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5 Reasons To Talk To Your Doctor About Your Sex Life

by Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND

My patients can talk to me about anything, but they don’t always want to talk about everything, including sex. For some people, talking about sex is difficult or shameful, even though it shouldn’t be. Your doctor is one person you should be talking to about sex, especially if you have questions or concerns. Unfortunately, it’s not always a priority for physicians either, unless it relates to your most urgent matter. Now that the average appointment lasts only seven minutes, some issues have to be prioritized over others. Here are five reasons you should always talk to your doctor about sex, regardless of who brings it up.

#1 | Sex drive reflects overall health.

Pleasurable sexual activity, whether alone or with a partner, is good for us. It balances hormones and normalizes neurotransmitters that help regulate our metabolism. Good sex can also relieve stress, improve sleep, reduce your risk for heart disease, bolster self-esteem, and boost immunity. While sexual desire is an important part of a healthy sex life and can be a sign of good overall health, the opposite is also true. When our bodies are compromised, our libido declines naturally as healing takes priority over reproduction. An absence of sex drive can indicate underlying health problems that need to be addressed. These may include painful intercourse, erectile dysfunction, depression, diabetes, thyroid problems, cardiovascular disease, neurological conditions, arthritis, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, or sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. Low libido may also be a red flag for excessive alcohol consumption or low self esteem, a consequence of smoking cigarettes or using recreational drugs, or an inability to manage chronic stress.

#2 | Sexual dysfunction may be a sign of hormone imbalance.

Sex hormones help regulate sexual desire and when they become imbalanced, changes in sexual function can follow. Hormone imbalances may be associated with certain medical conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), post partum depression, low libido, and erectile dysfunction. They may also be a result of exposure to chemicals in the environment like pesticides, bisphenol A (BPA), compounds in plastics, and many industrial pollutants. These toxins permeate our environment and they permeate our bodies. Their hormone-like activity can interfere with the synthesis, metabolism, and/or activity of the hormones we make ourselves, upsetting the natural balance inside our bodies.

#3 | A healthy sex life can indicate healthy relationships.

Intimacy, affection, and emotional connection are essential for good health. Some experts believe that making them a priority is one of the most powerful things we can do to heal our bodies and prevent disease. In her TEDtalk, "Scientific Proof That We Can Heal Ourselves,” Dr. Lissa Rankin explains that "curing your loneliness may be the most important measure of prevention you can enact upon your body, more so than quitting smoking or starting to exercise." While emotional connection isn’t always a component of sexual relationships, it often is, and an absence of sexual activity within romantic relationships can be an indication that unresolved conflict needs to be addressed before healing can happen.

#4 | Sexual dysfunction can be a side effect of prescription medication.

Some prescription drugs have sexual side effects. They include antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety medications including benzodiazepines like Xanax, anti-seizure medications, blood pressure medications like beta blockers, synthetic hormones used for birth control pills and infertility treatments, 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors like Proscar used to treat enlarged prostate and Propecia used to prevent hair loss in men, and opioid painkillers like Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Percocet. If these medications are interfering with a healthy sex life, your doctor may be able to recommend effective alternatives.

#5 | A conversation about preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy may be in order.

Anyone who is sexually active should be aware that certain illnesses and infections can be transmitted through sexual contact. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, herpes, hepatitis B, HIV and AIDS, and human papilloma virus (HPV) which increases the risk of developing cervical, anal, and oral cancer. (Some of these infections can also be transmitted by other exchanges of body fluids like blood transfusions and sharing needles.) Testing for sexually-transmitted infections and talking about protection is a routine part of preventive care for patients who are sexually active. Those who want to prevent pregnancy as well need a reliable method of contraception and your doctor can help you with that too.

References are available upon request. 

Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND is a naturopathic doctor in private practice in New York City and author of the book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings. Follow Dr. Cimperman on Facebook, Twitter and her blogs, A Different Kind of Doctor and The Naturopathic Gourmet. Find her at www.drsarahcimperman.com.

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