Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
24 May

A Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Sex Drive

flirtingfeetEveryone ready for the holiday weekend yet? It’s a good time, I think, to cover a relaxing, if not inspiring, topic I’ve been meaning to get to. In all seriousness, I get a couple emails every week from folks who are wondering about their waxing or waning sexual drive and how it relates to their lifestyle. Some are folks celebrating the return of their mojo after losing weight and and gaining energy on the Primal Blueprint. Others are from readers concerned about their partners’ unhealthy habits and what they see as the coital repercussions. Still more are from folks transitioning to Primal living and going through a period of energy “adjustment” as they find the right balance in their workout regimens, calorie intakes, and overall lifestyle picture. In all, the questions revolve around a central point: what lifestyle measures support optimum sexual drive?

Truth be told, modern life isn’t friendly to the human libido. Contemporary challenges to a healthy sex drive are many: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, adrenal exhaustion, poor nutrition, prescription medications, hormonal birth control, too much stress, and too little sleep. You’re undoubtedly getting the picture. It’s a somewhat cruel irony, too. On the one hand, we’re increasingly living with these impediments, but on the other hand we’re bombarded with the marketing messages and cultural fallout of the Viagra age: we should all be happy, randy people up for an erotic rendezvous at all and any given moment. It’s simply a matter of will – and a pill if you need it.

Let’s put this aside for a few minutes – all the cultural hype and pseudo-medical baggage. Instead, let’s gather around the metaphorical fire circle and reclaim evolutionary reality. In other words, let’s get back to the fundamentals. What makes for a healthy sex drive? What are the real biological facts when it comes to the human libido? What health related choices can cultivate sexual verve and vitality over a lifetime?

Sex drive, as it were, involves a constellation of complex hormonal and psychological factors that are influenced by everything from health to lifestyle, personality to relationship status, gender to genetics. It’s a tricky, shifting, sticky wicket at times. It’s personal, emotional, nuanced, but there are some things we know.

Sex hormones, not surprisingly, play the central role in libido as well as fertility. For women, estrogen and testosterone both appear to positively impact sex drive. A pre-menopausal woman’s libido, for instance, is influenced by changing hormonal levels throughout her menstrual cycle, rising during the first half of the cycle to then peak at ovulation, the pinnacle of a woman’s fertility. In clinical research studies, women responded more to sexual stimuli and reported more subsequent interest in sexual activity when they first viewed said stimuli during times of peak endogenous estrogen levels.

In men, testosterone likewise holds a positive sway over sexual drive. Men with clinically defined low libido are often diagnosed with low testosterone, and men more than women respond better and more safely to testosterone supplementation. Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity also can contribute to low testosterone by impairing production of testosterone. Estrogen also figures into the hormonal equation for men although in a more inverse relationship. (Yup, guys have it, too.) If estrogen levels creep up too high in relation to testosterone, you might as well call it a night.

Likewise, prolactin tends to decrease libido in both sexes. Prolactin levels rise throughout pregnancy and remain elevated during breastfeeding. In both sexes, low thyroid function causes the pituitary gland to increase the release of both thyroid-stimulating hormone and prolactin. Anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications are known to increase prolactin release as well.

The steroid hormone DHEA also figures into the libido picture for both men and women. DHEA is converted by the body into sex hormones, particularly testosterone and estrogen. Some research points to the importance of DHEA more than testosterone in pre-menopausal women’s experience of low libido.

Of course, there’s much more to libido than the physical. We’ve all heard the adage, “the biggest erogenous zone is the brain.” Although I’ll leave most of that part to other, better suited blogs (sorry), let’s roll up our sleeves now and look at some simple, entirely do-able practices for cultivating a healthy drive.

Diet

First, let’s talk about the supposed aphrodisiacs – those edibles credited with mysterious, erotic powers… I hate to disappoint, but any impact on one’s sexual feeling is probably more the placebo of ambiance and expectation than anything. (But if that works for you, by all means go for it.)

