A sexually satisfying relationship with one’s partner is a crucial component of any healthy intimate relationship. March is National Nutrition Month, a time designated to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physically active habits.
Throughout this article, you will learn how poor nutritional habits can have a devastating effect on the sex in your relationship and on your overall health and well-being.
Good food, good sex. Bad food, bad sex.
The average American diet is actually a killer of good sex. To fully enjoy the natural delights of good sex, the human body must have the following:
1. A desire for sex
2. Adequate blood flow to the genitals
3. The endurance/stamina to get the job done
It turns out that the desire for sex, maintaining adequate blood flow to the genitals, and physical endurance are all chemically driven processes that are largely determined by the food you eat.
It all starts with desire
The desire for sex in both men and women is largely driven by the sex hormone testosterone. It’s a well-known, scientifically documented fact that low testosterone levels in either gender can lead to low sexual desire. The ability of your body to make adequate amounts of testosterone is based on the raw ingredients that you feed your body through the food you eat.
For example, foods rich in zinc and vitamin E have been associated with an increased production of testosterone, but due to increasingly nutrient-depleted soil, many American foods, including fruits and vegetables, lack adequate amounts of these essential elements. In addition, the typical American diet lacks adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are the essential building blocks the body uses to make testosterone from scratch.
To combat these deficiencies in your diet and, in return, improve your desire for sex, you should:
• eat natural, real foods (food that you can recognize or that you could theoretically pick, fish, or hunt in nature);
• choose organic or wild meat, fish, and poultry over farm-raised or corn-fed;
• take a daily high-quality multivitamin to supplement your diet.
Foods high in zinc are oysters, toasted wheat germ, veal liver, sesame seeds, roasted pumpkin, squash seeds, dried watermelon seeds, dark chocolate, and peanuts. Foods high in vitamin E are wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, broccoli, cooked spinach, and avocados. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are cold- and deep-water fish (mackerel, wild salmon, halibut, sardines, herrings, black cod, and bluefish), flaxseed, nuts, and oils (including olive oil and soybean oil). And if you can’t stomach the taste or smell of fish, consider taking 1,000 milligrams (or one gram) of fish oil supplement daily.
It’s all about blood flow
As mentioned above, after desire must come blood flow to the right places in both men and women. When a man has the desire for sex, to get things started he must have adequate blood flow to his sexual organs in order to achieve and maintain an erection. Likewise, a woman must have adequate blood flow “downstairs” for proper lubrication and enhancement of stimulation.
Blood flow to the genitals is fully controlled by the opening, closing, and/or blocking of arteries in the sex organs. One of the leading causes of impotence or erectile dysfunction in men is inadequate dilation (opening) of arteries leading to the male genitals; one common cause of inadequate dilation of these arteries is a buildup of plaque within the artery walls due to diets high in bad fats. Bad fats are generally considered trans fats and saturated fats.
• Trans fats are also called partially hydrogenated fats. These fats are man-made and used as commercial cooking oils to prepare French fries, donuts, and other fried foods, including fried chicken.
• Saturated fats are found in fatty meats, egg yolks, whole-milk dairy products (cheeses and butter), and tropical plant oils (palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil and cocoa butter).
Plaque buildup in genital artery walls can occur in both men and women, leading to inadequate blood flow. And think about it: if you have plaque buildup in your genital artery walls, you also likely have plaque buildup in your heart arteries and brain arteries as well, which can ultimately lead to a whole other set of undesirable health problems.
So, to avoid excessive plaque buildup and to keep the blood flowing to all the right places, maintain a diet devoid of trans fats, low in saturated fats, and high in the good fats. As mentioned above, sources of food rich in omega-3 fatty acids not only increase your desire for sex by allowing your body to make adequate amounts of testosterone, but they also reduce plaque buildup in arteries, thereby improving circulation, increasing sensation, and helping you avoid a stroke or heart attack.
Another powerful item that helps keep your genital arteries open is an amino acid called L-arginine, which is used by the body to make nitric oxide. Nitric oxide enhances the sexual arousal response. This common amino acid is found in food sources such as oatmeal, granola, nuts, seeds, and seafood.
Making it last
Sexual endurance is a multifaceted process that not only includes physical conditioning but also a balanced psychological state of mind. This article is certainly not long enough to fully explore the psychological aspects of sexual endurance; therefore, it focuses on the following things that can enhance one’s endurance and improve the overall experience:
• Taurine is an amino acid found in shellfish such as oysters that has been found to have caffeine-like effects (it’s used in Red Bull) for alertness and physical endurance.
• Chocolate contains caffeine, which helps perk you up and also boosts the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Both serotonin and dopamine contribute to a feeling of well-being and happiness, which adds new meaning to eating those decadent chocolate-covered strawberries as you set the mood. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a chemical with an amphetamine-like effect that temporarily mimics feelings of falling in love.
• Avocados contain vitamin B6, which helps produce the feel-good hormone serotonin in the brain.
• Avoid large meals just before sex, as the body naturally shunts blood flow to the gut to aid digestion. This is believed to be the reason you get sleepy after a large meal.
• Try using lavender – some studies have shown that the scent of lavender increases blood flow up to 40 percent!
Remember, there is one last important aspect to this conversation: when all is said and done about sexual endurance, you hold your partner’s confidence in your hands. You can choose to either build it up or tear it down.
Jeffrey B. Brown, M.D., is a Johns Hopkins University/Sinai Hospital Internal Medicine trained physician. Throughout his medical school years, residency training and practice of internal medicine, he has received numerous awards and accolades for his compassion and pursuit of academic excellence. Dr. Brown is certified by the National Board of Internal Medicine. For more information, visit his website: www.jeffreybrownmd.com