5 Ways To Rev Up A Sluggish Sex Drive Without Taking — Or Going Off Of — Medication

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How To Increase Low Male Or Female Libido (AKA Sex Drive) Caused By Drug Side Effects
Self, Health And Wellness

Most people have dealt with uncomfortable side effects from both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. You know — upset stomach, drowsiness, headache, dry mouth, the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, medications, even seemingly harmless OTC meds, can have a negative affect on your sex drive, too, leaving you with low libido.

What is libido?

According to Merriam Webster's definition, "The Latin word libido, meaning 'desire, lust', was borrowed by Sigmund Freud as the name for a concept in his own theories. At first he defined libido to mean the instinctual energy associated with the sex drive. Later he broadened the word's meaning and began using it to mean the mental energy behind purposeful human activity of any kind ... But those of us who aren't psychologists use the word simply as a synonym for 'sex drive'."

Libido "is influenced by biological, psychological, and social factors," and for men and women who struggle with low sex drive, it's entirely possible prescription drugs and OTC medications could be a cause.

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For me, the culprit was Amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant that was prescribed to me in hopes of treating my interstitial cystitis, a bladder condition.

While it helps with urinary urgency and lessens my need to get up in the middle of the night, I hate the way it makes me feel mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Personally, I can’t believe it’s used to treat depression — if anything, it makes me feel even worse than I do normally. However, everyone reacts differently to medications, which is why the doctor-patient relationship is so important when it comes to monitoring medications, treatments, and side effects.

In addition to the overall issues I have with my medication, one of the lesser talked about symptoms of Amitriptyline is low libido, particularly in female patients.

While some patients can experience a loss of sensation, or delayed orgasm, I just felt empty. I wasn’t interested in sex at all, which is very unlike me. Although I also have endometriosis, which can make sex painful with my occasional flare-ups, I still try to make sex fun and intimate.

These days, I take Amitriptyline when I’m experiencing a IC flare-up before bed. I’ve found that it takes a while for the side effects to wear off, but once they do, I feel more like me. I've also found that there are some helpful solutions to low libido that can be done without adjusting medication or taking any new drugs or supplements.

According to physician Nikola Djordjevic, M.D., loss of libido can “can ruin relationships, cause low self-esteem problems and decrease overall life quality.”

Dr. Djordjevic explains that, for women, loss of libido can happen when there is an increase of estrogen and a decrease of testosterone in the body, which can happen as a result of taking medications. In addition, Dr. Djordjevic says that “libido depends on the stimuli both from the mind and from the body as well as the hormonal factors” and can therefore by impacted by anything from depression to stress.

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According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, the following list of medications are some of the drugs that most commonly cause low sex drive and other sexual problems, such as orgasm difficulties, erectile dysfunction in men, and vaginal dryness in women.

• Anti-anxiety drugs
• Antiepileptic drugs
• Antidepressants
• Antihistamines
• Antipsychotics
• Benzodiazepines
• Blood pressure medications, including diuretics (water pills)
• Chemotherapy drugs
• Estrogen-containing drugs
• Finasteride
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
• Opioids
• Oral contraceptives
• Parkinson’s disease medications
• Prostate cancer medications

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer at the hands of your medication.

The first thing you should do is report your low sex drive and other side effects to your doctor. Once you've had that conversation, there are a variety of things you can do to boost your libido and enhance your sex life on your own.

Here are 5 tips on how to increase libido in men and women using simple, home remedies.

1. Snack on some watermelon.

Although there’s little evidence supporting the effectiveness of certain foods on one’s sex drive, there’s no harm in experimenting.

Watermelon, for example, is filled with libido-boosting phytonutrients, including lycopene, citrulline, and beta-carotene.

“The citrulline content of watermelon earned the nickname natural Viagra because it naturally relaxes the body to boost blood flow,” says nutritionist, author, and creator of The Candida Diet, Lisa Richards.

Not into watermelon? Bananas, figs and avocados all fall into the aphrodisiac category as well.

2. Indulge in dark chocolate.

According to a study published by the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dark chocolate releases serotonin and phenylethylamine (PEA) into the body.

“Phenylethylamine is a compound found in dark chocolate that is proven to trigger the release of endorphins, making you more likely to be in the mood,” Richards adds.

