By Michael A. Smith, MDOne of the distressing side effects of the aging process is low libido, which is manifested as a loss of sexual desire, enjoyment, and performance.
Dr. Eric Braverman, a brain and aging specialist, says that aging affects all parts of the body linked with sexual function both internally and externally.1 In men, greater physical stimulation is required to attain and maintain erections, and orgasms are less intense due to brain, hormonal, and vascular factors.
In women, menopause contributes to sexual decline, partly as a result of physical symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and weight gain.
Despite physician efforts to treat low libido with bio-identical hormones, men and women may not experience an improvement in sexual function. Are we missing something?
Libido – It Really Is All in Your HeadTreating low libido with hormones often falls short because it neglects one of the most important organs for a healthy sex life … your brain. The components of healthy libido — desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution — are all controlled by brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
In order for you to improve your sex drive, you need to optimize the following neurotransmitters:
- Dopamine for Desire
- Acetylcholine for Arousal
- GABA for Orgasms
- Serotonin for Resolution
Restore Sex Drive with DopamineIt’s now well-established that dopamine affects sexual desire. As a matter of fact, medications that block dopamine receptors have been associated with decreased libido.
The good news is that libido can improve with the right combination of vitamins, minerals, natural treatments. Here are a few suggestions for boosting brain dopamine levels:3
- Amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine
- Folic acid and thiamine (B1)
- Rhodiola rosea
- Ginkgo biloba
Boost Sexual Arousal with AcetylcholineAccording to Dr. Braverman, the brain chemical acetylcholine is responsible for arousal. It’s believed that people with low brain levels of acetylcholine are unable to concentrate on sex, hence disrupting the normal arousal process.4
For this reason, to improve arousal, you might consider the following acetylcholine boosters:3
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Enhance Orgasms with GABAGABA is responsible for regulating sexual tone and plays an important role in overall brain function. Therapeutic drugs that increase the amount of GABA in the brain typically have relaxing, anti-anxiety, and mood-soothing effects.5,6
Conversely, when GABA becomes depleted, it is difficult to relax and let go of fear and negative feelings. Hence, orgasm becomes difficult. GABA-enhancing compounds include the following:3
- GABA (available as a supplement)
- B Vitamins
- Kava kava
- Branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine)
Improve Sexual Resolution with SerotoninThe final phase of libido is resolution. This is established and maintained by the brain chemical serotonin, which modulates anger, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep, and sexuality.7 Low serotonin levels can result in a lack of joy and decreased feelings of intimacy.
Without resolution, intimacy is lost. This can disrupt future sexual desire and arousal. If sexual intimacy and joy are issues for you, try optimizing brain serotonin levels.3 Here are some nutrients that can help:
- Saffron extract
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Putting It All TogetherHealthy sexual function is crucial to overall well-being and longevity. And contrary to what many people think, it is possible to maintain youthful sexuality well into your golden years.
By using targeted nutrients to balance neurotransmitter profiles and optimize your hormone balance, you can be well on your way to enjoying better sex today.
Want to read more on this topic? Check out our magazine article on restoring youthful sexual function.
- Life Extension Magazine®. 2008 Oct;14(10): http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/oct2008_Reverse-Aging-by-Restoring-Youthful-Sexual-Function_01.htm
- J Sex Med. 2007 Nov;4 Suppl 4:269-79.
- Braverman ER. Younger You: Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Brain to Look and Feel 15 Years Younger. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill;2007.
- Int J Impot Res. 2000 Oct;12 Suppl 4:S26-33.
- Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2008 Sep;28(6):803-17.
- Neurochem Res. 2008 Oct;33(10):1990-2007.
- J Vet Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jun;31(3):187-99.
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