Not tonight, honey!
You love your partner, you’re feeling romantic, and the dim lights push you along to get intimate. Except that you can’t. You feel desire, but you aren’t aroused. The libido has gone for a long walk, and you don’t know if it’s ever coming back. Your partner will wonder what’s wrong with you and whether you still have feelings for them. You want to scream that yes, of course you do, but something’s come in the way of you expressing it. That something could be your diabetes. Shocking fact: Research shows that for men, there’s a more than 50 per cent probability that low libido is a result of high blood sugar. A poor sex life is a very good reason to meet your doctor, even if you aren’t comfortable with talking about sex. Let’s look at why diabetes and sex have such a serious impact on your marital life and how we can do the right things, to make a real difference.
Too much sugar in the blood damages nerves all over the body, a complication of diabetes called diabetic neuropathy. As if the damage from the sugar wasn’t enough, diabetes drugs join the party and deplete vital nutrients from your body. In the case of nerves, the affected vitamin is Vitamin B12. This vitamin is a critical component of nerve sheath in the human body. Think of it as the “insulation” in electrical wires. Poor insulating sheath means damaged nerves. It can cause tingling or numbness in hands and feet and even damage delicate nerves. The pleasure zones of the body are no exception to this affliction. Poor sensation in the sexual organs can be a real downer for arousal. If you can’t feel it, you don’t want it.
Another long term effect of diabetes is the damage to blood vessels. Damaged blood vessels mean, among other things, poor blood flow to the sexual organs. Sex becomes painful and unappealing, and who wants that? If the penis isn’t getting sufficient blood flow, it isn’t going to be up for the task when needed.
You’ve heard of “low T”. It’s in the news so often these days and TV ads are cashing in on this growing problem too. Sex drive is intimately connected to the level of the hormone testosterone in your body. Studies have found that diabetes leads to depressed levels of testosterone in the human body. In some cases, doctors prescribe testosterone replacement therapy for men. Ladies, you’ll still have to wait your turn. Testosterone replacement therapy for women hasn’t been approved by the US Federal Drug Administration so far. A combination of lifestyle and diet changes with some appropriate supplements can raise testosterone levels for both men and women.
- More protein in the diet in the form of a small quantity of lean red meat, fish, legumes, nuts, tofu in every meal is recommended.
- Increase intake of ‘good’ fats like flax, peanut or olive oil.
- Less alcohol is always a good thing. In this case, it helps in raising testosterone. So put those wine glasses away and move to non-alcoholic and non-sugary beverages.
Regular sexual activity is known to increase testosterone levels, so go for it!
If you’re on anti-depressants, then have your doctor check your prescription. Some anti-depressant drugs are known to suppress libido. However, don’t change anything without expert advice from a medical practitioner.
Both diabetic men and women suffer from low libido, but the symptoms and solutions can differ.
Sexual Problems For Men
If you’re diabetic and are having difficulty in getting an erection, it could be just your blood sugar. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a leading cause of poor libido in men, and diabetes is a leading cause of ED. Typically a third of men with diabetes suffer from ED, and it is classified under the group of conditions called “complications” arising from diabetes.
ED is the condition where the penis is unable to maintain an erection for long enough to achieve sexual satisfaction. If you suffer from ED, then it might be a good idea to check your blood sugar regularly. Anxiety about your performance in bed is likely to fuel the problem further, so the first step towards resolving the issue is to stop worrying and see your doctor for some simple solutions. Here are a few reasons for the inability of the penis to maintain erection:
- Inflammation of the blood vessels leading to poor blood flow to the penis
- The ‘desire message’ from the brain doesn’t reach the sexual organs because of inadequate blood flow.
- Diabetes can damage the erectile tissue in the penis.
- A small percentage of men suffer from Peyronie’s disease, a condition that causes painful erection because of scar tissue in the penis. This condition needs medical treatment, so consult your doctor.
- ED is also linked to an inability to reach orgasm
- If you suffer from ED, first bring your diabetes under control.
- Consult an expert for lowering your blood sugar. A healthy diet is sure to bump up your sex life.
- Hit that treadmill. Regular exercise increases stamina, a must for sexual activity.
- Add a few supplements to your diet to kick start your libido. We’ve got a list focused on ED below and a full list of dietary supplements that are known to help with Type 2 Diabetes is available here.
Sexual Problems For Women
How about the ladies? Healthy women typically have lower libido than men and the alarm button of non-performance isn’t so quickly pressed. Post-menopausal women are even slower to get aroused, whether they’re diabetic or not. Testosterone, the same hormone that’s the culprit for men, also plays spoiler here. In post-menopausal women, both testosterone and estrogen, the two sex hormones, come down. That said, diabetes causes damage to the vascular system in both sexes. Damaged blood vessels in women cause
- Vaginal dryness, making sex painful and unpleasant.
- Urinary tract and vaginal yeast infections, again lowering interest in sexual activity.
- Poor blood flow to the clitoris making orgasm difficult.
Most of these issues can be managed with some lifestyle and diet changes, though in some cases, a visit to the doctor is recommended.
- Infections such as urinary tract and vaginal yeast need medical intervention, so get expert advice from the doctor.
- Lower your blood sugar levels to reduce vascular inflammation.
- Vaginal gels to reduce dryness are great mood enhancers, though diabetics must ensure that the gels are free of sugars like glycerin and propylene glycol. Read the label carefully and if you need to, get your doctor to prescribe the right one for you.
- Again, just like men, the treadmill can work as a potent aphrodisiac. Regular exercise to increase stamina and strength works wonders on your libido.
Sex is a high energy activity. And your diabetes gets in the way of that. You feel lethargic and tired, not a sprightly creature in bed. A simple solution to get it back is to control your blood sugar levels by:
- Changing your diet
- Getting regular exercise, including Yoga
- Managing between 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Losing some weight
- Learning to manage your stress better, through mindfulness or other meditations
- Taking the right anti-depressant medication (if you’ve been prescribed anti-depressants)
- Adding some supplements to your diet
Ashwagandha (Indian Ginseng)
Ashwagandha (Indian Ginseng) is recommended for enhanced libido in males. Ashwagandha has a positive effect on managing stress, a major causal factor in diabetics. It has shown positive results for erectile dysfunction.
Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris, Tribulus)
Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris, Tribulus) is a sex and mood enhancer. Laboratory studies have shown an increase of 50 per cent in testosterone levels and increased sperm count after being taken for 30 days.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) has been shown to enhance female fertility and nourishes the female reproductive organs.
A good quality B complex, with sufficient Vitamin B12 can help manage diabetic neuropathy.
An amino acid found in red meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, and also manufactured in the laboratory as a supplement, is used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Pine bark extract
Pine bark extract has been used to treat ED effectively and brings a host of other cardiac benefits too..
Type 2 diabetes and good sex are often natural adversaries, but that does not need to be the last word on this matter. Use the resources in this article to start a dialogue with your doctor or your diabetes educator. Fix your nutrition, stress, exercise and sleep. Use dietary supplements, both to address issues specific to libido and to help you with your underlying diabetes. Getting between the sheets can be attractive again. Here’s to a healthy and vibrant you!