Feed your Libido!
Forget Botox. If you want to look and feel young, then what you should really be doing is swinging from the chandeliers.
Regular sex in your youth, your middle years and beyond is the ultimate elixir of youth, says hormone and anti-ageing specialist Dr Cecilia Tregear.
World-renowned Dr Tregear, who is based at the Wimpole Skin Clinic in Harley Street, London, has worked with hundreds of couples over the course of her 25-year career.
Set the mood: Fish, meat, fruit and vegetables – and a drop of wine – can help perk up your love life
‘I began to notice a pattern,’ she says. ‘The couples who were having lots of regular sex almost always looked younger than those who weren’t. They were also slimmer, fitter, healthier and happier.
‘Sexual activity, in my view, is an accurate thermometer for measuring health.’
But far too many of us aren’t having great sex. Or much, if any, of it. Either we’re too tired, have lost our libidos or have got stuck in a rut or boring routine which makes sex with our partner about as appealing as doing the washing up. We feel unattractive — and don’t fancy our other half much either.
A poor sex life can be caused by hormonal problems as a result of a thyroid condition, or the effects of the menopause/andropause (male menopause) which deplete sex hormones.
People have sex an average of 127 times a year
But lifestyle factors, such as eating poorly, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, stress and lack of exercise, can also have a massive impact on sexual health.
Dr Tregear realised the people who were having lots of sex in their relationships had one key factor in common: their diet. All of them were eating extremely nutritious food.
She explains: ‘Good nutrition is essential for the healthy production of hormones which maintain the libido and allow for regular and fulfilling sexual activity.”
She has devised the Between the Sheets diet, which promises to perk up your libido. Combined with regular exercise (and, if necessary, supplements containing natural hormones) it should ensure you not only have regular, great sex — just like you did in your youth — but look and feel younger too …
STEP ONE: FEED YOUR BRAIN
According to Dr Tregear, the first step to boosting your love life is to feed your brain. ‘The biggest sexual organ is the brain, which produces the chemicals and hormones that trigger feelings of love and attraction, arousal and orgasm,’ she says. ‘We need to make sure we’re eating the right foods to ensure the production of these chemicals and hormones.’
First, it’s important to have a diet that boosts the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, released by the brain. Dopamine is the feel-good chemical associated with the emotions of anticipation and desire. As such, it is vital to a healthy sex drive.
Boosting levels in the brain has been shown to be incredibly successful at treating flagging libidos, and there are currently dopamine drugs on trial. However, you won’t need them if you eat well.
Dopamine-boosting food: To boost levels it’s essential to eat lots of proteins, because these contain amino acids, which are converted into neurotransmitters in the brain.
Amino acids are found in red meat, oily fish, eggs, cottage cheese, beans, peas, milk, wheatgerm, beetroot and bananas.
The production of dopamine also relies on vitamins and minerals, so make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables — watermelon, which contains vitamins A, B6 and C, is a particularly good addition to the diet.
The following spices can also boost dopamine levels: basil, black pepper, cayenne pepper, chilli peppers, cumin, fennel, flax seeds, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, rosemary, sesame seeds, tarragon and turmeric.
Drinking a small amount of alcohol can also boost dopamine, which is why a glass of wine can help to put you in the mood.
HOW STEAKS MADE US SIZZLE
Diane, 55, and Trevor Horner, 57, a retired printer, have been married for 37 years. They have two children and four grandchildren and live in South Yorkshire.
Diane says: ‘Throughout our marriage, we always had a healthy sex life and had sex two or three times a week. But in my late 40s, things started going downhill. I felt tired all the time and my sex drive disappeared.
‘I stopped initiating sex and, because of my lack of desire, I didn’t enjoy it either. We probably made love once every three months. I felt guilty, as I was letting Trevor down and, gradually, the lack of sex led to a loss of intimacy.
‘We tried counselling and I went to my GP, but nothing helped. Then, two years ago, I read an article about a woman who’d been treated by Dr Tregear in Harley Street.
The symptoms she described sounded just like mine, so I made an appointment.
‘Dr Tregear did tests which showed my sex hormone levels — oestrogen and testosterone — were non-existent, and my thyroid wasn’t working properly. As well as supplements, she gave me a diet sheet.
