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How a Healthy Lifestyle Affects Your Sex Life

How a Healthy Lifestyle Affects Your Sex Life

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Think losing 10 pounds (or more) could change your sex life? You might be right! That’s because losing even a little weight can make you feel better mentally and physically, which is the best way to recharge your sexual desire.

Learn How Losing Weight Affects Sex (Slideshow)

When you’re overweight or obese, you may have myriad health and fitness obstacles including lower stamina, muscle weakness, and circulation problems, as well as conditions such as high cholesterol or diabetes. All of these factors can seriously limit your libido.

Losing weight, exercising, and making positive health changes such as eating a low-fat diet can improve your health and boost not only your sex drive but your performance, too.

Working out is, of course, one of the keys to losing weight. It can also result in “unwavering sex appeal,” says fitness expert Lisa Reed. “Regular exercise can help you sleep better, improve your mood, control your weight, uplift your spirit, sharpen your mental functioning, and improve your sex life,” says Reed.

Food and sex have a long, complicated history together. For years, we’ve heard that what we eat can affect our sexuality, on both psychosomatic and physiological levels. Supported partly by mythological beliefs and partly by actual science, we have widely accepted that what turns us on could very well start in the kitchen. Berries, for instance, are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins C and E, which can help keep your skin supple and your immune system strong, both of which are key factors in boosting your sex drive.

“If we don’t feel good about our body, then our sex life is likely impacted,” says licensed psychologist Dr. Alexis Conason, who specializes in the treatment of body image issues, overeating, and sexual functioning. “When we are busy worrying about our thigh jiggle during sex, then we are not focused on the incredible sensations of our partner’s touch.”

Whether your body is big or small, you can have great sex, says Conason. “People of all shapes and sizes can have awesome sex,” she says. “This is especially true when you feel sexy and great about your body.”

Want to feel sexier and enjoy intimacy more? Read on for expert advice on 11 ways getting fit can affect your sex life.

Body Shape and Size Changes

As you lose weight, your body will start to look and feel different. Love handles may melt away, leg muscles may strengthen, your belly will become more toned. “The change in body shape and size can sometimes be accompanied by a more comfortable sense of one’s body and that can translate into more comfort with sex, more willingness to take your clothes off, and less self-consciousness in bed,” says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, and author of You Are Why You Eat.

Libido Jumpstart

“Getting a jumpstart on weight loss can help [you] get a jumpstart in bed,” says registered dietitian Rene Ficek, the Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating, who explains that by taking better care of yourself, you can experience “a substantial increase in interest in sex.”

This post was originally published Janurary 16, 2015

Why Childhood Trauma (of Any Kind) Has Such a Huge Impact on Your Sex Life

A new study shows your sex life can be effected by not only sexual abuse, but many types of childhood trauma.

The #MeToo movement has encouraged people to talk about how childhood sexual abuse can have a huge impact on a person&aposs adult sex life. But it turns out that other types of childhood trauma can take a toll on sex later in life as well.

A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy surveyed 410 people who were in sex therapy at the time. They were asked about their sex lives, childhoods, levels of psychological distress, and how mindful they consider themselves to be. The results showed that people who experienced childhood trauma tended to be less satisfied with their sex lives than those who didn&apost.

What&aposs interesting here is that the study defines childhood trauma as not only sexual abuse but also as parental neglect, exposure to aggressive or emotionally abusive behavior between parents, being bullied or put down by peers, and more.

Here&aposs where psychological distress and mindfulness come in: The survey also found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that people with childhood trauma suffered more daily psychological distress (think moments of worry or anxiety). Heightened psychological distress correlated with lower mindfulness (meaning less of a focus on the present moment), and that difficulty to stay mindful led to unsatisfying sex.

"Psychological distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, irritability, cognitive impairments) may encourage the use of avoidance strategies to escape from suffering or unpleasant psychological states, which may in turn diminish attentiveness and awareness of what is taking place in the present moment," the researchers wrote in the paper.

"The numbing of experience or low dispositional mindfulness may diminish survivors&apos availability and receptiveness to pleasant stimuli, including sexual stimuli, therefore leading to a sex life perceived as empty, bad, unpleasant, negative, unsatisfying, or worthless," they continued.

Holly Richmond, PhD, a certified sex therapist in New York City, tells Health that this is something she often sees in her practice, and she thinks it might be because trauma survivors are subconsciously always in fight, flight, or freeze mode.