Additionally, recent studies have found that "chocolates that contain more than 70 percent of cacao showed promise to reduce stress levels and inflammation in people. It could also improve mood, memory and immunity, which could then help you gain the lost sex drive."

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3. Experiment with pheromone perfume.

Pheromones are defined as "substances which are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the same species" — basically, chemical signals one's body sends out in hopes of triggering a response from another member of its species.

Animals and insects, for example, use pheromones in conjunction with their sense of smell to "provide information on the hierarchy and the animal’s place in it, and on the type of food recently consumed by other animals and thus the nearby availability of food. They are also important for mate selection."

Studies on the effects of pheromones on humans have shown them to have positive affects on bonding, attachment, mood, focus and physical arousal, however, "further study is required to validate these conclusions before any commercial claim of the 'arousing' activity of androstadienone can be endorsed scientifically."

That said, applying a pheromone-based perfume certainly shouldn't hurt.

4. Find exercises that help.

It doesn’t matter how healthy you are, being stressed out will affect your sex drive.

Stress produces a hormone called cortisol. While our bodies need cortisol, an excessive amount can cause a number of issues, including low libido, high blood pressure, muscle weakness and weight gain.

"Both men and women produce FSH, LH, testosterone, and estrogen, although in different amounts," explains Andrew Goliszek Ph.D. "In order to fight stress, our body shuts down sex mechanisms so that we’re better able to deal with more urgent and immediate needs. This change, called the stress-shift in hormone production, helps us respond to life-threatening situations by focusing hormone production for survival rather than procreation."

When Sophie McGrath wanted to amp up her sex life, she decided to do a bit of research. Eventually, she found that doing kegel exercises was crucial for good sex.

“I really recommend people invest in Kegel balls,” she told me. “They are created specifically to help you work out the right muscles.” Sophie used a kegel toning kit and “loveballs”, a simple set of balls with a pull cord for removal, and found them both to be really helpful.

If you’re feeling frazzled, join a yoga class. Yoga has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. You can even do it at home.

“Lifestyle changes, such as exercising and eating a healthy diet, can help boost sexual activity,” says Anthony Kouri, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Toledo Medical Center. “Exercise improves libido in many ways. Regular exercise helps body image issues, improves energy levels, increases libido, and improves relationships overall.”

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5. Ease up on the booze.

It may sound ridiculous, but drinking two glasses of wine may actually be one glass too many, as excessive drinking can impair sexual function for both women and men.

Amazing, jaw-dropping sex requires a well-lubricated vagina. Too much booze equals dehydration, aka, vaginal dryness. Alcohol also has the potential to delay or prevent a person from achieving orgasm.

Of course, alcohol isn’t the only thing that can cause vaginal dryness.

“Vaginal dryness can pop up for a lot of reasons — hormonal, stress-related, the list goes on,” says Emily Sauer, founder of the intimate wearable Ohnut. “The universal answer is usually lube. There is absolutely no shame in using it. It doesn't matter how old you are or how turned on you are, lube is an excellent addition to any bedroom.”

Don't forget to talk to your physician.

Taking a holistic approach to boosting your sex drive is great, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach out to your physician, who may be able to help you identify any underlying medical or emotional problems.

“Though this is a difficult issue to tackle and there is not always an easy solution,” Dr. Kouri adds. “It is worth discussing with your physician. They may be able to do a dose reduction or give you a ‘medication holiday’ to improve the problem.”

There are numerous ways to approach a low sex drive, but the important thing to remember is that every individual and couple is different. It may take a few tries and a bit of experimentation to find out what works best for you and your partner.

For me, modifying my medication schedule (with the approval of my doctor) was the answer. I needed to feel more like myself in every way, including my libido.

Every individual's case is different, so talk to your doctor before making any changes. Just remember that you have every right to prioritize your sexual health and to ask for help solving libido problems, should they arise.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Boost Your Sex Drive Naturally (No Dodgy 'Supplements' Required)

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Tabitha Britt is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Do You Endo, a magazine for individuals with Endometriosis by individuals with Endometriosis. You can find her byline in a variety of publications including Femestella, Luna Luna, Taste of Home and CBS NY.

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