Posts Tagged ‘sexual intercourse’

Vaginal Tone: How Tight Is Right?

June 11, 2016

Andrew Siegel, M.D.   6/10/16

IMG_1544

The strength and firmness of the vagina is largely determined by the strength and tone of the pelvic floor muscles .  As a urologist who treats many female pelvic problems, questions about vaginal tightness and tone are not infrequently raised by concerned patients.  It is important to distinguish strength from tone.  A condition exists in which the pelvic floor muscles are tight and over-toned (“hypertonic”), yet weak, inflexible and with an impaired ability to relax after a contraction.  This is a pathological condition of the pelvic floor muscles which can give rise to pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction and numerous other symptoms.

The Effect of Vaginal Delivery

The most compelling factor affecting vaginal form is vaginal childbirth.  A recent article from the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Kamisian et al, 2015; 122:867-872) studied the relationship between childbirth and vaginal dimensions in women presenting with urinary control issues and pelvic organ prolapse. The average measurement of the vaginal opening (obtained upon abdominal straining) was 29 cm² in women who had vaginal deliveries versus 21.5 cm² in women who had not delivered vaginally. Having more than one child did not further increase the size of the vaginal opening in a significant way. Bottom Line: The researchers concluded that there are clearly anatomical differences present in women who have delivered vaginally versus those who have not and that most of the stretching effect of vaginal childbirth is related to the first delivery.

 The Vagina: A Mysterious But Amazing Place

Trivia: The word “vagina” derives from the Latin word for “sheath,” a cover for the blade of a knife or sword. The word “penis” derives from the Latin word for “tail.”

Although for many people–both women and men–the vagina is a dark and mysterious place, it is impressive how versatile and multifunctional an organ it is. The vagina wears many “hats,” functioning as an entryway for the penis during sexual intercourse, an inflow pathway and receptacle for semen, an outflow pathway for menstruation and a birth canal. The elasticity of the vagina is extraordinary, with an astonishing ability to stretch to accommodate a baby’s head and then return to a relatively normal caliber. That stated, pregnancy, labor and delivery–particularly vaginal deliveries of large babies–has the potential to profoundly affect the anatomy and function of the vagina and its supportive pelvic muscles.  Although not inevitable, this can result in vaginal laxity (looseness) and other pelvic floor dysfunctions including pelvic organ prolapse (dropped bladder and other pelvic organs), stress urinary incontinence (urinary leakage with coughing, sneezing and physical exertion) and sexual issues.

Trivia: Elective C-section (no labor) is generally protective against vaginal laxity, whereas emergency C-section (after prolonged labor) is equally as potentially damaging to the vaginal support system as is vaginal delivery.

Is Your Vagina Toned/Tight Enough?

If you have ever wondered if your vagina is toned enough and how it might compare with others, you are by no means alone. Like penis size for men, this can be a source of concern and anxiety for many women. A “fit” vagina and pelvic floor is a desirable physical attribute, correlating with youthful vitality, better sexual function for women and their partners and less risk for pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.

Trivia: Leonardo Da Vinci observed that while women generally desire the size of a man’s genitals to be as large as possible, men typically desire the opposite for a woman’s genitals.

Vaginal tone is strongly impacted by the strength and tone of the pelvic floor (Kegel) muscles, but is also influenced by the strength and tone of the muscle layers of the vagina itself. Vaginas come in all sizes and shapes and run the gamut from being very snug to very loose. The vast majority of vaginas are between these too extremes,  “toned sufficiently.” On one extreme, the vagina and pelvic muscles can be so snug that the vagina cannot be penetrated, a medical condition known as vaginismus, which can be a devastating physical and emotional problem. It is an extreme form of pelvic floor tension myalgia, a pelvic pain syndrome referred to earlier resulting from pelvic floor muscles that are chronically over-tensioned. Extremely narrow and tight vaginas are also common in the elderly population that is not sexually active, on the basis of disuse atrophy and the lack of hormone stimulation that accompanies menopause.

On the other hand, the vagina, pelvic floor muscles and other connective tissue support can be so lax that the vagina gapes open, allowing one or more of the pelvic organs to fall into the space of the vagina and at times, outside of the vagina. This can also give rise to other pelvic issues having to do with sexual function and urinary/bowel control. Laxity can lead to difficulties with retaining the penis with vaginal intercourse, retaining tampons and in achieving orgasm.  Vaginal laxity can also result in the vagina filling up with water while bathing and vaginal passage of air (vaginal flatulence). The perception of having a loose vagina can lead to self-esteem issues.

 The Role of Vaginal Tone In Sexual Function

To reiterate, vaginal fitness is an important factor in terms of sexual function and is largely determined by pelvic floor muscle strength and tone. Vaginal laxity is caused by weakened pelvic muscles, vaginal muscles and connective tissue that no longer provide optimal vaginal support. Women with a lax vagina who are sexually active may complain of less satisfying sexual intercourse with diminished sensation for themselves and their partners with an impairment in “accommodating” the penis, with the vagina “surrounding” the penis rather than firmly “squeezing” it.

