Posts Tagged ‘sex’

Sex And The Female Pelvic Floor Muscles

July 15, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   7/15/17

The vagina and clitoris are the stars of the show, but the pelvic floor muscles are the behind-the-scenes “powerhouse” of these structures. The relationship between the pelvic muscles and the female sexual organs is similar to that between the diaphragm muscle and the lungs, the lungs as dependent upon the diaphragm for their proper functioning as the vagina and clitoris are on the pelvic muscles for their proper functioning.  The bottom line is that keeping the pelvic muscles fit and vital will not only optimize sexual function and pleasure, but will also benefit urinary, bowel and pelvic support issues as well as help prevent their onset. 15606-illustrated-silhouette-of-a-beautiful-woman-or

Image above, public domain

Size Matters

While penis size is a matter of concern to many, why is vaginal size so much less of an issue?  The reason is that penises are external and visible and vaginas internal and hidden. The average erect penis is 6 inches in length and the average vagina 4 inches in depth, implying that the average man is more than ample for the average woman. The width of the average erect penis is 1.5 inches and the width of the average vaginal opening is virtually zero inches since the vagina is a potential space with the walls touching each other at rest. However, the vagina is a highly accommodative organ that can stretch, expand and adapt to the extent that 10 pound babies can be delivered vaginally (ouch!).

More important than size is the strength and tone of the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles. Possessing well-developed and fit vaginal and pelvic floor muscles is an asset in the bedroom, not only capable of maximizing your own pleasure, but also effective in optimally gripping and “milking” a penis to climax.  Additionally, when partner erectile dysfunction issues exist, strong pelvic floor muscles can help compensate as they can resurrect (great word!) a penis that is becoming flaccid back to full rigidity.

Female Sexuality

Sex is a basic human need and a powerful means of connecting and bonding, central to the intimacy of interpersonal relationships, contributing to wellbeing and quality of life. Healthy sexual functioning is a vital part of general, physical, mental, social and emotional health.

Female sexuality is a complex and dynamic process involving the interplay of anatomical, physiological, hormonal, psychological, emotional and cultural factors that impact desire, arousal, lubrication and climax. Although desire is biologically driven based upon internal hormonal environment, many psychological and emotional factors play into it as well. Arousal requires erotic and/or physical stimulation that results in increased pelvic blood flow, which causes genital engorgement, vaginal lubrication and vaginal anatomical changes that allow the vagina to accommodate an erect penis. The ability to climax depends on the occurrence of a sequence of physiological and emotional responses, culminating in involuntary rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor muscles.

Sexual research conducted by Masters and Johnson demonstrated that the primary reaction to sexual stimulation is vaso-congestion (increased blood flow) and the secondary reaction is increased muscle tension.  Orgasm is the release from the state of vaso-congestion and muscle tension.

Pelvic Muscle Strength Matters

Strong and fit pelvic muscles optimize sexual function since they play a pivotal role in sexuality. These muscles are highly responsive to sexual stimulation, reacting by contracting and increasing blood flow to the pelvis, thus enhancing arousal.  They also contribute to sensation during intercourse and provide the ability to clench the vagina and firmly “grip” the penis. Upon clitoral stimulation, the pelvic muscles reflexively contract.  When the pelvic muscles are voluntarily engaged, pelvic blood flow and sexual response are further intensified.

The strength and durability of pelvic contractions are directly related to orgasmic potential since the pelvic muscles are the “motor” that drives sexual climax. During orgasm, the pelvic muscles contract involuntarily in a rhythmic fashion and provide the muscle power behind the physical aspect of an orgasm. Women capable of achieving “seismic” orgasms most often have very strong, toned, supple and flexible pelvic muscles. The take home message is that the pleasurable sensation that you perceive during sex is directly related to pelvic muscle function. Supple and pliable pelvic muscles with trampoline-like tone are capable of a “pulling up and in” action that puts bounce into your sex life…and that of your partner!

Factoid:  “Pompoir” is the Tamil, Indian term applied to extreme pelvic muscle control over the vagina. With both partners remaining still, the penis is stroked by rhythmic and rippling pulsations of the pelvic muscles. “Kabbazah” is a parallel South Asian term—translated as “holder”—used to describe a woman with such pelvic floor muscle proficiency.  