There are points of intersection between diet and drive, however. In some cases, they even suggest some sense behind a few of the aphrodisiac associations. Certain nutrients are key to the production of sex hormones. Zinc, for example, appears to play a role in testosterone production. Oysters are – guess what – chock full of zinc. (Ain’t that a kick in the head?) Nevertheless, a single serving an hour before the big event isn’t going to make any discernible difference. A well-garnished oyster platter might look appealing and exotic, but a diet with consistently ample zinc and other minerals is the real ticket.

Other foods contain nutrients and compounds that promote various elements of successful sexual functioning – like good circulation, hormonal balance, nerve ending sensitivity, and even emotional well-being. (We all know why those are important, yes?) Fish and nuts offer a healthy dose of fatty acids, which foster hormonal balance and help thin the blood. Much has been made of chocolate’s phenylethylamine compound that triggers the brain’s release of dopamine. Likewise, hot peppers’ capsaicin burns so good because it prompts the body to release natural endorphin pain killers. The list goes on. Amino acids like L-arginine (in shellfish and figs) figure into the production of sex hormones. B-vitamins counteract stress. (More on stress in a minute…)

Despite all the focus on these few nutrient “stars,” your best bet is – you guessed it – a nutrient dense diet high in antioxidants and minerals, generous in both essential fatty acids and (gasp!) healthy, clean saturated fat. The fact is, fats are critical for regulating the body’s production of sex hormones. It’s why fertility is enhanced by full-fat dairy, for example. Yet another reason to love fat…as if you needed one.

Exercise

This should be obvious to everyone by now, but exercise is about the smartest thing you can do for your libido. There’s the boost to physical self-confidence (i.e. LGN – looking good naked) and the impressive increase in overall energy and stamina. But, of course, there’s more.

Let’s see here. There’s the pleasurable surge in endorphins, which research suggests leaves us happily in the mood. Then there’s the increased blood flow and the hormonal effects. How about lower stress hormones and a healthy boost in testosterone? Good, hearty resistance training is the the ticket here.

On the other hand, there’s the flipside of too much exercise – and the resulting physical exhaustion and hormonal alterations that can accompany it. Women who regularly work out to the point of exhaustion frequently experience adrenal fatigue and even infertility as a result of drastic hormonal changes. In men, the effects of exhaustion exercise can include “reduced resting levels of testosterone, altered pituitary release of luteinizing hormone and prolactin, and altered sperm characteristics.” (Not sexy.) It goes to show that you can have too much of a good thing – at least when it comes to working out.

Stress

There’s the short-term distraction of stress – the incessant bad mood, the nagging thoughts and reminders during what should be intimate, focused moments. Then there’s the longer term physical toll. As I say again and again, stress sets in motion a whole cascade of negative hormonal challenges. An unwarranted rise in adrenal corticosteriods is enough to diminish sex drive. One study, for example, demonstrates the, uh, undesirable impact of cortisol levels on arousal and erection.

Over time, chronic stress can leave us with little physical energy and even adrenal exhaustion. The losers here are the sex hormones. Researchers at Berkeley University have found that long-term stress and the corresponding surge of glucocorticoids suppresses not only the production of key reproductive hormones like GnRH but increases GnIH, which acts to further squash the production of aforementioned GnRH and the resulting sex hormone products, testosterone and estradiol. In other words, stress effectively throws a major wrench in the whole reproductive system – from start to finish.

Medications

Hormonal contraception alters the biochemical landscape to fool the body into thinking its pregnant, but it can also put a damper on libido. Because the Pill generally prevents ovulation, women on the Pill generally forgo the hormonal experience surrounding ovulation – an experience which usually includes a midcycle surge in sex drive. The surge can be subtle or dramatic depending on the individual woman, but the evolutionary sense is obvious: a female should want to have sex when she’s most fertile.

Other medications that can put the kibosh on your sex drive include most anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds, high blood pressure medication, anti-psychotic prescriptions, and some stomach acid and ulcer meds. I’m not saying people shouldn’t take their prescribed medication or use a high efficacy form of contraception in order to enhance their sex drive. Knowledge is power. If you think your medication might be lowering your libido, you have the choice to talk to your doctor about alternative versions of your medications – or if healthy lifestyle changes can make enough impact on your condition that a dose reduction might be possible.

