To address the widespread misinformation about sex, News18.com is running this weekly sex column, titled ‘Let’s Talk Sex’, every Friday. We hope to initiate conversations about sex through this column and address sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.
The column is being written by Sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr Jain has addressed the loss of libido that many are experiencing during the pandemic, and suggested ways to address the problem.
The COVID-19 induced lockdowns could have been an excellent opportunity for couples to reconnect and rekindle their romance. However, if studies are to be trusted, that has not been the case for many. During the past one and a half years of uncertainty, challenges in accessing healthcare and holding onto our jobs, or dealing with COVID and the loss of loved ones, we have all found ourselves to be exhausted, stressed, and anxiety-ridden. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that people have reported significantly lower libido in the past years, and their love lives have fallen to shambles.
People can’t have great sex when they are stressed. They need to feel at ease and safe. However, at this point, it is perhaps needless to point out that people have many apparent reasons to not feel at peace and be overwhelmed by anxiety. The loss of libido can happen for several reasons. Therefore, it is essential to identify the problem before we hunt for a solution.
If someone is experiencing lower libido post-COVID infection, they should immediately consult their doctor because there can be various reasons for it. However, in most cases we have seen that the dread and gloom of the pandemic has induced stress, and had a deep psychological impact, leading to higher levels of stress hormones, which are responsible for lower libido. To remedy this situation, we need a healthy dose of happy hormones, namely dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphin, which make us feel positive, fill us with a sense of joy and relax us enough so that our sex lives get a boost.
Dopamine, known as the feel-good hormone, is also a neurotransmitter that’s an integral part of your brain’s reward system. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more. Oxytocin, often called the ‘love hormone,’ is essential for childbirth, breastfeeding, and parent-child bonding. This hormone can also help promote trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships, and oxytocin levels generally increase with physical affection like kissing, cuddling, and sex. Serotonin is another hormone that is a neurotransmitter and helps regulate your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory. Lastly, Endorphins are your body’s natural pain reliever, which your body produces in response to stress or discomfort. Endorphin levels also increase when you engage in reward-producing activities, such as eating, working out, or having sex.
Boosting these four happy hormones can considerably boost your libido. The first step to increase your Happy Hormones is to keep yourself Happy. Who hasn’t heard that old saying, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’? Of course, laughter won’t cure ongoing health issues, but it can help relieve feelings of anxiety or stress and improve a low mood by boosting dopamine and endorphin levels.
Taking a brief break from the source of stress, getting enough sleep, reducing alcohol intake, or taking a 20-minutes walk, run, bike ride, or other physical activity can help increase your sex drive. Calming exercises like stretching, meditation as well as social interactions can also help. These simple practices can help relieve your stress while also boosting your levels of serotonin, dopamine, and even endorphins.
Along with these, there are dietary changes too, which might enhance your Happy Hormones secretion. It makes sense that the food we put into our bodies can influence how our bodies (including our brain!) work. Therefore, eating various nutritious foods positively affects both mental and physical health, making us more resistant to illness and feel more energetic and happier.
The enjoyment you get from eating something delicious can trigger the release of dopamine along with endorphins. Sharing the meal with someone you love and bonding over meal preparation can boost oxytocin levels. Certain foods can also have an impact on hormone levels, so note the following when meal planning for a happy hormone boost: Spicy foods can trigger endorphin release. Yoghurt, beans, eggs, meats with low-fat content, coffee, and almonds are just a few foods linked to dopamine release. Diet rich in Tyrosine can also boost your happy hormones because Tyrosine will convert into dopamine with the help of an enzyme. Tyrosine is found in eggs and dairy products.
Almonds, Oat Meal, Dark Chocolates, and Green Tea helps in increasing serotonin along with Tyrosine. Food high in tryptophan like Oats, Cheese, nuts & seeds are also linked to increased serotonin levels. Foods containing probiotics, such as yoghurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut, can influence hormones’ release.
Romance is the key to having a good sex life. Being attracted to someone can lead to the production of oxytocin and physical affection like kissing, cuddling, or having sex, are all trusted methods of oxytocin release. Just spending time with someone you care about can also help boost oxytocin production which can consequently help increase closeness and positive relationship feelings, making you feel happy, blissful, or even euphoric. If you want to feel those happy hormones, note that dancing and sex lead to endorphin release, while orgasm triggers dopamine release.
These lifestyle changes, however, cannot address the extreme lack of libido. Therefore, if these solutions don’t show results, kindly consult an expert.