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

As sexual function is optimized when the pelvic floor muscles are working properly, so sexual function can be compromised when the pelvic floor muscles are not working up to par (pelvic floor muscle “dysfunction”).  Weakened pelvic muscles can cause sexual dysfunction and vaginal laxity (looseness), undermining sensation for the female and her partner. On the other hand, overly-tensioned pelvic muscles can also compromise sexual function because sexual intercourse can be painful, if not impossible, when the pelvic muscles are too taut.

Vaginal childbirth is one of the key culprits in causing weakened and stretched pelvic muscles, leading to loss of vaginal tone, diminished sensation with sexual stimulation and impaired ability to tighten the vagina.

Pelvic organ prolapse—a form of pelvic floor dysfunction in which one or more of the pelvic organs fall into the vaginal space and at times beyond the vaginal opening—can reduce sexual gratification on a mechanical basis from vaginal laxity and uncomfortable or painful intercourse. The body image issues that result from vaginal laxity and pelvic prolapse are profound and may be the most important factors that diminish one’s sex life. As the pelvic floor loses strength and tone, there is often an accompanying loss of sexual confidence.

Urinary incontinence—a form of pelvic floor dysfunction in which there is urinary leakage with coughing, sneezing and physical activities (stress incontinence) or leakage associated with the strong urge to urinate (urgency incontinence or overactive bladder)—can also contribute to an unsatisfying sex life because of fears of leakage during intercourse, concerns about odor and not feeling clean, embarrassment about the need for pads, and a negative body image perception. This can adversely influence sex drive, arousal and ability to orgasm.

A healthy sexual response involves being “in the moment,” free of concerns and worries. Women with pelvic floor dysfunction are often distracted during sex, preoccupied with their lack of control over their problem as well as their perception of their vagina being “abnormal” and what consequences this might have on their partner’s sexual experience.

Pelvic Floor Training

Pelvic floor muscle training is the essence of “functional fitness,” a workout program that develops pelvic muscle strength, power and stamina. The goal is to improve and/or prevent specific pelvic functional impairments that may be sexual, urinary, bowel, or involve altered support of the pelvic organs.

Many women exercise regularly but often neglect these hidden–but vitally important muscles– that can be optimized to great benefit via the right exercise regimen.  The key is to find the proper program, and for this I refer you to your source for everything Kegel: The KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

 

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How To Make Orgasms More Orgasmic

July 3, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD  7/3/15

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

This is a timely blog topic for July 4th weekend, celebrated across the USA with fireworks!

The human body is a most remarkable machine. The more it is pushed towards its limits, the more it adapts and the stronger it becomes. When it comes to sex, the body reacts similarly—when the muscles that play a vital role in sexual function are toned and strengthened, the body becomes capable of experiencing more explosive and intense orgasms. Exercising your pelvic muscles—a.k.a. Kegel exercises—just might be the most rewarding workout that you aren’t doing. These exercises aren’t just for the ladies anymore. Men, it’s time to get with the program.

What’s An Orgasm?

Simply put, an orgasm is the sexual excitement, pleasure, and euphoric state accompanying the release of accumulated sexual tension.

A medical definition of the male orgasm is the climax that occurs once sufficient intensity and duration of sexual stimulation surpasses an ejaculatory “threshold.” Sexual climax consists of three phases—emission, ejaculation, and orgasm. When a certain threshold of sexual stimulation is surpassed, emission occurs, in which secretions from the prostate gland, seminal vesicles, epididymis, and vas deferens are deposited into the urethra within the prostate gland. During ejaculation the pelvic floor muscles contract rhythmically, sending wave-like contractions rippling down the urethra to forcibly propel the semen in a pulsating and explosive eruption. Orgasm is the intense emotional excitement that accompanies the physical act of ejaculation. Technically speaking, orgasm takes place in the brain, whereas ejaculation takes place in the penis, although the fact that an orgasm is a mind-body experience blurs the distinction.

For women, an orgasm occurs once sufficient intensity and duration of sexual stimulation surpasses a threshold that induces rhythmic muscular contractions of the pelvic floor muscles, as well as the vagina, uterus and anus, resulting in intense emotional excitement and a blissful state that accompanies the physical act of muscular contractions and release. In some women, Skene’s gland (the female equivalent of the male prostate gland) contractions induce the release of their secretions, referred to as “female ejaculation.”

