal, and psychological pathways. Which is why there are no Viagra pills for women: Just increasing blood flow to the clitoris or vagina with a drug doesn't usually work. Sometimes, in order to really improve sexual desire, you need to address the physical, mental, and even emotional aspects of sexual health. So make sure you have a conversation with your trusted doctor about any part of your sexual life that is not satisfying you. You might be surprised at the help he or she can offer.
Dr. Moyad is the Jenkins/Pokempner Director of Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. He has maintained a consulting practice in complementary medicine for more than 15 years. He lives with his wife and dog Chauncey in Ann Arbor, MI, and just became an empty nester.
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