Many factors can impact libido including low testosterone levels, fatigue, pain, anxiety and stress, depression, relationship stress and poor communication, as well as erectile dysfunction. In order to increase your libido you need to look at the aspects affecting your libido and address these specifically.
If low testosterone is the problem (confirmed on pathology testing) then a trial of the following may be necessary:
- Tribulus terrestris – may be helpful in improving testosterone levels in women and men. It is best taken on an empty stomach at a dose of 500–1000 mg per day.
- Indol-3–Carbinol (I3C) – this is an extract from cruciferous vegetables and may help boost testosterone levels by preventing its conversion to oestrogen. Take 200 mg twice daily.
- Testosterone – this is used in cases where testosterone levels are confirmed very low, usually in men over the age of 60 years and postmenopausal women who are experiencing very low libido due to testosterone deficiency. This is prescribed by your health practitioner.
Balancing Your Hormones Naturally
If you can relate to any of the signs of hormone imbalance listed in the table above then consider the following suggestions to naturally balance your hormone levels.
FOR WOMEN & MEN
Simple advice for both men and women to re-balance hormone levels is to firstly work on reducing stress levels, get enough sleep and exercise, reduce the amount of coffee, alcohol, and sugar you consume, and look to improve your personal relationships. These lifestyle factors will all help to rebalance hormone levels. Specifically, there are some additional natural medications as well as hormonal medications that may be needed in certain situations. It is best that you consult with your health practitioner before taking these as they may interact with other medications or supplements that you are taking, or may have side-effects that you need to be aware of.
FOR PRE-MENOPAUSAL WOMEN
Supplements that may be helpful in restoring hormone balance if you have not yet reached menopause include:
- Chasteberry (Vitex) – this raises the progesterone levels and is usually best taken on an empty stomach at a dose of 200mg per day for one to six months at a time.
- Indol-3–Carbinol – this is an active ingredient extracted from cruciferous vegetables. It is known to increase the breakdown and excretion of excess oestrogen. Take 200 mg twice daily for 1–3 months.
- Evening primrose oil – this may help improve progesterone levels and reduce symptoms of painful periods and breast pain prior to menstruation. Take 1000–2000 mg per day with food.
- Milk Thistle (St Mary’s Thistle or silymarin) – this extract has been shown to help support liver cleansing and therefore improve oestrogen metabolism. Take 140mg of silymarin three times daily with or without food.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – taking a good quality fish oil supplement may help to relieve the symptoms of painful periods. You could also try increasing your intake of omega-3 rich foods such as linseed (flaxseed) or oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
- Vitamin B6 – this may help with PMS symptoms and irritability. Take 50–100mg daily.
- 5–hydroxytryptophan (5–HTP) – this is used in the body to synthesise the happy hormone serotonin, and may be helpful in alleviating PMS and mood swings. Take 100 mg daily on an empty stomach.
- Progesterone cream – this is made by a compounding pharmacy and can be used in situations where there you have a low progesterone level and symptoms as a result. Usually it is given from days 14–28 of your menstrual cycle and applied either to the skin or into the vagina. It must be prescribed by your health practitioner.
SPECIFIC CONDITIONS – ENDOMETRIOSIS, FIBROIDS, POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME (PCOS), PRE-MENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS)
These conditions are normally a sign of hormone imbalance and, as such, all of the lifestyle suggestions as well as the above natural supplements may be of help. In some cases, the use of the oral contraceptive pill may be warranted. Once again it is worth discussing this further with your healthcare practitioner.
FOR MENOPAUSAL WOMEN
Menopause is not a disease as some would like to suggest but rather part of the unavoidable natural progression of women’s bodies. If you have no symptoms then there is no need to treat with hormones or natural medications. If, however, your life is being significantly impacted by the hormone imbalances that can come with menopause then it is worth talking with your healthcare practitioner about the following options for management.
- Black Cohosh – acts like oestrogen in the body and is used to treat hot flushes, night sweats, vagina dryness and urinary urgency. It is usually taken as a 40 mg dose twice daily on an empty stomach for maximal effect. It is not advisable to take any compounds, which act like oestrogen in the body, if you have had a history of breast cancer or endometrial cancer.
- Red Clover – contains high amounts of plant-based oestrogens that may improve menopausal symptoms. You could trial taking 80 mg per day.
- St John’s Wort – this acts as a mild serotonin booster and may help to alleviate the symptoms of hot flushes and mood swings.
- Medications – sometimes medications are needed in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. These include clonidine for hot flushes, low-dose anti-depressants, as well as hormonal treatments, which are discussed further below.
- Hormones – sometimes the use of hormone treatment is required to relieve menopausal symptoms of hot flushes, irritability, poor sleep and low sex drive. The goal with hormone treatment is to take the lowest effective dose that controls your symptoms and once symptoms are organised not to stay on it for many years (generally less than five years). Hormone therapy can come with risks and so it is worth speaking with your healthcare practitioner about this option and then weigh up the pros and cons specifically for your situation.
Keep in mind, too, with menopause that it is important to maintain healthy bone mass by getting enough exercise as well as calcium and vitamin D intake.
Holistic Medical Doctor