Many women tell me they have negative or anxious feelings at the deepest level about their sexuality. The number one question I get is, “Why do I have so little desire?”
In several recent studies, roughly one in three women reported low or no sexual desire. Other studies have found even higher percentages of low libido among women, particularly women over 50.
If you’re in libido limbo, take heart. There are many ways to regain the sexual excitement and desire of youth—no matter how old you are. You can learn about a variety of effective, natural self-care techniques and treatments that optimize pelvic, adrenal, hormonal, and thyroid health in my book, Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine. But to get started on your path to a surging libido, try these nine simple strategies first:
1. Add super-libido foods to your diet. The following foods and supplements are unusually rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that have unique potential to promote your sexual well-being: flaxseeds; hemp seeds; chia seeds; pumpkin seeds; coconut oil; pomegranates; blueberry juice; acai juice; mangosteen juice; cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli sprouts; green tea; and shiitake mushrooms.
2. Get sex-enhancing exercise. Exercise has many beneficial effects on hormones that promote high libido. But balance is the key. You want to get the benefits of both aerobic exercise (exercises that make you sweat and raises your heart rate) and resistance exercise like weight lifting—at least 20 minutes of each, 3-4 times/week. You can also use the Chinese principle of yin and yang to achieve balance. Examples of yin, or mellow, exercises are walking, canoeing in a lake, swimming in a pool, slow ballroom dancing, or gentle hatha yoga. Yang, or rigorous, exercises include mountain biking, running, high-impact aerobics, tennis, or heavy weight lifting.
3. Detox your home for better sex drive. Toxins in our environment wreak havoc on our libido. When your body isn’t bombarded with chemicals it can’t easily process, it doesn’t have to expend so much energy flushing out toxins—and your energy and sex drive will increase. Go through every cabinet and drawer in your house and swap chemical cleaning products and personal care products for all-natural versions, which work just as well. Throw out nonstick Teflon pans, and dump all plastic containers in the recycle bin.
4. Cleanse your body from the inside out. Do a 21-day dietary cleanse, and you’ll feel the difference in your libido. For 21 days, eliminate all gluten and sugar from your diet. For grains, consume only rice, quinoa, amaranth, tapioca, and buckwheat. Eat a multi-colored raw salad every day. Up your vegetable intake—particularly cruciferous vegetables. Avoid dairy and egg products. Limit your protein to organic poultry, wild salmon, beans, and legumes. Minimize your fruit intake. Every day drink at least 12 ounces of water with lemon juice added. Dry brush your body once a day before you shower or bathe, and try to visit a sauna at least twice a week to sweat out toxins.
5. Supplement to support your midlife libido. For midlife women, low libido may be tied to how your body metabolizes, or breaks down, estrogen. The following foods and nutritional supplements will improve your body’s ability to make friendly estrogen and eliminate “unfriendly” estrogen: seaweed; cruciferous vegetables; DIM (short for diindolylmethane), a cruciferous vegetable extract; calcium d-glucarate; and liverlipotropic formula, a blend of herbs and nutrients that helps your liver break down toxin more efficiently and supports your friendly estrogen metabolism.
6. Try herbal aphrodisiacs.
Here’s a list of my top 12 herbal aphrodisiacs. Their benefits vary from one person to the next, so you may need to experiment to discover which suits you best: Chinese ginseng; cordyceps; rehmannia; epimedium; reishi; ginkgo biloba; catuaba; suma; muira puama; damiana; maca; and yohimbine. Some of these may be familiar to you, others not. Learn more about what they are and how to take them in my book.
7. Consume libido-enhancing foods and supplements.
If you consistently take nutritional supplements and follow the 21-day cleanse, you’ll notice a change in your libido. In addition, these supplements and foods can pack an extra punch of pleasure potential: L-arginine, an amino acid; PEA, known as the “love supplement” and short for phenylethylamine; sweet potatoes; chocolate; oysters; chili peppers; and honey.
8. Minimize anti-aphrodisiac foods in your diet.
A few dietary options deserve special attention for their potential to seriously hamper your long-term sexual health and libido. These include: alcohol, a toxin that has a negative effect on your sex hormones; fatty foods, which make you feel heavy and lethargic; trans fats, which obstruct male as well as female hormone production; sugar, which reduces your ability to become aroused by increasing the stress hormone cortisol; and caffeine, which breaks down testosterone that is vital to libido.
9. Use your mind to create a sexy lifestyle.
Stress and lack of time are two factors that contribute to low libido. Manage your stress so you feel more relaxed and in touch with your body. Then create more time to spend with your partner. Good communication is also important for a sexy lifestyle. Sharing intimate thoughts and feelings is a definite aphrodisiac. Work on building “sexual trust”—a woman’s capacity for pleasure is closely linked to her brain’s ability to release inhibition, suspend judgment, and let down her guard, all of which is possible when the relationship feels safe and dependable. Finally, support your right brain, the side of your brain associated with intuitive and nonlinear thinking. Do this by adding yoga, art, music, dance, spontaneous fun, and play to your life.
Dr. Laurie Steelsmith is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist with a 20-year private practice in Honolulu. A leading spokesperson on natural medicine, she has appeared widely on TV, radio, and in print. She and her husband Alex Steelsmith, are coauthors of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine (Hay House, July 2012).