Updated: Feb 26
Low libido (or sex drive) is a common hormone-related issue among women. Even with a healthy hormone balance, our sex drive will go up and down depending on where we are in our cycle.
So if your sex drive has plummeted, do not fear. We can get it back, we just need to do a little work!
Note: you won't necessarily have the same sex drive as you did in your 20's, but that part is normal for both men and women as we age.
Libido, aka. Sex Drive
An individual's sex drive varies and is dependent on more factors than just hormone balance. We also need to take into consideration psychological, social, and physical environment.
If you have a spouse or significant other who you are in a relationship with, is there an underlying psychological or emotional reason for your decline in sex drive?
Talking to your spouse or significant other about sex can be a first step in uncovering other issues. I am no expert in mental and emotional health, so I don't want to go too far into this area but please reach out to a professional therapist to talk through issues further. Talking out loud to a professional who can help you to unravel and clear through emotional barriers we create for ourselves can work wonders in the bedroom!
Physical factors that will affect your TIME, ENERGY, and INTEREST in sex include pregnancy, breastfeeding, raising kids, and other work. While we cannot change these factors, being aware of them can help us to prioritize and manage.
Yes, we may have come to the point in our lives when we have to PLAN sex :) that's okay, it's just a period of our lives and we will get through it!
There is also the hormone factors that play a huge role in our libido. Let's dive into hormones and how we can help to boost our sex drive with nutrition!
Testosterone's Role in Libido
Hormone imbalances related to low sex drive typically indicate either low testosterone, low estrogen, or a combination.
While testosterone in women should be at a lower level compared to our other sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, it still has an effect on our libido among other things.
It's not a coincidence that our testosterone levels peak right along with ovulation. For reproductive purposes our bodies are trying to ramp up our sex drive right around ovulation so that we have the best chances of pregnancy. If testosterone levels are too low we don't get that natural boost in libido.
Our bodies can convert testosterone into estrogen. This is done by the aromatase enzyme. Some women experience estrogen dominance fueled by this conversion, leading to low testosterone levels. We want to make sure our bodies are maintaining healthy hormone balance in order to prevent this issue.
Estrogen and Your Sex Drive
Estrogen actually has a favorable effect on libido, increasing our sex drive. This is of course if estrogen is produced and maintained at a healthy level. Estrogen and progesterone levels start low on the day we get our period. This is what triggers our uterine lining to shed.
Estrogen will naturally start to rise midway through the first week of our cycle and peak with ovulation. There is a slight dip in estrogen levels for a few days after ovulation, but then it will continue to be at a higher level along with progesterone for the remainder of our cycle.
When estrogen levels drop, it can decrease our sex drive and also lead to vaginal dryness. Two times in our lives this can happen naturally and without alarm is after having a baby (postpartum) and with menopause. Postpartum our estrogen levels should balance back out to healthy pre-baby levels around 3 months.
If sex is painful, it could be due to vaginal dryness caused by low estrogen levels. Low estrogen levels can also cause hot flashes, anxiety, weight gain, and poor sleep.
If estrogen levels are too high or too low we will have negative effects (aka. hormone imbalance). Hormone imbalance can occur for a variety of reasons.
Stress and Inflammation
Poor Diet and Disordered Eating
Injury or Trauma
Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Breastfeeding
If you're interested in hormone testing, you can learn more about the DUTCH Hormone Panel here
Food can play an important role in our hormones. It first and foremost contains the "ingredients" for our cells, tissues, and hormone production. These are the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients needed for our body to function. Having a healthy diet filled with colorful plants is the best recommendation I can give to someone.
If you have a pretty healthy diet, we need to obviously go to the next step which is a more targeted approach to eating. We want to incorporate specific foods, spices, and herbs that have been studied to benefit hormone balance.
What to Eat to Boost Libido
Here are the top foods and nutrients studied for boosting your sex drive! Now foods are interesting because of our strong emotional connection to some foods. So some of these mentioned are anectodal and not necessarily science based.
Zinc is a mineral that helps with regulating levels of testosterone among many other functions. Foods like oysters are high in zinc, which is probably why oysters have been touted as an aphrodisiac for so many years! Other foods high in zinc include: crab, lobster, pine nuts, and red meat.
Increasing blood flow can also help improve sex drive and pleasure. Foods that can help increase blood flow are rich in nitrate like beets, spinach, and dark leafy greens.
Green tea can also help increase blood flow because it contains catechins an antioxidant.
If your estrogen levels are low, eating a diet rich in phytoestrogens can help. Foods that carry natural plant-like estrogen compounds include flax seed, organic soy and edamame, and pumpkin seeds. Incorporating these foods in a balanced diet is completely safe and healthy.
Ashwagandha can help to boost libido in both men and women. This is an herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. One study found that ashwagandha had significant improvement in female sexual function index (FSFI) which measures arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction. (1) Ashwagandha is also used in Ayurvedic medicine for infertility.
It is important to always choose high-quality, third party tested nutrition supplements. You should also check with your doctor before incorporating new supplements.
Looking for guidance, support, and a fun learning community?
Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
specializes in digestive and hormone imbalances. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including mood changes, bloating, pain, irregular cycles, inflammation, and more. Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle.
Follow me @thehormonehub