There are countless myths surrounding what might cause a decrease in libido for men… today, we’re busting those myths and giving you practical strategies to get you back in the mood again.
As sex drive, (or libido), doesn’t have a numeric measurement and is instead understood in qualitative terms, when we talk of ‘low libido,’ we generally refer to a decreased interest in or desire for sex.
The male libido is housed in two key areas of the brain: the limbic system and the cerebral cortex. These parts of the brain are hugely important to a man’s sex drive, stamina, endurance and performance.
- The limbic system includes several parts of the brain (the hypothalamus, hippocampus and amygdala, to name a few) that are involved with emotion and motivation – which help govern libido.
- The cerebral cortex is the grey matter making up the outside layers of the brain, and it’s responsible for important higher tasks such as planning and thinking (including thinking about sex). When a man experiences arousal, signals originating in the cerebral cortex then interact with other parts of the brain and surrounding nerves which then, in turn, increase your heart rate and blood flow to the genital area, also starting the process that creates an erection. This is how mental desire (libido) then becomes translated into a physical reaction.
Also involved in governing male libido is testosterone. It’s produced mainly in the testicles and also impacts other vital bodily functions such as bone mass, muscle development and sperm production.
Culturally, the male libido has long been linked with virility and notions of masculinity. This cultural misconception has fuelled countless myths about male libido, so let’s bust some of those myths right now.
MYTH: All men have a high sex drive
It’s pop-culture pseudo-knowledge that men think about sex every seven seconds, however, a recent study at Ohio State University debunked this popular myth. Over 200 young men were studied, and researchers found that the average frequency of thoughts of sex during the day was only once every 4-5 hours on average.
In terms of sex drive, there’s simply no way to generalise. Both men and women are capable of experiencing periods of high, moderate and low desire in addition to their baseline libido, which may fall anywhere on the spectrum.
This means that for some men who naturally fall on the lower side of the spectrum in terms of their level of sexual desire, this is completely normal for them and may not be cause for concern (unless they’re specifically unhappy with their situation). Where problems related to sex drive occur in a relationship, it’s usually less to do with the actual sex drive and more to do with a mismatch in sex drives of each partner – and it certainly does not mean that either party is ‘wrong’ for their natural level of desire.
MYTH: Low libido is caused by low testosterone
Yes, testosterone contributes to libido (in both men AND women), but it’s a little more complex than just testosterone alone. Sexual desire is a multi-faceted topic and testosterone isn’t a cure-all for other lifestyle factors or genetic factors that might be at play in a man with a low libido.
For example, supplementing testosterone alone in a man who wanted to increase his libido might not have the desired effects if the man is also overweight, sedentary and not eating well – all of which are factors that contribute to a man’s desire, or lack thereof.
Loss of libido – medically speaking – can also be triggered by stress, fear, anxiety, depression, endocrine disorders, medication, high blood pressure, diabetes… and low testosterone in conjunction.
For this reason, it’s important to look at libido holistically; as part of a man’s health in general – not just his reproductive health.
We also can’t discount the role of psychology in desire… shame and anxiety are no aphrodisiacs! If a man feels ashamed of having a low sex drive, this is likely to create a negative, self-fulfilling feedback loop where the worse the man feels, the lower his sex drive becomes.
Conversely, living a healthy lifestyle is proven to benefit a man’s mental health; making him more resilient, self-confident and happy, all of which can boost his natural libido.
MYTH: Only older men lose their libido
This is definitely not true given men of all ages can experience natural dips in their libido. These dips can be triggered by a number of factors including their health (both physical and mental), relationship and family issues, work and financial stresses and more.
Men of all ages – whether they be in their sexual prime of their twilight years – can experience natural dips in their libido. These dips can be triggered by a number of factors including their health (both physical and mental), relationship and family issues, work and financial stresses and more.
Anything that impacts you in your daily life can impact the way that your libido functions.
MYTH: Losing your libido can be cured by placing yourself in more sexually stimulating scenarios.
Not entirely true. Whilst sexually stimulating situations might cause reactive desire, the culprits for an unusually low/decreased libido are often psychological, emotional and hormonal… all of which must be remedied holistically and are unlikely to react to situation alone.
Turmoil in a relationship (like resentment or power struggles, or falling into a rut that reduces the excitement of sex), the death of someone close, losing your job, moving house, encountering financial stresses, the pressures of raising children, feeling time slip away from you… all of these catalysts have the common thread of causing stress.
"Stress is the antithesis of sex," says Jim Pfaus, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Concordia University in Montreal, who studies the biology of libido.
Anything that can be done to reduce stress will ultimately have a positive impact on a man’s libido. Yoga, meditation, exercise, quiet reflection and engaging in favourite hobbies will all give a man a positive psychological boost that makes him feel better about himself, thereby putting him in the right frame of mind to experience an increased libido.