Age

Finally, let’s talk age. What people in our culture too often assume is a dramatic, age-induced downward spiral is instead usually a health or medication related issue, a relationship strain, a crisis of self-confidence, or just an excuse to give up. As we all know, a lot more goes into a healthy, satisfying sex life than hormones.

Although our hormones will gradually, naturally shift with age, our sexual drive is like every other aspect of our physical selves: its function depends largely on our own efforts – and attitudes – throughout life. Research has demonstrated, for instance, that social and psychological factors are more influential in sexual satisfaction/dissatisfaction after menopause than biological causes. In fact, researchers have shown that post-menopausal women respond as strongly to sexual desire “cues” (“erotic/explicit cues”, “visual/proximity cues”, and “implicit/romantic cues”) as pre-menopausal women and even more strongly in the final fourth area of “love/emotional cues.” With changing social attitudes toward sex throughout one’s lifetime, surveyed men and women are reporting more frequent sex and more satisfaction with their sexual lives. How’s that for progress?

If you or your significant other has an ongoing, unexplained, precipitous decline in drive, I’d suggest two things. First, do an emotional and physical inventory. Are you over-doing (or under-doing) on the exercise? Are you eating poorly, getting too few calories, or not getting enough sleep? Are you under more stress or going through your own kind of personal funk? Has your confidence (physical or otherwise) been waning for some reason?

Does your relationship need some work, some space, or a romantic reboot? There’s some research behind the importance of fantasy and imagination in sexual desire. Although that’s probably subject for another blog than this, let’s just say that stagnancy never did anyone any favors. As one study shows, even a simple placebo and the associated belief that subjects were receiving “help” for their lack of desire was enough to boost many subjects’ sexual satisfaction and likely their attitude toward and communication with their partners.

If everything here seems in order, check in with your doctor and be vigilant about your interests. Ask for tests rather than a prescription. For men, this can entail testosterone, DHEA, other androgens, thyroid function (full panel), glucose/A1C1, and blood pressure. (Your doctor might order more knowing your particular medical history or any additional symptoms.) For women, all the above would be relevant as well as estrogen, progesterone, and adrenal function. (The adrenal tests might be appropriate for men as well, but problems are more common in women.) Work with your doctor and ask plenty of questions with the interpretation of the results, and don’t ever, ever hesitate to get a second (or third) opinion.

Folks, thanks for reading today. Share your own insights into maintaining – or recovering – a healthy sex drive. Have a great week, everyone!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Indeed, lifestyle-related stressors must play a key in regulating libido.

    Interestingly, sex hormones seem to correlate with growth hormone, and GH seems to reach a particularly low point in the 40s:

    bit.ly/fBlGcT

    That is a time when there is a great deal of stress in people’s lives. Careers often reach a critical point then, and so does personal life.

    Ned Kock wrote on May 24th, 2011
  2. I think this is a great post, very critical to everyone’s everyday life. I have notice a definite increase in libido just by the change in food alone. Leaving the fitness part completely out of it. The cut of carbs and foods that leave you feeling bloated and achy… comfort foods are not sexual fire starters for sure.

    Jeanna wrote on May 24th, 2011
  3. Has anyone read, Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival? I can’t help but think of this book and how it suggests that most of our problems are traced back to a simple lack of sleep. If you poll the majority of my friends who are moms of young children like myself, I think that would be the biggest zapper to the sex drive.

    Of course, the book suggests that we weren’t even designed to be so fertile all the time (such that we have children extremely close together) but our lack of sleep causes a disruption of our sex hormones. This elevates fertility and leads to pregnancies close together in the short term and problems like cancer in the long term.

    Anybody else have thoughts on this?

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • I believe sleep effects us all more than we believe. Its vitally important but we all still overlook it.

      When I am sleepy, I do want to do anything including sex.

      I have been reading The 4 Hour Body and am going to experiment with polyphasic sleep. Starting today I am going to take 2 twenty minute naps. According to Ferriss I should be able to sleep 4.5 hours at night and feel like I slept a quality 7-8 hours.

      Has anyone else tried this?

