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Sexual Dysfunction

Overview

The term “sexual dysfunction” is an umbrella term covering disorders that include male impotence, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, problems with libido, vaginal spasms, painful intercourse and other problems that interfere with sexual desire and pleasure. While many people accept that diminished libido, impotence and physical symptoms like vaginal dryness come along with age, there’s a great deal of evidence that nutrition and health have far more of an effect on maintaining healthy sexual functioning than the medical world once believed. Research has established that most causes of sexual dysfunction are not, as was once believed, psychological and therefore difficult to treat. Rather, the overwhelming majority of cases of sexual dysfunction have a root physical cause that can be treated, and often treated easily.

 

Sexual dysfunction is also far more common than most people know. There are varying reports that suggest sexual dysfunction may affect as much as 51% of men and 63% of women in the United States. Because many people are uncomfortable discussing such a private aspect of their lives with their doctors, many medical authorities feel that the incidence of sexual dysfunction is vastly underreported.

 

What Sexual Dysfunction Does:

Sexual well-being is a large part of most people’s identity. When something affects the ability to become or remain aroused, to enjoy sexual activity and intimacy or to achieve orgasm, there can be a ripple effect that touches on family relationships, partner relationships and even job performance. Sexual dysfunction can become a factor in depression, and contribute to feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.

 

Symptoms of Sexual Dysfunction:

  • Male Sexual Dysfunction

-         Impotence (erectile dysfunction)

Impotence is defined as difficulty achieving or maintaining erection.

-         Premature ejaculation

The definitions for premature ejaculation vary widely, but the common denominator is that premature ejaculation is “persistent or recurrent ejaculation with minimal sexual stimulation.”

-         Diminished libido

Diminished libido is characterized by a lack of sexual desire.

  • Female Sexual Dysfunction

-         Vaginismus

Involuntary spasms of the vagina that make intercourse painful.

-         Dyspareunia

Persistent or recurrent genital pain that accompanies sexual intercourse

-         Vaginal dryness

Vaginal dryness can contribute to painful intercourse. It may be due to lack of arousal, or to an underlying physical cause such as low levels of needed hormones to produce sufficient lubrication.

-         Sexual Arousal Disorder

Sexual arousal disorder is defined as the inability to become or remain aroused despite adequate physical stimulation

-         Diminished libido

-         Orgasmic Disorder

Orgasmic disorder is the inability to reach orgasm despite arousal and sufficient sexual stimulation.

 

What Causes Sexual Dysfunction:

There are many causes for sexual dysfunction. Because sexual well-being is so intimately involved with personal identity and happiness, what begins as a physical reaction to a lack in the body can become a self-perpetuating problem as stress and anxiety create more pressure to overcome the problem. Some of the most common causes of sexual dysfunctions include:

  • Physical Illness or Systemic Conditions

Hypertension, diabetes and heart conditions can all contribute to sexual dysfunction. Circulatory disorders, or any condition that affects the circulation can prevent blood flow to the sexual organs – one of the prime ingredients of sexual arousal for both men and women.

  • Side effects of medications

Many widely prescribed medications for treatment of depression and hypertension can lower the libido and decrease sexual desire. In addition, SSRIs can depress the release of serotonin and other chemicals that contribute to arousal and orgasm.

  • Low levels of nitric acid in the blood

Associated with high blood pressure, low levels of nitric acid in the blood can also contribute to both erectile dysfunction in men and arousal dysfunction in women.

  • Depression or mood disorders

One of the major symptoms of depression is a lack of sexual desire or interest. While depression was once believed to have a purely psychological origin, medical evidence has proved that the majority of cases of depression have physical causes – most notably, a lack of vitamin B and a deficiency of essential fatty acids that are vital for the synthesis of enzymes and for maintaining healthy neural systems.

 

Treatments for Sexual Dysfunction:

The treatment for sexual dysfunction is dependent on the cause, but there are some basic self-help strategies that have been shown to be effective.

 

  • Reduce Stress

Stress is more than just an emotional problem. It makes demands on the body’s reserves of essential nutrients. Keeping those stores of nutrients replenished is a big step toward avoiding the physical effects of stress. In particular, research has shown that the B vitamins, folic acid (folate), vitamin B12 and omega 3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil can help relieve stress.

  • Eat a healthy diet.

Because so many of the conditions associated with sexual dysfunction are affected by diet, maintaining a healthy diet that provides all the essential nutrients for health is a key element in maintaining healthy sexual functioning.

 

Besides those common sense strategies, there are a number of herbs and supplements that have proven effective in treating diminished libido and other sexual dysfunctions.

  • L-arginine

Because L-arginine is a precursor to nitric acid, which promotes circulation of blood, it can increase the blood flow to the genitals that is necessary for physical arousal. In one study, women given a multi-vitamin supplement that contained L-arginine reported approximately 40% greater improvement in achieving arousal and orgasm than those given a placebo. Studies with men have shown similar improvement in erectile dysfunction.

 

  • Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to restore energy and increase sexual libido. Several small studies have shown positive results with depression-induced sexual dysfunction.

 

  • DHEA

DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone that is converted in the body to both testosterone and estrogen. Because one of the primary causes of vaginal dryness and tissue problems in post-menopausal women is lack of estrogen, DHEA can help relieve painful intercourse and stimulate the body to produce more natural lubricants.

 

Because the causes of sexual dysfunction are many, there is no one surefire cure-all. There is, however, a lot of evidence to support the importance of maintaining overall health with regular activity and high quality nutrition. Because it’s difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs every single day, a high quality nutritional supplement can be a valuable ally in your quest for overall health.

 

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