Low sex drive? It may be your thyroid

There’s a reason we often talk about good thyroid function. The thyroid determines the metabolic rate of every cell by bringing in nutrients and removing waste products. This leads to increased metabolism, blood flow, heart rate and heat and energy production.

Adequate thyroid hormone is essential for clear thinking, intestinal function and optimal blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as a healthy immune system. It also helps improve the function of other endocrine glands so they’re better able to produce their hormones — including cortisol and sex hormones.

It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormone to properly regulate these functions. Symptoms of low thyroid function are varied and can be associated with several other conditions.

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For instance, people with hypothyroidism often report sensitivity to cold, or cold hands and feet, which can point to poor circulation. They sometimes have high cholesterol, which is normally associated with cardiovascular issues. They can experience stiff or painful joints, which can indicate arthritis. Their memory and concentration difficulties could be attributed to cognitive illnesses like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And if they’re having symptoms of depression or anxiety, it could be ruled purely a mental health issue.

There’s another symptom of low thyroid function that is often overlooked or misattributed to other causes — one that many people can be reluctant to talk to their doctors about….

Is your thyroid killing your sex drive?

Because the thyroid controls the way your cells use energy, when it’s not working right, those problems could show up in the bedroom for both women and men.

For instance, if your hypothyroidism is causing you to feel fatigued and depressed, it can lower your sex drive. It can also lead to low testosterone, another contributor to reduced libido. And even though testosterone is usually considered a male hormone, women produce it too. So low levels of testosterone can hurt the sex drive in both men and women.

As far as women go, thyroid dysfunction could reduce vaginal lubrication, making sex painful or uncomfortable. And this can lead to a reduced desire for sex.

And for men, there are a couple of additional sex-related issues hypothyroidism can cause. One is delayed ejaculation, which is when a man either cannot ejaculate at all or can only ejaculate after having sex for 30 or 40 minutes or longer.

Then, there’s the issue of not being able to get or maintain an erection. Erectile dysfunction can result from the hormonal imbalance created by hypothyroidism.

Healthy thyroid, healthy sex drive

Fortunately, all these problems can be resolved by treating hypothyroidism. If you’re having any of these issues, you should talk to your doctor about them and have them test your thyroid function.

If you’re diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the doctor will prescribe medication to supplement your thyroid. That should get your thyroid hormone levels back to normal.

But what if the test shows your thyroid is functioning normally? Unfortunately, doctors usually rely on a blood test to determine thyroid function, and this test can often miss more subtle indicators of sluggish thyroid function.

If you’re suffering from sexual problems combined with any or all of the symptoms of low thyroid function listed here, it might be a good idea to combine a series of basal body temperature measurements with urine testing of your thyroid hormone level. If your basal body temperature is consistently below the range of 97.8 to 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and your urine thyroid hormone level remains low over a 24-hour period, you likely have low thyroid function.

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Supporting your thyroid naturally

If your thyroid function is low, but not low enough to warrant thyroid hormone treatment, there are steps you can take to help support it.

First, take a good look at your diet and make sure you’re getting enough iodine, which is essential for proper thyroid function. As long as you’re eating a healthy diet that includes iodine-rich foods like iodized salt, fish and seafood, seaweed and dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese, your iodine levels should be fine. However, if you don’t consume these foods because of dietary restrictions or allergies, you may want to consider supplementing.

It’s also important to get enough selenium since the thyroid has the highest concentration of selenium in the body. Too little selenium is associated with hypothyroidism and difficulty producing thyroid hormones. Some rich sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, fish, meat, poultry, cottage cheese, eggs, brown rice and sunflower seeds.

Also, there are a number of foods that contain substances known as “goitrogens” that can interfere with both iodine absorption and thyroid function. They include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as turnips, kale, spinach, papaya and radishes. Other foods found to slow thyroid function include pine nuts, peanuts, flax seeds, millet, sweet potatoes and some fruits like strawberries, peaches and pears.

Sources:

How Thyroid Problems Might Be Hurting Your Sex Life — Penn Medicine

Iodine — National Institutes of Health

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Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.