Under normal circumstances, sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation. The clitoral shaft moves rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner vaginal lips, which join together to form the hood of the clitoris. However, if the vaginal opening is too wide to permit the penis to put sufficient traction on the inner vaginal lips, there can be decreased clitoral stimulation and less satisfaction in the bedroom.

Trivia: George Carlin did a routine about women who have a special gift with the strength, tone and finesse of their vaginas and pelvic floor muscles that I will attempt to paraphrase. He referred to the vaginas of these women as “snapping,” which he defined as “quick muscular control and vaginal elasticity that can grab ahold of you.”  What he was actually describing was women with excellent command of their pelvic floor muscles. 

 So How Tight Is Right?

Dr. Arnold Kegel in the 1940s invented a device called a perineometer that was inserted into the vagina to record the pelvic floor muscle contractile strength.  There are numerous sophisticated measurement devices that exist today.

A simple means is the digital method (a finger in the vagina) to assess your pelvic muscle strength. Do so supine (lying down, face up) with knees bent and slightly parted. Use a hand-held mirror to get a visual of your vulva. The inner vaginal lips should be closed and touching, appearing like a shut clamshell. A sign of vaginal laxity is when the lips are parted like an open clamshell. Another sign of laxity is a reduction in the distance from the bottom part of the vaginal opening to the anus (the perineum). A more severe sign of vaginal laxity is gaping lips with a pink bulge (pelvic organ prolapse) emerging between the lips. Take a look while pushing and straining your abdominal muscles—as if you are pushing out a baby—as a “vaginal stress test.”

Gently place a lubricated finger of one hand in the vagina and contract your pelvic muscles, squeezing around the finger and trying to lift it upwards and inwards, ensuring that you are not contracting your gluteal (butt), rectus (abdomen) or adductor (inner thigh) muscles. Do this by placing your other hand on each of these other muscle groups, in turn, to prove to yourself that these muscles remain relaxed.

Grade your strength using the modified Oxford grading scale, giving yourself a number between 0-5. Note that the Oxford system is what physicians use and it is relatively simple when done regularly by those with experience performing pelvic exams. It is granted that since this assessment is subjective and is not your specialty, you may find it challenging, but do your best, as your goal is to get a general sense of your pelvic strength.

Oxford Grading of Pelvic Strength

0—complete lack of contraction

1—minor flicker

2—weak squeeze (without a circular contraction or inner and upward movement)

3—moderate squeeze (with some inner and upward movement)

4—good squeeze (with moderate inner and upward movement)

5—strong squeeze (with significant inner and upward movement)

What To Do About Vaginal Laxity

If you are unhappy with your vaginal tone, do not despair. Pelvic floor exercises (a.k.a. Kegels) can and will often help improve the situation. Achieving a well-conditioned pelvic floor will optimize vaginal tone, pelvic organ support and sexual, urinary and bowel function as well as positively impact core strength and stability, posture and spinal alignment.

Bottom Line:  A firm and fit vagina is desirable from the standpoint of pelvic, sexual and general health.  Having well-conditioned pelvic floor muscles can help prevent and treat vaginal laxity, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary and bowel control issues as well as contribute to a healthy and enjoyable sex life. Just as you make an effort to keep your external muscles in good shape, It makes sense to apply a similar effort to these important internal muscles.

Please check out the following 3 minute video entitled “Why Kegel?”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kclY1vY3wG8

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

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

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at TheKegelFix.com

Author page on Amazon: 

http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Siegel/e/B004W7IM48

Apple iBook:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-kegel-fix/id1105198755?mt=11

The Kegel Fix trailer: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHZxoiQb1Cc  

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.  In the works is the female PelvicRx pelvic floor muscle training DVD. 

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

 

Advertisements

Ejaculation: His and Hers

March 12, 2016

Andrew Siegel, MD   3/12/2016

One of the advantages of the specialty of urology is that it encompasses patients of both genders, unlike gynecology, which strictly involves females. Since I am board certified in Urology as well as in Female Pelvic Medicine, my practice allows me to have an equal balance of male and female patients. This gives me the opportunity to appreciate comparative male and female pelvic anatomy and function, which in reality are remarkably similar–a fact that may surprise you.

 A Few Brief Words on the Embryology of the Genitals.

Who Knew? Female and male external genitals are remarkably similar. In fact, in the first few weeks of existence as an embryo, the external genitals are identical.