How Can Fitness And Kegel Exercises Improve The Quality Of Orgasms?

Sex is all about movement and motion, a kinetic chain that demands aerobic fitness as well as strong core muscles and external hip rotators. This fitness optimizes the smooth, efficient and coordinated integration of pelvic thrusting and lateral hip rotation.

The floor of the core—the pelvic floor muscles—is of critical importance to penile and clitoral erections, ejaculation and orgasm. The other core muscles and the external hip rotators are involved with the kinetics and movements of sex, but the pelvic floor muscles are distinctive as they directly involve the penis and clitoris. The pelvic floor muscles anatomically support the erect penis and clitoris, cause a surge of blood flow to the genitals, and have a profound involvement in ejaculation and orgasm. They are the “motor” of ejaculation, which by virtue of their strong rhythmic contractions, drive ejaculation and contribute to orgasm.

Kegel exercises increase the strength, tone, power, and endurance of the pelvic floor muscles. Strengthening these muscles maximizes pelvic blood flow, penile and clitoral erectile rigidity, and orgasms, since the pelvic floor muscles when contracting rhythmically at climax provide the muscle power behind the physical aspect of orgasm. Pelvic floor muscle strength and proficiency is also a helpful means of improving ejaculatory control because command of the pelvic floor can help delay ejaculation. Additionally, these exercises can help increase the volume, force, trajectory (arc) and pleasurable sensation of ejaculation.

When it comes to orgasms, the pelvic floor muscles make the magic happen. Toned pelvic floor muscles are capable of generating powerful contractions that can forcibly ejaculate semen at the time of the male climax and can equally help optimize and prolong the female climax.

What Is The Best Means of Exercising One’s Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Effective muscle training derives from understanding pelvic floor muscle anatomy and function, the ability to isolate the muscles, a means of feedback to ensure that the proper muscles are being exercised, progressive intensity over time with the use of resistance to maximize muscle growth and adaptation, and allowing for the appropriate recovery time.

Wishing you the best of health and a wonderful July 4th holiday,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in your email in box go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com.  Work in progress is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Sexual, Urinary and Pelvic Health.

Co-creator of Private Gym pelvic floor muscle training program for men: http://www.privategym.com—also available on Amazon.

The Private Gym program is the go-to means of achieving pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance. It is a comprehensive, interactive, easy-to-use, medically sanctioned and FDA registered follow-along exercise program that builds upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel. It is also the first program designed specifically to teach men how to perform the exercises and a clinical trial has demonstrated its effectiveness in fostering more rigid and durable erections, improved ejaculatory control and heightened orgasms.

Snippety Snip: Should You Get a Vasectomy???

February 15, 2014

Blog # 141

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 4.30.30 PM

(Image designed by Jeff Siegel)

With February 14, 2014 having just passed—a day filled with roses and chocolates—it is interesting to note that there are those who believe that it is a vasectomy that makes the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift!  If you are comfortable with the size of your family, tired and unhappy with birth control, or you have determined that you do not want to have more children, than a vasectomy may be a consideration. Every year, half a million men in the USA decide to have a vasectomy as a means of permanent birth control.  Vasectomy is the most effective means of contraception, second only to abstinence. During a vasectomy, each vas deferens, aka, vas (the tube that transports sperm) is cut and sealed, preventing the sperm from being present in the semen. It is a simple, safe, and time-honored means of achieving permanent male fertility control.

The female version of a vasectomy is a tubal ligation  (blocking the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy). This is an effective technique as well; however, vasectomy is a skin-deep procedure versus a tubal ligation, a much more invasive procedure because it requires going into the abdomen. Additionally, a vasectomy can be performed under local anesthesia with or without intravenous sedation whereas tubal ligation requires general anesthesia, and there exists a simple test for the effectiveness of vasectomy, but no such tests for tubal ligations (aside from a costly and uncomfortable x-ray test).  Vasectomy is safer and cheaper than a tubal ligation. Something else to consider is that the one-time cost of a vasectomy may prove less expensive over time than the cost of other birth control methods including oral contraceptives and condoms.   In general, insurance companies are very willing to cover vasectomy for no reason other than they are less expensive to their bottom line than are more pregnancies.

