Revitalize Your Sex Life for Valentine's Day!
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Valentine's Day...Thoughts of love and romance...and lust... are in the air. But...have you been thinking more about chocolate from your favorite lover...than about having sex?
Has your sex drive dropped to zilch? Has sex become something you and your friends just joke about, or another "chore"? When you make love do you feel the same intensity or pleasure you once had enjoyed?
Many of my patients report these feelings, and are bewildered by the change from being a vibrant, sexy, sensual woman to feeling "numb" inside. The notice body changes: Flabby arms, expanding waist, cellulite thighs, tummy fat. They have tried weight training, fitness walks, Yoga, Pilates...but nothing seems to work like it used to for staying shapely, toned, and feeling sexy!
As we celebrate the love in our lives on Valentine's Day, let's look at ways to revitalize your sex drive, feel sexy again, and enjoy great sex, strength, and stamina.
One Woman's Story
Kelly had a hysterectomy and removal of her ovaries at 37. As her 39th birthday approached, she noticed subtle body changes. Her once athletic and muscular arms now reminded her of her mother's flabby ones. She had never regained her energy level, zest, and clear thinking. She felt blah. Her body didn't respond to exercise like it used to.
Kelly was now using EstroGel, the FDA-approved bioidentical estradiol, and it relieved her hot flashes, and improved her sleep. But something was missing.
SEX...Sex was what was missing. She was a busy mom, running kids around town, keeping up housework, and working part-time. She felt blah, missing her usual spark. She was exhausted most of the time. She didn't have energy for sex. The disturbing part was she didn't really miss it. Sex had become just another chore on her "have to do" list.
Her husband noticed the change. He wanted sex, looking at her with a glint in his eye, but all she wanted was seven hours of uninterrupted sleep!
She didn't even desire sex anymore. When she and her husband did make love, she had a harder time becoming aroused, and didn't feel the usual sexual pleasure. Her orgasms felt weak, like they were a thousand miles away. Then orgasm was gone before she realized it had happened.
"This isn't like me. Sex used to be fun, a big part of our time together. I loved it. What's wrong with me?"
She increased her exercise hoping it would increase her energy levels and her interest in sex. Nothing worked. She couldn't lose that stubborn fifteen pounds. Kelly was frustrated, worried, and scared. She was too young to feel like a slug and give up on sex.
She asked her doctor to check her hormones. He said it wasn't necessary, then told her to rent an erotic and buy some sexy lingerie. Kelly felt dismissed and embarrassed, like it was her fault she wasn't interested in sex.
She knew there was a vibrant woman still inside her, full of life...but where? How to get her back? She didn't have the motivation to even try and find her. Something had pulled the plug not only on her sex drive but on her "get-up-and go".
The unanswered questions nagged and haunted her:
"What happened to my sex drive?"
"What happened to my energy?"
"Why is my usual cheerful mood now so blah?"
"Why am I so bone-tired all the time?"
"What happened to my muscle tone - I feel like mush."
Kelly came for a comprehensive hormone consult with me. After I did all the integrated tests of her endocrine systems, I showed Kelly she had a very treatable problem: low estradiol and low testosterone from removal of her ovaries. She did not have the serious adrenal or thyroid disorder she feared.
I designed Kelly's treatment to first improve her estradiol level. If I had not done that, she would have the unwanted side effects from too much testosterone. After her estradiol was again optimal for her, I prescribed bioidentical micronized testosterone to restore what her ovaries had produced. After several months on hormone therapy to restore healthy levels of both estradiol and testosterone,
Kelly eloquently described how she felt:
"I feel really good! I think the addition of the testosterone was just what was needed. The muscle aches, the fatigue, dry skin, dry eyes, and my body shape have all gotten better. It was like a miracle! When I first came to you, the estrogen had stopped my hot flashes but once you improved that and added the testosterone, I am really back to my old self again... My sex drive is great, I enjoy sex again, and I feel like the sensitivity, responsiveness and even my orgasms have all gotten better! I am so thankful I didn't ignore all that was changing. I feel like I have my life and my marriage back!"