‘I always thought I’d eaten a healthy diet, but often we’d just grab a sandwich and eat on the go, and I didn’t eat much protein.
‘I was told to eat red meat and fish more often.
‘Just two weeks after I started the hormones and the diet, our sex life started to improve. My desire was back, my confidence soared.
‘Trevor and I went back to being a happy couple again. Now, we have sex twice a week, and it’s as good as it ever was. We’re closer than ever.’
Trevor says: The lack of sex had a huge effect on our relationship, particularly as it had been so wonderful before.
‘It was really frustrating when Diane made it clear she wasn’t interested in sex, and it left me feeling unattractive.
‘I was only in my 40s, but I accepted that my sex life was over.
‘We both saw Dr Tregear. It turned out that my testosterone was also a little low, so I was prescribed some to bring my levels back to normal, and told to follow the “Between the Sheets” diet.
‘The change was rapid.
‘Now, not only has our sex life and our relationship gone back to being as good as ever, I’ve also had the drive and energy to start a new business venture.
‘What’s more, I’ve lost one and a half stone, too, and I think I look pretty fit for my age.’
STEP TWO: BALANCE YOUR HORMONES
Having a good balance of hormones is essential to a healthy sex life, which is why the menopause — when hormone levels drop — can cause havoc with your sex life. There are three hormones responsible for arousal and sexual desire: oestrogens, which are present in both men and women, testosterone, also in both men and women, and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is found in women only.
‘A good balance of animal fat in meat and fish and good cholesterol, found in eggs for example, encourages the production of sex hormones, improving libido,’ says Dr Tregear. ‘It’s vital to eat plenty of good quality protein, ideally a portion with every meal,’.
Oestrogens: Avoid excessive amounts of fibre (such as brown bread) which lower oestrogen by stopping its absorption. Having cereal and toast for breakfast is the worst thing you can do for your hormones. Scrambled egg with salmon is a much better option.
Avoid alcohol, too. Anything more than the odd glass of wine with dinner, once or twice a week, has a detrimental effect on hormones, impairing both oestrogen and testosterone production.
Research also shows that smoking reduces levels of oestrogen in the body.
Testosterone: Essential for sex drive in both men and women. The reason that oysters are an aphrodisiac is because they are high in zinc, which is necessary for the production of testosterone.
Other foods high in zinc include meat, eggs, seafood and tofu. Avoid coffee or other high-caffeine drinks. Caffeine de-activates testosterone, which will reduce your libido.
DHEA: This vital hormone is made in the adrenal glands and levels usually peak around the age of 25. Although the libido-promoting effects of DHEA are less well publicised than other hormones such as oestrogen, doctors are now reporting that increasing levels can have dramatic effect on libido.
To boost your levels of DHEA you need to increase the amount of ‘good fats’ in your diet by eating more oily fish, such as salmon and anchovies, and also green leafy vegetables such as spinach, rocket and watercress.
The adrenal glands, which produce hormones including DHEA, are also the part of the body that respond to stress.
Excess stress can cause the adrenals to produce stress hormones at the expense of sex hormones. Spices and salty food make the adrenal glands work more efficiently to produce more DHEA.
STEP THREE: BOOST YOUR ENERGY
For good sex, you need stamina and energy. While a generally healthy diet will help you feel strong and healthy, it’s important to eat food that will increase your levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This hormone increases sexual desire and provides the stamina and energy needed for a sexual marathon. To increase production, eat organic protein from beef, fish, and chicken.
Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips can also help, as can low-sugar fruits, such as blueberries.
Avoid pulses and cereals and refined sugars, which can cause your energy to peak and then slump.
Thyroid hormones help us to maintain energy. To work, the thyroid needs iodine, which is found in kelp, seaweed, oysters, clams and tuna.
Finally, vitamin B also plays a major role in energy production, as it helps convert carbohydrates into sugar to fuel the body’s energy. Foods rich in this include avocados, duck, lamb, sweet potatoes and sunflower seeds.
While it can be tempting to get an energy boost by eating sugar and sweets, this is a mistake, because it will cause short-lived energy peaks followed by a longer dip in energy. And that’s not what your partner will be looking for in the bedroom!