      That book is on my reading list. Maybe I will buy it sooner rather than later.

      Primal Toad wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • From what I’ve read, polyphasic sleep works great for about 3 months, and then your adrenal glands become completely nonfunctional and you crash. Very hard. It can lead to thyroid dysfunction and all kinds of hormonal issues. Ask yourself this, What would Paleolithic man do?

        Jess K wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • Why would you only want to sleep 4-5 hours at night?

        I’d lay around bored..what to do when awake and everyone else is asleep?
        Sleep to me is a nice timesink…it makes the time fly by from when it’s dark to when the sun comes up again.

        I’m going to have a look at that book though, thanks for mentioning it.

        Primal Palate wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • I have to agree, that just doesn’t sound healthy or natural. I tend to think that early humans slept when it was dark out and woke up with the sun. I’m a firm believer in a solid 8 or 9 hours in a really dark room.

        Nutritionator wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • Primal-Sycophant.

        Luther Bliss wrote on May 25th, 2011
      • Sounds like the latest unsupported fad to me. I’m open to new ideas, but, with the exception of the occassional night when it would have been his turn to stand watch, it doesn’t seem like something Grok would have done.

        Besides, I enjoy sleep. What is so bad about it? Why is anyone trying to make money selling a book telling you how to get by on less sleep(than is probably healthy for you?)

        Because it fits in well with our current lifestyle that almost demands sleep deprivation–a combination of digital fixation and an unhealthy focus on productivity–things that are making us unhealthy. Not good things in my book and certainly not too Primal sounding, if you ask me.

        Nope; doesn’t sound good to me at all. And on that note–off to bed!

        fritzy wrote on May 26th, 2011
    • Exclusive breastfeeding (no pacifiers, no supplemental foods first six months, no longer than 4 hrs between breastfeeds) leads to natural child spacing of about 2 years. With both of my kids, my cycle didnt return til they were about 15 mo old. This falls in line with the 2 yrs spacing as well. Of course there are exceptions but the criteria are hard for some people to meet as well (back to work, etc).

      Nicole wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • I exclusively breastfed and followed those guidelines. My cycle came back exactly 28 days after the birth of each of my 3 children. I wish I would have gotten some time off.

        Wendy wrote on May 26th, 2011
    • wanna make babies?

      Ayyy Girl wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • great book. the discussion on insuslin state and it’s influence on SGBH (sex hormone binding protein) is of particular interest. Mark discusses and ‘energy transition’ but I’d hypothesize that if folks are rolling chronic low carb and either don’t spike insulin with some carby goodness or at least some dairy (very insulinogenic but low on the cho side) then they might have lots of their cirulating hormones bound up and unable to really do their dance. lack of sleep could put people on the losing end of the coritisol see saw which probably only worsens insulin feedback with regard to endocrine / steroid production and regulation.

      eat the worm wrote on May 25th, 2011
      • i forgot to add that your comment on low sleep and increased fertility makes sense in light of the hyperinsulin state chronic sleep deprivation moves folks towards (again casue of riding the cortisol crazy train too long). good call.

        eat the worm wrote on May 25th, 2011
    • I read that book a while ago. I agree with the concept too. And yes, I have just had a baby 2 months ago. So I am suffering from some good sleep deprivation, my babe is definitely not the sleep through the night kind…she enjoys her 3x a night nursing. The last thing on my mind as I collapse into bed after cleaning and looking after her all day, and rocking and lulling her into sleep is sex.

      Earthspirit wrote on May 25th, 2011
    • Shwing!

      Paleo Josh wrote on June 3rd, 2011
  4. Any paleo contraceptive method for another article Mark?

    Thomas G wrote on May 24th, 2011
  5. Maca, a Peruvian root in the Brassicaceae family, has been shown in blinded, placebo controlled studies to enhance libido in both men and women. Studies suggest that the effect is dose dependent, but nevertheless, compared to the placebo, maca works.

    It has a pleasant, malty taste as well!

    Traditionally, ants have been used for their libido-boosting properties, most likely due to their high zinc content. One more reason to get our daily dose of insects.

