The Health Benefits of Sex
Let’s talk about sex! More specifically, let’s talk about the health benefits of sex! September is Sexual Health Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to discuss this intimate act and how it benefits your health.
Sex and sexuality are a part of everyday life. It is how you create human life, build intimacy with your partner, and experience pleasure. Sexual activity, whether through intercourse or masturbation, offers many surprising benefits in every part of your life. Your physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and social life gets impacted when you engage in sex.
The health of your sex life is more than just avoiding diseases or getting pregnant. Sexual wellness involves understanding the health benefits of sex, how important it is to have a healthy sex life regardless of age, and having open discussions about sex.
I will tell you how to have a healthy sex life – even as you get older – and why your sex drive may decline. Before I do that, let’s look at the many excellent health benefits of sex.
5 Health Benefits of Sex
What comes to mind when you think about having sex? Pleasure? Reproduction? These are usually the first thoughts you have when someone mentions sex. Very few of us ever really consider the health benefits of sex. The truth is, having sex at least two times per week can boost your self-esteem, your ability to experience pleasure, reduce stress, strengthen your immune system, reduce inflammation, and even burn calories. Let’s dive into the health benefits of sex.
1. Sex Burns Calorioes
I wouldn’t cancel your gym membership and replace it with sex. However, sex does burn more calories than watching TV or scrolling through social media. A 2013 study found that couples burned between 69 to 100 calories during an average sex session.1 In fact, sex can be a form of moderate exercise and burns up to 150 calories an hour.2 However, the amount of calories you burn after sex depends on the intensity and length it lasts.
2. Sex Boosts Your Immune System
Having regular sex increases your body’s production of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in your saliva. A 2018 study found that sexually active women had higher levels of immunoglobulin A than those abstinent from sex.3
If you are deficient in immunoglobulin A, you are at a higher risk of respiratory illnesses such as a cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Another way sex benefits your immune system is through the love hormone oxytocin. Your body releases oxytocin when you cuddle, kiss, and orgasm. Oxytocin reverses the effects of cortisol and restores your body’s hormone balance, promoting a healthy immune system response and reducing your risk of infection.4
3. Promotes Heart Health
The health benefits of sex extend to your heart in two ways: increased heart rate and reduced stress. As we know, sex burns calories. Generally, the higher your heart rate during exercise, the more calories you burn per minute. Having sex increases your heart rate, which burns calories and supports the efficiency of blood flowing from your heart throughout your body. This causes your blood pressure to lower.
One study found that men who had sex once a month or less were 45% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than men who had sex twice a week or more.5 Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in men.
4. Sex is Good for Your Brain
You’ve likely heard the phrase, “endorphins make you happy.” Endorphins are your body’s natural pain killer and get released in response to physical stress, such as exercise. Your brain recognizes sex as physical stress.
These chemical messengers attach to the pain receptors in your brain and act like morphine to block you from feeling pain. This is one of the reasons why you feel a sense of euphoria after you orgasm. Yet, that’s not all.
When you reach orgasm, the hypothalamus in your brain goes into overdrive and prepares your body for that feel-good sensation. It’s like a rapid-firing gun full of hormones. There’s a release of oxytocin and dopamine right as you start to climax. In fact, oxytocin completely wipes out cortisol levels in your body. As I mentioned earlier, serotonin is also released and mops up the remaining cortisol missed during oxytocin’s “mop up.”
When you orgasm, serotonin and DHEA are released, boosting your mood and making you all smiling and stress-free! There you have it. Sex is good for your brain.
5. Sex Helps You Sleep
If you’ve ever fallen asleep quickly after having sex, science is on your side. This happens more with men because of a chemical reaction exclusive to men. Aside from the onslaught of hormones released in your bodies during sex, men also release a hormone called prolactin when they ejaculate.
Prolactin is known as the “satisfaction hormone” in men.6 Yet, this hormone is also at higher levels when you are asleep. However, there’s a catch. Intercourse orgasms release four times the amount of prolactin than masturbatory orgasms, which is why men are more prone to fall asleep after having sex.
Aside from prolactin, vasopressin and oxytocin are also released. Both chemicals are typically accompanied by melatonin, which tells your body it is time to relax and prepare for sleep.
It is essential to factor that sex typically happens in the bedroom and often in the evening. Our brains associate the bedroom with bedtime, so it’s natural to feel sleepy when sex is put into this setting. And don’t worry. Women can also benefit from better sleep from sex.
