Simple ways to BUILD desire, DEEPEN connection, and BOOST performance
During a particularly memorable week, at least 80 percent of my patients ages 85 and older wanted to discuss how they could best stay sexually active.
And I must admit, their questions certainly kept me on my toes!
But those discussions also got me thinking…
If this topic remains top of mind in even my oldest patients, it must surely pique the interest of my dear readers, near and far, too.
So, let’s talk about how YOU can stay sexually active in your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and BEYOND. Because it really is an important part of healthy aging.
In fact, what you do NOW to support your sexual health… also supports your overall health for decades to come!
Top-5 libido killers for BOTH men and women
When it comes to sexual health, there are FIVE hidden dietary offenders that can squash desire and performance for both men and women.
Worse yet, they may be lurking in your kitchen right now:
- Sugar. Studies show that testosterone levels can drop as much as 25 percent after a meal loaded with sugar or carbs. And keep in mind that testosterone controls sex drive in both men and women.1
So, if you find yourself a little less than satisfied in the bedroom, make sure to ban the sweet, white stuff from your kitchen! This includes processed, packaged foods made with added sugar or white flour—like baked goods, breads, and pasta.
- 2. Soy. Studies show that regularly eating soy products also suppresses testosterone and, in turn, tanks your sex drive.2
That’s why you’ll want to avoid all the obvious sources of it, such as soy milk and edamame. But you might be surprised to learn that our food supply is completely oversaturated with soy. Suppliers sneak it into cereals, crackers, breads, and much more. So, double check the ingredients list on labels.
- Canned foods and plastic bottles. There are plenty of reasons to avoid consuming anything that comes from a metal can or plastic bottle. After all, they often contain BPA (bisphenol A).
Studies show that this “forever” chemical isn’t just carcinogenic… it also disrupts your endocrine system, mimics estrogen, and wreaks havoc on hormone production in both men and women.
In one particularly eye-opening study, men exposed to BPA were four times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED), which impairs a man’s ability to get and keep an erection. And—they were seven times more likely to report problems with ejaculation.3
In women, BPA exposure can disrupt hormonal balance, which can interfere with sex drive, contribute to painful intercourse, and harm fertility!4
Considering all this disturbing evidence, you should avoid plastic, aluminum, tin, or steel containers as much as possible. Instead, opt for glass or stainless steel water bottles and food storage containers.
- Trans fats. As you probably know, you need a strong cardiovascular system to enjoy an active, healthy sex life. But trans fats can wind up harming both—by clogging your arteries and increasing chronic inflammation. Both of these put you at risk for suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned these artificial fats in 2018, you may still have products in your pantry that contain them—including vegetable shortening, microwavable popcorn, and certain vegetable oils. (Another reason to read those nutrition labels!)
Plus, the frying process used to make popular “fast foods” and baked goods can lead to the spontaneous creation of toxic trans fats… so it’s best to avoid those unhealthy options as well.
- Salt. I’m not as salt-phobic as most physicians. However, if you eat a lot of processed foods, canned beverages (diet or regular), or fast foods, you’re undoubtedly consuming way too much. As a result, you can certainly experience increases in blood pressure. But that can also lead to impaired sexual desire and arousal.5 So, as always, make sure to cut that kind of crud from your diet… and reach for fresh, unprocessed choices pronto!
Okay—now that we’ve gone over five sex-drive killers, let’s talk about something that can make you feel ALIVE in the bedroom…
Foods that help you feel FRISKY and FREE
There’s ONE type of diet that protects your heart, conquers cancer, sharpens your mind, and helps keep things STEAMY with your partner…
And of course it’s the Mediterranean-style diet that features high-fat, low-carb foods—like lean protein, fresh produce, and nuts. In fact, research shows following this diet can make a HUGE difference in your sex life, even if you suffer from a serious metabolic condition.
For this investigation, researchers randomly split men and women with Type 2 diabetes into two groups.6 The first group followed a Mediterranean diet. The other group followed a standard low-fat diet.
