Women's Sexual Health and Aging
A women’s libido can be a seriously tough nut to crack, especially with age. We all want our sex life to grow better with age. I know I sure do. And in many ways it does. There’s an emotional maturity we have now that no doubt translates to the bedroom. But the old adage that goes, ‘youth is wasted on the young,’ sure feels like it rings true given this subject matter. Our bodies change as we age. It’s simple biology. We’re not all about bearing children, which means our hormones aren’t as primed for sex as they used to be. Our sex drive may wane, whether we want it to or not. Life is full of ironies, isn’t it? Which is why I want to explore the subject matter of sexual health and aging. It’s a vast place to explore, and I’d like us to begin now...
Why do we experience a lower libido with age?
All sorts of reasons for a lackluster libido come to the fore as we get older. Stress plagues women of all ages. So do unhealthy eating habits that lead to weight gain, which gets more difficult the older we are. It’s far more challenging to stay fit in our 40’s and 50’s than our 20’s and 30’s. We have to be vigilant about what we feed our bodies if we want to maintain a healthy figure. But, perhaps the starring culprits for the changes we experience as we age are our hormones. Hormones are constantly changing for all women from one day to the next. But, as you know, there’s a dramatic shift that takes place for most women in their 40’s and 50’s. It’s called perimenopause, which can be defined as the years leading up to menopause.
How does perimenopause impact our sexual health?
There’s a lot going on with female hormones once we enter our 40’s and 50’s. The extreme changes happen at different times for all gals, with the onset of perimenopause typically beginning in our mid to late 40’s. The average age for menopause is 51. But, before we get into perimenopausal changes, I’d like to make an important point.
Depending upon a number of factors—the amount of sleep we’ve gotten, for instance—our libido changes constantly no matter what age we are, because our hormones change constantly. When I’ve had a few days of sleep deprivation, my libido is nil. When I’m well-rested, when my tank is full from self-care, my ability to love and be loved is infinitely higher. This is common sense, right? But, we so often forget this. Why was I so turned on by him 2 days ago, but not this evening? Oh, yeah! Sleep deprivation has finally caught up with me. So don’t feel bad if you feel you’ve lost your libido (temporarily) no matter what age you are. Stress and lack of sleep greatly impact our hormones, which greatly impacts our libido (or lack thereof).
If you’re a woman like me (in my early 40’s) who wants to have a healthy sex life well into old age, you’ll want to take the following information, and keep it close to your heart (and mind). We all deserve to have fulfilling intimacy, which will change in many ways from day to day, month to month, and year to year. So, keep an open mind, and read on…
Learn how to manage stress to support sexual health
How stressed out are you? Are you moving through your days with a quiet and calm ease? Are you simply trying to survive, feeling as if you’re treading water, and using all your energy just to keep your head in the air? You’re likely somewhere in between, generally speaking. But, do pay attention to your sensations of anxiety and ease. Develop awareness around how you feel from day to day, as this awareness will serve you well when it comes to your sexual health. You’ll naturally have more compassion for the ebb and flow of your sexual urges. Everything ebbs and flows, no matter what age you are.
But, let’s talk a little bit about stress and cortisol. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. Your body gets a spike in cortisol whenever it becomes stressed. Over time, if your days are filled with chronic stress and anxiety, these heightened cortisol levels will naturally dampen your libido. It’s simple biology. And again, this can happen no matter your age. Although, I’ve noticed as I age, I don’t handle stress quite as well as I used to. I have to take extra care to design my life in a way that supports calm and ease. And when I simply can’t, I use tools like yoga, meditation, pranayama, and essential oils to keep stress to a minimum. Having a low sex drive is no fun, and if you’re treading water with cortisol on high, you may also be experiencing these symptoms:
- You crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates than normal
- You’re overwhelmed
- The fat around your belly seems to be increasing
- You’re having trouble sleeping at night
- You have more acne and other skin issues than normal
- You’re simply overtired
- You sense your blood sugar levels are out of whack.
You may also want to supplement with one of my favorite adaptogen herbs, ashwagandha. This is an Ayurvedic herb that promotes calm while decreasing stress levels. I like to take it in tea form, sipping on a few cups each day.
Estrogen decreases with age
You can think of estrogen as the queen of female hormones. It’s responsible for a lot when it comes to the inner workings of a woman’s body (and mind). In our younger years, we have more estrogen than we do with age. We’re primed for bearing children, which means we’re also primed for sex. Again, it’s basic biology. On a day-to-day, and weekly basis, estrogen levels rise and fall, depending upon where you are in your menstrual cycle. So ladies in your younger years—remember that. These fluctuations in estrogen are inherently connected to fluctuations in libido.