Basic anatomy:  The testicles are responsible for sperm production.  After sperm cells are manufactured, they ascend into the epididymis, a comet-shaped structure located behind the testicles. From the epididymis arises the vas deferens that runs up the groin in the spermatic cord, then courses behind the bladder where its terminal end forms the ejaculatory duct. This duct empties into the urethra, the channel that conducts urine and semen through the penis.

Consultation:  Before considering a vasectomy, it is important to have an initial consultation with a urologist, the surgeon who performs this procedure. This includes a medical history and physical examination that is brief and painless, with ample time allotted for a detailed discussion about the vasectomy process and for answering any questions that you or your spouse might have.

Procedure: Vasectomy is considered to be a minor surgical procedure, which is typically performed in the office or ambulatory surgery setting. It usually takes 20 minutes or so to perform. It can be done under local anesthesia with or without intravenous sedation. It has been my experience that intravenous sedation makes the procedure much more comfortable for the patient and easier for the surgeon.  With sedation, you will be conscious yet calm and comfortable while monitored under the expert care of an anesthesiologist.

After sedation is established, the scrotum is shaved and cleansed.  The area is draped with sterile surgical towels so that only a small area of skin is exposed.  Local anesthesia is administered and via two tiny punctures in the scrotum, the vas is accessed.   There are many different ways to interrupt the sperm flow—I prefer removing a ½ inch segment of vas, doubly clipping each end, and using cautery to seal the edges. The small puncture in the skin may be closed with a suture that will dissolve, or alternatively, skin glue.  The vas specimens are sent out to a pathologist for standard review.

Recovery:   Restrictions of activities for the first 24 hours will reduce the chance of swelling, bruising, bleeding, and pain.  An application of an ice pack to the scrotum intermittently for the first 24 hours—20 minutes on and 20 minutes off—is effective to help reduce swelling. Mild discomfort is typical and is best treated with an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. Wearing elastic, supportive jockey shorts is helpful to keep the scrotum immobilized. It is normal to experience swelling, minor pain, and spotting from the incision for several days. It is important to restrict heavy lifting and exercise for approximately 5-7 days, but the activities of daily living including walking, stair climbing, working and sex can be resumed as soon as you are feeling well enough.

Follow-Up: It is imperative to obtain a semen analysis to ensure absence of sperm in the semen. It can take weeks to months until all the sperm are cleared, but typically after 20 or so ejaculations most men will no longer have sperm in the semen.  It is very important to continue using contraception until the sperm count is determined to be zero.

Risks: 

  • Temporary bleeding, bruising, pain.
  • Ongoing pain due to congestive epididymitis—on occasion the epididymis can become painfully swollen with sperm congestion, which is usually easily treated with ibuprofen and rest
  • Infection—very rare because the scrotum has such a wonderful blood supply
  • Sperm granuloma—a small, hard lump that feels like a bead at the end of the divided vas; this forms when sperm leak from the severed vas and inflame the surrounding tissue. This is usually treated with rest and ibuprofen and, on rare occasions, surgery is required to remove it.
  •  Recanalization (leading to failure of the procedure)—this is when the cut ends of the vas deferens grow back together and you regain fertility, an extremely rare situation occurring in approximately 1/1000 patients.

Q & A (I have collated the ten most commonly asked questions by patients regarding their vasectomy.)

Q.  Will my testicles still make sperm after my vasectomy?

A.  Yes; but your body absorbs and disposes of them.

 

Q.  Will I notice a difference in my ejaculate volume?

A.  Since the sperm only contributes a small amount of the seminal volume, there should be no noticeable difference in the volume of the semen.

 

 Q. Does vasectomy protect me against sexually transmitted diseases?

 A. No, no, no…I repeat no!  Use protection!

 

 Q.  Is sex different after vasectomy?

 A.  Generally no, although some men say that without the worry of accidental pregnancy and the bother of other birth control methods, sex after vasectomy is more relaxed and enjoyable than ever before.

