Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Chemistry of Sex

Sex is one of the most intimate and privately held aspects of our lives, yet it is expressed openly in the media. There are certainly conflicting viewpoints and opinions on this subject, and because of this polarity, talking to your doctor can bring about anxiety, embarrassment, and awkwardness. This is why choosing the right doctor is paramount. After all, sex is part of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It is one of the most basic biological and physiological needs along with air, food and drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep. A doctor with a holistic approach considers all aspects that influence sexuality. They look at mind, body and spirit.

Benefits of Sex
Sex does a body good. A study in Biological Psychology found frequent intercourse was associated with lower blood pressure and lower overall stress. Sex is a form of exercise and can improve your strength, flexibility, balance, and your emotional health. Having sex is an aerobic workout and burns calories. Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories on average.

Sex enhances immunity. Scientists at Wilkes University found those who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. IgA antibodies protect body surfaces that are exposed to outside foreign substances and are found in areas of the body such the nose, breathing passages, digestive tract, ears, eyes, and vagina.

Having sex and orgasms increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that increases levels of contentment and a sense of bonding and closeness with a partner. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina evaluated 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands and partners. They found that levels of oxytocin increased with increased contact. This hormone is also responsible for decreased pain levels after sex. As oxytocin surges, endorphins increase and pain declines. A study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine had participants inhale oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked. Those who had inhaled oxytocin raised their pain threshold by more than half.[i] The oxytocin released during orgasm also promotes sleep. Getting enough sleep has been linked to a healthy weight and blood pressure.

In the British Journal of Urology International, Australian researchers found that frequent ejaculations in 20-something men may reduce the risk of prostate cancer later in life. Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that frequent ejaculations -- 21 or more a month -- were linked to lower prostate cancer risk in older men.


Obstacles to Sex
Many people do not enjoy sex; others don’t perform well when having sex. Forty-three percent of women experience sexual dysfunction. Of those women, 40% do not seek help from a physician. As women grow older this percentage increases. Additionally, 31% of men also experience sexual dysfunction.

The ability to enjoy sexual relations can be affected by many factors. Psychological factors can influence our ability to enjoy sex. Events from the past, especially our childhood, and social, religious, and moral beliefs can all intrude upon or warp our attitudes toward sex. Mind, body and spirit are connected and intertwined. Depression, low libido, not feeling sexy, low self-worth, and inability to focus on pleasurable feelings are all factors that influence our sexuality. Hormonal imbalances associated with perimenopause, menopause, postpartum, and andropause are well-known influences of changes in sexual function. Also physical injury, diabetes, kidney disease, vascular disease, nerve damage, toxins, and medications influence how we feel, respond, and function with respect to sexuality. The physical issues affect the mental state and this can affect the spirit.

Women’s sexual dysfunctions have been virtually ignored partly because there is no pharmaceutical wonder drug to treat it. While a man’s impotence is obvious and is psychologically linked to his “manhood,” if a woman becomes less interested in sex or has difficulty achieving orgasm, she is still physically able to participate in sex. As a result, sexual dysfunction in women rarely gets reported to physicians, and it is unusual for such reports to be entered into drug company databases or forwarded on to the FDA.

Medications may play a large roll in sexual dysfunction. Sex seems simple, but it is actually very complex. There are a number of ways in which medicines can interfere with sexual satisfaction. Many medications affect libido; others may cause erectile dysfunction (ED), vaginal dryness, and difficulty achieving an orgasm. See Graedon’s Guide to Drugs That Affect Sexuality, made available by The People’s Pharmacy®. While not directly associated with sex, drowsiness, fatigue, depression, confusion, decreased focus, and weight gain can all affect the ability of people to feel good about themselves, just relax and enjoy sex.

Poor adherence to a medication regimen is often due to the side effects of medications, especially when it comes to sex. Physicians must be pro-active and inform their patients ahead of time of possible side effects and work with them to minimize these side effects. This is imperative for compliance and wellbeing. Some of the most widely-prescribed medications have sexual side effects. Anti-depressants such as SSRIs can cause ED, anorgasmia (inability to have an orgasm), premature ejaculation, and decreased sexual desire. Blood pressure medications – especially beta blockers – may cause ED. There are alternatives to treatment; talk to your physician about alternative medications, supplements, herbs and essential oils. They can help develop a regimen designed especially for you.