What's Behind My Low Libido?

anxiety habits health mental health mind Nov 29, 2022

Sometimes you just don’t feel ‘in the mood’ for it. And that's normal. But when it becomes a regular occurrence it can cause issues in relationships if there’s a disparity between partners’ needs or expectations.

Chances are, you’ve heard the term libido before, and it is basically your sex drive, sexual desire, or sexual appetite. It is severely affected by your brain health and function, hormonal health, and even your learned behaviours. As you would imagine, it can fluctuate due to hormonal shifts and natural fluctuations in libido are normal. 

What you may not realise is, it’s not just about sex. Low libido is a sign that something may be physically - or psychologically - off so it’s important to pay attention. You may notice it changes due to your mental state, stress levels, or certain medications.

Low libido means lower - or a lack of - interest in sex, which can not only put a strain on your intimate relationship with your partner but as a knock-on effect, can also affect your own mental, emotional, and physical state. 

You may have been in a relationship where high libido is an issue. You are frustrated that your partner just doesn't seem interested, or maybe you are the one trying to fend them off! This may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or neurological health issues. Plus it can obviously put a strain on your relationship, your well-being, and your quality of life.

There are various factors that can increase your risk for low libido such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Body image issues
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Pregnancy
  • Relationship problems
  • Low testosterone
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Aging
  • Stress
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pain or chronic illness
  • Certain medications, especially certain antidepressants, chemotherapy, radiation, opioids, hormone therapy, blood pressure medications, and corticosteroids 
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol consumption

When you hear the words dopamine and oxytocin, you probably think about your mood! These 2 neurotransmitters are crucial in terms of neurochemistry, which plays a massive part in libido level. Dopamine is created by the hypothalamus in your brain and it plays a role in your brain’s reward pathways. Dopamine can make you feel energetic and happy. It boosts your libido and supports sexual connection.

Oxytocin, is another chemical, hormone, and neurotransmitter that’s also called the ‘love hormone’ for good reasons. You may not know that oxytocin is linked to relationship-building, trust and empathy as well as love, and sexual activity which is what most people associate it with. It is released during hugging and physical connection, as well as orgasms to increase pleasure.

But did you know that even sunshine can affect your libido? In particular, ultraviolet rays hitting your skin, triggers vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is critical for your sexual health, as well as the more well-known processes like bone density and mood. Vitamin D deficiency can cause low libido so it’s important to get out in the sun (or a SAD lamp) and take good quality supplements if appropriate. 

Testosterone is the one factor which most people connect to low testosterone levels. It not only impacts men, but also women, and leads to low libido. Testosterone is more prominent in men and is critical for muscle strength, bone mass, sexual development, sperm production, and sexual function. A 2000 review has found that decreased testosterone with aging can increase the risk of erectile dysfunction, which is a reason why many men‘s body shape starts to change in their mid- to late-thirties.

Here is a list of root causes of low libido, some of which may surprise you:

  • Insulin resistance and blood glucose disregulatiin, eating too much sugar can lead to decreased testosterone levels.
  • Sexual trauma, including harassment, assault, and rape, can have serious consequences on your libido.
  • As mentioned above, low testosterone levels can not only impact men, but also women, and lead to low libido.
  • Endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and low thyroid levels can decrease your libido.
  • Menopausal Transition. This is a time of hormonal transition that can also lower libido and affect sexual function.
  • Vitamin D is not only critical for your bone, immune, mental, and cardiovascular health, but also your sexual health.
  • Another common culprit behind hormonal imbalance is chronic exposure to toxins, mould, heavy metals, and xenoestrogens.

If you are experiencing low libido, and can identify with some of the risk factors, there are some ways to help yourself.

Yes of course diet plays a role here! Eat lots of healthy fats, including avocadoes, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds and a higher protein diet can help increase testosterone. Also berries, cherries, cacao, and some organic, extra-dark chocolate can help specifically with libido.

Intermittent fasting offers many benefits from better insulin sensitivity, lower inflammation, and improved cellular repair and function. It may also help libido and sexual health, particularly erectile dysfunction. Start off with a relatively short fast of 12 hours - don’t worry, this includes overnight! - and see how you feel. You can then extend the time to 16 hours, or only do the fast a few times per week. I would only start here if you have good blood glucose management, otherwise you risk causing extra stress on the body.

I’m always going on about these - reduce stress and optimise your sleep - but these are relatively easy to do and have a sizeable impact on libido. Avoiding stressful situations such as being around those that are argumentative or bring you down. Spend time in nature. Develop a relaxing evening routine that calms you down and gets you ready for sleep. Avoid electronics, sugar, heavy food, and alcohol in the evening.

Exercise can also reduce stress and improve your mood, which can benefit your libido as well. Resistance/strength training is particularly important for testosterone optimization for both men and women. This can be something like yoga and pilates as well as the usual dumbbell/barvell exercises. Please bear in mind that if your body is already stressed, doing too much can make it worse so in some cases, a walk in the sunshine will do just as much, even if you feel like it isn’t.

Oxytocin and Vitamin D I mentioned earlier. These can be increased by doing simple things such as playing with a pet or spending time with friends, listening to some of your favourite music or even writing some things you are grateful for. Walking in the sun and eating fatty fish or egg yolks will go some way to increasing your Vitamin D levels but quite often you will need to supplement with D3 (liquid is best rather than a pill).

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing low libido so you may need to take some time to think whether any of the risk factors noted here are applicable to you, and what you can do to remedy those. It’s not always a quick fix but I hope the suggestions here help you back to better health. If you want to chat more about your health concerns and are ready to start the journey to improve and thrive, you can always reach out to me here.

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