Millions of women have the problems Kelly faced, most suffer in silence. They agonize inwardly over their lost sex drive. They are befuddled by the loss of energy and stamina. Women are often too embarrassed to admit it to doctors. They tell me "I have never told anyone all this before, I was too ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me and I was the only one with these problems."
Women who do ask doctors about hormone problems typically report two common problems: loss of sex drive, and severe fatigue. Doctors mainly check thyroid, then tell patients "You're fine, everything is normal." But they forget to check the critical ovarian hormones, estradiol and testosterone.
Even well-meaning doctors say things like "Just take a vacation, you're too stressed." Or, "You're getting older, that's what happens." Or, "Just rent a sexy movie." Or, "Get a vibrator." Or, "Buy a sexy nighty." Or, "You should see a sex therapist." Or, "You are depressed. Take Prozac."
Doctors rarely suggest there may be hormonal causes of low sex drive and fatigue. Almost never do doctors check a woman's testosterone level, even though this would be routine for men with low libido. Talk therapy, sex counseling, pretty lingerie, and adult toys won't bring your sexy self back if your hormones "fuel" is on empty. Just like you can't light a fire with a wet match, you can't be sexually aroused if you don't have the estradiol and testosterone it needs to light the sexual fires in your brain.
Testosterone is the overlooked "woman's" hormone, but it affects every cell and tissue in our bodies. Added to the foundation of optimal estradiol, testosterone is critical for our sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm.
Ask a doctor about testosterone for women, and you find most physicians are clueless about the crucial roles this powerful hormone plays in women's health. Even with hundreds of medical articles describing the benefits of testosterone, very few physicians add testosterone for women when considering hormone therapy. Yes, failure to restore testosterone for women-especially for those who have lost their ovaries to surgery or effects of disease-leads to untold suffering.
But if women are given too much testosterone, particularly when estradiol is low, the effects can be very bad: middle body weight gain around the waist, acne, excess body hair, loss of scalp hair, irritable angry moods, anxiety, palpitations, headaches, and insomnia. Too much testosterone typically doesn't get you super sex - it just leads to lots of negative body changes. I have seen women who were pushed into a manic psychosis when a doctor gave them high dose testosterone in pellets that could not be removed.
Women's complex sexual response is affected by many factors - from medical to medications to life stress to relationship issues. Antidepressants, birth control pills, mood stabilizers, marijuana, alcohol, some medical illnesses and even dietary additives that affect the brain's "hormone guidance system," can all rob women of a healthy sex drive and testosterone production.
Contrary to media hype, testosterone is not just the new "Viagra" for women. It does not work the way Viagra does in men to promote erection. Testosterone is involved in many more systems and functions in our bodies than the limited pathways affected by Viagra. Women's sexual problems and loss of desire are more complicated than simply using Viagra to "fix the plumbing" and give men firm erections.
Loss of sexual desire, clitoral sensitivity and orgasmic response are known effects of low testosterone in women. But there are other less well known, but significant, symptoms of low testosterone: fatigue, depressed mood, muscle aches, loss of muscle strength, dry hair and skin, dry eyes, thinning hair and a diminished sense of well being.
Women often know intuitively when something is amiss, but don't often know reliable ways to get tested to find out what it is. Saliva tests are hyped all over the internet, but do not give reliable measures of testosterone, estradiol, DHEA or progesterone in women.
Just remember, testosterone just like any drug must be in the right dose, I have treated too many women who had serious problems from too much testosterone from today's unregulated compounded, high dose creams and gels, pellets or implants.
I have treated thousands of women from across the country that had been misdiagnosed, mistreated and overdosed on testosterone by using these unreliable saliva tests. So make sure that your doctor is educated and you educate yourself so you know the both the signs of low testosterone and too high of a testosterone.
Have a Happy Valentine's Day and life.
By Dr. Elizabeth Vliet
©Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D. 2-4-2012
Founder, HER Place: Health Enhancement and Renewal for Women, Inc.
and Founder, Hormone Health Strategies, P.C. (Arizona and Virginia) and Hormone Health Strategies, P.A. (Dallas, Texas)