It’s Time for a Sexual Wellness Checkup

Sexual wellness

Let’s talk about sex, or in this case, sexual wellness. Sex can be uncomfortable to discuss with your friends, family, and often our partners. It may even be considered taboo at times.

Moreover, many people fail to consider sexual wellness as part of their health as they would in the way they would nutrition, fitness, or lifestyle choices. The truth is, your sexual health is just as big of a part of achieving optimal wellness as how much exercise you do or how clean your diet is.

Your sexual wellness impacts your health in many ways, such as your mood, heart health, immune system, sleep hygiene, and overall well-being.[1] It can also improve your relationships and self-esteem and increase your sex drive and performance. Since Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, there’s no better time for a sexual wellness checkup. 

What is Sexual Wellness?

Sexual wellness is finding excitement and joy in your sexuality, and it’s about feeling pleasure and connection to your body’s desires. In short, sexual wellness is about embracing your desires and taking care of your sexual health.

The medical journal “The Lancet” says that sexual wellness is divided into four pillars– sexual health, sexual justice, sexual pleasure, and sexual well-being.[2]

  • Sexual health – encompasses fertility management, sexual violence prevention, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and sexual function, desire, and arousal.
  • Sexual pleasure– includes self-pleasure and desires. 
  • Sexual justice– covers sexual rights and sex-positive practice. 
  • Sexual well-being– encompasses safety, respect, self-esteem, comfort with your sexuality, and resilience in sexual experience. 

When considering sexual wellness, these four pillars create an overall sense of optimal sexual wellness. Considering that all four pillars may have different meanings for everyone, your sexual wellness is unique to you. 

For example, perhaps it means access to fertility management and reproductive healthcare. Or maybe your sexual wellness is about feeling supported and confident. If something is missing from one pillar, it can affect your entire sexual wellness. Before I get into ways to achieve sexual wellness, let’s talk about the change in the stigma about talking about your sexual health. 

Sex is Not Taboo Anymore

There’s been a shift in openness in our approach to sex in recent years. One belief is that the accessibility of sex education, sexual health experts, growing awareness of safe sex, and more inclusion of sexual health products have made it more mainstream. 

When I was a teenager, sex was a very taboo topic. I was taught that sex was something that stayed within the four walls of your bedroom. Most of what I learned about sex I got from friends or girls I dated. I was always– and still am– awkward talking about sex. While discussions about sex are now more open, it’s still a topic many people still avoid. 

Men and women ignore their sexual health to avoid uncomfortable conversations with their doctors or partner. Men may be more likely to ignore sexual health issues, but it’s not as lopsided a statistic as you think. One study found that more women don’t consider their sexual health a medical condition.[3] However, men are less likely to talk to a doctor about their sexual health or get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.[4]

Still, it’s a positive turn to see the stigma around talking about sex diminishing. More people realize the impact of keeping their desires secret and becoming more open. Sex has many health benefits, yet it can also be a portal for STDs. That’s why being more open and having discussions about your sexual wellness is more important than it ever was. 

Benefits of a Healthy Sex Life

Nobody needs to hype up sex. You know it is a pleasurable, intimate, and fun experience. Yet, you likely often forget this fun activity is good for your health. Having sex is a vital part of your mental and physical health for countless reasons. 

It will blow your mind to learn about the amount of scientifically proven information on the benefits of having a healthy sex life. Your immune system, heart, mental health, and metabolism all benefit from having regular sex. Let’s dive a bit deeper. 

Health Benefits of Sex for Men and Women

Having regular sex comes with perks, and that’s obvious. Here are eight particular health benefits that positively impact both men and women:

  • Boosts your immune system– Sex increases the production of salivary immunoglobulin A, which are antibodies that fight off infections.[5]
  • Improves heart health and blood pressure– Sex enhances blood flow and strengthens your heart. It is physical activity, after all. 
  • Sex is a natural pain killer– Before orgasm, your body releases oxytocin and endorphins, which block pain and make you happy, and there are a lot of endorphins released.[6]
  • Improves sleep and reduces stress– Sex triggers the release of many happy hormones, including serotonin. Serotonin plays a prominent role in your quality of sleep and reduces stress [7] 
  • It makes you more motivated– The dopamine released through sex makes you want more sex. Dopamine is your reward hormone. The more dopamine, the more you will do beneficial activities, especially if they relate to sex.[8] 
  • Sex burns calories– Keep in mind sex is physical activity and turns on your metabolism. Prolonged sexual intercourse of 30 minutes or more has the same benefits as jogging.  
  • Improves your mood– Endorphins make you happen. Frequent sex can make you happier and more productive at the office. 
  • Sex boosts self-esteem– One study found that having casual sex showed a boost in self-confidence.[9]

While the benefits of a healthy sex life are varied and broad for men and women, there are benefits to each gender as well.

