Sexual function is dependent not just on your thoughts, emotions and hormones but also on neurotransmitter processes. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that communicate information throughout your brain and body. When hormone therapy fails to treat physically-based sexual dysfunction, it is usually because the neurotransmitter processes have been neglected. Neurotransmitters play a key role in arousal, pleasure, sexual performance, and orgasm, and an imbalance of any of the following 4 neurotransmitters can compromise your sex life.
Nitric oxide, or NO, is a molecule that sends signals throughout your entire body, helping your 50 trillion cells communicate with each other. Nitric oxide levels typically start to decline in your mid-to-late 20s and continue to decline by approximately 10%-12% per decade. It is the ultimate pleasure molecule and it plays several key roles in sexual functioning.
In order for arousal to occur blood must first flow to the sexual organs. When you have low nitric oxide levels, it causes the blood vessels to restrict, encourages red blood cells to clump together, and creates dangerous blockages and clots in the arteries. These factors combined, dramatically reduce the flow of blood to the sex organs, which lowers sensations of pleasure, and interferes with the ability to become aroused and reach orgasm in both genders. Low NO is also a chief cause of erectile dysfunction (ED) in men because NO is required for blood to fill the erectile body. In many cases, boosting NO is all that is required for restoring pleasure and arousal in both men and women, and reversing ED in men.
To boost NO optimize sleep, exercise regularly, get regular sunlight exposure and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Also, consume a wholefoods-based diet with an abundance of nitric oxide boosting foods, such as: beets, leafy greens, dark chocolate, pomegranate juice, watermelon, citrus, lettuce, garlic and walnuts. If you really want to turbocharge your sex life, I recommend you also take an NO-boosting supplement such as Beet Vitality or Stay Young.
Dopamine plays a key role in pleasure, motivation, and addiction. Dopamine levels rise during sexual arousal, and they flood the brain at the time of orgasm. Dopamine enhances your receptivity to pleasure, and without enough you may experience a low libido, no motivation to pursue or partake in sex, lethargy, an inability to feel love or attachment, and lackluster or absent orgasms. Dopamine also plays a complex, but important role in the production of testosterone, which is arguably the most important hormone for sexual desire and pleasure. While low dopamine is a more common cause of sexual dysfunction, too much dopamine can also be problematic and may cause premature ejaculation, sexual addiction, aggression, and psychosis.
If you have low dopamine, it is best to boost it using natural methods – this will optimize dopamine without causing it to become too high. Some ways to increase dopamine include reducing stress, trying new things, exercising regularly, partaking in rewarding activities and/or things that make you feel a sense of achievement, and listening to music. Also eliminate saturated fats, sugar and artificial sweeteners, and consume tyrosine-rich foods. Tyrosine is an essential building block of dopamine, and some healthy sources include bananas, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, spirulina and soy. Natural supplements can also be helpful, and you may want to talk to your healthcare practitioner about taking l-tyrosine, Rhodiola, or Mucuna pruriens.[i]
Serotonin plays a key role in regulating mood and emotions, and too much or too little can impact your sex life. A healthy level of serotonin helps to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation and optimize desire and responsiveness. When serotonin levels are too high, it diminishes sexual desire and arousal, reduces clitoral pleasure, inhibits or reduces the intensity of orgasms, and can lead to ejaculatory disorders.[ii] This is why SSRI medications, which increase serotonin and are frequently prescribed for depression, often produce sexual side-effects. Excessive serotonin can also blunt emotions, which interferes with romantic love and can prevent feelings of attachment.[iii] If serotonin levels drop too low, the physical drive for sex will likely increase, however mental and emotional disruptions which interfere with seeking and receiving pleasure may occur. Low serotonin is associated with anxiety, depression, irritability, aggression, low self-esteem and negative thinking.
The most common cause of high serotonin levels is SSRI medications in combination with various other prescription drugs. If your levels are elevated the easiest solution is to discontinue the medication that is causing the excessive serotonin levels and use natural methods to boost serotonin instead. This should never be done abruptly, or on your own however, it should only be done under the supervision of a Naturopath or other qualified functional medicine expert.
Some natural techniques for boosting low serotonin levels include exposure to bright light (either with the sun or a sun lamp), aerobic exercise, enhancing gut health with probiotics; and addressing negative subconscious thinking patterns that impact your mood with self-hypnosis or LFC glasses.[iv] You can also boost serotonin by consuming a diet that is rich in wholefood-based complex carbohydrates such as chickpeas, legumes, beans, potatoes, and squash; and tryptophan-rich foods such as soy, walnuts, leafy greens and sea vegetables.
Oxytocin is the love, connectivity and bonding neurotransmitter, and it is released during sex, and orgasms. Oxytocin helps to increase sexual desire and intensity, it aids in the release of dopamine and plays a key role in multiple orgasms in women.[v] It also causes muscle contractions and sensitizes nerves and preliminary research suggests increasing oxytocin may help produce more intense orgasms.[vi] Oxytocin is required to feel empathy, intimacy, and a connection and bond with your partner; its heals and holds a relationship together, and a deficiency can make sex feel mechanical and impersonal.
To boost oxytocin naturally, increase direct eye contact with your partner (especially during sex), give each other a massage, and make physical affection such as holding hands, hugging, and cuddling a priority in your relationship. Meditation, and non-sexual touch with friends, family, or a pet can also boost oxytocin.
*We work with doctors who can prescribe oxytocin. 50 Units dissolved under the tongue, 30 minutes prior to sex, can help a woman to more easily reach orgasm and a man to be more loving, relaxed, receptive and connected. For more
[v] “The Neurobiology of Sexual Function.” Cindy M. Meston, PhD, Penny F. Frohlich, MA