Reviving Intimacy, Naturally

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WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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If sexual intimacy with your partner isn’t as enjoyable as it once was, you’re not alone. Many factors such as stress, hormone imbalances and life changes can cause dysfunction in the bedroom, hurting relationships and even egos. You may be tempted to turn to drug store variety lubricants or medications for help, but they may actually cause more harm than good. Let’s take a look at some natural intimacy and vitality products that can reignite a flickering flame!

Bedroom Troubles
According to a U.S. survey, 31% of men and nearly half (43%) of all women suffer from sexual dysfunction (1). For aging men, the main cause is a drop in testosterone and a rise in estrogen (2).  This imbalance can cause problems such as decreased libido, loss of energy, erectile dysfunction, deteriorating mood and abdominal weight gain, none of which put anyone “in the mood.” Women often experience a drop in the sex hormone estrogen during menopause and other life stages, such as pregnancy and premenstrual syndrome (2). Sexual dysfunction in women may manifest itself as decreased libido, lack of arousal, vaginal dryness or a general lack of pleasure (2).

Traditional impotence medications for men may cause side effects ranging from dizziness to seizures (3). Women often turn to lubricants to make intercourse more enjoyable. While this isn’t a bad idea in itself (more on natural lubricants later!), personal lubricants often include harmful ingredients, such as parabens (chemical preservatives that can bind to estrogen receptors and cause breast tumors, as well as fetal development problems); glycerine (a preservative that may cause yeast infections); and synthetic menthol (used for stimulation, it may cause vaginal itching and drying) (4).

Studies show that 60% of what is applied to the skin can get into the bloodstream (5). Because the mucous membranes, located in intimate areas such as the penis and vagina, do not have a protective layer of skin, they are particularly vulnerable to chemicals (5). Therefore, it’s especially important to your health to only use safe and natural products in the bedroom.

Getting “In the Mood”
Various studies have shown certain supplements to be effective against sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Maca, a tuber in the radish family, has been used as an aphrodisiac by people in the Andes region for centuries (2). Researchers in a 2002 randomized, double-blind study gave men, ages 21–56, 1,500 mg or 3,000 mg of maca or placebo for three months. In eight weeks, those who took the maca reported increased levels of sexual desire (2). In addition, studies have also shown maca to enhance sperm production and motility, increasing the chances of conception (2).

Other vitality supplements for men are yohimbe bark, gingko biloba and ginger root, all of which increase blood flow (6).

Women, especially those going through menopause, can also benefit from maca supplementation, as studies have shown it to reduce sexual dysfunction by 34%, as well as libido-zapping anxiety and depression symptoms by 30% (1). Women may also see improvement from taking Cordyceps mushroom extract, which has been shown in studies to balance hormone levels, increase ATP production (upping energy levels) and boost antioxidant action to allow for normal sexual function (1). Studies have also shown that products with the amino acid L-arginine may increase libido and satisfaction for pre- and peri-menopausal women (7).

Safe Lubrication
Without proper lubrication, intercourse can become painful. Normally, estrogen signals a woman’s body to produce natural lubrication that keeps the vaginal tissue moist and elastic (8). Low estrogen levels due to hormone imbalances, medications or stress can cause uncomfortable dryness. To relieve this symptom and make intimacy enjoyable again, look for lubricants made with only natural ingredients that will not cause any unwanted side effects.

Flax, guar gum and locust bean provide viscosity and slipperiness to water-based lubricants. Oil-based lubricants often use sweet almond oil as a base; it is non-greasy, yet absorbs into the skin slowly, making it long-lasting. Rich in vitamins, it smoothes, softens, protects and nourishes the skin and can relieve irritation (7). Just be sure not to use oil-based lubricants with latex condoms, as they can cause the condom to tear; polyurethane condoms, however, are safe to use with oil-based lubricants (9).

Looking for something with a little more spark? Peppermint and cinnamon oils are natural vasodilators often added to arousal gels and lubricants as menthol replacements. They bring blood to the surface, resulting in a warming sensation and increased female stimulation (11). Don’t overdo it; a little bit can go a long way! WF

References
1. M. Downey, “Reversing Female Sexual Dysfunction,“ Life Extension Magazine, May 2012.
2. D. Kiefer, “Natural Methods to Improve Vitality, Sexual Function, and Prostate Health,” Life Extension Magazine, Dec. 2008.
3. Drugs.com, “Viagra Side Effects,” www.drugs.com/sfx/viagra-side-effects.html, accessed Dec. 6, 2013.
4. IntimateOrganics, www.intimateorganics.com/pdfs/Intimate-Organics_Catalog.pdf, accessed Dec. 5, 2013.
5. The Yes Yes Yes Company Ltd., “Who We Are,” www.yesyesyes.org/who-are-we.htm, accessed Dec. 5, 2013.
6. Virile Plex, “VirilePlex,“ www.virileplex.com/virileplex.htm, accessed Dec. 6, 2013.
7. The Yes Yes Yes Company Ltd., “Yes Garden,” www.yesyesyes.org/yes_garden.htm, accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
8. The Yes Yes Yes Company Ltd., “Vaginal Dryness,” www.yesyesyes.org/
paper_vaginal_dryness_detail.htm
, accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
9. POZ.com, “Condoms,” www.poz.com/archive/2005_Jul_302.shtml, accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
10. Sliquid Organics, “O Gel,” http://sliquidorganics.com/ogel.html, accessed Dec. 10, 2013.
11. Emerita, “OH! Warming Lubricant,” www.emerita.com/products/sexual-vitality-1/oh-warming-lubricant-2-oz.html, accessed Dec. 10, 2013.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2014