When I google tips for how to enhance female libido, I get a lot of answers like “take a ginseng supplement” or “eat oysters four hours before intimacy.” While these tips might be effective in the short term, they are not effective in the long-term.
The ultimate solution (physically, anyway) to female libido is hormone balance.
The relationship between hormones and female libido could not be more clear:
The better your hormones are balanced and the more rich your supply, the more robust your libido will be.
The female body is highly sensitive to hormone fluctuations. This is in large part because the female body needs to be absolutely certain that it is healthy and in a safe enough environment in order to have sex and be pregnant. Why? If it is not healthy enough or in a safe enough environment and you conceive, then you could actually die from the physical stress of it all.
Fortunately you have all the tools you need to balance and boost hormone production. Here are the most efficient and effective steps you can take to get your libido robust and roaring.
1. Hormones and Female Libido: Address underlying hormone conditions
Do you have an underlying hormone condition?
This is a very important question to ask yourself. If you have an underlying health or hormone condition that is blocking healthy hormone production, then you will never be able to boost your libido no matter how hard you try.
The most common types of hormone conditions are:
PCOS affects around 15 percent of American woman, making it the leading cause of infertility in the Western world. Symptoms of PCOS include irregular menstrual cycles, acne, low libido, difficulty losing weight, male pattern hair growth (facial hair), and male pattern hair loss (balding). If you have PCOS, this is definitely a roadblock to a robust libido. You can figure out if you have PCOS, and learn all about what to do about it, in the guide I wrote on the topic, here, or a blog post I wrote on the topic, here.
2) Hypothalamic amenorrhea.
Hypothalamic amenorrhea is the fancy way of saying that the body is too stressed out in order to have healthy hormone production.
Emotional stress – such as mortgage payments – and physical stress – such as exercising too much and eating too little – are both big components of HA.
You may have HA if your menstrual cycles are absent, light, or irregular, if you have acne, if you have lost a lot of weight or dieted a lot in your life, and if you are stressed out. Here is a comprehensive post I wrote about Hypothalamic amenorrhea symptoms – and here is one about treatment.
You can also have HA and PCOS at the same time, despite what most doctors will tell you. I wrote a post debunking this myth and telling you what to do about it here.
3) Estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen levels get too high and throw off hormone balance relative to progesterone, testosterone, and other hormones. If estrogen levels are too high libido will plummet (though estrogen is generally good for libido! Just not too much).
Estrogen dominance can be caused by being overweight, not exercising enough, low liver functionality, inflammation, birth control pill use, and a diet rich in processed foods. You can read all about estrogen dominance and how to overcome it in this post.
You can read all about how to lose weight healthfully in my fat burning and accelerating guide Weight Loss Unlocked, here.
4) Early or unoptimized menopause.
Menopause is one major hormonal cause of low libido. Unfortunately this problem is harder to fix than the others, because hormone levels naturally drop. Fortunately with an anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense diet rich in healthy carbs and fat like a paleo diet (read my take on paleo here), hormone balance is often supported and restored in menopause. You may also wish to consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, but you really do not have to, as a supremely healthy diet should normally be enough to help. Sometimes patience is really helpful too, as hormone levels fluctuate for a long time and then often settle into a more balanced place.
2. Hormones and female libido: get off the pill, or get on the right one
The birth control pill is another huge factor in female libido. Admittedly, sometimes it can help with libido, but more often than not it squashes it.
One solution for this is to find a variety of the pill that works well for you. If you are on a progesterone-only pill, you may wish to consider getting a formulation that also has estrogen in it. High doses of progesterone have been found to decrease libido when compared to estrogen. Switching kinds of progesterone can also help enhance your libido.
Another option is to ditch hormonal birth control altogether and instead opt for a hormone-free version like the copper IUD or fertility awareness. You can read all about these natural options, as well as the hormonal options, and what to do about them in my quick guide to birth control.
3. Hormones and female libido: Minimize inflammation
Systemic inflammation and other underlying health conditions like auotimmune diseases can often get in the way of healthy hormone production. When the immune system is in hyperdrive, testosterone levels can rise, stress hormones can rise, and other reproductive hormone levels can fall.
Reduce inflammation by eliminating foods that are potentially inflammatory and which can block good nutrient absorption. The three major major culprits here are omega 6 vegetable oils (vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, wheatgerm oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and the like), processed or added sugar, and grain products.
Focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, wild-caught and grass-fed animal products, and healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil is an excellent place to start. Organ meats are great for reducing inflammation, (here’s a supplement in case you do not like to eat liver), as are eggs, fermented foods (here are my favorites) and the rockstar super-suppelment that boosts the hell out of libido fermented cod liver oil.
4. Hormones and female libido: Get the building blocks you need
Sometimes women don’t have robust libidos because they don’t give their bodies the building blocks they need for robust hormone production.
In order to optimally produce hormones, you should consume:
-At very minimum 50 grams of animal protein a day (and up to 100). This is the equivalent of two cans of tuna, or two palm-sized portions of protein.
-At very minimum, 30 grams of fat each day. This is equivalent to about three tablespoons of oil. If you struggle with libido, I recommend increasing this to 45 grams a day to see if that helps. Fats are absolutely essential for healthy hormone production…. hormones are made out of fat, after all!
-At very minimum, 100 grams of carbohydrate every day. Many women go on low carbohydrate diets and are then puzzled about why they have lost their libidos. Low carbohydrate diets can reduce thyroid function – which is necessary for a robust libido – and can also cause the pituitary gland to slow down its activity. Be sure to eat at least 100 grams – so about four pieces of fruit or two bowls of rice – of carbohydrate every day. If you are an athlete, be sure to eat even more, and to always refuel after a workout.
You can fill in the rest of your diet with whatever macronutrients you like. Yet these minimums must be met in order to assure you get the building blocks you need.
5. Hormones and female libido: Eliminate or manipulate estrogenic foods
Many foods contain estrogenic compounds. Soy and flax are the worst offenders (don’t forget that soybean oil and soy lecithin are in almost all processed foods!), and are very potent phytoestrogens. Other foods that also perform estrogenic functions but are less powerful are nuts, beans, peas, and all other legumes.
For some women these foods are problematic and cause estrogen dominance symptoms. If you suspect that you have estrogen dominance, or if you consume a lot of these foods, consider eliminating them to see if that helps.
If you have low estrogen levels, such as if you have hypothalamic amenorrhea or are in menopause, you may wish to experiment with adding these foods to your diet to see if they help. I know that I personally notice a big spike in my sex drive when I eat these foods. You need robust estrogen levels in order to have a healthy sex drive, and these foods, while not permanent fixes, can definitely help boost your libido in the short-term.
6. Hormones and female libido: Reduce stress!
This last and final recommendation you cannot do, unfortunately, with diet. And it is perhaps the hardest one. But it is the most important.
Stress is a big physical problem for the body. Stress causes inflammation, it causes the thyroid and pituitary glands to shut down, and it causes hormone production to be shunted away from reproductive hormones and instead toward stress hormones, which do nothing other than elevate your heartbeat and make you feel wired.
So stress has a physiological impact on your body that must be eliminated for libido.
Though of course the psychological component of stress is also hugely important. It may in fact be the most important thing you can do for your libido.
I mentioned earlier that the female body is highly attuned to stress. This is true. The female body does not want you to have sex if you are stressed out, because it wants you to wait to be pregnant and care for an infant for a time when you are relaxed and the environment is safe.
Work, relationship trouble, self-doubt, self-consciousness, depression and anxiety are all big, stressful reasons that your libido can be crushed. And I can tell you, I can absolutely promise you, that you can be the healthiest eater in the world. But if you don’t take care of your heart and your brain and reduce stress, you will never have a robust libido.
I talk a fair bit about my own personal stress reduction techniques in this post. While not directly related to libido, it might be helpful for you. I also talk about the psychosocial aspects of female libido (and how to feel awesome about your lady parts) in this other post on libido.
My favorite books to help you think about sex healthfully are The Guide to Getting it On (a great intro to sex and great sex advice with emotional maturity and cultural awareness), Sex at Dawn (an exploration of the evolutionary origins of human sexuality and what that means for our modern lives) and She Comes First (a guide to pleasuring women!).
Hormones and Female Libido: In Sum
All in all, female libido is complicated in many ways. This is because hormones can be tricky to balance. But armed with knowledge of the ways in which hormones can go awry, and with the dependable help of a female health expert like myself (! 🙂 ), you can absolutely boost your libido again.
Grab a plate of oysters and ginseng in the meantime. But know that in the long-term, the plan that I have laid out here is the most effective.
It has worked for me! (I solved my own PCOS – read about how you can too here). And it works for my clients…. nothing will support your libido better or more permanently than by giving your body the fuel it needs to burn, baby, burn.
What works for you? Do you think my thoughts on hormones and female libido are accurate? What do you recommend?!