After about eight years, the researchers checked back in to see how the men and women fared sexually…
It turns out, the men in the Mediterranean diet group were much less likely to develop ED, and the women were much less likely to develop sexual dysfunction (such as low arousal or pain during intercourse) than those in the low-fat group.
As an added bonus, those in the Mediterranean diet group also lost more body weight than the low-fat group. That alone can go a long way in helping to “put you in the mood” when the lights turn off!
Now, I also have a few recommendations about specific foods you should ADD to your diet.
First and foremost, both you and your partner should try to eat foods rich in zinc. This versatile mineral doesn’t just help ward off colds—it also plays a key role in promoting sexual health in men and women…
In fact, in one a recent study, zinc reduced pain during intercourse and significantly improved sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction in women.7 And in a second study looking at elderly men, researchers learned that increasing zinc intake almost doubled testosterone production!8
Foods naturally high in zinc include oysters, grass-fed beef or lamb, yogurt, legumes (like beans, peas, and chickpeas), and pumpkin seeds. You should also think about drinking black tea with a few cloves, as they’re both time-tested libido enhancers.
When it comes to fixing the “mechanics” of your sexual performance on a purely physical level, a molecule called nitric oxide is key. Your body naturally produces it as a way to relax blood vessels. And it encourages blood flow to the sexual organs in both men and women.
Foods that help your body boost nitric oxide include:
- Walnuts, pistachios, and almonds
- Salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna
- Unsweetened chocolate
So, now that we know how dietary choices can affect our sexual health, let’s move onto common prescription drugs that may be killing the mood…
Avoid these top libido-crushing drugs
Many popular prescription drugs on the market can literally DESTROY the sex lives of both men and women.9
First and foremost, watch out for two major classes of drugs prescribed for high blood pressure: beta blockers (like metoprolol) and diuretics (like spironolactone). We know they can cause ED in men and diminished drive and performance in men and women.
You should also avoid selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which doctors prescribe to men and women for depression and anxiety.
These hugely popular drugs can wreak havoc on your sex life by causing weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and libido suppression. They can even cause delayed orgasm in both men and women. (Worse yet, a massive, new study JUST found that SSRIs don’t even work against depression in the first place, as I explain on page 5.)
Now, let’s move onto some specific recommendations just for men…
MEN: Get a five-star review without the little blue pill
Many men, once they reach a certain age, will start to experience some degree of ED.10
Although it’s very common, ED isn’t something to shrug off as an unavoidable fact of aging. In fact, the medical establishment now refers to ED as “the canary in the coal mine” because it often signals that many other things are amiss in a man’s body.
It even has a strong association with increased mortality (death)…
In one study, men with three sexual symptoms (including ED, reduced morning erections, and lower libido) had a higher mortality risk compared to men with none of these symptoms.11 And ED showed a particularly strong association with a shorter lifespan.
Fortunately, you can reverse ED and improve your overall health by taking ginseng…
Known as “the king of all herbs,” ginseng has been used since ancient times as an anti-aging, energy-producing, and libido-boosting tonic. And in one recent study, men with “moderate to severe” ED significantly improved their erectile performance and sexual satisfaction in just eight weeks of taking ginseng.12
In another study, men experienced improvements in rigidity, penetration, and erection after 12 weeks of taking ginseng.
Men can also benefit sexually by simply eating more nuts! In one study, even healthy, young men who ate more nuts (a mix of walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts) showed better sperm count and quality. They also had significantly better orgasmic function and higher sexual desire!
My last piece of advice for men involves the use of a class of drugs known as alpha-blockers (such as tamsulosin). Doctors commonly prescribe them for prostate issues, like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
But they can really do a number to a man’s libido…
Specifically, they reduce blood flow to the penis, which can aggravate—or even trigger—ED. Some drugs in this class can even cause retrograde ejaculation… more commonly known as “dry orgasm.” And while this issue may not bother everyone, it can be a big problem for some. So, it’s best to avoid these drugs altogether.