    Nutritionizt wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • i understand that as a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, maca is a thyroid depressant.

      tess wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • I’ve been taking Maca supplements for several months now – probably close to a year actually. Unfortunately I’ve noticed no change whatsoever. Anyway, at least it was worth a try — and as mentioned, perhaps a larger dose is in order!

      Disclosure: I’m a 67 year old female — perhaps Maca’s beneficial properties are best utilized on the younger set?

      PrimalGrandma wrote on May 24th, 2011
  6. One thing that has been show to have a positive impact on the human sex drive is the SUN.

    85 – 90 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient! Check this out…http://www.mikethomasfitness.com/raise-testosterone-levels-the-war-against-vitamin-d

    Mike Thomas wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • True, sunshine makes me randy….
      RAWR…

      Primal Palate wrote on May 24th, 2011
  7. Stamina… it’s what makes it fun. Get your rest; nutrients, exercise and sun, then go have some fun!

    Dasbutch wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • Exactly right! :) Keep it simple because it is.

      Bob Garon wrote on May 24th, 2011
  8. The difference has been huge for me. I went from not really caring about sex to, well, you know. ;)

    However, it did get mighty low again while pregnant and breastfeeding. I’ll attest to that.

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • “What people in our culture too often assume is a dramatic, age-induced downward spiral is instead usually a health or medication related issue, a relationship strain, a crisis of self-confidence, or just an excuse to give up.”

      As I age, I see this decline all the time among my peers and it is SO unnecessary.

      Alison Golden wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • Oops, sorry Peggy. This wasn’t meant to be a reply to you. ;-)

        Alison Golden wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • Let’s make babies.

      Ayyy Girl wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • It’s pretty normal for sex drive to be low while pregnant and breastfeeding. Your body is busy nourishing another person, it’s not yet ready to nourish a 3rd.

      jj wrote on May 24th, 2011
  9. I would think there are also understated psychological benefits of the paleo diet as well that can’t be ignored.

    Call it the “sexyness” factor, but when you start to see changes in your body it starts to change your relationship to it.

    When you go from hiding from your body (avoiding mirrors, wearing baggy clothes, always staying covered up even when on your own) to openly celebrating it and sharing it proudly (not in a “Hey look at me I’m a pompous ass” kind of way) we experience a psychological shift that spills over in the bedroom baby (sorry a little Austin powers channeling on that last part :-)

    Goes back to Mark’s comment about the brain/mind connection. That mass of grey matter plays a far greater role then we think.

    To getting your MEOW! on,

    DD

    Dean Dwyer wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • Austin Powers is great! I’d be hard pressed to find any Fat Bastards around here though! ;)

      I will say that before finding this website, I was eating a largely vegetarian diet and I did not have much drive. When I started to reincorporate fats and proteins more liberally (fats first, animal proteins came second), my sex drive seemed to return. My boyfriend and I BOTH win thanks to Primal!
      Side note: I’m a 20 year old female and have been Primal for a week and am loving every second!

      Emily wrote on May 24th, 2011
  10. I’m clearly speaking from a place of bitterness, but I see little point in working to maintain my sex drive when the partners available to me only want brief, unsatisfying (to me) hookups and are uninterested in respectful, loving relationships or even pleasing a temporary partner.

    anon wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • I’ve been there. When you find a meaningful relationship (even if it doesn’t last forever) it will be worth it. Putting in the effort now will pay off in the end.

      Sarah wrote on May 24th, 2011
  11. I liked this post. It makes me wonder what the sex life of hunter-gatherers is like, off to google it.

    Bodhi wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • I have been reading The Bushman Way of Tracking God. And I recently read The Old Way: A Story of the First People. (Bushmen are about as close to Grok as you are going to get.) Quote from a Bushman elder on celibacy: “Why would God want to hang out with someone who doesn’t have sex?” Bushmen like sex. The don’t have to worry about contraception since the women (and men too for that matter) have low body fat (from their meager diet) and they nursed children a long time.

      Harry wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • Wait…what? Nursing has a contraceptive effect?

