Optimize Sexual Intimacy through Functional Medicine
Sexual intimacy can be a rewarding part of the human experience. Unfortunately, age-related hormone decline as well as hormone imbalances earlier in life can take their toll on sexual health. The Functional Medicine approach addresses root causes of sexual dysfunction. It not only treats the symptoms but the whole person.
Essential components of optimal human sexual health include nutrition, exercise, sleep, hydration, hormone balance, optimal gut/brain connection, blood sugar regulation, and stress management. Because a decline in sexual function is often associated with a decline in metabolism and energy, knowing what to do to improve function and overall health can be overwhelming at times. Fortunately, much can be done to improve sexual function, arousal, sensitivity, intimate connection, and enhance the overall sexual experience for both partners.
HUMAN SEXUALITY IS MULTI-FACTORIAL
FOR MEN, common concerns include erectile function, stamina, body composition, libido, mood, and vitality. Sexual concerns are often assumed to be related to low testosterone levels. Although testosterone is an important component for improved sexual and overall health in men, assessing other key hormones is crucial as well. Thyroid health is an often under-treated cause of low libido and sexual function. Obesity and body composition changes in men often have adverse consequences on a man’s sexual health, as are maintaining strength, muscle mass, and cardiovascular endurance. Nutrition is a key component for the maintenance of healthy sexual performance. Proper nutrition can manage blood sugar and insulin levels as well as impact sex hormones and help control systemic inflammation and stress. Stress and inflammation can wreak havoc on men’s sex life at any age. By addressing the big picture when it comes to the components of optimal sexual health, men are able to enjoy satisfying experiences throughout their entire adult life.
FOR WOMEN, there are the same essential components as men, but additional considerations such as pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation can require more careful hormone assessment to achieve optimal balance. Although hormone imbalances become more common as a woman approaches menopause, a woman can experience sexual dysfunction anytime after beginning her menses. Symptoms of female sexual dysfunction include: decreased sensitivity, pain or discomfort, dryness, low libido, low energy, loss of feeling connected, body composition changes, depression, and decreased pleasure and satisfaction. As in men, managing thyroid and blood sugar is beneficial as well as making sure that levels of testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen are optimal. While testosterone is often recognized as an essential component for men, testosterone is also an important component of a woman’s sexual health. There are numerous testosterone clinics available to help men. Similar clinics offering progesterone and testosterone replacement would offer benefits to the many women experiencing a decline in the quality of their sexual experience.
Many challenges couples face in their relationships could improved if both partners are proactive in their sexual health. There would be improvement in the overall sexual experience and likely a marked decline in relationship problems and divorce. Couples will face challenges in their relationships, but problems stemming from preventable sexual problems and lack of intimacy can be prevented. Better connected couples are better able to handle the other stressors of life.
Hormone levels are analogous to a fuel gauge on a car. Levels decline steadily as we age, but major life events can cause a rapid decline during a short period of time. Restoring optimal levels increases resiliency and replenishes an individual’s reserve capacity so that hormonal fluctuations and imbalances become less frequent and severe.
A comprehensive functional approach to restoring sexual health includes a detailed patient medical history, nutrition and lifestyle assessment, stress and mental health evaluation, and a comprehensive laboratory analysis. Even for individuals who are not experiencing noticeable symptoms, obtaining a baseline assessment can be helpful, given the inevitability of decline over time. Sexual health is an essential component to optimal health. Taking a proactive approach to one’s health by restoring balance in this key area can be very rewarding.
Dr. Jeremy Draper is the Medical Director for Wellfit Medicine and Nutrition and Glo Medical Aesthetics. He is also a co-owner of Metabolic CrossFit and a CrossFit Level 2 trainer. Dr. Draper completed an additional year of training in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). For more information visit http://www.wellfitmedicine.com.