Low libido is incredibly common. According to a 2018 study¹, as many as four in 10 women report that their sexual desire is lagging, with a fraction of those saying that it’s enough to impact their quality of life or cause relationship problems.
And yet, we rarely talk about this issue.
We get it. It can feel embarrassing to bring it up to your doctor. You may also be worried that your concerns will be dismissed. After all, it can be easy to blame decreased desire as the product of modern-day living—especially during a pandemic.
However, your sex drive can also say a lot about what’s going on inside your body. Because 70% of low libido² is due to hormonal imbalances.
First, there’s the obvious: Stress. Research shows³ that as levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise, sexual desire and arousal take a dip. An imbalance of estrogen and progesterone can also affect your libido. Plus, decreases in estrogen cause vaginal dryness, making sex uncomfortable. Decreased testosterone levels, which can happen as a result of taking oral contraceptives, can also lead to problems with sexual function and desire. And if it doesn’t feel good, you’re also not going to want to do it.
So, if you’re avoiding sex or just not feelin’ it, you might want to look into hormonal imbalances.
Here are a few things you can do to get started today. The great news is that these lifestyle habits will make you feel good physically and mentally, setting the stage for satisfying sex to follow.
1. Manage stress: There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the term self-care, but it’s even more important now. Log off social media and walk away from your devices to do something you love, such as take a long bike ride, sit outside on a sunny day, or go to lunch with a friend.
2. Sleep well: Sleep is crucial for blood sugar and cortisol regulation, and it plays a key role in your mood, too. Studies show⁴ that adequate shut-eye is a must for supporting sexual response and genital arousal. Practice good sleep hygiene by winding down before bed and sticking to a set bedtime.
3. Lower your toxic load: Many products that we use every day, such as plastic food storage containers and some canned goods contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which disrupt healthy hormone levels. Making simple changes to your lifestyle, such as storing food in and drinking water from stainless steel or glass containers and purchasing cleaner beauty products, can go a long way. EWG is a great resource to check the safety of the different products you may be using.
4. Time exercise to your cycle: Planning exercise that compliments your hormone levels throughout your cycle can not only help you enjoy movement, but it can also reduce cortisol levels that can happen due to over exercising. On your period? Go easy on your body with walking and light yoga. In the first phase of your cycle, start to move more with moderate workouts such as yoga or dance. Around ovulation, your hormones support the greatest intensity—capitalize on it with running, weights, or an interval workout. Continue your workouts until just before your period, and then dial it back again.
5. Eat balanced meals: Focus on blood sugar-regulating foods, such as fiber-rich seeds and non-starchy vegetables (especially green leafy ones), whole grains, as well as healthy sources of fat like avocado, all of which help prevent surges in insulin levels that have the downstream effect of throwing your hormones out of whack.
6. Try seed cycling: When combined with a healthy diet, seed cycling can also support the balance of estrogen and progesterone. You’ll supplement your diet with flax and pumpkin seeds or sesame and sunflower, depending on where you are in your cycle. These seeds are packed with nutrients and plant compounds, such as fiber, lignans, magnesium, fatty acids, and antioxidants that naturally support more balanced hormones.
Hamilton LD, Meston CM. Chronic stress and sexual function in women. J Sex Med. 2013;10(10):2443-2454. doi:10.1111/jsm.12249
Kalmbach DA, Arnedt JT, Pillai V, Ciesla JA. The impact of sleep on female sexual response and behavior: a pilot study. J Sex Med. 2015;12(5):1221-1232. doi:10.1111/jsm.12858