"Most people know about fight or flight, but the most common response for children is actually freeze," Dr. Richmond says. "There&aposs hardly ever a time when a child is going to outfight an adult. With fleeing, how fast can they really run? But freeze can mean literally just laying there until it&aposs over or completely dissociating."

Unfortunately, that dissociation can follow us into adulthood, and our subconscious can trigger it even when we&aposre experiencing something that&aposs supposed to be positive, like sex. "You never know what the trigger is going to be," Richmond says.

Also, because this is taking place subconsciously, many people have no idea why they&aposre freezing up, and they get extremely frustrated with themselves. "We&aposre so hard on ourselves," Dr. Richmond says, "so having an awareness of it can really help."

"I have my clients look around themselves and say out loud, &aposI&aposm safe. Right now I&aposm safe,&apos Richmond explains, when she&aposs treating patients who were traumatized as children. "There was a time in their childhood that they weren&apost safe, but my mantra is, &aposThat was then. This is now.&apos The trauma was then. We know where that is it&aposs in the past. This is now. Look around yourself. Are you safe? Almost 100% of the time the answer is yes."

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It Can Take Down Your Mojo


Let's be clear: If you're overweight, it doesn't have to affect your performance in the bedroom. If you feel confident, sexy, and desirable, then you're guaranteed to translate that between the sheets. But for some, being overweight does correlate to lower levels of energy and motivation. "There can be a self-consciousness or limiting beliefs about ability or desire [when you're overweight]," says Kelley Kitley, LCSW, and owner of Serendipitous Psychotherapy, LLC.

How Many Guy Friends You Have

It&aposs always about competition with men, right? In fact, even perceived competition can make your sex life hotter, says a study published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. Researchers polled 393 heterosexual men in long-term, committed relationships, and had them rate their partner&aposs appearance, how many male friends and co-workers they thought she had, how attractive they believed other men found her, and how often they had sex with her. Turns out, the women with more guy friends and coworkers had more sex with their partners. Apparently, that threat of a little competition makes us more desirable to our man.

The Bottom Line

As with anything in life, exercise is all about finding the right balance that works for each person.

"It&aposs common to think that more of a good thing is always better, but the reality is that you can get too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to exercise," says Spicer.

Ultimately, you don&apost need to exercise like a high-level athlete to reap the benefits of working out𠅊nd practicing moderation just might be the best thing for your sex life, too.

How Anxiety Affects Your Sex Drive

Now that you have the basic rundown on gut chemical reactions, let’s take a closer look at how emotions influence your gut health and sex drive. Of course, it’s obvious that when you’re sad or depressed, sex can be one of the last things on your mind. You may find it impossible to relax, be present and fully enjoy sexual stimulation.

As mentioned above, your gut is like a second brain. Your emotions affect your mind and your digestive tract. When your body is in a state of fear or anxiety, stress hormones such as cortisol are released, which stimulate the sensory nerves in the stomach. When these nerves sense anxiety, the vagus nerve sends signals to increase the serotonin production in your GI tract. (13)

A boost of serotonin may sound like a good thing for improving libido, but a quick, sudden influx (as opposed to a regulated, consistent influx) may actually trigger digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, cramping and nausea as part of the stress response (14). Needless to say, these are the last things you’d want to experience in the bedroom.

The Bottom Line: If you regularly experience fear and other stressful emotions, you’re less likely to have the adequate serotonin levels needed for sexual arousal. Your body will try to compensate by sending a quick influx of serotonin to your GI tract, but this may result in undesirable digestive symptoms. Instead, the goal is to experience a positive, consistent flow of serotonin, which can be achieved by improving your gut health (15)(16).

How Sinus Problems Can Affect Your Sex Life — and What to Do About It

The reason you might not be in the mood for intimacy i​sn’t always just how you’re feeling physically. But it can certainly start there. These statements are very true for a lot of couples.

You can also add “I’m too stuffed up” to the list of reasons not to be intimate with your partner.

Studies by Cleveland Clinic ear, nose and throat specialists found that allergic rhinitis (hayfever) and chronic rhinosinusitis significantly affect the desire for sex.

And considering that up to 40% of the U.S. population has allergic rhinitis and 30 to 40 million people have chronic rhinosinusitis, this could be an enormous shock to Cupid — especially during allergy seasons.

