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Stress and Libido

Dr. Karol M.D Article by: Dr. Karol M.D
Date: Aug 07, 2014 · Posted in: Reproductive Health, Lifestyle, Stress Relief
Stress and Libido

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of how libido (i.e. sex drive) is influenced is stress. This relates to both physical as well as mental stress. Stress and libido are inversely related. When stress level goes up, libido goes down.


Evolution, Stress & Sex

This is a vestige of our evolutionary ancestry. Back in the day, most stress was caused by either lack of food, bad weather, or risk from predators or other competing humans. It didn’t  make much sense to procreate and have children during these periods. Lack of resources and risk from predators or other humans decreased the chances of a successful pregnancy, labour and child development. The increased risk was both to the woman and the child. Energy and focus was at such times directed towards personal survival more then towards procreation. Thus, men and women were more motivated to gather food, build shelters and protect the existing family. Such shifts in human behaviour from procreation to self-preservation, and vice versa, are mainly controlled by our endocrine system (i.e. our hormones).


Hormonal Culprits

The hormones which increase during times of peace, prosperity and lack of stress are serotonin and dopamine. Both of these hormones act as antidepressants, increasing libido and acting to improve our mood in a general way.

On the other hand, the stress hormones, cortisol, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline, decrease libido and increase our fight or flight response. That is, they increase heart rate and blood pressure and make us more aware of our environment. This increased awareness, from an evolutionary point of view, had the purpose of finding food, finding shelter or defense from predators. Now, it has shifted to how to fix our every day problems. In the long run, the stress hormones can cause disease. Excessive cortisol leads to diabetes and Cushing syndrome, for example. Adrenaline leads to hypertension, which can cause damage to any of our internal organs (notably the kidneys, the heart, brain and eyes).


Stress Reduction Tips

So, how can stress be decreased  to increase libido and to prevent health problems which are caused by stress via the stress hormones? For one, try your best to prevent situations that cause stress. This is best done by staying organized and having our responsibilities done on time. This is the major cause of stress in our society. Of course, things sometimes happen that are out of our control and they are usually a challenge to handle, But for the most part, the vast majority of today's problems and the stress associated with them can be prevented. Keeping a daily planner and getting things done on time helps with this tremendously. 

Of course, even with perfect planning and perfect execution of our responsibilities, stress still creeps into our lives. It is the constant struggle between order and disorder in our reality, exemplified by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that all matter in our universe is trying to reach a state of maximum entropy, otherwise known as disorder. In order to prevent that from happening energy must be used to bring things into order. A perfect example is cleaning our dwelling places. Without cleaning, things will get messy. Putting energy into cleaning brings order and cleanliness.

This constant putting of energy into our life to keep things organized causes some level of stress. Although this stress is usually much weaker than the stress caused if we stopped putting energy into being organized. Eventually we would be kicked out of our homes, which would most likely cause much more stress than the stress of maintaining them on a regular basis. Of course this is just one example of stress that is out of our control. There are obviously many others. The point is that for this kind of stress, prevention and planning is not enough.


Exercise & Relaxation

There must be ways to reduce this stress and thus increase libido and or prevent disease. And there are. They mainly related to physical exercise, relaxation methods and natural anti-stress supplements. Physical exercise is obviously a great way to release stress. Both cardio exercise and weight training is good for this. Personally, I find weight training to be more effective, but it is a personal thing. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and especially transcendental meditation are fantastic ways to relax and to keep a relaxed state for a prolonged period of time. From my personal experience, anyone I have met that is into yoga, medication or both is much more relaxed than individuals who do not practice these activities.


Supplementation

Finally, regarding taking supplements, there are beneficial plant extracts called adaptogens. The name describes their function. They act to bring our physiology and thus our bodily functions to equilibrium. An equilibrium basically means balance. Thus, when there is too much stress they ease the system to bring our minds and bodies to balance. In this context, too much stress causes the mind and body to be out of balance. Some great examples are rhodiola, ashwagandha and ginseng (both red and white ginseng). Other examples of supplements which reduce stress are magnesium, calcium and vitamin D. Magnesium and calcium work by relaxing the nervous system, and Vitamin D regulates the level of calcium in our body. Finally, taking a multivitamin/multimineral supplement on a regular basis prevents deficiency of these essential nutrients, where such deficient states can cause substantial physical and mental stress.

So these are my tips for reducing stress, preventing disease associated with stress, helping to improve our mental health and improving our sex drives. By the way, sex itself has been found to reduce stress substantially and to have many beneficial effects (as long as its done in a safe and responsible fashion). That’s all for now my friends. Stay healthy and see you next time.


Dr. Karol