Ask The Doctor: Lifting Low Libido

Since turning 40, my sex drive has plummeted. Should I take Viagra?
By Mark A. Moyad, MD, MPH

Most men know that “the Little Blue Pill” allows their equipment to work better, but they may not realize that Viagra doesn’t do a thing for their libido. And who wants to deal with such harrowing side effects as sudden vision loss, stroke, or painful marathon four-hour erections? You won’t find any pharmaceuticals to perk up a lagging libido, but research shows that diet changes and supplements can help—so don’t despair.

It’s not unusual for men and women to lose some of their interest in sex thanks to sex hormone fluctuations that kick in as we age. Men lose up to 2 percent of libido-boosting testosterone every year as they approach age 40, and women see fluctuations in estrogen as they head toward menopause. But several studies suggest both men and women with low levels of the testosterone precursor DHEA can improve sex drive by supplementing with 50 to 100 mg of DHEA daily. You can also eat two to three servings of yams weekly because these root veggies contain the building blocks of DHEA. Also, losing weight—specifically a couple inches off the waist—triggers a significant shift in hormone production that favors your libido and also improves blood flow down below.

Another fun thing we deal with as we age: bouts of depression that can put a damper on your sex drive. Studies show the natural antidepressant SAM-e (S-adenosyl-methionine) at 600 mg a day can reduce depression, and I find patients have more energy and interest in sex after taking it.

You can also boost your sexual (and overall) energy with acetyl-L-carnitine (1,000 to 2,000 mg a day). Since vitamin C is responsible for producing carnitine in the body, supplementing with 500 to 1,000 mg a day of vitamin C or easier-to-digest Ester-C in conjunction with carnitine may increase the amino acid’s effects. American ginseng also ups your energy and reduces fatigue (doses of 1,000 to 2,000 mg a day have produced good results in clinical trials).

Lastly, I always tell patients that a healthy heart equals healthy sex. If you want to improve libido, just do whatever it takes to lower your heart disease risk, and you will get your groove back. A heart-healthy diet will keep your ticker in top shape and improve blood flow to your sex organs.

3 Steps to Better Booty
Peruvians have used maca for centuries to improve libido. You need to take the herb for several weeks at 1,000 to 1,500 mg a day before you see results.

Libido-boosting Korean red ginseng (2,000 to 3,000 mg a day) enhances sex drive and improves blood flow to the genitals in men.

The amino acid L-arginine (1,000 to 2,000 mg a day) may increase the levels of nitric oxide, thus improving blood flow.