But, for those of you in your 40’s and beyond, estrogen drops, which can lead to these symptoms:
- You’ve started getting migraine headaches
- You’ve got rosacea and other skin rashes you didn’t have before
- Your PMS is worse than usual
- You have very real mood swings
- You’ve noticed you’re gaining weight
- Your period cycles are irregular
- You’ve begun to experience vaginal dryness
- You’re starting to experience vaginal atrophy
Testosterone decreases with age
As we age, our testosterone also takes a plunge. This decreases our sex drive and makes us less primed for intimacy. For young women, it’s important to note that the oral birth control pill has also been shown to decrease testosterone. Keep that in mind as you make decisions about your body and sexuality. Symptoms of low testosterone are:
- Depression and anxiety
- More skin issues than normal
- Feeling overtired and lacking in energy
- An irregular cycle
- A decrease in feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem
The cool thing is, we can eat certain foods that increase testosterone and increase feelings of sexual well being and pleasure. In just a minute, we’ll take a look at some of the best foods to eat to maintain desire as we age.
Make sure your thyroid is functioning properly
A woman’s thyroid gland plays a major role in sexual desire. If it’s not functioning optimally, you’ll likely be losing your interest in sex. In fact, you’ll probably lose your interest in many areas of your life. High levels of cortisol naturally go along with a low functioning thyroid. So, work to decrease stress in your life and your thyroid will thank you. If you’re wondering whether your thyroid is to blame for a lack of desire, see if any of these symptoms ring a bell.:
- You’ve been more depressed than usual
- You’re downright moody these days
- Your hair seems thinner, drier, and more tangly
- You’ve been having constipation issues
- You’re gaining weight
- Your eyelashes seem to be thinning out
- Your eyebrows are thinning
- Your hands or feet are cold due to poor circulation
- You’re tired upon rising in the morning
- You’ve been getting headaches
Get your thyroid checked if you’ve checked several of these symptoms.
Foods for sexual well-being
I wrote a cookbook some years back called The Sexy Vegan Kitchen: Culinary Adventures in Love & Sex. In this book, I describe some of the best foods to boost libido, and create healthy recipes with these healing ingredients. Some of the star players of this particular cookbook are:
The ancient Aztec culture knew what was what. They ate avocados all the time to boost their libidinous powers—so much so that the Spanish colonizers forbade them from eating the green fruit. Avocados are staples in my cookbook for their folic acid, potassium, and status as a healthy fat. Does an avocado a day keep the sex therapist away? Maybe. Only you can find out!
Dark chocolate is yet another sexy player in my cookbook. Its abundance of magnesium and ability to boost the feel good chemicals in your brain makes dark chocolate one of the only sweets I recommend eating. Period. In fact, I encourage all women (and men for that matter) to cut all sugar from their diet, and eat only small amounts of dark chocolate. Your sex hormones will love you for it.
Salmon was not in my cookbook because it’s a fish, and my book focused upon a vegan diet. However, I eat wild-caught salmon every now and again as a special treat. And, I encourage you to do the same. You might know why I recommend eating wild-caught salmon for your libido. It has to do with this fatty fish’s omega-3 content, which supports cardiovascular health and improves blood flow to your sex organs.
With summer on its way, we can look forward to home-grown tomatoes. Juicy, sweet, organic tomatoes are nature’s aphrodisiac for a number of reasons. The primary one being their lycopene content, which is enhanced when cooked in olive oil. Those Italians know what they’re doing, for sure. Fresh tomatoes increase blood flow to your sex organs, and support entire circulatory system. So, make those farm fresh red sauces and pair them with a good glass of red wine, which also supports sexual wellness.
Could it be true? Red wine is good for a woman’s libido? From my experience, I say, absolutely! But, in moderation only. Beyond a couple glasses in the evening, I’m likely to have a headache the next morning and poor-quality sleep that night. But, pour me a glass or two of good, red wine with a heart-healthy dinner, and there goes my libido. To the moon! My guess is, it’s the same for you. Why, you ask? Well, red wine is rich in resveratrol, a powerful anti-aging compound. And if you need further convincing, check out this 2009 study of Italian women published in the Journal of Sex Medicine. Researchers compared the habits of non-drinkers, moderate red wine drinkers, and drinkers of spirits. Results showed the moderate red wine drinking women to have better sexual satisfaction on various levels than the other two groups. Chin-chin, I say!
Eat your greens
Dark, leafy greens are so good for sexual health and well-being, and they’re one of the starring sexy players in my vegan cookbook for sexual health. Greens are full of antioxidants that boost blood flow to the sex organs. And if you feel you don’t get enough greens via whole foods, there’s always supplementation. We offer an incredibly high-quality greens supplement that you can drink in tea form. Here’s where you can purchase it.
Your sex drive is an essential part of your feminine essence. Even as you age, it remains essential for a fulfilling intimate life. If you feel you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, you may need to reset your hormones by taking a high-quality supplement. We have a supplement for hormonal support that will help you maintain balance in all areas of your life, as your hormones are essential players in overall health. To find out more about our hormone solution supplement, read about it here.