When you’re more excited about the chocolate on Valentine’s Day than getting it on between the bed sheets, a languishing libido could be at play.
Sexual desire, thoughts and fantasies are the output of our sexual brain designed to help ready the entire body to both engage in and enjoy sex. An underactive libido is the most common sexual complaint in women, affecting about 2/3rds of women after the age of 50. Confounding the problem of low desire are additional common problems such as slower arousal, diminished or absent orgasm and vaginal pain and dryness, which can further dampen the flame of sexuality. For women, sexual problems are largely under-diagnosed and under-treated as there are no approved treatment options. This contrasts the situation for men, with nearly two dozen approved treatments designed to target erectile dysfunction, which affects 50% of men over 50.
Enhancing sexual vitality for women is an important goal as women who remain sexually active into their later years report a higher quality of life and may actually live longer. Yes, sex is a key to longevity.
The path to improved sexuality is complex and needs to start with a rewiring of the neural circuitry of the sexual brain. Here are my top six tips on how to rewire your brain sexually:
- Be Present and Get Primal
To be more sexual, it first requires being more present. Forever the multi-taskers, women tend to be less able than men to set aside their worries and the endless mental “to-do list” and simply be in the moment. To start, we must quiet our cognitive mind and clear the mental slate. Mindfulness can bring us to the moment and help us shift gears to the primal sexual brain that responds in a more reflexive way to sexual cues.
- Inspire Intimacy
Women are far more likely to report sexual satisfaction in a supportive relationship. Intimacy for women is key to a healthy libido. Cultivating and maintaining a supportive relationship can be a labour of love, and it takes two to tango. With our busy lives, it may take advanced planning to pave the way to more connectedness. Childless date nights, candlelit dinners and gestures of affection are great ways to inspire intimacy.
- Be Sensual
Heightened sensuality can trigger our sexual brain. The billion-dollar perfume and fragrance industry is built upon the connection between our noses and our lust. But what about the body’s own sexual scent signals? Animals, plants and even bacteria release chemical signals to attract mates. Although no human pheromone signal has yet been discovered, researchers have found chemo-signals that may play a role in mating. Variations in immune system genes have been shown to imprint us with a unique “odourprint”. The “odourprint” may play a role, as do pheromones, in matching us with a potential partner to yield a more diverse and robust immune system in our offspring.
Our taste buds can also be triggered to send sexual signals. Aphrodisiacs are ingested substances that increase sexual desire. Chocolate, long considered an aphrodisiac, contains PEA (phenylethylamine), a love chemical which releases dopamine in the pleasure centre of the brain. Other foods and herbs claimed to be aphrodisiacs include; oysters (zinc), chili peppers (capscacin), avocados, ginseng and horny goat weed. https://www.pearlrejuvenation.com/products/
- Don’t Forego the Foreplay
Foreplay and sexual touching play a vital role in eliciting a sexual response in women. Foreplay readies our bodies and our brain for sex. The body responds with an increase in our heartbeat and increased blood flow and sensation to the genital organs. Simultaneously, the release of oxytocin helps to relax and ready the body. For women facing low desire and arousal, there may be greater reliance on foreplay to get into the moment. The nape of the neck, the lower back, the sole of the foot: the erogenous zones are highly individualized and may change over time. Women can help their partner by giving them the roadmap to these special hot spots.
- Try Something New
Research has shown that novelty is a powerful sexual enhancer. While a new sexual partner may be a great libido booster, monogamy does not need to mean monotony. Try something new and spice things up with your current partner for a similar effect. And yes, you can teach an old dog some new tricks.
In women, androgens like testosterone, are vital to sexual wellbeing. Testosterone stimulates sexual desire and arousal, increases orgasm and improves the function of the pelvic floor. A delicate balance exists between a woman’s testosterone and her estrogen, and this changes dramatically throughout her reproductive years and menopause transition. With an individualized assessment, androgen therapy can help support female sexuality.
While there likely will never be a magic bullet to boost female libido, rewiring the sexual brain and seeking expert care can help rekindle the flame. Emerging therapies are on their way, including female Viagra and combination therapies.
To keep the flame burning, the above six steps can help reboot the sexual brain and rewire desire.
By Dr. Jennifer Pearlman, MD CCFP NCMP FAARM ABAARM
Dr. Pearlman is an internationally recognized women’s health, hormone and aging expert. She is the medical director and owner of PearlMD Rejuvenation.
www. pearlrejuvenation.com @pearlmdrejuvenation