SEXY SUPPLEMENTS: Boost Potency, Libido, and FertilityDr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, M.Sc. February 1, 2008
When most people think of enhancing libido and fertility they think of boosting certain hormone levels. Testosterone, DHEA, growth hormone, estrogen and progesterone are the major hormones involved – and their optimal levels in the body can be achieved without the use of prescription hormones in the majority of individuals.
In the case of testosterone (the major hormone regulating libido in both men and women), certain biochemical issues must be overcome. Testosterone must be freely available to brain cell receptor sites in order to promote libido, sexual satisfaction and performance. Unfortunately, as men age, testosterone becomes more and more bound to a carrier protein called serum globulin – even though the actual level of testosterone production does not generally decrease with aging. The result is that testosterone is no longer available to the sex stimulating centers in the brain.
The solution isn’t as simple as taking more testosterone or DHEA, the latter of which the body converts to testosterone. This is because supplemental testosterone, through the action of liver enzymes, also becomes bound to its carrier protein and is unavailable to receptor sites. How can this bound testosterone be freed naturally?
You may have noticed the ads in American health magazines or on the internet for various combination formulas promising the user fabulous sex for life. Some of the claims being made for one product aimed at women include increased intensity and ease of achieving orgasm, improved clitoral sensitivity, enhanced intensity of pelvic sensation during sex, and decreased time needed for vaginal lubrication.
For men, equivalent products are said to intensify orgasm, firm up erections, prolong erections during sexual activity and reduce the time needed to produce a subsequent erection. Sound too good to be true?
While published studies have not verified that certain brand name products create the results advertised, research has confirmed the effectiveness of several components of these supplements in boosting the sex lives of both men and women. If you know the ingredients of these formulas it’s easy to understand how they might work to create such results. More on this later.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE SOLUTIONS
To enhance sexual energy, consider such methods as deep breathing exercises, light aerobic exercise, meditation, visualization and yoga. Nutritional support is another cornerstone of sexual health. I recommend a balanced diet low in animal fats, fried foods, sugar, caffeine, white flour products, alcohol and junk foods.
Avoid severe stress, excessively vigorous exercise, or the overuse of hot tubs and saunas, all of which can lower production of hormones involved in potency, fertility and sex drive. Eliminating these stressors can make a significant difference.
Potency, fertility and sex life are also affected by the presence of drugs, especially estrogen-like chemicals, antibiotics and other pollutants in the environment. That’s why it’s critical to avoid the chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotic residue commonly found in animal products (other than organic ones) and processed foods. Your healthiest choice is a whole food diet with plenty of organic fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
In your daily diet, include unrefined cold-pressed nut and seed oils such as hempseed, flaxseed, walnut or pumpkin seed oil. Essential fatty acids are particularly important for sexual health because the body uses them to make hormones called prostaglandins, necessary for normal sexual response. Since virtually every fish on this planet is contaminated by mercury, it’s best to keep fish and seafood out of your diet. There is no safe level of mercury intake that has ever been established.
Eat your oats. Rich in vitamin E, oats release testosterone from its binding protein, making it more available to cells that require this hormone. This leads to enhanced libido, improved stamina, and a generally stronger nervous system.
Avoid alcohol and high-caffeine products such as coffee, tea and cola drinks. They deplete the body of zinc, manganese, magnesium and other nutrients. It’s wise to bypass foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. They boost estrogen levels, destabilize blood sugar levels, and devour nutrients such as chromium and B-complex vitamins.
REDUCE XENOESTROGEN EXPOSURE
An often-overlooked cause of reduced libido, low sperm count and motility, and infertility is excess exposure to xenoestrogens – chemicals like PCBs, DDT, dioxin, other pesticides, plastics and industrial pollutants. These are compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen. Research has shown that the semen of the average man today has half the amount of sperm in it (and is of poorer quality) than fifty years ago. Breast cancer, early onset of menses, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, undescended testes, childhood cancers, precocious puberty, and numerous other disorders have all been linked at one time or another to exposure to xenoestrogens.
One can prevent exposure to xenoestrogens or at least minimize their impact on health by doing the following:
– avoid plastic containers for food storage, plastic bottles, wraps and utensils
– use office paper products whitened without chlorine
– use only non-bleached coffee filters, paper, napkins, toilet tissue, tampons, etc. to reduce dioxin exposure
– use tampons and sanitary napkins made of organic cotton without chlorine
– avoid chlorinated tap water, chlorine bleach and other chlorinated products; use hydrogen peroxide as an alternative bleach
– eat organic food as much as possible to avoid pesticides or herbicides
– avoid synthetic deodorants and cosmetics; use only organic products whenever possible
– avoid commercial animal foods with a high fat content that contains hormones, especially milk, dairy products, chicken, beef and pork
– avoid alcohol and caffeine
– avoid fried, charcoal-boiled or barbecued forms of cooking
– eat lots of high antioxidant containing foods (carotenes, vitamins A, C, E, and selenium) like green leafy vegetables, kale, carrots, citrus, broccoli, cauliflower and yams
The benefits of diet and lifestyle changes can be amplified by nutritional and herbal supplements. One or more of the following remedies, in order of most to least effective, may be all that’s needed to enhance libido and fertility:
L-Arginine supplementation (6000 – 12,000 mgs. daily) promotes natural body production of nitric oxide, much like the drug Viagra. What nitric oxide does is to dilate (open up wider) the arteries to the genitals. Unlike Viagra, arginine is inexpensive, has never caused any deaths and has a very low toxicity potential. Arginine has been shown effective in wound healing after surgery, low sperm counts and male infertility. Contraindications for its use include kidney disease and herpes simplex, both of which can be made worse by high arginine, low lysine foods like chocolate and nuts.