        Brandon Berg wrote on May 24th, 2011
        • Yes, if conditions are met… Here is a great link and see my previous post http://www.kellymom.com/bf/normal/fertility.html

          Nicole wrote on May 24th, 2011
        • Yes, c my post earlier

          Nicole wrote on May 24th, 2011
        • Yes, “effect,” but don’t count on it if you are not ready for another. (My 2nd was conceived when 1st was 9 mos and nursing – also on solids). Fortunately, we wanted to get prego.

          Also, if you are nursing and baby suddenly shows less interest, take a pregnancy test. Just in case.

          Heidi P. wrote on May 27th, 2011
  12. I have subclinical hypothyroidism (which I am on the fence about treating with thyroid hormone) and I knew that it was linked to low libido in men (which I have), but I was completely unaware of the link with elevated prolactin.

    Thank you very much for that information. I will talk to my endocrinologist about this.

    Mark S wrote on May 24th, 2011
  13. I’m getting married in september. I’ve bookmarked this article.

    jaybird wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • You’d better start getting ready. Ask Mark for some special WOWs.

      Tim wrote on May 24th, 2011
  14. I actually feel a strange sense of guilt when I’m on the Pill, because I hate smothering my body’s natural instincts – and the Pill definitely does mess with my libido. The problem is, when I’m off it, I’m more likely to end up in a situation where I should be on it – if you catch my drift. :)

    On a slightly different note, I find men who live a Primal lifestyle much more sexually attractive. I think it’s because they are inherently more manly and more ‘animal’, and maybe my instincts tell me they’d make a better sexual partner. Anyway, my boyfriend definitely ticks all the right boxes, and he introduced me to the Primal Blueprint.

    kerrybonnie wrote on May 24th, 2011
  15. Heh heh..he said sticky wicket!

    Kelly wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • Lol..Bevis and Butthead make their way into MDA. Love it.

      Bill wrote on May 24th, 2011
  16. I’ve found consistent exercise to be the one key factor for libido. And when you add Peleo eating, puts you on a whole new level.

    Kamal wrote on May 24th, 2011
  17. I can speak from experience for the impact that over exercise and diet have on sexual desire. For 3 years I was a 2 a year marathoner on a traditional low fat diet more worried about qualifying for Boston and my time there while my poor wife was worried why I didn’t have that drive for her anymore.
    Fast forward 6 months of no marathon training, and a primal lifestyle in fitness and nutrition and my poor wife wonders why this creep can’t keep my hands off of her :)

    Charley wrote on May 24th, 2011
  18. The emotional connection should not be discarded..

    I was always a horny one, and even after 12 yrs of marriage and 2 kids. Last year my husband and I separated briefly(he moved 6 blocks away, and still slept at MY place 4 nights a week while I worked). He had to “figure himself out”. When he figured out that life sucks without us, he moved back in.

    Our initial friendship/relationship was defined by hot sex, and as our lives morphed and matured into “family”..responsibilities and putting others’ needs before “wants” was something he needed to learn. While we separated, I put my feelings and emotions into a little locked box..to protect myself. (I have a few locked boxes) And I have not had a sex drive since. Don’t really care to have sex with him, or anyone else, or even myself. All set. And WAY not me! Been Paleo/Primal for years, never had a problem. I want to care about sex again. We went to Therapy twice, he decided we didn’t need it.? Eh.
    I hope most of this is seasonal, too, I always get into a funk during the long winter, and it literally has not been sunny here. Also a factor, as I too, usually feel exceptionally randy after a day of playing in the sunshine! Sigh. Here’s to hoping the affectionate feelings come back someday soon!

    juliemama wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • Sex drive is very much influenced by two neurochemicals, dopamine and oxytocin. Put very simply, dopamine influences your exitement and oxytocin influences your deeper connection. A lot of sex therapists say that ailing relationships need more excitement (a dopamine kick), but what serves you far better in the long run is more oxytocin. This is gained by bonding experiences such as hugging, holding hands, prolonged eye contact–basically all the things that couples typically do when they are dating seriously.

      In any case, I guarantee that if you practice affectionate, bonding-type behaviours without even considering sex, that the sexual desire will return in spades.

