So you may be surprised to learn that fiber has a dirty little secret. Behind its crunchy exterior lies an inner vixen whose benefits have been linked to improved libido.
How in the world does fiber improve libido? To fully understand, I need to first give you a very short endocrinology lesson. Stay with me here – I promise to be brief!
As women enter their 40’s and the fun roller coaster ride known as perimenopause, progesterone levels drop while estrogen stays generally the same. This leads to a condition known as estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance wreaks all sorts of havoc with a woman’s body and mind because progesterone is meant to be the yin to estrogen’s yang. Estrogen stimulates while progesterone calms, for example.
Without her serene friend progesterone keeping her in balance, Mrs. Estrogen Dominance gets into a lot of mischief, leading to feelings of extreme PMS, irregular periods, bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness and headaches.
Those symptoms alone are enough to kill just about any woman’s sex drive. But to clinch the matter entirely, the number one side effect of reduced progesterone is decreased sex drive.
So not only does estrogen dominance drop your libido, it creates numerous other pesky changes sure to destroy any lingering sex drive that may remain despite feeling fat, bloated, bitchy and in pain.
Fiber. Your Libido’s Superhero!
Enter mighty fiber. Fiber improves libido in two primary ways. First, it supports the liver in its quest to rid the body of excess estrogen by bulking the stool and making it easier to pass. Said a little more bluntly, it helps you poop more easily and often, taking that excess estrogen out of your body!
Fiber also slows down the rise and fall of blood sugar when we eat. This helps to stabilize insulin, the hormone responsible for blood sugar absorption. Hormone production is basically one big house of cards, so when you normalize insulin, it helps to keep all your hormones in check.
So how do you get more fiber into your life? It’s really not as hard (or unsexy!) as you think. The key is to add fiber slowly over time and to increase water consumption at the same time. The digestive system needs to adjust to digesting fiber. If you add a bunch all at once and don’t add extra water, I guarantee you’ll end up gassy, constipated and in pain! A surefire recipe for less sex!
Bring on the Bran, Baby!
Here are 3 easy ways to boost your fiber (and maybe your sex life too!):
1. Sprinkle on some flax. Flaxseed is to estrogen dominance what water is to the Wicked Witch of the West. A phytoestrogen, flaxseed contains natural plant estrogens that bind to our body’s estrogen receptors, exerting a balancing effect on estrogen levels. Flax is also loaded with fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants to boot.
I like to add flaxseed to my smoothies, oatmeal and yogurt. Make sure to grind it before eating, otherwise it’ll pass right through your digestive system whole. I use a small coffee grinder and pulse my flaxseeds about 10 times, resulting in a nice mix of both ground and partially ground seeds.
Start out by adding one tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your diet every day, and then gradually add one or two more over a period of a few weeks.
2. Blend up a smoothie. Smoothies are a great way to pack in nutrients in a delicious, easy-to-drink way. Fruits and vegetables are the most digestible forms of fiber (as opposed to the gas-producing legume!) and you can easily get several servings in a smoothie. I also add nuts and seeds or almond butter, which provide not only extra fiber, but also heart-healthy fats and additional protein. Click here to check out two of my favorite smoothie recipes.
3. Upgrade your bread. Grocery store shelves are lined with breads that imply they are high in fiber by using deceptive language such as “multi-grain.” However, in actual fact, many of these breads are pretty lacking in the fiber department. “Cracked country wheat” sounds pretty crunchy, right? Nope, only 2 grams per slice. Check the label carefully. You should be getting at least 4g per slice and the first ingredient should contain the term “whole grain.”
Have you battled low libido during perimenopause? What helped you get your sexy back? Share your story and join the discussion!
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Northrup, Christiane, M.D.. The Wisdom of Menopause. NY, NY. Bantam Dell. 2006.
Reiss, Uzzi, M.D. Natural Hormone Balance. NY, NY. Pocket Books. 2001.