HomeConditionsWomen's Health

Why Have I Lost Interest in Sex?

Why Have I Lost Interest in Sex?

Massage Therapy Is Proven to Boost Immunity and More
Feel Good about Your Finances with Fiduciary Advising Focused on You
New Year New Child: 5 Tips for Better Focus and Attention

I sat down with Dr. Deanna Cherrone, founder of Natural Health & Healing in West Hartford, who has been studying and practicing functional medicine for over 9 years. I wanted to have a frank conversation on a topic all too familiar for many of us…SEX…or more specifically, the lack of it!

Dr. H: Dr. Cherrone, why is it that so many women lose interest in sex after they have been married for awhile, have children, and hit midlife?

Dr. C: I am not sure we are meant to be monogamous (laughs).

Dr. H: You may be onto something!

Dr. C: That’s a topic for another discussion – but let’s say that you are a woman in her mid-to-late forties and you have it all…the perfect partner, wonderful kids, an exciting career, a beautiful home, financial stability…and NO interest in having sex. In fact, not only do you have no interest, you are so exhausted at the end of the day, it’s the furthest thing from your mind. It takes a lot of energy and work to maintain the perfect partner, family, career, and home. In fact, it takes so much energy that if you’ve been running full speed since you were about 25 years old and now it’s almost 25 years later – guess what…you hit the wall.

Dr. H: That sounds like just about every woman I know! We are so consumed with creating the perfect life, we don’t realize the impact it has on our health.

Dr. C: That’s my point exactly. I have many patients who come in complaining that they are so exhausted they can barely get out of bed in the morning and no amount of sleep seems to help.

Dr. H: Let’s talk about what’s going on for these women.

Dr. C: When you constantly push yourself to do more and more, without paying attention to the signs that you may be overdoing it, you can develop a state of chronic stress. We are designed to deal with stress for short periods of time but then immediately go back into a relaxed state. This can happen over and over, like the fight or flight response in the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, in our current society many of us are forced into, or choose, situations of chronic long-term stress with no relaxation or down time. We can deal with this for awhile, but over time our body moves from a state of alarm into adaptation and then finally, exhaustion.

Dr. H: Normally when we adapt to something that’s a good thing, but not in this case, right?

Dr. C: Exactly. Adaptation to chronic stress is the last place you want to be and can lead to multiple chronic diseases and eventually, death.

Dr. H: What is actually happening physiologically?

Dr. C: I’ll briefly describe some of the changes that occur. The body releases cortisol in response to stress. Cortisol release allows the body to maintain a steady supply of glucose so that you can fight or flee. It’s a very primal response. Although today we are not typically in situations where we have to fight off a predator, some of my patients may view their husbands that way (laughs)!

Having high cortisol circulating throughout the body has negative impacts and delicate hormone balances are disrupted. Levels of progesterone drop because it is needed to make more and more cortisol. There is lowered production of DHEA, testosterone and estrogen because everything is being shunted to make more cortisol to deal with the stress. We may also see rises in cholesterol because cholesterol is the building block needed to make hormones in the body. Levels rise because the body is producing more cholesterol to make more of the hormones that are being depleted due to stress. It’s a vicious cycle.

Dr. H: So it sounds like the root cause is our crazy and hectic lifestyles?

Dr. C: Absolutely. The first thing I look at with a patient is their lifestyle. I want to know what they are eating, are they exercising, how much sleep are they getting, their exposure to toxins and plastics, do they smoke, do they have nutritional deficiencies and, of course, how much stress they have in their lives. The reason lifestyle is so important is that all of this can contribute to hormone imbalance. And, it is something we have control over and can change.

Dr. H: I know many women must feel even more overwhelmed when they see how many things can be affecting their hormone balance and health. Even trying to eat healthier can be a huge undertaking – buying organic, antibiotic and hormone free food; meal planning and preparation; getting the right balance of carbs, fat and protein; having healthy snacks on hand, it never ends. Then we have to worry about getting enough exercise and sleep and I can’t even think about what toxins I may be exposed to?!?