Not in the mood, and here’s why

Allergic rhinitis means chronic inflammation with swelling and itching of the nasal passages typically caused by dust, pollen or dander allergies. The result? A runny, stuffy nose.

In chronic rhinosinusitis, inflammation also attacks your sinuses and causes discolored drainage, congestion and facial pressure. There are multiple causes, including infection, allergies and other environmental irritants.

Not ideal conditions to get you in the mood.

According to ear, nose and throat specialist Michael Benninger, MD, there are many reasons these conditions affect the desire for sex.

“People with these symptoms do not feel well, are often chronically fatigued and may not sleep very well on top of their other symptoms,” he says.

As a result, they don’t feel sexy — which can also cause a decrease in their desire to engage in sexual activity.

“Even the simple act of kissing is not perceived as pleasant with a stuffy or drippy nose,” he says. “When you’re experiencing these symptoms, getting physical in any way is likely the last thing you want to do.”

The sensual side of smell

It’s also true that if you can’t smell your partner, you may have more trouble becoming aroused.

“The sense of smell has a conscious and unconscious role in sex. Pheromones play a role. So does the familiar smell of someone you love. Other scents, such as sweat, can trigger desire,” Dr. Benninger says.

“But if you can’t breathe, you can’t smell — because the air that contains particles that smell familiar or arousing to you can’t get into your nose,” he adds.

Restoring your desire is possible

The good news is that treating the symptoms of allergic rhinitic and chronic rhinosinusitis does appear to improve sexual activity. Both conditions can be treated with a variety of medications including:

  • Intranasal steroid sprays. (medications for allergies and asthma).
  • Nasal irrigation.
  • Antibiotics.
  • Systemic steroids.
  • Allergy therapy (in allergic individuals).

If you think you have allergies, getting an allergy test is important so you can not only medically treat the allergies, but you can also work to avoid them. This can be done with traditional skin testing or a simple blood test.

Allergic rhinitis is rarely treated surgically. Chronic rhinosinusitis can be however. The surgery is typically minimally invasive and performed through an endoscope — a lighted tube through which guide the use of slender instruments — so that no external incisions are needed.

Dr. Benninger also led a study that showed dramatic improvements in patients’ sex lives after surgery.

“Before surgery, 33% of patients said chronic rhinosinusitis affected their desire some of the time, and 9% said all the time. After surgery this dropped to 19% and 1%,” he says.

“The path to more intimacy in your life can often come from making a decision to treat the symptoms that are making you feel uncomfortable first,” he adds. “You’ll feel better, sleep better, even smell better — meaning you can begin to engage your sense of smell more normally again. This can lead you to feeling better psychologically about your intimate situations.”

Don’t forget that speaking openly and communicating your needs or concerns with your partner should also be part of moving towards healthier intimacy together.

10 Health Factors That Affect a Man's Sex Life

Many things can impact a man's sex life. Stress and certain chronic conditions can interfere with your ability to have sex. Unhealthy lifestyle habits can lead to problems getting or keeping an erection. However, by making some healthy lifestyle changes and treating underlying conditions, you can improve your sex life and your quality of life in general.

Smoking makes many health problems more likely, including heart disease. But men who smoke are also more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED). The toxins in cigarette smoke can also damage sperm. This can make it difficult or impossible to father a child. Quitting smoking can dramatically reduce the risk of these sexual and reproductive health issues. If you smoke and you’re having trouble quitting on your own, ask your regular doctor or your public health department for help. Talking with ex-smokers may also give you more confidence.

Being sedentary can lead to weight gain, and men who are overweight are more apt to have ED. On the flip side, exercise could improve your sex life. Men who are physically active on a regular basis may have better overall sexual function. That's because exercise boosts your ability to have erections and orgasms. You may see improvement if you get at least two hours of rigorous activity each week. Men who get about six hours of light activity weekly could also experience these health benefits.

Health problems that affect your heart and circulatory system could affect your sex life too. When you engage in sexual activity, your brain sends signals to nerves in your penis to increase blood flow. That creates an erection. But if you have issues like clogged arteries, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels, there could be a break in these signals. This can lead to ED.

MS can damage nerves running along the spine. If this occurs, it can affect both your ability to be aroused and your ability to reach orgasm. MS can also cause fatigue, mood swings, and low self-esteem. All of these symptoms can take a toll on your sex life. Men with MS who have sexual problems should talk with their doctor. Addressing these issues can improve your sex life and your enjoyment of life.

