by Jacob Deakins
Sexual health is paramount for overall wellness. Sex tends to be a topic that is uncomfortable for patients and practitioners alike. Very seldom is sexual wellness discussed unless the patient has something wrong such as erectile dysfunction or pain and even then, the conversation can be awkward. This should not be the case. Sexual wellness is a topic than encompasses a multitude of areas, but all are vital for overall health. These range from hormonal, biochemical, physical and emotional. These areas should each be addressed independently, but also considered as a complex and well-maintained apparatus within each of us. We all know that sex is fun and pleasurable, but will it make us live longer? Let’s look at the research.
The Caerphilly Cohort Study from English researchers looked at 918 Welsh men ages 45 to 59 enrolled from 1979 to 1983 and then re-evaluated them 10 years later. They found that 150 of the men then aged 55 to 69 had died. The researchers correlated the sexual frequency of those who died and those who survived and found that the group that had sex twice a week had half the death rate of those who died who had only reported having sex once a month. The study concluded, after adjustment for other factors, that men who had more frequent orgasms lived longer and had a protective effect on health. Critics argued that perhaps there were other factors, but the more sexually active group did not appear to be any healthier at baseline than those who died. For the entire group, risk of death decreased with the increase in sexual frequency.
Another study looked at 100 women who had suffered from a heart attack and 100 women who had not. The women who had experienced a heart attack reported decreased satisfaction with their sex lives prior to their heart attack. This likely speaks to the hormonal aspect of decreased libido as well as the negative cardiac effects of hormonal deprivation in menopausal and other women who are lacking adequate levels. The Nurse’s Health study observed decreased death from heart disease and cancer in estrogen only users.
Sex is great exercise, helps decrease stress, allows partner bonding, trust building and boosts the immune system. A study done at Wilkes University surveyed 111 young adults regarding their sexual frequency and found that those having sex most often had higher levels of salivary IgA a key component of the immune system, particularly in the lining of the gut, preventing dangerous pathogens from gaining entry.
Physical barriers to sex may include vaginal dryness and atrophy along with discomfort in women and erectile dysfunction or Peyronie’s disease, an often-painful contracture of the penis in men.
These physical barriers can be addressed using therapies that do not include invasive surgery or potentially dangerous medications. Acoustic wave therapy or “GAINSWave” utilizes sound energy for erectile dysfunction, focused on improving blood flow and stimulating the release of chemicals that dilate the vessels. Likewise, women can see benefits in vaginal laxity, lubrication and comfort, as well as reduction in stress urinary incontinence with the Viveve therapy. These therapies are office-based and have great outcomes.
Hormonal loss of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone contribute as well. Estrogen plays a vital role in both men and women for arousal, libido and lubrication. Studies published in the Annals of Endocrinology in 2004 show that when the conversion of testosterone to estradiol (part of testosterone’s natural pathway) was blocked men suffered more erectile dysfunction, decreased masturbation, intercourse and sexual fantasies. Just like men may benefit from some estrogen, women likewise may see improvement in sexual health and function with small amounts of testosterone. The process of evaluating and treating hormone deficiency should be addressed and monitored by a practitioner knowledgeable of the complexity in order to create a plan that works for each individual. This can be accomplished by using bioidentical hormones which are recognized, utilized and metabolized like our own hormones. These hormones are typically compounded by local compounding pharmacies who are very knowledgeable about these therapies. By addressing each patient as a unique individual, hormonal balance can be achieved with great success.
There are a multitude of reasons why sexual health is so important and by focusing on diet, lifestyle and hormone replacement therapy we can continue to enjoy sex well into life all while enjoying the associated health benefits.
Jacob Deakins, M.D., of Inland Wellness and Vitality at 316 W. Boone Ave., Ste. 350, Rock Pointe Tower in Spokane, offers natural therapies for sexual health. For more information regarding improved sexual health, call 509-474-0145 or visit InlandWellnessAndVitality.com.