Does it seem like you have lost your libido for good?
Is your sex drive at an all-time low?
While you might attribute this to your tiredness after work or your advanced age, something else might be causing your sullen sex life – and that could be an undiagnosed thyroid disorder.
What is Libido?
Libido is all about your sex drive and your appetite for this amorous affair.
In psychiatry, it is tagged as a ‘component of the life instinct.’
There is no normal level for ‘libido,’ as it differs according to gender and age, among many other aspects.
However, a lot of people experience a low libido or sex drive. Physical causes include:
- Medical disorders, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, neurological conditions, arthritis, and thyroid disorders, the latter of which is the focus of this article.
- Intake of medications, such as anti-depressants and anti-seizure drugs
- Surgery affecting the breasts and/or the pelvic area
- Excessive smoking or alcohol intake
- Sexual problems, i.e. pain during/after sex or inability to orgasm
Additionally, hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause in women (and andropause in men) affect sex drives.
Other conditions that can affect sex drive include psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, dampened self-esteem, poor body image, history of negative sexual experiences, and past sexual/physical abuse.
Relationship issues such as infidelity, poor communication, lack of connection, and unresolved issues can play a role in low libido as well.
If your low sex drive is not caused by the aforementioned factors, then have yourself tested for the possibility of a thyroid disorder. Your doctor will take your medical history and conduct a physical examination, specifically of the neck area.
He/She will ask you to undertake blood tests that will check your TSH, T4, T3, Thyroid Antibody, and Thyroglobulin levels.
How the Thyroid Gland Affects Libido
The thyroid gland, located below the voice box, is known to regulate many body functions such as growth and metabolism.
Throughout years of study, it was also discovered that the thyroid gland plays an important role in reproductive health. Changes in thyroid function have been linked with alterations in sexual activity, even fertility.
This happens because this disorder affects the production of the following hormones:
- Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), a protein made in the liver. It binds to the hormones estrogen, testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone.
- Testosterone, the male sex hormone responsible for sperm production and the development of sex characteristics. In women, this hormone affects sexual activity, desire, pleasure, and over-all well-being.
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH), a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. In men, it stimulates the release of testosterone, which in turn affects the production of sperm. As for women, this hormone affects ovulation and sex drive.
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), another hormone that controls sperm production in men. In women, it controls the menstrual cycle and egg production of ovaries.
Following these changes, loss of libido is an expected outcome. It is one of the distressing symptoms of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, where increases and decreases in thyroid hormones occur respectively.
Additionally, hypothyroidism’s other symptoms of depression, fatigue, and mood disorder can also lead to the reduced sexual drive of the afflicted persons. In fact, as much as 60% of depressed individuals report a low sexual desire.
Libido and Thyroid Relationship in Men
Men are known to have great libido when they are young. However, there are some who gradually develop a distaste for sex and lose this libido as they become older. For a handful of males, action in the bedroom can seem all too mechanical – they do not look forward to it the way they did in the earlier years.
While the loss of libido is oftentimes attributed to erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety, and stress, it can be blamed on a variety of medical conditions such as thyroid disorder.
In hypothyroid men, the SHBG, Testosterone, LH, and FSH levels are decreased, while in hyperthyroidism, the hormones mentioned are increased. Thyroid Advisor has articles on both these topics which may help in your research.
Because of these effects, problems in sex drive, as well as fertility, are encountered by men suffering from thyroid dysfunctions.
In fact, a multicenter study by Carani et al showed that of its 34 hyperthyroid male subjects, 17.6% of them reported hypoactive sexual desire, or a reduced sexual drive. The highest incidence for this group is premature ejaculation at 50%. As for its hyperthyroid patients, as much as 64.3% reported loss of libido, while 7.1% reported premature ejaculation.
Adding credence to this finding is a study by Maggi et al. Here it was established that hypothyroidism primarily affects sexual desire, as well as the ejaculation process. As for hyperthyroidism, effects include premature ejaculation and a risk of suffering from erectile dysfunction.
Although this is the case, there is no need to worry as Carani et al’s study concluded that although men with thyroid disorders experience sexual dysfunctions, these symptoms can be reversed by normalizing thyroid hormone levels through treatment.
Libido and Thyroid Relationship in Women
Just like men, women who develop thyroid disorders suffer from loss of libido. According to experts, many females who report this problem have an undiagnosed thyroid problem.
In women with thyroid disorders, hormones that determine the functioning of female sexual organs are affected.
Compared to men, there is a small volume of researches which study the relationship of thyroid disorders and libido. Such was the driving force behind the study of Oppo et al. In this paper, the authors assessed the participants through the Female Sexual Function Index.
This covered the respondents’ hypoactive sexual desire, sexual arousal disorders, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain during intercourse. Not surprisingly, hypothyroid and hyperthyroid women reported low scores in all the domains.
