Anyone who watches television could be forgiven for concluding that there is an epidemic of low libido in America. The apparent solution to this “low T” problem, according to the ads, is a prescription for testosterone.
Although some men may need testosterone supplementation, many can manage their problem with nonprescription remedies.
After all, testosterone can trigger side effects such as prostate problems, breast development, headache, anxiety, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, not to mention emotional volatility and angry outbursts.
The first step in addressing a loss of libido is to check your medications. Drugs such as dutasteride (Avodart) and finasteride (Proscar) are prescribed to ease symptoms of an enlarged prostate.
They can, however, reduce a man’s enthusiasm for sexual activity, not only while he is taking them but potentially for months or possibly years afterward (Journal of Sexual Medicine, March 2011).
Other medicines that may lower libido include statins for high cholesterol, beta blockers or diuretics for high blood pressure, and antidepressants similar to fluoxetine (Prozac).
In his book “Refuel,” John La Puma, M.D., presents evidence that loss of libido often goes hand-in-hand with an expanding waistline, not to mention high cholesterol and possibly problems with blood sugar.
This condition, called “metabolic syndrome,” can be addressed more effectively with changes in lifestyle than with testosterone gel.
According to Dr. La Puma, sleep loss is often an unsuspected cause of a drop in a man’s own testosterone production.
In addition to adequate sleep, strategic exercise and a shift in diet toward a low-carbohydrate pattern can help a man reclaim his lost sex drive.
Horny goat weed (Epimedium brevicornum) has also earned a reputation as a natural way to boost libido.
Although research reports show that it can induce erections when injected into the genitals of rats or rabbits (International Journal of Impotence Research, July-Aug. 2006), we couldn’t find a convincing clinical trial demonstrating that taking it orally would work for men.
What about women? Many complain that menopause undermines their interest in sexual pleasure. As the hot flashes fade, libido may return.
But some women have told us that a Peruvian plant called maca (Lepidium meyenii) can help with both hot flashes and sex drive. This root has a reputation for improving sexual function, though the research that has been done so far is inconclusive (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Aug. 6, 2010).
Men have also reported that maca can help reverse sexual decline.
The one drawback is that since Chinese companies have nearly cornered the market on maca, it has become more expensive and harder to find than it was previously.
One remedy that is not too hard to find is beet juice or beet root powder. We heard from one reader that it had a positive effect on his libido.
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