 

Q.  Does vasectomy affect my ability to get an erection or change the way I urinate?

A. No.

 

Q.  Does vasectomy affect my testosterone level?

A. No.

 

Q.  Is vasectomy reversible?

A.  It is reversible with the best results achieved in the initial 10 years following vasectomy. Vasectomy reversal is a complicated procedure requiring general anesthesia and microscopic reconnection of the blocked vas deferens. It typically takes several hours to perform.  It’s a big deal whereas a vasectomy is a little deal.

 

Q.  A few years ago I heard that vasectomy could cause prostate cancer–is that true?

A.  Vasectomy does not cause prostate cancer; however, men who undergo vasectomies have relationships with urologists, the specialists who are attuned to prostate issues, and therefore, men who undergo vasectomy are more likely to undergo prostate cancer screening and diagnosis than the average man who does not see a urologist.

 

 Q. Why should I bother with sedation? How about just local anesthesia?

 A.  I never met a patient who enjoyed having a needle placed into his scrotum and local anesthetic injected; with sedation, there will be no awareness of that happening.  Furthermore, with the inevitable anxiety that patients experience concerning surgery on their genitals, there is typically a reflex contraction of several muscles (cremaster and dartos muscles) that effectively lift the testicles high in the scrotum and sometimes into the groin, making the procedure technically more difficult. The sedation promotes emotional and physical relaxation and makes the procedure technically so much easier for the surgeon and so much more pleasant for the patient.=

   

Q. How does one do a semen analysis?

A.  It involves masturbating into a specimen cup.  Place the cup into a paper bag and bring it to the designated lab along with the prescription for the semen analysis. Try to get it to the lab as quickly as possible.  The specimen will be studied under the microscope for the presence of sperm. 

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

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Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; in press and available in e-book and paperback formats in March 2014.  www.MalePelvicFitness.com

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Sex and the Mediterranean Diet

February 1, 2014

Blog # 139

Sexuality is a very important part of our human existence, both for purposes of procreation as well as pleasure.  Although not a necessity for a healthy life, the loss or diminution of sexual function may result in loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, a sense of isolation and frustration, and even depression. Therefore, for many of us it is vital that we maintain our sexual health. Loss of sexual function further exacerbates progression of sexual dysfunction—the deficiency of genital blood flow that often causes sexual dysfunction produces a state of poor oxygen levels (hypoxia) in the genital tissues, which induces scarring (fibrosis) that further compounds the problem.  So “use it or lose it” is a very relevant statement when it comes to sexual function, as much as it relates to muscle function.

Healthy sexual function for a man involves a satisfactory libido (sex drive), the ability to obtain and maintain a rigid erection, and the ability to ejaculate and experience a climax. For a woman, sexual function involves a healthy libido and the ability to become aroused, lubricate adequately, to have sexual intercourse without pain or discomfort, and the ability to achieve an orgasm.   Sexual function is a very complex event contingent upon the intact functioning of a number of systems including the endocrine system (produces sex hormones), the central and peripheral nervous systems (provides the nerve control) and the vascular system (conducts the blood flow).

A healthy sexual response is largely about adequate blood flow to the genital and pelvic area, although hormonal, neurological, and psychological factors are also important.  The increase in the blood flow to the genitals from sexual stimulation is what is responsible for the erect penis in the male and the well-lubricated vagina and engorged clitoris in the female. Diminished blood flow—often on the basis of an accumulation of fatty deposits creating narrowing within the walls of blood vessels—is a finding associated with the aging. This diminution in blood flow to our organs will negatively affect the function of all of our systems, since every cell in our body is dependent upon the vascular system for delivery of oxygen and nutrients and removal of metabolic waste products.  Sexual dysfunction is often on the basis of decreased blood flow to the genitals from pelvic atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty deposits within the walls of the blood vessels that bring blood to the penis and vagina.

Sexual dysfunction may be a sign of cardiovascular disease. In other words, the quality of erections in a man and the quality of sexual response in a female can serve as a barometer of cardiovascular health. The presence of sexual dysfunction can be considered the equivalent of a genital stress test and may be indicative of a cardiovascular problem that warrants an evaluation for arterial disease elsewhere in the body (heart, brain, aorta, peripheral blood vessels).  The presence of sexual dysfunction is as much of a predictor of cardiovascular disease as is a strong family history of cardiac disease, tobacco smoking, or elevated cholesterol. The British cardiologist Graham Jackson has expanded the initials E.D. (Erectile Dysfunction) to mean Endothelial Dysfunction (endothelial cells being the type of cells that line the insides of arteries), Early Detection (of cardiovascular disease), and Early Death (if missed). The bottom line is that heart healthy is sexual healthy.