      Mark wrote on May 24th, 2011
      • I agree. I just do not feel particularly affectionate :( He is trying, though, I’ll give him that much…lol he wants the sizzle back, too!

        juliemama wrote on May 25th, 2011
    • We all have locked boxes and it takes a while to open them back up, even when it’s safe to do so. For me desire is linked to trust (well, when it’s not the week b4 ovulation). I’ve had some years where it was hard to drum up desire, esp during hard years – husband depressed, lots of debt, my struggle with anxiety, etc. I gave up hope for libido for months at a time a couple times. And I’ve been on Paxil which gave me a whole new insight on feeling absolutely NO desire – completely dead. But things do change. Don’t give up on your hope!

      Heidi P. wrote on May 27th, 2011
    • Have your husband check out the book “married man sex life” – it’s main premise is that both partners need to choose to be and want to be attractive to each other. it’s got great practical tips has made a big difference in my life.

      Micah wrote on May 31st, 2011
  19. hi! i have had 7 children in 25 years. though there have been loooong periods of a waning sex-drive, really, a time of patience is necessary. getting back to the “hot” stage in life sometimes requires a waiting period.. don’t panic,, fantasize..make time for fun.. when you can realistically,is a sex saver! i can honestly say, now is better than 25 years ago!!

    melanie wrote on May 24th, 2011
  20. I have a low libido (BCP 8 years currently) & my partner too from medication for an auto immune disease (4 years). Sucks that HE has it, not just me, & he can never stop this medication.
    However he only gets horny whenenver he dabbles in illegal substances/drugs. Of course that is depressing for me, but he cant see what my problem is :( help?!

    Randi wrote on May 24th, 2011
    • Hi Randi, that’s a tough situation you are in. I wonder if there is a way he can change his mediation, or the dosage? Depending on what his condition is, maybe additional lifestyle changes are in order. It must be hard to feel like he can only be intimate with you under the influence, and hopefully it is something you can talk about outside the bedroom. Your feelings and self-esteem are important. I’ve had some experience with what you are talking about, and in my case at least, I think using the drugs was just an excuse. Many times, they increase libido but decrease performance. I think a counselor or sex therapist may help here, and remember that a big part of libido and sex includes mental stimulation. Good luck and I wish you all the best!

      shadia wrote on May 26th, 2011
      • Thank you for your reply :) Yep being under the influence makes his performance worse so its not very enjoyable for me :( He cannot change his dosage at this stage, and both the medication and medical condition have definitely affected his mental stimulation for life in general (work, hobbies) not just intimacy. I agree he finds any excuse (weekend, social) to take substances, and this flows onto sudden increase in libido. I’m going to try tackle his mental well being (he cant handle stress well these days) first by way of vitamins/supplements & hoping this will improve all aspects in our relationship.

        Randi wrote on May 26th, 2011
  21. Another great post. I really love that you post on a variety of different subjects, it makes things so much more fun and interesting. I think sex drive has to do with our as you said genetics, diet, exercise and balancing of hormones.

    Tatianna wrote on May 25th, 2011
  22. Fantastic post Mark. Two things I’ve learnt myself on this topic:
    Being on the pill had a devastating effect on my libido and I didn’t even notice it until I came off the pill. Never again!

    Going on holiday, spicy food and sunshine does wonders! But to maintain that excercise and good nutrition as you advocate are essential. None of this low-fat point based diets… that’s sure to kill anyone’s libido.

    SquirrelJo wrote on May 25th, 2011
  23. Mark,

    Like your name !;-)

    Geeze, it’s funny:

    I just wrote an article over on menn.is (like men’s fitness) about how sex can help improve your sleep and weight loss progress!

    It’s gone through the roof!

    It is pretty good though, if I say so myself.

    There’s tons of research backing the fact that sleep is boss for recuperation and a balanced, healthy and productive life, and also that sex actually boosts seretonin-levels! (sleep hormone)

    Go figure …

    Mark

  24. 59, not out.

    Thanks to PB for helping with the innings.

    Looking forward to the century.

    localad wrote on May 25th, 2011
  25. If you want to know more about sex was like for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, I HIGHLY recommend the book – Sex at Dawn. A very well written and accessible study of the sex live of small groups before agriculture. Be prepared to examine some closely held beliefs!