As in the case of men, the loss of libido in women with thyroid disorders usually dissipates following treatment. In the same study, hypothyroidism treatment led to the normalization of sexual desire and satisfaction, as well as a decrease in sexual pain.
As for hyperthyroid women, sexual desire and other facets normalized, except orgasm, which remained impaired even after treatment.
Improving Libido by Treating Thyroid Disorders
If you have a thyroid disorder that causes your low libido, among many other symptoms, then you should have it managed immediately. As it has been mentioned, sexual drives are usually normalized after treatment.
If you are suffering from hypothyroidism, your physician will prescribe you with the hormone Levothyroxine, which is available in the market as Synthroid or Levothroid. This works by increasing thyroid hormone levels in the body, reversing symptoms of hypothyroidism such as a low sex drive. Do note that Levothyroxine treatment is usually done for a lifetime.
However, you need to visit your physician routinely so that he/she can make the necessary adjustments on your dosage. If your dose is on the excess, you can experience insomnia, shakiness, palpitations, and an increased appetite. Should this occur, check with your doctor right away.
As for a low sex drive caused by hyperthyroidism, treatments vary according to the person’s age, condition, cause of hyperthyroidism, and preference. Discuss with your physician any of the following options to determine the best choice for your current status:
- Anti-Thyroid Medications. Methimazole and Propylthiouracil work by controlling the excessive production of thyroid hormones. Symptoms such as low libido can be resolved after six weeks of treatment. However, any of these medications is still needed until a year or so in order to properly normalize thyroid hormone levels. Side effects of these medications include joint pain, fever, rashes, susceptibility to infection, and possible liver damage.
- Radioactive Iodine. Acts by shrinking the thyroid gland, RAI results to the reversal of symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism. Since it renders the gland underactive, thyroxine intake is recommended following radioactive iodine treatment.
- If you are unable to tolerate any of the aforementioned treatment regimens, you can undergo thyroidectomy, wherein most of the gland is removed. To normalize thyroid hormone levels, patients who undergo thyroidectomy will require lifelong Levothyroxine treatment.
How to Improve Libido Naturally
Yes, thyroid treatment can reverse the awful symptom of low libido. However, if your sex drive is at a standstill while you complete your doctor’s prescribed thyroid medications, you can opt for these methods that have been known to improve libido naturally:
- Libido-Boosting Food
Food will not only fill you up, it can also enhance your sex drive! Here are some fares that can help you achieve better performance in bed (or wherever.)
- Rich in Vitamin C, these greenie improves circulation to the organs, which in turn enhances sexual desire in the eater.
- You can add this in your tea or favorite dish to enjoy an increase in sexual activity.
- Iceberg Lettuce. Not only can it help you lose weight, this vegetable can also flood your circulation with libido-boosting sex hormones.
- Black Raspberries. Rich in Phytochemicals, these berries can cause a spike in your libido and sexual endurance. Take at least 10 pieces before you do the deed for a more fulfilling result.
- Another fruit that can boost your sex drive is the watermelon, which contains 8% of nutrients that enhance sexual health. It boasts of citrulline, a phytonutrient that works in the same way as Viagra.
- Herbal Supplements
Apart from food that can boost your sex drive, there are herbal aphrodisiacs, some used by our forefathers hundreds of years ago, that have been proven effective in improving libido in both men and women.
- Ginseng, or the man-root that can improve your libido in as short as a month. You can add the root into your favorite dish, or take any of the Ginseng teas available in the market for a markedly pleasurable time.
- Mondia whitei, which is used to enhance sex drive and management a low sperm count. It also causes sexual improvement, as seen in a study of inexperienced male rats.
- Tribulus terrestris, which increases the production of androgens, testosterone, dihydrotesterone, and LH, all of which have led to better sexual behaviors.
- Lepidium myenii, otherwise known as Maca, has been known to improve sexual desire after 2 months of intake.
Exercise comes with a variety of benefits ranging from weight loss and decreased risks of succumbing from heart disease. Consequently, regular exercise has been known to improve libido. In women, a 20-minute exercise prior to watching erotic films has led improved to genital arousal, according to a study by Lorenz and Meston. While it has been conducted in patients taking anti-depressant medications, their complaint of ‘low libido’ is similar to those with thyroid dysfunctions.
Consequently, too much exercise can lead to further sexual woes than improvements. Frequent, high-intensity exercise has been known to decrease libido, fertility, and sperm production in men, according to a study by Ellakim and Nemet. As such, keep your workouts at the recommended levels for stellar physical and sexual health.
Low libido usually comes with thyroid disorders, but the good news is it does not last forever.
Once you get treated for your condition, you can get rid of the nasty symptoms – and expect a better sex life right thereafter!
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