The gut might seem like one of the least sexy organs, but it's a vital part of sexual health. As the centre for communication between your brain and sexual organs, if we ignore what’s going on with our gut, we could be hindering our own pleasure.
Here, we’re going to explore the hidden participant in your sex life—your gut.
What does my gut have to do with sex?
The gut and brain are connected via the vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. The vagus nerve carries information from your gut to your brain (hello gut-brain axis), so it's important for keeping everything working properly—including your sexual anatomy.
Can digestive problems affect sex drive?
Absolutely. Just to reaffirm what we already knew about bloating not making us feel sexy, one study found that one in five women have turned down sex with their partners–even when they have wanted to–because of unhappy gut symptoms including bloating, flatulence, cramps and constipation. It’s
not just about desire either—gut health is also linked to our sexual function. Another study found that men who were experiencing erectile dysfunction had a lower diversity of gut flora compared to healthy male subjects.
Can gut health really affect erections?
It's a common misconception that erectile dysfunction (ED) is strictly caused by physical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, but an imbalance of gut bacteria also indicates a disruption to healthy erections. In this recent study of 40 men with ED and 40 men without ED, the researchers found that men with ED had higher levels of Firmicutes (a type of bacteria) in their gut than those without ED.
Can sex make IBS symptoms worse?
Some people report that sexual activity can increase IBS flare-ups, or increase their urgency to use the bathroom due to pressure on the GI tract. Around 32% of women with IBS report concerns related to sexual functioning, ranging from a decreased sexual drive (the most common symptom reported by both men and women with IBS) to painful intercourse. It's not clear why this happens, although it has been suggested that IBS can cause both hypersensitivity and desensitisation. The key is to listen to your body and have open conversations with your partner.
What role can probiotics play in my sex life?
Since a healthy gut equals better mood, energy and digestion (less bloating and constipation), the knock-on effect is that a healthy gut also can lead to increased desire. Probiotics have also been studied for their potential to ward off thrush, and during particularly amorous periods, there’s no harm in insuring yourself! Lastly, up to 90% of serotonin (our ‘feel-good’ hormone) is produced in the gut and using probiotics has been shown to increase the availability of serotonin—which is thought to play an important role in arousal and orgasm quality. Who would have thought probiotics could be your new aphrodisiac?
Author: Lara Spiller