Most of the health benefits of sex are shared among the sexes. However, there are a couple of health benefits exclusive to men, as well as exclusive to women.
Are the Health Benefits of Sex Different For Women and Men?
For the most part, women and men get the same health benefits of sex regarding its impact on the immune system, calorie burns, reducing stress, sleep, and building self-esteem. However, there are few health benefits of sex that are exclusive to men and women.
Health Benefits of Sex for Women
Pelvic floor muscles, responsible for controlling urine flow, can become weaker with age or after pregnancy. During sex, these muscles get a good workout. Sex strengthens women’s pelvic muscles, essential for giving birth, incontinence, and bladder control. Having regular sex also helps with vaginal lubrication.7
Health Benefits of Sex for Men
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in men, and the good news is that sex can reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. A Harvard Medical School study found that men who ejaculated 21 times a month reduced their risk of developing prostate cancer by 33%.8
As you can see, many reasons exist to have a healthy sex life. However, your sex drive tends to decline for various reasons as you age. Don’t worry. I will tell you how to increase your sex drive naturally. First, let’s talk about why your sex drive declines.
Why Your Sex Drive Declines
Sexual dysfunction affects 43% of women and 31% of men worldwide. It can happen at any age and for various reasons, including imbalanced hormones, using antidepressants, using over-the-counter antihistamines, excessive alcohol use, injury, or medications to treat high blood pressure. Let’s look deeper at why your sex drive could be low.
Low sex hormone levels are one of the leading causes of a decreased sex drive. This can occur during menopause or after a pregnancy.
Women can lose 80% of their estrogen during just the first year of menopause, leading to symptoms such as lower sexual desire, vaginal dryness, and pain during sex. This is because the vaginal skin is rich in estrogen receptors, and estrogen is needed for vaginal engorgement, secretions during sex, and the resulting pleasure.
Testosterone is the sex hormone that drives sexual desire. Low testosterone in men can also cause enlarged breasts and erectile dysfunction. Testicular trauma, prior chemotherapy or radiation, anabolic steroid use, certain medications, and chronic illness can cause low testosterone.
The good news is that you can balance your hormones naturally through changes to your diet and lifestyle and by reducing stress.
Some medications can cause sexual dysfunction or lowered sexual desire. These medications include:
- Antidepressants with serotonergic effects
- Antipsychotics that increase prolactin levels
- Medicines for an enlarged prostate, including finasteride and dutasteride
- Hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills
- Medication for high blood pressure
Recreational drug use or excessive alcohol consumption can result in low libido.
Chronic Health Conditions
Diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease, autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and sleep apnea can affect your sex drive negatively.9
High blood glucose levels can damage your cardiovascular system, resulting in erectile dysfunction in men and high rates of yeast and bladder infections in women. Heart disease and high blood pressure can affect blood circulation to the genitals, decreasing arousal or lubrication.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks the protective coating on your nerves. Those with multiple sclerosis can struggle to become aroused and have other sexual disorders such as low sex drive and erectile dysfunction in men.
Emotional and Psychological Factors
Several emotional and psychological factors can affect a person’s desire for sex. Mental health issues resulting from anxiety, depression, fatigue, poor self-esteem, or prior sexual abuse can diminish a person’s interest in sexual activity.
Relationship problems, including lack of trust, conflict, and poor communication, can lower a person’s sex drive.
Reducing your stress and communicating with your partner can help reduce the effects of emotional and psychological factors reducing your sex drive.
You don’t have to accept a lower sex drive. I’m here to tell you that you can have a healthy sex life and reap all the health benefits of sex regardless of age. Here are a few tips to improve your sex drive at any age.
How to Improve Your Sex Drive Naturally
Now that we know why it’s so good for you, here are some tips for making it even better and boosting your sex drive. The good news is that you can do it naturally without relying on synthetic hormone replacement or medications. Here are some of the best ways to increase your sex drive.
Focus on Your Diet
The best thing you can do for your sexual health is to improve your overall health by exercising more, changing your diet, and making lifestyle changes. In terms of diet, this means avoiding inflammatory foods, especially gluten and dairy, and focusing on organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, and wild-caught fish.