Many adults are beset with Civilization Syndrome, a cluster of health issues that have arisen as a direct result of our sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary choices.  Civilization Syndrome can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol and can result in such health problems as diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, and premature death.  The diabetic situation in our nation has become outrageous—20 million people have diabetes and more than 50 million are pre-diabetic, many of whom are unaware of their pre-diabetic state! It probably comes as no surprise that diabetes is one of the leading causes of sexual dysfunction in the United States.

Civilization Syndrome can cause a variety of health issues that result in sexual dysfunction.  Obesity (external fat) is associated with internal obesity and fatty matter clogging up the arteries of the body including the arteries which function to bring blood to the genitalia.  Additionally, obesity can have a negative effect on our sex hormone balance (the balance of testosterone and estrogens), further contributing to sexual dysfunction. High blood pressure will cause the heart to have to work harder to get the blood flowing through the increased resistance of the arteries. Blood pressure lowering medications will treat this, but as a result of the decreased pressure, there will be less forceful blood flow through the arteries.  Thus, blood pressure medications, although very helpful to prevent the negative effects of hypertension—heart attacks, strokes, etc.—will contribute to sexual dysfunction.  High cholesterol will cause fatty plaque buildup in our arteries, compromising blood flow and contributing to sexual dysfunction.  Tobacco constricts blood vessels and impairs blood flow through our arteries, including those to our genitals. Smoking is really not very sexy at all!  Stress causes a surge of adrenaline release from the adrenal glands. The effect of adrenaline is to constrict blood vessels and decrease sexual function.  In fact, men with priapism (a prolonged and painful erection) are often treated with penile injections of an adrenaline-like chemical.

A healthy lifestyle is of paramount importance towards the endpoint of achieving a health quality and quantity of life.  Intelligent lifestyle choices, including proper eating habits, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in exercise, adequate sleep, alcohol in moderation, avoiding tobacco and stress reduction are the initial approach to treating many of the diseases that are brought on by poor lifestyle choices.  Sexual dysfunction is often in the category of a medical problem that is engendered by imprudent lifestyle choices.  It should come as no surprise that the initial approach to managing sexual issues is to improve lifestyle choices.  Simply by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, Civilization Syndrome can be prevented or ameliorated, and the myriad of medical problems that can ensue from Civilization Syndrome, including sexual dysfunction, can be mitigated.

In terms of maintaining good cardiovascular health (of which healthy sexual function can serve as a proxy), eating properly is incredibly important—obviously in conjunction with other smart lifestyle choices. Fueling up with the best and most wholesome choices available will help prevent the build up of fatty plaques within blood vessels that can lead to compromised blood flow. Poor nutritional decisions with a diet replete with fatty, nutritionally-empty choices such as fast food, puts one on the fast tract to clogged arteries that can make your sexual function as small as your belly is big!.

A classic healthy food lifestyle choice is the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet.  This diet, the traditional cooking style of the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea including Spain, France, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Southern Italy, and nearby regions, has been popular for hundreds of years. The Mediterranean cuisine is very appealing to the senses and includes products that are largely plant-based, such as anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.  Legumes—including peas, beans, and lentils—are a wonderful source of non-animal protein.  Soybeans are high in protein, and contain a healthy type of fat.  Soy is available in many forms— edamame (fresh in the pod), soy nuts (roasted), tofu (bean curd), and soymilk. Fish and poultry are also mainstays of the Mediterranean diet, with limited use of red meats and dairy products.  The benefits of fish in the diet can be fully exploited by eating a good variety of fish.  Olive oil is by far the principal fat in this diet, replacing butter and margarine. The Mediterranean diet avoids processed foods, instead focuses on wholesome products, often produced locally, that are low in saturated fats and high in healthy unsaturated fats. The Mediterranean diet is high in the good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) which are present in such foods as olive, canola and safflower oils, avocados, nuts, fish, and legumes, and low in the bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats).  The Mediterranean style of eating provides an excellent source of fiber and anti-oxidants.  A moderate consumption of wine is permitted with meals.