The female external genitals are the “default” model, which will remain female in the absence of the male hormone testosterone. In this circumstance, the genital tubercle (a midline swelling) becomes the clitoris; the urogenital folds (two vertically-oriented folds of tissue below the genital tubercle) become the labia minora (inner lips); and the labio-scrotal swellings (two vertically-oriented bulges outside the urogenital folds) fuse to become the labia majora (outer lips).

Gray1119

(Comparison of genital anatomy,  1918 Gray’s Anatomy, Dr. Henry Gray, public domain)

In the presence of testosterone, the genital tubercle morphs into the penis; the urogenital folds fuse and become the urethra and part of the shaft of the penis; and the labio-scrotal swellings fuse to become the scrotal sac.  So, the clitoris and the penis are essentially the same structure, as are the outer labia and the scrotum.                                                                                              

Ejaculation

Ejaculation is the expulsion of fluids at the time of sexual climax. The word “ejaculation” derives from ex, meaning out and jaculari, meaning to throw, shoot, hurl, cast. We are all familiar with male ejaculation, an event that is obvious and well understood and well studied. However, female ejaculation is a mysterious phenomenon and a curiosity to many and remains poorly understood and studied.

Male Ejaculation

Men often “dribble” before they “shoot.” The bulbo-urethral glands, a.k.a. Cowper’s glands, are paired, pea-sized structures whose ducts drain into the urethra (urinary channel). During sexual arousal, these glands produce a sticky, clear fluid that provides lubrication to the urethra. (These glands are the male versions of Bartholin’s glands in the female, discussed below).

Once a threshold of sexual stimulation is surpassed, men reach the “point of no return,” in which ejaculation becomes inevitable. Secretions from the prostate gland, seminal vesicles, epididymis, and vas deferens are deposited into the urethra within the prostate gland. Shortly thereafter, the bladder neck pinches closed while the prostate and seminal vesicles contract and the pelvic floor muscles (the bulbocavernosus and ischiocavernosus) spasm rhythmically, sending wave-like contractions rippling down the urethra to forcibly propel the semen out in a pulsatile and explosive eruption. Ejaculation is the physical act of expulsion of the semen, whereas orgasm is the intense emotional excitement and climax, the blissful emotions that accompany ejaculation.

Male_anatomy

(Male Internal Sexual Anatomy, permission CC BY-SA 3.0, created 18 April 2009)

What’s in the Ejaculate?

Less than 5% of the volume is sperm and the other 95+% is a cocktail of genital secretions that provides nourishment, support and chemical safekeeping for sperm. About 70% of the volume comes from the seminal vesicles, which secrete a thick, viscous fluid and 25% from the prostate gland, which produces a milky-white fluid. A negligible amount is from the bulbo-urethral glands, which release a clear viscous fluid that has a lubrication function. The average ejaculate volume is 2-5 milliliters (one teaspoon is the equivalent of 5 milliliters).

Who Knew?  While a huge ejaculatory load sounds desirable, in reality it is correlated with having fertility issues. The sperm can literally “drown” in the excess seminal fluid.

Female Ejaculation

This is a much less familiar subject than male ejaculation and a curiosity to many. Only a small percentage of women are capable of expelling fluid at the time of sexual climax.

The nature of this fluid is controversial, thought by some to be excessive vaginal lubrication and others to be glandular secretions. Although the volume of ejaculated fluid is typically small, there are certain women who ejaculate very large volumes of fluid at climax. Expulsion of fluid at climax may come from four possible sources: vaginal secretions; Bartholin’s glands; Skene’s glands; and the urinary bladder.

Skenes_gland

(Skene’s and Bartholin’s Glands, created 22 January 2007, original uploader Nicholasolan  en.wikipedia, Permission: CC-BY-SA-2.5, 2.0, 1.0; GFDL-WITH-DISCLAIMERS; CC-BY-S)

During female arousal and sexual stimulation, the vaginal walls lubricate with a “sweating-like” reaction as a result of the increased blood flow to the genitals and pelvic blood congestion, creating a slippery and glistening film. The amount of this lubrication is highly variable. Some women with female ejaculation can release some of this fluid at the time of climax by virtue of powerful contractions of the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles.

Bartholin’s glands are paired, pea-size glands that drain just below and to each side of the vaginal opening. They are the female versions of the male bulbo-urethral glands and during sexual arousal they secrete small drops of fluid, resulting in moistening of the opening of the vagina.

Skene’s glands (para-urethral glands) are paired glands that drain just above and to each side of the urethral opening. They are the female homologue of the male prostate gland and secrete fluid with arousal.

Scientific studies have shown that those women who are capable of ejaculating very large volumes are actually having urinary incontinence due to an involuntary contraction of the urinary bladder that accompanies orgasm. This is often referred to as “squirting.”

Bottom Line: In the animal kingdom (including human beings), sex is a clever “bait and switch” scheme. In the seeming pursuit of a feel-good activity, in reality—determined by nature’s evolutionary sleight of hand—participants are hoodwinked into reproducing. The ultimate goal of the reproductive process is the fusion of genetic material from two individuals to perpetuate the species.