One great way to improve your diet for healthier sex life is by eating aphrodisiac foods such as oysters, honey, chocolate, avocados, bananas, and figs. Aphrodisiac fruits contain vitamins and minerals that increase blood flow to the genitals and promote a healthy sex life, and chocolate promotes the release of serotonin and other happy hormones.
Be sure to avoid excessive alcohol use. Excessive alcohol will suppress your sexual desire and make it difficult to orgasm.
Reduce Your Stress
I mentioned that hormones oxytocin and serotonin are released during sex and eliminate cortisol from your body. However, stress can also impede your sex life. Ongoing stress, lack of sleep, drinking alcohol, and eating a poor diet can overwork your adrenals and lead to adrenal fatigue. If you’re tired and stressed, you’re likely not going to be in the mood.
Addressing your stress is essential for a healthy sex life so you can get the health benefits of sex. Adopt daily stress-relieving strategies into your everyday life. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Breathing: When you are overwhelmed with stress, take a moment to connect with your breath. Concentrate on breathing in and out until your anxiety has calmed.
- Dance: Just moving your body can help you literally “shake off” your stress.
- Music: Amazingly, a half hour of listening to music can reduce your cortisol levels.
- Gentle exercise: Try yoga or a long walk in a natural setting–changing your environment can help eliminate stress.
Adrenal Support is my No. 1 tool for adrenal fatigue. It contains a blend of adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola Rosea, Panax ginseng, Eleuthero, and ashwagandha that facilitate a stress response and support healthy cortisol levels. I’ve also included the amino acid L-Tyrosine in Adrenal Support to support catecholamine production, which is essential for an optimal stress response.
For added support, I recommend The Myers Way® Multivitamin. It contains optimal levels of B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin C needed for producing stress hormones.
Exercise doesn’t only make you feel good. It also increases your self-confidence, supports your heart health, and gives you better focus.
You don’t need lengthy, strenuous workouts to get the benefits of exercise. Just 30 minutes of movement daily will lower your stress and boost your mood. It also strengthens your immune system and promotes optimal sleep, which is essential for a healthy sex life.
Online physical fitness options include bodyweight exercises, cardio, yoga, and Pilates. Even better, some of them are free. You can also get the benefits of walking by simply taking a walk outside! Dancing around your house is also a great way to get your body moving.
Supplement Key Nutrients
EstroProtect helps to balance your hormones, particularly estrogen. As we’ve discussed, estrogen is an essential sex hormone that helps maintain healthy vaginal moisture levels. It also keeps your vaginal lining thick and elastic, making you comfortable during intercourse.
Unfortunately, our environment is full of xenoestrogens, which can lead to estrogen imbalance and disease. EstroProtect is perfect for you if you want to support healthy estrogen metabolism. It’s also great if you eat or drink out of plastic bottles or containers or use beauty and body care products with parabens, phthalates, or “fragrances.” Estroprotect also contains folate, essential to maintain sex drive and fertility.
Men, you also can support healthy testosterone levels by getting more vitamin D. Vitamin D, zinc, and adaptogens are essential nutrients and herbs that promote healthy testosterone levels. Vitamin D3/K2 is critical for every level of whole-body health. Studies show that low vitamin D levels are linked to decreased testosterone in men.
I formulated The Myers Way® Multivitamin to include the most bioavailable form of crucial nutrients for better absorption. It contains optimal levels of zinc, other vitamins, and minerals for a healthy sex drive.
Sex is a complex topic to talk about for a lot of people. No matter how alone you may feel or how awkward, I promise you are not the first person in this situation. Talk to a functional medicine doctor or take the steps above to increase your sex drive. The empowering part is that having a healthy sex life is in your hands, and you don’t have to pass up the health benefits of sex.
- Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples. Julie Frappioer, et al. PLOS ONE. 2013.
- 5 Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life. Cleveland Clinic. 2022.
- Interactions Among Sexual Activity, Menstrual Cycle Phase, and Immune Function in Healthy Women. Tierry K Lorenz, Julia R Heiman, and Gregory E Demas. J Sex Res. 2018.
- Can You Kiss and Hug Your Way to Better Health? Research Says Yes. Penn Medicine. 2018.
- Is sex exercise? And is it hard on the heart?. Harvard Medical School. 2022.
- Prolactin. Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
- How To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises. Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
- Why more sex may lower prostate cancer risk. Harvard School of Public Health. 2022.
- What causes a low libido?. Shannon Johnson. Medical News Today. 2019.
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