Next, let’s look at a few things women can do to enhance their sex life…
Yes, yes, YES—promising research for WOMEN
For decades, modern medicine has treated women’s sexual health as a taboo topic. Thankfully, that’s finally starting to change, and some good research is trickling in.
In one recent study, researchers looked at sexual activity in almost 94,000 women between the ages 50 and 79.13 And they found a very strong association between sleep disturbances and sexual inactivity.
Specifically, women who got fewer than seven to eight hours of sleep per night tended to have less sex. In some cases, they were 30 percent less likely to be sexually active compared to women who got more sleep.
This finding certainly makes sense…
After all, it’s hard to get in the mood when all you can think about is how exhausted you are. So, here we have yet another reason to take sleep seriously—especially if you’re a woman.
Another good study looked at the role of DHEA in supporting female sexual health.14 DHEA is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands. And the body converts it into testosterone and estrogen.
The problem is, women tend to produce less of it as they get older.
But in this recent study, women who supplemented with 75 mg of oral DHEA once daily increased their blood levels of DHEA, DHEA sulfate, total testosterone, and free testosterone.
As a result, their scores for desire, arousal, and lubrication shot up by 17 percent, 12 percent, and 8 percent, respectively.
Plus, the women who started out with the lowest scores on a standardized sexuality test saw the most dramatic improvement—enjoying an impressive 34 percent increase in sexual function overall, on average.
They also experienced improvement in these key areas:
- Orgasm increased by 54 percent
- Arousal increased by 46 percent
- Desire increased by 40 percent
- Lubrication increased by 33 percent
- Pain scores improved by 25 percent
- Satisfaction increased by 24 percent
Now, you do need a doctor’s prescription to take DHEA. And we shouldn’t just assume that it’s an effective aphrodisiac for everyone. (Remember, the women who benefited the most in this study were the women with the lowest sexual function scores to start with—not healthy women simply looking to spice things up.)
Still, if your sexual dysfunction warrants a mention to your doctor, then it’s safe to say that low DHEA could be a problem for you. And for all the heat I’ve gotten for prescribing DHEA throughout my career, it feels pretty darn good to see mainstream medicine finally start to embrace it.
Sexual activity does the body a whole lot of GOOD
In the end, more and more research suggests that regular sex helps you live a longer, healthier, happier life…
It helps you burn calories. It fights heart disease. It lowers stress. It improves your mood and helps ward off colds. It even reduces cancer risk for men and women!15
So, you should feel GOOD about making it a priority in your life—no matter your age!
And hopefully—the tips I shared here will help you to enjoy this healthy endeavor for as long as you so choose. In fact, if you’re anything like my patients, you’ll still be going STRONG well into your 80s!
SIDEBAR: “Shed some light” on the situation
As you know, I’m a huge fan of light box therapy, as it dramatically reduces Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And now, according to a slew of recent studies, it can also help with sexual dissatisfaction in men and women…
In one recent study, researchers gathered a group of 24 men who were seriously unhappy with their sex lives.16 (They rated their sexual satisfaction as a two out of 10, on average, at the study’s outset.)
Then, for the next two weeks, half the men received daily, active light box therapy. The other half received a placebo light treatment.
Within that short amount of time, the men exposed to the bright light improved their testosterone levels by more than 50 percent and fully TRIPLED their sexual satisfaction scores. In contrast, the placebo group’s scores stayed pretty much the same.
The use of a light box really just mimics natural sunlight exposure by inhibiting the pineal gland in the brain and opening the door to greater testosterone production. It’s likely that it contributes to other hormonal effects that we don’t even know about yet!
Granted—this particular study only involved men. But a woman’s sexual drive also relies on adequate testosterone production. (In fact, in my practice, I probably write more testosterone prescriptions for women than for men!)
Likewise, other studies show women reap as many positive mental health benefits from light box therapy as men do.
You can find light boxes online starting at about $40. And you can use them year-round—not just in the winter! (I should also note that I use full-spectrum light bulbs in my home and office, as they’re readily available and easier to change.) Just remember to be a little patient: You should know within a few weeks whether or not it will work for you.