Clearly, a healthy diet is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, the maintenance of which can help prevent the onset of many disease processes.  There are many healthy dietary choices, of which the Mediterranean diet is one.  A recent study reported in the International Journal of Impotence Research (Esposito, Ciobola, Giugliano et al) concluded that the Mediterranean diet improved sexual function in those with the Metabolic Syndrome, a cluster of findings including high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, excessive body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  35 patients with sexual dysfunction were put on a Mediterranean diet and after two years blood test markers of endothelial function and inflammation significantly improved in the intervention group versus the control group. The intervention group had a significant decrease in glucose, insulin, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL—the “bad” cholesterol), triglycerides, and blood pressure, with a significant increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL—the “good” cholesterol).  14 men in the intervention group had glucose intolerance and 6 had diabetes at baseline, but by two years, the numbers were reduced to 8 and 3, respectively.

Why is the Mediterranean diet so good for our hearts and sexual health?  The Mediterranean diet is high in anti-oxidants—vitamins, minerals and enzymes that act as “scavengers” that can mitigate damage caused by reactive oxygen species.  Reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) are the by-products of our metabolism and also occur from oxidative damage from environmental toxins to which we are all exposed.  The oxidative stress theory hypothesizes that, over the course of many years, progressive oxidative damage occurs by the accumulation of the chemicals the accumulation of reactive oxygen species engender diseases, aging and, ultimately, death.  The most common anti-oxidants are Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, E, folic acid, lycopene and selenium.  Many plants contain anti-oxidants—they are concentrated in beans, fruits, vegetables, grain products and green tea.  Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are good clues as to the presence of high levels of anti-oxidants—berries, cantaloupe, cherries, grapes, mango, papaya, apricots, plums, pomegranates, tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, carrots, broccoli, spinach, kale, squash, etc.—are all loaded with anti-oxidants as well as fiber. A Mediterranean diet is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat present in oily fish including salmon, herring, and sardines.  Nuts—particularly walnuts—have high omega-3 fatty acid content.  Research has demonstrated that these “good” fats have numerous salutary effects, including decreasing triglyceride levels, slightly lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the growth rate of fatty plaque deposits in the walls of our arteries (atherosclerosis), thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other medical problems. Mediterranean cooking almost exclusively uses olive oil, a rich source of monounsaturated fat, which can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. It is also a source of antioxidants including vitamin E.  People from the Mediterranean region generally drink a glass or two of red wine daily with meals. Red wine is a rich source of flavonoid phenols—a type of anti-oxidant—which protects against heart disease by increasing HDL cholesterol and preventing blood clotting, similar to the cardio-protective effect of aspirin.

The incorporation of a healthy and nutritious diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, is a cornerstone for maintaining good health in general, and vascular health, including sexual health, in particular.  The Mediterranean diet—my primary diet and one that I have incorporated quite naturally since it consists of the kinds of foods that I enjoy—is colorful, appealing to the senses, fresh, wholesome, and one that I endorse with great passion. Maintaining a Mediterranean dietary pattern has been correlated with less cardiovascular disease, cancer, and sexual dysfunction.  And it is very easy to follow.  It contains “good stuff”, tasty, filling, and healthy, with a great variety of food and preparation choices—plenty of colorful fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of fish prepared in a healthy style, not fried or laden with heavy sauces, healthy fats including nuts and olive oil, limited intake of red meat, a delicious glass of red wine.  It’s really very simple and satisfying.  Of course the diet needs to be a part of a healthy lifestyle including exercise and avoidance of harmful and malignant habits including smoking, excessive alcohol, and stress.  So if you want a sexier style of eating, I strongly recommend that you incorporate the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle.  Intelligent nutritional choices are a key component of physical fitness and physical fitness leads to sexual fitness.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

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Author of: Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; in press and available in e-book and paperback formats in March 2014. www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food:www.promiscuouseating.com

Author of Finding Your Own Fountain of Youth: The Essential Guide For Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness & Longevity  (free electronic download) www.findyourfountainofyouth.com

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