Another stress reducer (that also carries the benefit of bringing sexual excitement back to a relationship, which is particularly helpful for long-term partnerships) is, interestingly enough, non-sexual touch. Researchers Masters and Johnson, found that a few weeks of nonsexual touching exercises (like stroking a partner's face or giving a foot massage) put a charge into tired relationships.
"After a few days, the couples were acting like they were 16, even though they were 60," explains Pfaus.
MYTH: Losing your libido is guaranteed, eventually
According to David Rowland, sex expert and professor of psychology at Valparaiso University, there's no biological reason why a man can’t carry a strong libido to his retirement party or even to his nursing home.
"It’s a myth that sex drive always diminishes as men get older," he says.
However, it is true that libido can drop off with time… but, this is less a symptom of age alone and more closely related with some of the side-effects that may come with age, if men aren’t taking proper care of themselves. As many men decrease their physical activity and make poorer nutritional choices as they get older, these behaviours can result in a higher body weight/BMI and poorer function of vital organs, resulting in a feeling of sluggishness which, in turn, can lower sex drive.
Many medications associated with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and depressions also have known side-effects of reducing the libido.
MYTH: Alcohol enhances a man’s libido
Whilst a bit of liquid courage can certainly lower inhibitions, it doesn’t exactly do wonders for the libido itself. Remember, alcohol is a depressant and depressants don’t just impact you psychologically, but also physically in every part of your body.
Libido begins in the mind and is enacted by the physical body – whatever state the physical body is in. Even if a man has a very high libido, if his physical body is tired, lethargic, malnourished, injured or otherwise struggling… that libido just won’t translate into action.
So, what can a man do to naturally enhance his libido if he chooses?
There are many reasons why a man might wish to naturally enhance his libido. Fortunately, for those men that wish their libido was a little more active, these three easy techniques can assist:
1. Get your body moving
“Both men and women find it easier to get aroused after a good workout,” Pfaus says.
Exercise can be especially beneficial for men who feel that they don’t have the stamina for sexual activity. A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Cardiology found that regular aerobic exercise can revitalise the sex lives of men with heart failure and in the long run, regular exercise helps strengthen the lungs and heart (which are both very important for stamina).
Additionally to aid stamina, WelleCo SUPER BOOSTERS – Men’s Libido + Endurance contains Horny Goat Weed and Schisandra, both of which support a healthy libido and stamina whilst also supporting general reproductive health. Helping your body by supplementing it, alongside getting physically active, is a powerful combination that will give you mental and physical benefits that support your entire lifestyle.
2. Improve your diet
If you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals, nutrients and essential compounds to support your mind and body, your libido is going to the bottom of your brain’s priority list.
Whilst any healthy food is good for sex, there are certain items that are particularly beneficial -
- Walnuts improve the quality of sperm, including their shape and motility.
- Strawberries and raspberries are high in zinc, which controls the testosterone level responsible for producing sperm.
- Avocados are high in folic acid and vitamin B6, both of which provide energy and stabilise the hormones.
- Watermelon contains citrulline, which releases amino acids and arginine into the body to improve your erection and increase your libido.
- Almonds also contain arginine which improves circulation and relaxes blood vessels.
- Dark chocolate releases serotonin and endorphins to improve your mood.
- Eggs contain amino acid L-arginine, which assists with medically diagnosed erectile dysfunction.
- Peaches contain plenty of vitamin C, which improves sperm count and the quality of the sperm overall.
- Coffee is a stimulant and as such can spike your libido by stimulating the brain to heighten arousal.
- Steak contains zinc, iron, protein and vitamin B and can improve the libido.
- Saffron is a natural aphrodisiac and can boost your performance, stamina and energy.
3. Get some sleep
Those with a hectic lifestyle often skimp on sleep (intentionally or otherwise) and as a result, their libido (amongst other things!) can suffer.
To have more sleep of a higher quality (sleep that sees you enter the REM phase, or ‘deep sleep’ which is most restorative for the mind and body), try switching off from screen time at least half an hour before bed, as research has shown that the blue light emitted by screens dramatically detracts from the brain’s ability to shut down and rest.
“Sleep is designed to detox you from the day you have just had. If you don't get enough or get good quality sleep, this leads to a lowered immune system, accelerated ageing and risk of premature disease,” advises Dr Simone Laubscher, PhD
You can also help yourself nod off by ensuring that your sleep environment is dark and a nice, cool temperature and eating a healthy diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates (many low carb foods such as nuts and some meats are high in tryptophan, a sleep-inducing compound that, when coupled with insulin, is converted by your body to serotonin).
You can also try WelleCo SLEEP WELLE Calming Tea, which is formulated with Skullcap, Hops and Valerian Root, that when combined, has calming effects, promotes a sense of well-being, and eases stress.
Ultimately, only YOU can dictate what’s normal for your individual sex drive. If you’re experiencing unexpected changes in your libido that lifestyle changes aren’t helping, always seek advice from your doctor.