Women will also welcome arginine supplementation for enhancing their libido levels. Nitric oxide increased by arginine improves vaginal circulation and stimulates the perivascular nerves in the genital area involved in sexual arousal. The best way of taking arginine supplements is to take between 6 and 12 grams an hour before an anticipated sexual encounter. People who cannot take large amounts of this amino acid in capsule form at one sitting can get almost as good results on sexual performance by taking the arginine in divided doses, 3 or 4 times during the day. Alternatively, arginine comes in a powdered form and can be mixed with fruit juice.
L-arginine is an essential amino acid, which can be very effective oral therapy for erectile dysfunction, producing harder and longer lasting erections and increasing libido. Aside from its effects on boosting nitric oxide levels, L-arginine is a stimulator of growth hormone release, another hormone involved in enhancing libido. Growth hormone release helps increase muscle mass while decreasing the amount of body fat. L-arginine also plays an important role in post-injury problems such as weight changes, nitrogen balance, fatigue and tissue healing. It increases collagen, the main supportive fibrous protein found in bone, cartilage and other connective tissue, stimulates the immune system and increases the production of sperm (spermatogenesis). L-arginine can be used in treatment of liver disorders because it promotes the detoxification of ammonia which is poisonous to living cells.
Folic acid is another one of the B complex vitamins whose claim to fame has been its ability to prevent neural tube defects in the developing fetus. Folic acid is also important in prevention of heart disease because it’s able to keep levels of the amino acid, homocysteine in check. Homocysteine has a negative impact on the production of nitric oxide, the molecule considered to be important for both an optimal cardiovascular disease as well as a very healthy sex life. Folic acid supplements of 5 – 10 mgs daily help optimize nitric oxide levels.
Choline is an essential nutrient vital to building and maintaining cell membranes. It is derived in the diet from soybeans and eggs and its use as a supplement is primarily for memory enhancement. Choline (1200 mgs. 3 times daily) and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) (1000 mgs. 3 times daily) are used by the body in the production of acetylocholine, a neurotransmitter important for healthy memory as well as a signal for the release of the enzyme nitrous oxide synthase (NOS). In the presence of L-arginine, this enzyme helps produce nitric oxide. The combination of choline, vitamin B5 and L-arginine are thus needed to produce the nitric oxide for release into the bloodstream so erection can occur.
B complex (50 – 100 mgs. daily) should be taken to balance the individual B vitamins taken in higher dosages. While there are no significant side effects to taking high dose folic acid, choline and pantothenic acid, theoretically one can create relative deficiencies in the other B complex vitamins.
Stinging nettle root (1-2 tsps/5-10 ml of the standardized tincture or 500 mgs twice daily of the capsules) can reduce the testosterone protein-binding process almost tenfold, making more free testosterone available to brain and other receptors.
Avena sativa (same dosage as above) is an extract from wild oats straw, which can also help release bound testosterone.
Red Clover Extract is high in the isoflavones genistein and daidzein which are also found in cultured soy products. Not only do these natural compounds help normalize sexual function in men after age 50 but they also prevent prostate cancer as well as other cancers.
Muira puama originates in the Amazon rain forests of South America. This plant has shown significant libido-enhancing effects and has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac. People typically use 1 to 2 ml of the extract in water two to three times daily, or take two 500 mgs capsules. Muira puama fortifies the system over a period of months, but some men report increased vitality within two weeks. It has no known toxicity at any dose and is well tolerated by generally healthy men.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a newly rediscovered Peruvian herb root that can significantly improve erectile tissue response. Apparently, it normalizes the levels of steroid hormones such as testosterone, progesterone and estrogen to those similar to young adults – thus bolstering libido. Men typically use 1,500 to 6,000 mg or more per day in three divided doses. A teaspoon of root powder, containing 2,800 mg of maca root, is used in 8 ounces (227 ml) of water three times daily. Maca increases seminal volume, count of mobile sperm, and mobility of sperm by up to 200%. It also increases the levels of DHEA which, in turn, increases the levels of testosterone.
Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is a very popular herb known for its ability to reverse an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH). About 60 per cent of all men over age 50 suffer from varying degrees of prostate enlargement, which can interfere with normal sexual function. Saw palmetto can be instrumental in reversing this situation. It works by preventing testosterone from converting to dihydrotestosterone, the form of testosterone thought to stimulate prostate enlargement. The recommended daily dose is 1 to 2 grams of whole berries or 320 mg of a standardized extract.
Other natural remedies that support libido and fertility are zinc, vitamin C, niacin, ginkgo biloba extract, panax ginseng, gokhru fruit (Tribulus terrestris), damiana leaf, gotu cola and velvet elk antler. To read more about these, see my book Boosting Male Libido Naturally (Alive Books, 2000), available at your favourite health food store.
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Dr. Zoltan P. Rona practises Complementary Medicine in Toronto and is the medical editor of The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. He has also published several Canadian best-selling books, including Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin. Visit his website at: http://www.highlevelwellness.ca For appointments, call (905) 764-8700; Office: 390 Steeles Ave. W. Unit 19, Thornhill, ON