Low libido or low sex drive is a common complaint in both men and women. A low libido can be caused by many different factors. Both sex hormones and stress hormones may affect your libido.
Sex hormones include Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone. A decline or an imbalance in these hormones may contribute to a low libido.
In women, Estrogen is produced in the ovaries and in certain fat cells. When Estrogen levels decline, some women do experience vaginal dryness, vaginal atrophy and a decrease in sex drive. It is more common for women to experience these symptoms during menopause. Bio-identical natural Estrogen replacement either as a cream or vaginal application may improve menopausal symptoms and increase sex drive.
In women, Progesterone is produced in the ovaries. Low levels during perimenopause or menopause can affect a woman’s sex drive. Bio-identical Progesterone replacement may help to balance a woman’s hormones and increase libido.
Testosterone is the primary hormone that influences sex drive in both men and women. It is produced in the testes of men and in the adrenal glands of women. As we age, our natural production of Testosterone declines. For men, there is a 1.5% decline per year after the age of 30. A simple blood test can measure levels of Testosterone in both men and women. Testosterone replacement is an option for those men or postmenopausal women with low Testosterone. One study, the APHRODITE study found treatment with a patch delivering 300microgram testosterone resulted in a modest but meaningful improvement in sexual function.
Lastly stress can have a big impact on sex drive in both men and women. Cortisol is our main stress hormone. An elevated or depressed cortisol level may cause low energy, muscle pain, poor memory, weight gain (especially around the abdomen), anxiety, blood sugar regulation problems and low sex drive. If you are under chronic stress, are experiencing any of the above symptoms including low libido, have your stress hormone levels checked. Addressing low cortisol and chronic stress may improve a low libido.
As you can see, your sex drive can be influenced by many different hormones. It is the balance and the interplay between hormones that can have the biggest effect on sex drive. At Vitalia Health Care, our Naturopathic Doctors can test your hormone levels and discuss a treatment plan individualized for you.
You don’t have to live with a low libido!
Yours in health,
Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND
APHRODITE STUDY Davis, Moreau, et al. APHRODITE study team. Testosterone for low libido in postmenopausal women not taking estrogen. N Engl J Med, 2008; 359(19)
Thyroid and Libido
Could thyroid dysfunction be the reason for low sex drive?
Well, YES! In practice, most men and women who note a low libido have a hormone imbalance. Whether it is high stress resulting in abnormal cortisol levels or thyroid hypofunction, the fact remains that your hormones are controlling your sex life.
Hypothyroidism can begin with a general lack of energy or weight gain, mood changes, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, feeling cold all of the time and/or low libido. For some, it is a gradual shift over months to years and others feel symptomatic within a few weeks. Metabolism of the whole body is controlled by thyroid hormones, therefore the rate at which our adrenals stimulate and secrete sex hormones and cortisol can be slowed down. This leads to a slower response by the ovaries and testicles to produce estrogen and testosterone and thus lack of libido.
If the thyroid is identified as the culprit through blood tests, a treatment plan can be determined. This usually includes adding thyroid hormones and/or nutrients to support thyroid hormone production and taking a look at factors that might be causing the hypothyroidism. A comprehensive thyroid test will include up to 7 different markers. This will determine how well body cells are up-taking and converting thyroid hormone into it’s most active form.
Lack of libido is a symptom of a bigger picture! Do you know your thyroid numbers??
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