SIDEBAR: “Cook up” a night of passion
People have enjoyed oysters as a natural aphrodisiac for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. And that long, lusty tradition probably relates to the high zinc content found in these tasty mollusks. (Just one oyster contains 5.5 mg of zinc, which is about half the daily recommended amount.17)
Of course, oysters contain loads of other nutrients that support overall health too… including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, copper, potassium, selenium, and manganese.18
So, the next time you want to “set the mood,” try cooking something up with oysters.
I especially love Egg Foo Young with Oysters. For a delicious recipe, check out page 172 of my book, The A-List Diet. (Order yourself a copy from the “Books” tab of my website, www.DrPescatore.com.)
- “Men experience an abrupt decrease in testosterone levels after sugar intake, study finds.” Diabetes.co.uk, 9/19/16. (diabetes.co.uk/news/2016/sep/men-experience-an-abrupt-decrease-in-testosterone-levels-after-sugar-intake,-study-finds-99746064.html)
- “Soy protein isolates of varying isoflavone content exert minor effects on serum reproductive hormones in healthy young men.” J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):584-91. doi.org/ 10.1093/jn/135.3.584.
- “Study: High BPA Linked to Sex Problems in Men.” WebMD, 11/11/09. (webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/news/20091111/study-high-bpa-linked-to-sex-issues-in-men#:~:text=Compared%20to%20the%20unexposed%20factory,to%20report%20problems%20with%20ejaculation.)
- “Bisphenol-A and Femail Infertility: A Possible Role of Gene-Environment Interactions.” Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2015; 12(9): 11101-11116. doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120911101
- “High blood pressure and sex: Overcome the challenges.” Mayo Clinic, accessed 9/6/22. (mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-and-sex/art-20044209#:~:text=High%20blood%20pressure%20can%20reduce,Difficulty%20achieving%20orgasm)
- “Effects of Mediterranean diet on sexual function in people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes: The MÈDITA trial.” J Diabetes Complications. 2016 Nov-Dec;30(8):1519-1524. doi.org/10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2016.08.007.
- “Testosterone Levels and Sexual Function of Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” J Sex Marital Ther. 2021;47(8):804-813. doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2021.1957732.
- “Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.” Nutrition, 1996 May;12(5):344-8. doi.org/10.1016/s0899-9007(96)80058-x.
- “6 Meds That Can Mess With Your Patient’s Sex Life.” Medscape Medical News, 01/19/2021. (medscape.com/viewarticle/943985)
- “Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, accessed 9/8/22. (niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts#:~:text=of%20the%20word.-,How%20common%20is%20erectile%20dysfunction%3F,men%20in%20the%20United%20States.&text=Although%20erectile%20dysfunction%20(ED)%20is,health%20care%20professional%20about%20treatment.)
- “EMAS Study Group. Erectile dysfunction predicts mortality in middle-aged and older men independent of their sex steroid status.” Age Ageing. 2022 Apr 1;51(4):afac094. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afac094. PMID: 35429269.
- “Ginseng and male reproductive function.” Spermatogenesis, 2013; 3(3): e26391. Doi.org/10.4164.spmg.26391
- “Better sleep can lead to better sex.” ScienceDaily, 2/1/17. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170201092644.htm)
- “DHEA Improves Sexual Function in Some Premenopausal Women.” Medscape Medical News, 10/10/2018. (medscape.com/viewarticle/903241)
- “12 Ways Sex Helps You Live Longer.” Healthline, 10/10/19. (.healthline.com/health/ways-sex-helps-you-live-longer)
- “Lack of interest in sex successfully treated by exposure to bright light.” ScienceDaily, 9/18/16. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160918214443.htm)
- “Can oysters increase sexual desire?” Medical News Today, 4/18/22. (medicalnewstoday.com/articles/oysters-aphrodisiac)
- “Oysters: Are They Good for You?” WebMD, 9/29/20. (webmd.com/diet/oysters-good-for-you)