A loss of sex drive can be concerning for both men and women. In this post, we will cover the most common causes of low libido in men and what can be done (next post is devoted to increasing the female libido). Although it is natural for a man to have a gradual decrease in libido, this doesn’t typically happen until 60 or 70 years of age. Aside from aging, there are many reasons for this to occur.
“The whole process of sexual arousal starts with the ability to anticipate pleasure, which is lost with depression,” says Frederick K. Goodwin, MD. Some antidepressants can cause a decreased sex drive, so working with a qualified therapist can help you avoid medication or help you choose one and adapt the dose to decrease the side effects. Some integrative psychiatrists prescribe St. John’s Wort for mild depression with good success. Either way, make sure you are addressing this issue since it has long-reaching effects in all areas of life, not just sexual desire.
- Address depression with psychotherapy, good nutrition, correcting biochemical problems and medication if necessary.
We are wired in a way that when we are stressed our blood flow gets diverted from our sexual organs to our muscles, heart, and lungs. This is the fight or flight reaction that our sympathetic nervous system provides us for survival. Our body does not differentiate between a confrontation with a lion and a work deadline. In the case of the lion, we will either escape or get eaten. Once the danger passes our body then returns to status quo via the parasympathetic nervous system. This switch in systems is often the reason our libido goes into full swing after a sudden scare. Chronic worry, pressure, and busyness can keep us in a stressed state that will not only cause a decrease in sexual desire but will increase adipose tissue around the belly area which increases excess estrogen in the body. In men, this will further contribute to the problem.
- Decrease stress with chiropractic, psychotherapy, meditation, yoga and far infrared sauna.
Relationship issues usually stem from a loss of communication. Communicating our needs and desires and asking, listening, and respecting the needs and desires of our partner goes a long way in creating a healthy relationship which can in turn increase desire. Esther Perel writes, “Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.” “The very ingredients that nurture love- mutuality, reciprocity, protection, worry, responsibility for the other- are sometimes the very ingredients that stifle desire.”
I believe she is saying that the more a couple becomes one person (knowing absolutely everything about the other) the less they are their individual, mysterious, interesting selves. Finding that balance between comfortable intimacy and intriguing wonder is a key to desire in many long-term relationships. She expresses it beautifully, “The challenge of modern relationships: we want the same person to provide comfort and edge, be the anchor and the wave.” This can be achieved with honest communication.
- Communicate or learn to communicate with your partner, read Esther Perel’s books, take the communication curriculum through Landmark Worldwide, maintain some mystery in your relationship (closing the bathroom door is a start:)
Sleep apnea can cause a lower testosterone level. Low testosterone can cause low libido and an inability to get or maintain an erection, called erectile dysfunction but not necessarily at the same time. Most men with erectile dysfunction have a normal sex drive. The conventional treatment for erectile dysfunction is a prescription for Viagra or Cialis. These drugs come with side effects though. Loss of vision, memory problems, loss of hearing, back pain, headache, nausea, and others. These meds also do not improve desire, they just increase the ability to get or maintain an erection. Occasionally they do their job too well and can cause an erection for so long that it damages the penis.
- Get checked for sleep apnea. Check for low testosterone levels on labs. Lose weight if that is contributing to the sleep apnea and use a dental device or C-PAP as necessary.
Medication Side Effects
Drugs that commonly cause a decrease in sexual desire are:
SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Prozac and Zoloft.
Proscar used for the treatment of enlarged prostate. We have a supplement that works great for men with benign prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate). Ask Dr. Stacey if this is something you are dealing with.
Propecia used for baldness. This is definitely a medication to avoid since there are cases of impotence following its use without resolution even after the medication is discontinued.
- Use natural alternatives if possible. Talk to your doctor about prescription alternatives if natural alternatives are not an option.
The brain’s ability to sense sexual arousal decreases as blood alcohol levels rise. It is also a depressant which can disrupt the part of the nervous system responsible for arousal and orgasm.
- Limit your alcohol use to the heart-healthy benefits of red wine and not too much.
Diabetes and Obesity
Often enough Type II diabetes and obesity occur together. Diabetes can cause a decrease in blood flow essential for sexual desire. Obesity is an increase in visceral fat which is mostly deposited around the belly area. An increase in fat or adipose tissue increases the enzyme aromatase. This enzyme converts testosterone (needed for sexual function and desire) into an estrogen called estradiol. This process decreases testosterone levels and increases resistance to the hormones insulin and leptin which contributes to the problem like a vicious cycle.
- Consult with me or another functional health practitioner. You can find my healthy eating plans here. I suggest starting with the Specific Metabolism Diet.
Low libido can be corrected by identifying the cause and working toward a solution.
Any concerns or comments regarding this topic? Leave a comment here or contact Dr. Stacey.