Some spinal cord injuries can affect your ability to have sex. The injury can disrupt sexual signals from the brain. Many men with a spine injury can still get an erection, but many of these men cannot ejaculate. Those who can still achieve an orgasm may experience it differently than before their injury. The effect that a spinal cord injury has on your sex life depends on where on the spine the injury occurred. How severe the injury is makes a difference too. Many treatments and devices are available to improve erection as well as induce ejaculation.

Over time, diabetes can damage key nerves and blood vessels, especially if you have trouble controlling your blood sugar level. The damage can interfere with the blood supply to the penis. As a result, men with diabetes are much more likely than other men to have ED. They're also more likely to develop ED at a younger age than men who don't have diabetes. Good, consistent control of blood sugar levels is key to avoiding this and other diabetes complications.

Heavy drinking can hurt your sex life. It affects the production of male hormones. This can lead to ED. Heavy drinking can also lead to infertility. It can cause you to lose facial and chest hair too. An unhealthy drinking habit can encourage risky sexual behavior. For instance, men who drink heavily are more likely to have unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner. Abusing illegal drugs, like cocaine, can also increase your risk of ED.

Depression has a negative effect on a man's sex drive. Men who are depressed may feel sad, hopeless and irritable. They tend to lose interest in sex. This loss of libido can make it harder for the brain to create an erection. Other emotional issues are also common causes of ED. These include stress, anxiety and guilt. Even if depression or other feelings aren’t affecting your sex life, it’s good to let your doctor know if you have persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt or anxiety. Seeing a counselor is another option. Many counselors specialize in men’s health and wellness.

Certain medications may trigger a drop in testosterone levels. A low level of this key male hormone can cause you to lose interest in sex. ED is also a side effect of some prescription medicines. These include some drugs to treat high blood pressure, depression, heartburn, and ulcers. If you experience sexual side effects from medication, let your doctor know. You may be able to switch to a different drug.

Both cancer and cancer treatments can lead to ED. Some men with cancer have problems ejaculating and reaching orgasm. Cancer treatment can affect your desire for sex. Some sexual side effects continue even after treatment ends. Treatment for prostate cancer, in particular, may affect the quality of men's sexual intimacy. It can also affect their sexual fantasies and how masculine they feel.

For many of these health factors, making changes in your lifestyle or managing an underlying condition can go a long way toward improving your desire for sex and your ability to achieve and maintain an erection. To start, have an open and honest discussion with your doctor. If this is awkward for you, keep in mind that sexual health problems are fairly common for both men and women. Your doctor has talked with countless patients about sex. Work with your doctor to find the root of the problem and the most effective treatment options, whether lifestyle changes, medicine or devices.

22 Aphrodisiac Foods

Oysters have long been suspected as a love drug. Cleopatra and Casanova had one thing in common, they loved oysters. Legend has it that Casanova ate dozens of oysters per day. The Venetian romancer reportedly once seduced a vestal virgin by seductively sliding an oyster from his mouth to hers. If that doesn&apost get you in the mood, I don&apost know what will! In fact, current research proves our suspicion. Oysters improves dopamine levels which boosts libido in men and women. Oysters are also high in zinc which is vital for testosterone production and healthy sperm. 1

Will having herpes affect my sex life and ability to have children?

I have just found out I have herpes – my husband is still waiting for his results. One of my concerns is our sex life moving forward, and extending our family without the thought of what I may pass along.

The message “sex is dangerous” has been implanted in the minds of many of us, and the fear of herpes is just one of the reasons it may be considered valid. It is certainly true that there are risks associated with the exchange of bodily fluids, but if we allow the fear of disease, germs, intimacy, pregnancy and so on to be the over-riding feeling about sex, there is little room for allowing pleasure, or for welcoming and responding to eroticism. In fact, one can have an extraordinarily heightened sexual experience that is risk-free – without even physically touching another person. Your doctor will advise you about a protocol of protection and/or prevention of outbreaks, but do not allow yourself or your partner to imagine this is the end of pleasure, and don’t allow it to dominate your erotic connection. Rather, prioritise all the fantastically exciting things you can enjoy that do not involve penetration or friction of any kind. You will be surprised how extensive the list is – from erotic talk to fantasy role-playing. This challenge should encourage you to be extra-creative so, while bearing in mind whatever medical advice you are given, reframe it as a true opportunity.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist specialising in sexual disorders.