Let’s start by getting one thing straight: on a most basic, primal level - the vast majority of us should want to have sex.
For one thing it’s fun, and for another thing, sex, (and the orgasms that go with it) have approximately a gajillion health benefits from improving brain function and heart health to lifting your mood.
Low libido is common, but it’s not ‘normal’.
In fact, many experts agree that a healthy sex drive can be a really great indicator of overall health and vitality.
Of course there are a whole range of physical and emotional reasons why this can be the case; security, lack of connection, trauma and so on.
However, in many cases, a big piece of the low sex drive puzzle is hormone related. When your hormones fire as they should, you’d rather ‘chill’ than ‘Netflix’ if you catch our drift.
And when your hormones aren’t coming to the party, it’s easy to slip into patterns of self doubt, blame, and feeling disconnected from your partner.
The path to restoration starts with figuring out what’s going on. Here are 5 possible hormonal reasons why your sex drive may have gone on vacay.
1. Your Cortisol is too High or too Low
This kind of goes without saying, but nothing kills your libido like stress. Most of us have probably been able to track either our own, or our partner’s, sudden lack of interest in intimacy and affection down to stress in one form or another.
It’s normal that after a stressful day on the tools you might not feel like it. But if that day starts turning into weeks or months, it’s a clear sign from your body that things may be leaning out of balance.
It’s important to understand that stress hormone dysfunction is at the root of many sex hormone imbalances as well. One of the first signs of out-of-whack cortisol can be a lack of desire or interest in sex.
Why? Because cortisol is a survival hormone. Not a sex hormone.
When your stress response system is in full swing, sex (and reproduction) takes a backseat to survival, meaning stress hormone production will always take priority over sex hormones. This is simply our basic primal physiology.
Other signs of cortisol dysfunction that may be accompanying a lack of libido (for men and women) can include:
- Anxiety, or low moods;
- Insomnia or light, poor quality sleeps;
- Feelings of overwhelm;
- Feeling burnt out and tired, even after a good night's sleep;
- Salt or sugar cravings;
- Weight gain, particularly around the tummy and/or love handles.
It probably goes without saying that these signs of stress & burnout don’t exactly ‘set the mood’ for intimacy.
2. Your Oestrogen is Low
Oestrogen is the primary female sex hormone that supports healthy mood, sleep, skin, bone health, insulin sensitivity, metabolism and yes: libido. It’s also the hormone responsible for our beautiful feminine curves.
In the right amounts, oestrogen helps us feel confident, outgoing and sexy. If oestrogen was underwear it would be the matching lacy, silk set.
As the name suggests, sex hormones help to regulate sexual desire and function. Therefore it goes without saying that when imbalanced, your sexual desire and function will reflect this.
With oestrogen being a woman’s main sex hormone, with low levels of this hormone she’ll also be wanting low levels of sex.
The most common causes of low oestrogen are over exercising, low levels of body fat, or having recently come off hormonal birth control.
Other signs of low oestrogen that may be accompanying your low sex drive include:
- Absent or irregular periods;
- Hot flashes and night sweats;
- Low libido and/or vaginal dryness;
- Dry skin;
- Moodiness and irritability;
- Hormonal headaches or migraines.
3. Your Testosterone is Low
For men, testosterone is the number 1 sex hormone. Women have it too, just in smaller amounts.
Testosterone supports muscle growth, bones health, energy production, general motivation and is closely linked to sex drive in both genders.
In women, testosterone (and oestrogen) peaks around ovulation, making this the time of your cycle you are most likely to want to get frisky. Ovulation is also the time you are fertile: a not-so-subtle nudge from mother nature to do the dirty and make some babies.
Paired with low sex drive, other signs of low testosterone in women include:
- Feeling a little ‘soft’ around the edges, or struggling to build muscle despite regular weight training;
- Dry hair and skin;
- Vaginal dryness & painful sex;
- Low confidence or lacking a zest for life;
- Low energy.
And in men:
- Erectile dysfunction, or finding it hard to stay aroused;
- Hair loss;
- Decreased muscle mass;
- Increased body fat.
4. Your Progesterone is Low
Ahhh progesterone; the lovely calming and soothing hormone that helps us feel calm, balanced and relaxed.
When progesterone is or low in relation to oestrogen, you have what’s called an oestrogen dominant hormone picture, which can look a lot like:
We probably don’t need to tell you that feeling anxious, bloated and on the verge of a melt-down often looks a lot more like track pants than lingerie.
This can be the result off:
- Higher than optimal oestrogen - either making you’re making too much or having trouble detoxifying and clearing what’s no longer needed.
- Lower than optimal progesterone - often the result of anovulation (not ovulating) or having poor quality corpus luteum
- A combination of both.
5. Your Meds Are Killing the mood
Certain medications are known to have side effects that can include ‘decreased sexual function and/or desire.’ The most common of which include:
It seems an ironic possible side effect of hormonal contraception. You start taking it because you want to have sex without getting pregnant, but suddenly find you no longer have any interest in sex.
It’s more common than you might think. The hormonal contraceptive pill increases levels of SHBG or sex hormone binding globulin - a protein made by the liver that sucks up your sexy libido-boosting testosterone. This is also why the pill can help with the symptoms of higher testosterone such as acne. You win some, you lose some.
To make one thing clear, we are not advising anyone to stop taking medication prescribed by their doctor. We know that knowledge is power, and without knowing of possible side effects of medication, it's easy to blame yourself for the sudden slip in libido that occurred around the same time you started taking it.
Medication is a personal choice but it should always be an informed one. If something’s not working for you, it may be worth chatting to your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing.
What can you do?
If one or more of the signs and symptoms mentioned in this blog resonates with you, you may want to start investigating your hormone health.
Testing is a really effective way of gaining that insight into what’s going on inside your unique body and eliminating the guesswork. Knowledge really is power that brings about a sense of clarity and confidence.
When you know exactly what really is going on inside, you are better informed and empowered to seek the advice you need or make necessary diet, lifestyle and nutritional changes to get you to where you want to be.