Nutrition Interventions for Supporting a Healthy Libido

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Saturday, December 5th & Sunday, December 6th
Eligible for 14 CEU hours

Looking for a preview of this great class? Look no further! Bari has written this post to introduce us to the topic of her upcoming class! Most of us know to look at our clients’ lifestyle habits such as diet, stress management, and exercise to lower blood pressure, correct blood lipid levels, and improve overall health outcomes. But did you know that you can use these same types of interventions to help clients improve their sexual health? Learn how to troubleshoot problems and use natural health interventions to compassionately and effectively address libido and sexual health concerns.

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By: Bari Mandelbaum, CHN, NC

Healthy libido and a satisfying sex life is an important and often overlooked factor in overall health and wellness for many people. We live in a culture that, while often fixated on the more titillating aspects, all too often promotes shame and silence around sexuality. It is estimated that 43% of women and 31% of men struggle with sexual dysfunction (Laumann, 1999). Many people will struggle with some form of sexual dysfunction or even simply sexual dissatisfaction at some point in their lives. Many types of primary and complementary healthcare providers can help clients have more satisfying sex lives, if they know how to apply their clinical tools to the issue in a sensitive and appropriate manner, including holistic nutritionists!

When working with clients, it’s important to clearly identify and understand the nature of the issue – simply working with “sexual problems” won’t get you very far clinically. In folks of all genders, sexual dysfunctions may include difficulty with sexual desire (noticing that sex exists in the world), difficulty becoming physically aroused, difficulty maintaining arousal, difficulty or dissatisfaction with orgasm, unwanted pain with sexual contact, or difficulty with post-orgasmic recovery. And any of these problems may be caused by or exacerbated by many different physiological and psychological conditions.

But what can nutritionists and other complementary care providers do to help libido? Quite a bit, actually. Libido troubles are almost always secondary to other issues; identify the underlying issues, and address those in a complementary fashion. Some common physiological impediments to satisfying sexual experiences include blood sugar imbalance, thyroid issues, cardiovascular or circulatory problems, medication side effects, digestive discomfort, candidiasis, and chronic pain conditions. Psychological libido challenges can run the gamut, and are best addressed by appropriate licensed care providers, though there are complementary natural and nutritional interventions that can help support and stabilize mood as well.

One important aspect of supporting clients through improving their sex life is remembering that it is the clients themselves who get to determine what “healthy” looks like for their lives and their relationships. There is no universal formula for what constitutes a “healthy” sex life. Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Do you have the sexual responsiveness you want? What looks like a healthy and satisfying sex life for one person may be very different than what it looks like for another.

In addition to addressing exacerbating health concerns, there are specific things we can do to directly address libido as well. Several herbs* have some promising clinical evidence and long (and sometimes colorful) folk histories supporting their use as libido stimulants including maca, damiana, and even garlic! (*please research all herbs before incorporating into a complementary libido supporting plan, as not all herbs are appropriate for all clients). And never underestimate the power of suggestion – certain foods have long been touted as aphrodisiacs because of their flavors, textures and shapes as well as their nutritional profiles, such as asparagus, oysters, and chocolate.

In addition to specific foods, herbs, and nutrients, sometimes how we eat can be as important as what we eat when it comes to supporting healthy libido. Eating is a sensual experience – foods have flavors, textures, smells, shapes… the experience of eating, if approached with a creative mindset, can help us “practice” the kind of sensual embodiment that can also help enhance sexual pleasure. Embodiment is a skill that can be learned, and like all skills, is one that can be regularly practiced so that we get more proficient at it. While embodiment (having a felt sense of self, both physically and emotionally) can be very difficult for some folks (for very good reasons!), becoming more proficient at noticing and experiencing our internal feelings and sensations can be very helpful when trying to enhance and improve one’s sexual experiences.

To put it plainly, sex is probably going to be far more enjoyable if you’re able to really feel and experience it, and bring more focus on the sensations. When we’re more embodied, we’re better able to notice what we enjoy, notice what we don’t enjoy, notice what our partner(s) (if we are having partnered sex) enjoy and don’t enjoy, and more fully show up to and actively participate in the whole experience. Eating is one more place where we can practice sensual embodiment. And for many folks, eating may be a less emotionally charged and more focused time for getting to just practice playing with the “volume controls” on our own experience of sensuality. Eating is a great opportunity to workshop what it’s like to drop into noticing sensuality and pleasure, and an activity we (hopefully) are doing regularly anyway, so mindful and sensual eating can be a fairly easy practice to incorporate regularly for many folks.

As care providers, it’s our job to help our clients compassionately, thoroughly, and non-judgmentally to the best of our ability and within our scope of practice. I believe that all of us deserve fantastic health and enriching lives. Sexual health is one piece of our overall health; it impacts our quality of life and overall health. There are so many great ways nutrition and complementary care techniques can help folks improve their lives; this is one more place where our skills can be of significant help to our clients!

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