UW Health Physician: Common Sense Can Deliver Better Sex Life

Man and woman on the beachMADISON - So you want to improve your sex life.

Some people try prescription medications. Others believe in "natural" supplements such as ginseng, ginkgo biloba or the strangely named "horny goat weed," a Chinese herb researched in Italy and said to be effective against erectile dysfunction.

But a family-medicine physician who uses an integrative approach says simply improving one's lifestyle will lead to greater success in the bedroom.

"Some of these products have potential, but there are no solid data to show that they work as aphrodisiacs or libido enhancers," says Dr. Luke Fortney, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Fortney says research on supplements such as yohimbine, ginseng, gingko biloba and ashwagandha is inconclusive.

"We all want a supplement," says Fortney. "That's the American way. But there are a lot of things to consider besides just taking a pill."

Those things include the old standbys that seem to improve just about every aspect of health.


"For men and women, sexual experience is based on appropriate blood flow to the genital area, so exercise and cardiovascular health are important," he says. "All other obstacles should also be removed. Cigarette smoking can harm the cardiovascular system. Too much alcohol can lead to reductions in testosterone, and libido is all about testosterone. Marijuana use can also lead to poor libido."


Fortney adds that certain foods - particularly those high in potassium, zinc, or B vitamins - may help with sexual performance. That's because those vitamins and minerals are necessary to produce the sex hormones that drive desire. Oysters and pine nuts, for example, are both high in zinc while avocadoes and bananas have lots of potassium.

Fortney says overall wellness is the key to better sex. In most cases, pills and supplements will provide, at best, only a temporary fix. He says people should focus on four main quadrants:

  • The relationship with your partner: Look for obstacles that may be inhibiting your sex life and communicate openly.
  • Stress: Careers, raising kids and other pressures not managed properly can lower libido.
  • Exercise: A recent Duke University study found that men who took a brisk walk 30 minutes four times a week were 65 percent less likely to have sexual problems.
  • Diet: An overabundance of foods with saturated fats and sugar can reduce libido and lead to obesity, which can trigger more negatives.

"If someone is having sexual dysfunction, their body is giving them some signals," says Fortney. "We need to take inventory of these things. As we get healthier and move toward more balance, they tend to get better on their own."


Date Published: 07/22/2010

News tag(s):  luke w fortney

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