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How Much Does Diet Affect Your Sex Life?

We don't often think of sex in its most basic sense: physical activity. But, that's exactly what it is, even when it transports you to magical out-of-body worlds of pleasure. And as we continue to learn that there's a deeper connection between what, how, and when we eat with the state of our health, we must remember to include our sex lives in that equation.

It's no surprise that some of the top-selling pharmaceutical products are designed to enhance male virility. We love our sex; we just often have a hard time making it happen. And likewise, infertility rates in the last five years saw the biggest spike in more than 30 years, which mirrors the numerous diet-related illnesses dominating our nation over the same time-period (1/3 of adult Americans are now clinically obese!).

Clearly diet affects our sex lives. But how, exactly?

If your challenge is fertility, you have lots of factors to look to: a diet high in processed foods, trans fats, and artificial ingredients can spell disaster for your reproductive system. Processed junk foods are void of any real nutritional value leading to deficiencies and illnesses. When our bodies are not healthy, conceiving a child is no easy task. Likewise, packaged and processed foods come with another health threat: endocrine disruptors. Commonly found in pesticides and plastics used in everything from soda can linings to microwaveable containers, endocrine disruptors like the plastic product BPA (bisphenol-A) and the pesticide atrazine have shown a strong connection with creating an imbalance in the body's hormonal system, which can greatly decrease your chances of becoming pregnant. Studies have shown that diets rich in vegan whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can reverse the effects of BPA exposure.

If your issue is performance related, be it impotence, exhaustion, or even the ability to climax, foods may also be to blame. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that both men and women can experience a decrease of blood flow to the penis, clitoris, and vulva, due to constricted blood vessels resulting from a diet high in cholesterol-containing foods like meat, eggs, and dairy. The decrease of blood flow can make sexual activity both difficult and less satisfying.

Similar to issues with conception, diets high in processed foods where chemicals and toxins may be present can trigger hormonal imbalances in the body that put you out of the mood or make it difficult to sustain sexual activity.

Heart doctor and author, Dr. Dean Ornish, found that individuals on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet scored better on overall health and fitness tests than meat eaters. But meat isn't necessarily the real culprit in a low sex drive or decreased sexual performance. The trigger is in not eating enough healthy, fresh foods and eating too much of the processed stuff. Research has shown that foods high in the amino acid L-Arginine (think nuts, seeds, oats, leafy green veggies, root veggies, and beans) can improve male performance. And similar findings have connected healthy foods with improved fertility for both men and women.

Foods that trigger chemicals in the brain (yes, I mean chocolate, read on!) can also get us more in the mood and help us enjoy our carnal pleasures even more so. Chocolate is a great source of theobromine and anandamine, which boost the brain's seratonin levels, which make us feel more in love. Regularly consuming chocolate (the good, pure stuff, not a KitKat bar!) can support our brain health and certainly our heart health, helping us to be more open and in the mood for lovemaking. This is especially important as so many Americans routinely deal with high levels of stress and anxiety than can make sex seem like an unrealistic indulgence. But FYI, regular sexual activity is actually one of the best things for your health! It has been shown to boost immunity and mood, help you maintain a healthy weight (REALLY!), make you a nicer person, and even a bit smarter, too. So eat healthy, exercise often, and enjoy the benefits of a fabulous sex life!

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