Health Benefits of Sex - Infographic - Very Well Wellness

Health Benefits of Sex for Men

Men of all ages tend to be more sexually active than women and are likelier to feel the impact of sex’s health benefits. Here are seven benefits of sex for men:[10] 

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of prostate cancer
  • Increases fertility (higher sperm count)
  • Reduces anxiety, and depression
  • Boosts analytical thinking
  • Intimate sex gives you a youthful appearance
  • It makes you more attractive to future partners 

Health Benefits of Sex for Women

The benefits of regular sex for women increase significantly as they age, especially in their perimenopausal and menopausal years. Here are the benefits of sex exclusive to women:[11]

  • Increases pelvic floor strength, reducing incontinence
  • Regular sex improves recovery and makes labor easier for pregnant women
  • Prostaglandins in semen make your cervix ready for birth faster
  • Sex improves vaginal health 
  • Boosts libido in perimenopausal and menopausal women
  • Relieve pain from period cramps
  • Sex increases estrogen levels in older women

While having sex often boils down to desire and the powerfully beautiful nature of orgasms, there are many incredible reasons to have sex for your health. Yet, there are times when you might lose interest in sex or have a low sex drive.

Why You’re Not Interested in Sex

Both men and women tend to lose interest in sex or have a low sex drive as they age. Men typically keep some interest in sex into their 60s and 70s, while women start losing interest in their late 40s and 50s.  

A woman’s decline in sexual desire typically is due to the beginning or end of a relationship, significant life changes such as pregnancy or illness, and menopause. However, medications that treat mood disorders and thyroid problems can also decrease a woman’s sex drive.[12]

For men, a loss of sex drive can be due to depression, stress, excessive alcohol use, fatigue, and low testosterone. Age, obesity, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and autoimmunity can cause low testosterone in men.[13]’

If you’re looking for a natural way to boost your sex drive, eat more watermelon. Watermelon is high in folic acid and vitamin B6, essential for a healthy sex drive. Folic acid gives you energy, while vitamin B6 is a natural hormone stabilizer. Watermelon also improves a man’s erection and contains citrulline, which boosts nitric oxide production in your body.

How to Improve Your Sex Wellness

If your sexual life is less than desirable, there is hope. The great news is that it is easier than ever to have a fulfilling sex life regardless of what’s holding you back. Of course, there may be a medical reason for an unsatisfying sex life. Diabetes, thyroid disease, and heart disease can make it challenging to get in the mood. Medications, including synthetic birth control, can also inhibit your desire to have sex. Consult your doctor if you believe a medical condition impacts your sex life. 

As I mentioned, a healthy sex life is essential for your overall well-being. Here are a few ways to achieve optimal sexual wellness: 

1. Make Getting in the Mood a Priority

Schedule sex with your partner. While that may seem unromantic, it is hard to get in the mood when there’s a lot on your plate. You plan a lot of important events, so why not plan sex? Give your time to relax before rather than getting down to business. 

2. Open Your Mind

Your brain can get on a constant feedback loop from past traumas or relationship problems. You may even feel guilty about sex or have a low self-image, which can get in the way of feeling desirable enough to have sex. Recognize these feelings and change them to more helpful thoughts. People with more open attitudes about sex can better explore their sexuality without guilt.

3. Use Lubrication

Lubrication makes sex more pleasurable and should be a priority for women, and it cuts down on irritation, friction, and discomfort. Use a water-based lubricant if you use a condom, and be open about needing a lubricant with your partner. Coconut oil is also a great option. However, be careful when using a latex condom because natural oils can break down the latex. 

4. Exercise

You may not consider your sex life when your exercise, but increased blood flow to your genitals makes sex much more enjoyable. For example, men with erectile dysfunction can reverse this problem with a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise. Yoga is a beneficial exercise practice for better sex. 

5. Get Enough Sleep

Poor sleep hygiene impacts your libido because it can suppress natural hormone production, especially hormones related to sex. For both men and women, feeling tired when you get into bed zaps whatever libido you may have had even moments earlier. Moreover, getting enough sleep can also boost testosterone in men. Aim to get six to eight hours of sleep every night. 

6. Masturbate

You probably know this already, but masturbation is vital for a healthy sex life. There are several vibrators and electronic male masturbators available, and many can be purchased very discretely. Big-box retailers such as Target and Walmart are also carrying them in stores. Masturbation increases endurance and blood flow, improves vaginal elasticity, and releases endorphins. It also gives your sex drive a big boost and increases sexual desire.[14]

7. Change your Diet

The best way to address your sexual wellness is by improving your overall health. Nutrition is essential to getting in the mood and the health of your sex life. Start by eliminating gluten, alcohol, and sugar and focus on eating organic fruits and vegetables, wild-caught seafood, and organic meats. 

Natural aphrodisiacs can stimulate your sex drive and levels of nitric oxide. Good aphrodisiac foods include oysters, dark chocolate, asparagus, spicy chili peppers, strawberries, and watermelon. Apples can improve lubrication and sexual function in women.

Final Thoughts on Sexual Wellness

Sexual wellness is essential to optimal health as exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle choices. Having a healthy sex life has so many benefits for your health. There’s no better time than today to do a wellness check on your sexual health. Utilize these tools to improve your sex life regardless of age. 

If you want to optimize your nutrition and exercise routine to improve your sexual wellness, let me help. To get started, schedule a free discovery call, and let me help you get on the path of Living Very Well™. 

There’s no longer a stigma around talking about sex. In fact, it’s essential for your overall well-being. Be sure to check out the podcast episode below that I did with Lauren Schaeffer about having open discussions about sex. 

About Michael
About Michael

Michael is a functional health coach and sports nutritionist based in Austin, Texas. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas and advanced certification in sports nutrition from the International Society of Sports Nutrition.