What Are Sex Hormones
Our hormonal system, also called the endocrine system, is a complex system consisting of numerous hormones that control or regulate many biological processes throughout the body. Your hormones’ role is to provide an internal communication system between cells located throughout different parts of the body and they are therefore also called the chemical messengers of the body. Some of these hormones are the so-called sex hormones. For people who’s sex is determined female at birth the most dominating sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone. For people who are designated male at birth it is predominantly testosterone. Testosterone is part of the androgen hormonal group. Some people with the sex female produce too many androgens which can result in symptoms like acne, body hair, lack of menstrual cycle and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Even though we call them sex hormones, they have many other important tasks to fulfill in our bodies. Estrogen for example also maintains our bone density. For this reason, an imbalance in our sex hormones can result in more than just a lack of libido.
How Does Serotonin Play A Role In Your Libido?
Oxytocin, An Important Motivator In Sex
Oxytocin on the other hand has been proven to increase ones lust for sex. Oxytocin is released via skin contact, childbirth, nipple stimulation and orgasms. Studies(1,2) suggest that people who achieve orgasms during sex are more likely to feel motivated to have sex again, compared to those who do not achieve orgasms, due to the oxytocin increase. This can also possibly be the reason why some people experience an increase in libido when they have periods of more sex. And how others stop feeling sexual desire when not having a sexual partner for a period of time. If this resonates with you, but you want to increase your sexual desire, you can seek more skin contact, nipple stimulation and orgasms in your life to boost your oxytocin levels.
Other Important Hormones For a Healthy Libido
Other important hormones for healthy libido are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. People who are menstruating naturally (a pill withdrawal bleed isn’t a real menstrual bleed) will feel an increase in libido around ovulation. This is the moment where the estrogen peaks. The ovulation triggers the release of progesterone, which despite being an important hormone, is linked to lack of libido. When on hormonal contraceptives, you will not experience this influx of hormones and do not ovulate.You will have the same amount of estrogen and/or progestin added to your body every day. This is likely the reason why some people experience lack of libido while using these medications.
Testosterone is naturally produced by the adrenal glands and is also believed to have importance when it comes to our libido. This is because testosterone is a dopamine driving hormone and dopamine contributes to the desire for sexual activity and orgasms, like I previously mentioned.
How Can I Balance My Hormones?
You might have gotten the point by now. Your hormones are insanely important for your general health and you might wonder how you can better balance them? Or what is getting them unbalanced in the first place? Hormonal imbalance can happen for many reasons, but some of the most likely reasons in our modern lives are stress, diet, loss of exercise and environmental toxins.
When we feel stress, our bodies go into the so-called fight or flight mode. This activates your nervous system to prepare for danger, to fight or to flight. Your body does this by stopping all body functions which aren’t needed for immediate survival, like your digestive and reproductive system for example, and by pumping large amounts of glucose into your bloodstream. You will also start producing more cortisol. When this stress response becomes chronic, your body will start converting certain types of your sex hormones into more cortisol. When the glucose in your blood isn’t actually used for fighting anyone, because you might just be sitting in your office chair feeling stressed, your body will store it as fat to lower your blood sugar to a safe level again. Chronic stress can therefore cause unwanted weight gain, infertility, digestive problems and low libido, just to mention a few. You can work on your stress levels by introducing mindfulness into your life. This can be meditation, journaling, breathework, soft movements or you can choose to work with a stress coach.
Diet is also important to keep in mind. For our hormones to be balanced, we need to keep our bodies healthy in order to metabolize and excrete them from our bodies, when we no longer need them. This is usually done through our urine and stool. It is therefore important to keep our liver and kidneys healthy to work properly. If our “used” hormones aren’t excreted from our bodies correctly, they can re-circulate and can cause an overpopulation of hormones. It is important to eat a diet rich in natural fats and fiber to balance your hormones. The Mediterranean diet (3) is believed to be the best at the moment. It is also important to eat organic and clean, meaning food as close to its natural source as possible. Vegetables good for liver and kidney health are broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus, just to mention a few.
The last important factor that I want to mention is environmental toxins. These are toxins that are found everywhere in your everyday life, in the food that you eat, the cosmetics that you apply, the products you touch or the air you breathe in. These so-called endocrine disruptors can mimic natural hormones in your body and therefore send the message to produce more or less of certain hormones. This is believed to be one of the leading factors to hormonal imbalance. Toxins are found everywhere in your environment and it is believed that thousands are added to the list every single year. If you want to start reducing the toxins that your body is exposed to, you can start by only using organic cosmetics and eating organic food. Most package materials like plastic and cans release toxins into your food and water. Scented candles, air fresheners and perfumes make the toxins enter your body through your lungs. Soaps, lotions and other cosmetics enter through your skin, while everything you eat obviously enters through your digestive system. I suggest taking one step at a time when reducing toxins and give yourself time for this transition. If you feel like detoxing your body, this is best done by exercising, sweating in the sauna, getting massages and dry brushing your skin to promote circulation in your many lymph nodes around your body.
Balancing your hormones isn’t a quick fix but a lifestyle change. It is important though because hormones are regulated by each other, a deficiency of one can create an excess of another and vice-versa, creating numerous opportunities for imbalance. You can also find holistic hormone health practitioners like myself, who can guide you through this journey and keep you on track. By balancing your hormones you will gain better health and most likely a better sex life as well. So you tell me, whether it is going to be worth all the hard work in the end.