As humans, we don’t have an “on or off" switch that can control our sex drive. Instead, both our physical and emotional states control our desire for sex and how often we are in “the mood.”
That’s where our “second brain” comes into play, aka our gut. Although we often frequently think of our digestive system as being solely responsible for digesting food, our stomachs and intestines host a vast number of neurons and neurotransmitters that make up part of our enteric nervous system. You may have felt this second brain talking before – that butterflies in your tummy/gut feeling is your brain and stomach communicating.
If our gut is unhappy our brain will know about it, and vice versa. And as we know that much of our sexual desire is controlled by our emotional and mental state, this “second brain” can turn us “on or off” without us even consciously knowing about it!
Anywhere between 85-90% of serotonin, our happy hormone, is created in the gut. We need a healthy and optimally functioning digestive system in order to create these crucial happy hormones. Low levels of serotonin are linked to feelings of low mood, depression, irritability, anxiety and… low sex drive.
Serotonin has also been found to contribute to female sexual function and arousal. Among other functions, serotonin helps to regulate our blood pressure. How this impacts our sex life? Serotonin helps direct blood flow to the vaginal area in order to stimulate and generate sexual arousal. Serotonin also helps genital muscles contract and genital nerves function. So that tingling feeling that you might get when you see a certain someone special, is your blood flow working its magic, all thanks to our gut!
Feeling bloated, experiencing stomach cramps, gassy or at risk of an urgent trip to the toilet is not what most of us would say “gets us in the mood”! To avoid these digestive troubles, we need to make sure that we have a flourishing microbiome. Ensuring we have a healthy gut flora, filled with friendly bacteria, could help reduce the on-set and severity of these symptoms. Investing in a good quality probiotic or consuming prebiotic and probiotic foods may help boost your good gut bacteria.
And on the discussion of bacteria, if we have a thriving gut flora we are more likely to have friendly bacteria existing in other parts of the body – our digestive system and genitals are neighbours after all! If we allow unfriendly bacteria to overgrow in the body, this could impact the bacteria in our sexual organs, which can lead to changes in PH, pain, inflammation and in some cases sexual diseases.
Finally, as I am sure most of us are aware, when we feel energetic, clear headed and body confident, we are not only more likely to feel sexual, but the sexual acts that we do take part in may be more inspired and pleasurable. To ensure we have this get-up-and-go vitality, our digestive system needs to be digesting and absorbing food fully. If we aren’t receiving the nutrients we need from our food, we will not be able to equip our bodies with the right components it needs to create energy and support our bodily systems. Make sure you have a balanced diet and focus on improving your digestion to help give your libido a winning chance!
Clarissa Lenherr is a London based, registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on personalised, predictive, preventative and participatory nutrition so that you can reach the optimum YOU.