Ready for some real talk about your sex life? Women's health expert Alisa Vitti, AKA "the hormone whisperer," is all about those TMI-type topics. Here, she's sharing ways to boost your libido and get your sex goddess vibes going again.
It’s probably the biggest birth control irony: You go on the pill to prevent pregnancy, and stop wanting to do the very thing that leads to pregnancy. Sound familiar? Even if you started taking it to deal with other issues like acne, irregular cycles, or a hormonal imbalance like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may have lost track of your libido and found yourself wondering how to get your sexy back.
This is not—I repeat not—in your head. While a recent study found that libido changes can vary based on factors like whether you're single or in a relationship (and even how long you've been together), the sexytime struggle for many women is real.
In fact, a 2006 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who have taken the birth control pill may have a low sex drive not only while taking the pill, but even after stopping. This effect could be due to the pill’s impact on testosterone levels and its potential to permanently suppress sex drive.
It’s absolutely not too late to turn things around and get your sexy on.
Before you panic, take heart: With nutritional and lifestyle support, you have the power to set yourself up for success post-pill. Even if you’ve been off the pill a while and you feel like your sex drive isn’t what it was or could be, it’s absolutely not too late to turn things around and get your sexy on.
You already know the pill can negatively impact your sex life (including decreased orgasms) and your relationships (including the type of men you’re attracted to), but now it’s time to tackle the common pill-related problem of low sexual desire.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about what's happening to your body post-pill, and what to do to feel like your old self.
Why your libido is MIA (hint: it's all about testosterone)
First, it’s important to understand how the pill works: It suppresses ovulation and replaces your body’s own natural hormone production with a consistent stream of synthetic hormones. As part of this process, the pill also suppresses testosterone production and jacks up your production of SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin).
When you go off the pill, your body can start producing its own (and more) testosterone again, but according to the previously-mentioned research, women who took the pill were still left with four times the amount of SHBG they should have had pre-pill. SHBG binds with your “free testosterone” in your bloodstream, lowering the levels of available, accessible testosterone overall. And guess what’s essential for a healthy, robust sex drive? You guessed it: free, unbound testosterone.
Bringing sexy back
But here’s the good news: Preventing this sex-drive slump is totally doable. This can work for you whether you’re planning to quit the pill, you’ve just cut it out of your life, or you’ve been pill-free for several months already.
Part 1: Let food be your foreplay
You can support your endocrine system with the right foods that will help your body produce enough testosterone to give your sex drive the boost it needs. After coming off the pill, you’ll likely be depleted of some key nutrients that will also contribute to connecting issues like low moods and poor sleep. Eat a diet rich in hormonally supportive foods to avoid all the withdrawal effects of the pill—including rebound hormonal acne, weight issues, and infertility issues.
And make sure to add in well-researched aphrodisiacs like avocados (full of bioidentical testosterone), honey (packed with hormone-regulating boron), strawberries (an ancient remedy that really works), and dark chocolate (for feeling energized and content). You’ll also need to nourish your tired post-pill adrenals and stabilize your mood by avoiding caffeine, eating regularly, and upping the essential fatty acids in your diet. Try mixing up my signature sex drive-boosting smoothie a couple of times per week: the Passion Pour.
Taking the pill, especially long-term, can actually change how you think and feel about sex.
Part 2: Get sexy with supplements
There’s no magic pill that will change your sex drive on its own, but supplements can be a great tool when used as part of a wider hormonally supportive diet. Try maca powder—a well-researched root extract that can help increase testosterone levels—in your smoothies.
I also recommend adding zinc, magnesium, evening primrose, and rhodiola to your daily routine to improve your energy and mood, as well as increase your desire for and enjoyment of sex. These supplements can support your adrenals, raise testosterone levels, and give you bigger and better orgasms. Zinc and magnesium are especially important for preventing the binding of free testosterone and keeping free testosterone available.
Part 3: Take it slow
This is a biggie: It’s important to shift your approach to sex. Taking the pill, especially long-term, can actually change how you think and feel about sex. When you come off of the synthetic hormones, you’ll need to work with your new desire level in ways that will let you have the time you need to feel turned on and ready. The effects of the sex drive-boosting foods and supplements won’t be immediate, so while you’re waiting for your testosterone levels to bounce back, start slow. It’s all about building a new pathway toward becoming aroused.
So how do you do this? Try focusing more on actual foreplay (not just the food kind) with long make-out sessions or some literotica to get in the mood. If you’ve gotten used to not having a lot of sex because you just didn’t feel like it, start practicing being sexual regularly in different ways. Your sex drive is something that can disappear purely through lack of practice! You might need to make a leap of faith that you'll get turned on by starting out small and slow with sexual explorations—including self-pleasure. The more you do, the more you’ll want.
To get you started, you can also download my special report, "Birth Control Rehab", to help you quit the pill—without freaking out, breaking out, or going through hormonal hell.
Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist. She is also the best-selling author of WomanCode, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health—and she has a web series on Lifetime, serves on the Yahoo Health advisory board, and is an advisor to several health and health tech startups. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
What should Alisa write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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