The penis functions as a “pistol” to place DNA deeply into the female’s reproductive tract with ejaculation a necessity for the process. Similarly, the female genitals need to be sufficiently lubricated to optimize this process and the combination of vaginal lubrication from enhanced blood flow contributed to by Skene’s and Bartholin’s secretions will optimize nature’s ultimate goal.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

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

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

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx, comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.  

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store that is home to quality urology products for men and women.  Use code UROLOGY10 at check out for 10% discount. 

 

 

 

 

The Curious Use of Genital and Anal Slang

October 24, 2015

Andrew Siegel MD   10/24/15

* Warning:  This blog contains adult language that you may find offensive. 

asshole_emoticon_by_marynightshade

(Asshole Emoticon, by marynightshade; no changes made Link: http://marynightshade.deviantart.com/art/Asshole-Emoticon-13248436  Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution—Share Alike 3.0 License)

What an…“asshole”; “dick”; “dickhead”; “bell end” (British variety of dickhead)

He’s such a “jerk-off”; “wanker” (British variety of jerk-off)

She’s a “cunt,” “pussy,” “twat” (British variety of pussy)

The weather “sucks.”

This situation is so “fucked” up.

The aforementioned nouns and verbs are used metaphorically with negative and disparaging intent. What these phrases have in common is that they employ slang terms that refer to either the anatomy of the genitals and anal area, or alternatively, to some element of sexual function.

It is a curiosity that it is the slang terms that are used for derogatory purposes, but the non-slang, proper anatomical terms are never used in this context. Who ever refers to another person as an anus, penis, glans penis, vagina, etc.? Or, he’s such a masturbator? Or, the weather is like oral stimulation of a man’s penis? Or, this situation is like having sexual intercourse?

This genital and anal anatomical region of concern is valuable, often unappreciated human real estate. I am puzzled as to how our slang language evolved to use anatomy and physiology of the nether region in such a pejorative sense. Perhaps it is the fact that our culture has strong underlying puritanical roots. The word pudendum, meaning genitals, derives from the Latin “pudenda,” meaning “shameful parts.” Certainly the fact that these are the most “private” areas of our body and the most “private” of body functions—the only anatomical regions and activities that are considered off limits and politically incorrect to expose or pursue, respectively, in public venues such as beaches—may explain why they are fodder for ridicule.

I think we have it all “ass backwards” (pun intended). Pelvic function—sexual, urinary and bowel—is truly remarkable and never appreciated until dysfunction sets in.

For many men—and women for that matter—the vagina is a dark and mysterious place, but an amazing and versatile structure if you consider that it is a sexual organ that allows entry of the penis, an inflow pathway and receptacle for semen, an outflow pathway for menstruation and a birth canal for the fetus. Vagina magic!

The penis is an equally extraordinary multifunctional organ—no less so than a Swiss army knife—with an impressive ability to multi-task, having an array of functions including urinary, sexual and reproductive. In the words of Eric Gill: “The water tap that could turn into a pillar of fire.” It allows man to urinate with a directed stream and when erect, it enables vaginal penetration and sexual intercourse. Ejaculation deposits semen in the vagina, with the passage of genetic material and ultimately the perpetuation of the species. Penis magic!

Last but not least, the anus is nothing short of brilliant, the “asshole” not only capable of distinguishing gas, liquid and solid, but also is the structure standing between you and diapers. I care for patients with the devastating problem of fecal incontinence and recently evaluated a youthful 50-something year-old woman who recounted to me her circumstance of standing in an elevator with others present when fecal material started dripping out of her bikini bottoms, without her awareness.

So, if you wish to address a contemptible person, call them a “shit” or a “shithead”—so much more appropriate and meaningful slang than calling them an “asshole.” (Thank you Greg Lovallo, MD and Jennifer Bonilla, MA for pointing out the true utility of the S-word as opposed to the other genital and anal slang words.)

Bottom Line: Your “asshole” is your close friend and should never be taken for granted. Likewise, the entire genital/anal region should be admired, respected and held in the highest of esteem and not ridiculed, belittled and vilified. Think about that the next time you call someone an “asshole,” “dick,” or “pussy.” Just sayin’.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

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

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

Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.

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.

Blog subscription: A new blog is posted every week. A direct link to be able to receive the blogs in the in box of your email is the following where you need to click on “sign me up!”

https://healthdoc13.wordpress.com/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog

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

Facebook Page: Our Greatest Wealth Is Health. Please visit page and “like”: www.facebook.com/promisceating

Facebook Page: Men’s Pelvic Health. Please visit page and “like”: www.facebook.com/malepelvicfitness

You Tube page: www.youtube.com/incontinencedoc