    Richard wrote on May 25th, 2011
    • I agree—I only got through part of the book (it was a two-week check out from the library, and the holds after me were 9 deep), but _Sex at Dawn_ is a fascinating read. An anthropological approach to human sexuality.

      Elisabeth wrote on May 25th, 2011
  26. I thought a little a-a-a-a-a-alcohol would have been mentioned…turning off inhibition…and the day’s stress…in moderation.

    I wonder what our ancestors considered acceptable imbibing?

    primalpal wrote on May 25th, 2011
  27. I guess I’d have to point out that you’d first have to have an attractive mate to start with… that kinda takes care of the sex drive. :)

    Captain Obvious wrote on May 26th, 2011
  28. Don’t know if its just a guy thing but I have sex on my mind 80 to 90 percent of my waking hours (and probably in my sleep too if I could remember). I’m constantly ogling women and visualizing the possibilities.

    I’m in my 50′s and perhaps just not responding to the natural decline in testosterone levels. I suppose to that this frustration is just a part of being primal.

    Asturian wrote on May 27th, 2011
    • I hear you, man. I enjoy sex as much as the next guy, but really the last thing I want to do is increase my libido. I’m in my 50′s, too, and done reproducing, so I don’t really appreciate being constantly on the hunt for ‘action’. ideally I’d like to have a ‘libido’ switch I could control…and enable only at appropriate times.

      Sparge wrote on June 1st, 2011
  29. Ha!

    I’ve never seen or heard an American use the expression ‘sticky wicket’ before.

    Always thought it was used exclusively by people from cricket-playing nations.

    Maple wrote on May 31st, 2011
  30. Mark,

    To me its simple. When I workout and eat good everything else falls into place. The diet keeps me lean and energized and the workouts help relieve stress and tension. This synergistic effect gets the testosterone boiling baby! So keep it simple guys and gals….Eat right and workout and everything else should fall into place over time.

    Cheers,

    Tim D

    Tim - The Lean Look wrote on June 1st, 2011
  31. Hahaha, Mark! I just realized you called it “Berkeley University”. It’s “University of California, Berkeley”, abbreviated as “UC Berkeley”. Most people just call it “Cal”. I know cuz I’m an undergrad there :P

    Reiko wrote on June 6th, 2011
  32. Thank you for this very interesting article.

    Greg Highsmith wrote on September 7th, 2011
  33. In my experience there is nothing more likely to kill sex drive than the physical battering of the peri-menopausal phase of life (primal diet or not). I’m sure there are other people out there who know what I mean. Personally, I can’t wait to be post-menopausal.

    Liz wrote on May 21st, 2012
  34. I think this is a case for Austin Powers

    davec wrote on May 31st, 2012
  35. My husbands sex drive disappeared the day after our wedding night. Weve been married 45 years and we only had sex or any kind of intimacy just one time. That was my first last and only time to have sex. Since the day after our wedding till today he has lived in our basement. Also he has been working the midnight shift all these years. and I was told that he didn’t want me to bother or talk to him. So we have been apartment dewellers, I think I’ve seen him maybe once or twice this years. I’ve never understood what went wrong and never will know. I do know I’ve been lonely, depressed and very much disappointed in how our lives together turned out. Hes retired now, so I found a part time job that gets me out of the house and I’ve been going on alot of vacations with gals from my church, I don’t think he cares where I’ve been or gone. I now distrust all males even the minister at church, its a horrible way to go through life.

    Amy wrote on August 10th, 2012
  36. plz. i want to know how to be or make sexy our sefl.
    but i have lacks sex apple every time i can have sex once in month so what coud be the reason behainds.
    let me know in my mail relpy sir.
    thanking u

    richen wrote on August 21st, 2012
  37. i thought zinc was actually reducing DHT (dihydrotestosterone) which is linked to greater libido … many studies show that clean saturated fat (not to much) and a well balanced DHT / Testosterone balance clearly improve sexdrive :)

    irkone wrote on February 19th, 2014

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