“The behavior of a human being in sexual matters is often a prototype for the whole of his other modes of reaction in life.” ~ Sigmund Freud
The Complex Drivers of Libido
With scientific advances in genetics, coupled with lifestyle factors affecting our overall health, including hormones and sex drive in particular, many might be wondering whether libido is related to genetics.
Genetics and lifestyle constantly interplay, affecting our health and mental well-being in countless ways.
Most health concerns, particularly chronic ones, are highly adjustable by lifestyle, and sex drive as a marker of health is no exception.
Approximately 80% of our overall health and well-being is related to how we live our lives vs. our genetics.
Although some genetic factors may be at play, including hormone profile, sex (male/female), and genes affecting mental health, the net effect of a poor sex drive is likely leaning more toward lifestyle factors.
Below, I’ll be providing a few of the most significant potential genetic culprits and a few of the highest-yield lifestyle factors contributing to a poor sex drive.
Sex Drive as Influenced (but not determined) by Our Genes
As with any health concern, there are typical, at least some genetic factors at play.
When specific suboptimal genes interact with particular environments, that’s when we’re vulnerable to health outcomes that may be less desirable.
Regarding sex drive and genetics, the main factors at play, according to researchers, are related to levels of testosterone coupled with neurotransmitters like dopamine.
Mental Health Genes
Although the research is limited, many experts agree that mental health genes, particularly those related to dopamine binding, may significantly impact our pleasure-seeking behavior and, therefore, our sex drive.
DRD2 is one of the most well-studied genes that affect our ability to bind dopamine and, therefore, directly affects our pleasure response.
Although low dopamine levels may counterintuitively lead us to increase ‘reward-seeking behavior’, higher levels of dopamine in the brain have been correlated with increased sex drive and the facilitation of erections in males.
Another more apparent genetic factor that can influence sex drive would be sex at birth, with males, on average, having a higher sex drive.
On the other hand, ‘Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder’, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is more common in women for various reasons, likely including hormonal and sociological factors.
Regarding hormone status and testosterone levels, there are definite genetic factors at play.
Both men and women can be more ‘estrogen dominant’ or ‘androgen (testosterone) dominant’ for their gender.
Testosterone and DHT are two primary hormones that directly impact sex drive.
There are genes that correlate with one level of circulating testosterone, such as Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and CYP17A1, which is responsible for the conversion of progesterone to Testosterone, impacting the levels which a person is likely to present with at any given time.
Sex Drive as an Indicator of Overall Health and Wellbeing
Many factors go into a healthy sex drive, and we tend to focus on those that are psychological.
Although arousal tends to be from psychosocial triggers, a complex interplay of lifestyle factors affects sexual desire.
Below are a few of the most common areas influencing sex drive that can influenced by, but are mostly not determined by genetics.
Overall Health Status
Sex drive can be one of many indicators of overall health status.
If we have poor cardiovascular and metabolic health, and our mental health is suboptimal, just as a few examples, these will all affect our sex drive.
Blood flow, oxygenation, overall fitness, and cellular age can affect sex drive. Having a chronic illness such as heart disease or depression will most often have an impact here as well.
Mental Health Status
Depression and anxiety can negatively impact sex drive, with depression and the use of antidepressant drugs often concomitantly moving our sex drive.
Things like dopamine levels, stress, and overall confidence can also impact our sex drive.
Suppose you think mental health issues may be contributing to poor sex drive. In that case, it may be an excellent first step to examine the root cause and work with a licensed mental health practitioner, a functional Naturopath, or MD to determine the main factors at play.
Higher androgens, like testosterone and DHT, are correlated with higher sex drives. Both men and women have these, just in different ratios.
That being said, estrogen levels are correlated with sex drive in both men and women as well.
Hormone balance is critical; particularly for women, as this can be very delicate to regulate.
Things like hormonal birth control, while invaluable in many cases, can negatively impact sex drive, and having suboptimal levels of hormones endogenously can as well.
If you think a hormone imbalance may be causing your low sex drive, talk to your doctor or a specialized functional doctor focusing on male or female sexual health and hormones.
Ways to Boost Sex Drive
Exercise alone can be a game changer for many regarding sex drive.
The combination of increasing circulation, lowering stress, positively impacting overall health status, and the positive effects on mental health all contribute to a solid reason to increase movement in your daily life.
Cardio, lifting, and even yoga can all benefit this area. The best way to incorporate exercise into your daily life is to pick a form you enjoy, which has been shown to have additive effects on benefits such as dopamine response.
Although it is often forgotten, the quality of our relationships dramatically impacts our sexual desire.
If there’s tension in a relationship, it’s likely to impact our desire for intimacy with our partner.
Take the time to foster your relationships. If you’re having trouble with your partner regarding communication or seeing eye to eye, consider speaking with a couples counselor or licensed psychotherapist.
Next Steps to Improve Libido
When it comes to sexual health and the many factors that can influence it, many are often at a loss in identifying those factors in their particular case.
Working with a Functional Naturopathic Doctor or MD can help rule out physiological factors and may require a referral if need be.
You have what it takes inside you to make a definite choice that will change the future trajectory of your health.
Our team at Tiger Medical has the experience, clinical skills, and coaching acumen to help you get your health and libido back.
To talk to one of our professionals, click here to schedule your call!
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