Tapping Into Libido - The Intrinsic Connection Between Body and Brain
Sexual Health is incredibly complex. As individuals, we experience physically, mentally, and emotionally. There is no one-size fits all definition of sexual health, but it impacts and is impacted by our physical, cognitive, and emotional lives. It is natural to feel the ebb and flow in your levels of sexual desire, especially with the uncertain, consistent changes that we have all been facing for the past year. We often don’t talk about how changes to our schedules, eating habits and exercise patterns as well as daily stressors; and even the time of year, can all affect our levels of sexual desire. Improving our libido requires a holistic body, mind, and energy approach that will help to deepen your connection with yourself as you (re)discover the boundless and sensual energy that exists within.
Nurturing digestive health, promoting healthy blood flow, and addressing mindfulness and lifestyle habits can positively improve libido. To start, let’s take a deeper look at how our digestive health, specifically our gut and intestines (sexy, right?), can affect physical, mental and emotional health and impact our libido.
Let’s start at the beginning. The digestive system is a series of organs that converts food into essential nutrients that are absorbed into the body and eliminate unused waste material. Digestion, just like sex, begins in the brain. When we see, smell, or even think about food, the brain readies the digestive tract for nourishment. A healthy digestive system is essential to good health because if the digestive system shuts down, the body cannot be properly nourished or rid itself of waste. As Hippocrates most notably stated: "all disease begins in the gut".
The key to a healthy digestive system is the integrity of our gut and intestines. However, when thinking about sex, the health of our intestinal system is probably the last thing we think of. There is a strong connection between our gut health and our arousal – and it all has to do with the trillions of bacteria that live inside of us. What's commonly referred to as our microbiome, our intestinal tract contains microorganisms that live to help keep us happy and healthy, but only if we treat them the same. They’re finicky little creatures that are responsible for numerous functions in the body, including the production of hormones, enzymes and even neurotransmitters such as serotonin (our happy hormone) which are essential for our sexual health. About 80% - 90% of our serotonin is actually produced in our gut, which is why our intestinal system is often referred to as our second brain. So, what does this all have to do with arousal, you ask?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low mood, irritability, brain fog, chronic bloating, IBS or a lack of sexual desire, the culprit may be overall digestive and gut health. Our gut microbiome can influence our emotional behaviours and how our stress system responds. Irritations in the gut and intestinal tract can send signals to the brain that trigger mood changes. Just as a troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, a troubled brain can send signals to the gut – the gut and the brain are intimately connected in a beautiful and complex relationship.
As our two brains are in constant communication, therapies that help one can help the other. Starting with the body, food is the first medicine. Some simple tips for improving our digestion include eating mindfully and chewing food thoroughly, eating fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, along with drinking at least 2 litres of filtered water a day, between meals. Including probiotic rich foods in your meals such as quality sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, miso, natto, tempeh and yogurt can help to improve digestion and bring balance to our microbiome.
Luckily, exercise and stretching can also help to strengthen our digestive tract and promote blood flow to our brain and organs. If we have poor circulation and blood flow, this can lead to stagnant energy within the body, which can heighten issues of low libido. Good blood flow to our brain and sexual organs is vital for arousal, sexual stimulation, and pleasure. Physical fitness not only improves blood flow but also boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, elevates mood, and increases self-confidence.
Including activities that are not necessarily sexual but pleasurable can help us get more in-touch with our bodies and increase libido. Simple practices such as deep breathing, laughing, hugging yourself and exploring non-sexual touch all help to ground us and relax the mind and body. Practicing mindfulness can also allow us to enjoy the simplest daily pleasures in life, such as noticing how the aromas of your morning coffee make you feel or your favourite scent on your body. Adding an element of sensuality in your day expands an aura of flirtation that plays with your biggest erogenous zone – your brain.
Think of the food you eat and your self-care practices as foreplay for yourself. Everything is intrinsically connected within us. When we benefit our body through proper diet and lifestyle choices, we benefit our mental and emotional health. When we benefit our mental and emotional health, we also benefit everything that is within us that we cannot visibly see. Choose things that help you feel sexy and help to create a healthy environment for your body, mind, and spirit. You just might be pleasurably surprised with the results.