Dr. C: Yes – many people come in to see me and they know what they need to do but just can’t do it. The overwhelm almost paralyzes them. So what can we do? Let’s start with baby steps. If you need guidance, I recommend that you find a functional medicine practitioner to talk to about therapeutic lifestyle changes, and to do some initial testing to identify any hormonal and nutritional deficiencies. They may also get you started on some baseline bioidentical hormone replacement depending on your hormone levels and symptoms. It can do wonders for mood, energy levels and libido. One very important thing I tell my patients to do is to find a way to implement some daily stress reduction techniques immediately. It doesn’t matter how healthy you are eating and exercising if you can’t begin to reduce stress levels.

Some techniques I commonly suggest are the following:

     

  1. Find 5-10 minutes per day to sit quietly and clear your mind. You don’t have to meditate 30 minutes to an hour a day to get the benefits. A good time to do this is first thing in the morning or at the end of the day…or both!
  2. Re-engage in a hobby that you love – find something that you can get lost in for an hour or so.
  3. Get a massage, take a salt bath, go to the spa and pamper yourself.
  4. Connect with nature – in the woods, at the beach, on a mountain.
  5. Start a gratefulness practice – write down one thing each day that you are grateful for.
  6. Manifest your perfect day. Remember thoughts can become things.

 

Dr. H: These are great ideas – I want to start them all right now! But I won’t do that, as I know it will just increase my stress level! What about some basic supplements that one can take for stress reduction?

Dr. C: I typically don’t like to make supplement recommendations without seeing a patient first, but taking 1000-3000mg Vitamin C, 500-1000mg B5 and a daily dose of magnesium can help with stress. Vitamin C and B5 are very important for adrenal health and magnesium is a “relaxing” mineral in the body.

Dr. H: What other recommendations would you make as far as sleep, eating healthier, exercising and exposure to environmental toxins?

Dr. C: I tell all my patients to eat real food from nature as much as possible. That means organic, pesticide-free, non-GMO fruits and vegetables; antibiotic and hormone-free lean proteins like wild, smaller species of fish, pasture-raised chicken and turkey, 100% grass fed and grass finished beef; and healthy fats from nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, butter, avocado and pasture-raised eggs. Basically, shop the perimeter of your grocery store – with the exception of the aisles where you find healthy oils and vinegars. You need to avoid anything packaged, boxed, and processed. This means bread, pasta, cereal, pancakes, waffles, crackers, cookies and desserts, even if homemade should be eliminated.

As for exercise – I tell women to find something they enjoy doing. I prefer a combination of HIIT (high intensity interval training), strength training, and stretching like yoga or Pilates. But I love to play tennis and even though that is a long duration sport, I won’t give it up because it gives me so much joy. We also need to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is the best way to rebuild your adrenal reserves and sleeping between 7am and 9am is the most restorative for the adrenal glands.

Dr. H: So…the big question…if we are able to get our lifestyles in check, will our libido return?

Dr. C: Now if I had the answer to that I’d be a millionaire! Theoretically, yes. In a perfect world, if we are healthy and relaxed, we should have an increased interest in sex with our partner. Sometimes we may need to add hormone replacement to help with vaginal dryness. However, there are so many factors at play for women when it comes to sexual interest and enjoyment that may have nothing to do with our physical bodies. I believe there’s a big psychological component as well – women need to be connected to their partner, intellectually stimulated, and feel that their lifestyles and hopes and dreams are aligned. There may be years of resentment and bitter feelings that have built up that need to be healed before both partners can feel safe in being intimate with each other. Like so many things in life, addressing the mental and emotional aspects often can lead to answers.

Dr. H: Now that’s definitely another topic for our next article!

Deanna M. Cherrone, M.D. is the director and founder of Natural Health & Healing, LLC in West Hartford, CT, a Functional Medicine practice that provides patients with a guided approach and individualized treatment plan on how to optimize health. Upon completing her residency at UCONN Medical Center and receiving board certification in Internal Medicine, she worked as an Emergency Room physician. She is certified in NLP – Neurolinguistic Programming, Therapeutic Lifestyle Change, Quantum Biofeedback and is also a certified Dream Coach Group Leader. She is currently in the process of receiving her certifications in Clinical Nutrition and Mind Body Medicine. Areas of focus in her practice include Therapeutic Lifestyle Change, Nutrition, Bio-identical Hormone Replacement – BHRT, Nutritional Supplementation, Detoxification, Exercise, Sleep, Allergies and Food Sensitivities, Adrenal Fatigue, Thyroid Disease and Stress Reduction Techniques.