Summary: Thyroid issues are very common in both men and women, although thyroid issues seem to affect more women than men. Ten percent of women have a thyroid-related health issue, with an increasing risk with age. Whether it is a thyroid issue like Hashimoto’s disease, Grave’s disease or even thyroid cancer, there is an increased risk that this will indeed affect your sex drive and libido. Here you can learn about the thyroid gland and why it affects our sex drive and libido.
It is a common fact that our sex drive decreases as we age for many reasons. Research done by Dr. Alfred Kinsey of the Kinsey Institute found that a man’s sexual peak (or point where sexual desire is at the highest level) was at age eighteen, whereas a woman’s sexual peak happened in their mid-twenties. Although, these can vary from person to person. Around the age of sixty-five, men typically have a higher sex drive than women. While these first initial findings about libido are still relevant, we now know there are many things that affect our sex drive and libido. After years of further research, it was proven that the thyroid function plays a major role in regulating your libido, both to be stronger, and to decrease even more through the years.
Thyroid issues are very common in both men and women, although thyroid issues seem to affect more women than men. Ten percent of women have a thyroid-related health issue, with an increasing risk with age. Whether it is a thyroid issue like Hashimoto’s disease, Grave’s disease or even thyroid cancer, there is an increased risk that this will indeed affect your sex drive and libido.
What is a thyroid?
Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that rests in the front of your neck. It is responsible for secreting two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), into your body. The thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is secreted by the pituitary gland which then stimulates the thyroid’s production and release of T3 and T4. Together, the pituitary gland and the thyroid gland work together in bodily regulation.
The hormones produced by the thyroid gland have an affect on every cell within your body. They help to control and influence carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, protein synthesis, bone metabolism, neuronal connections and influences your overall metabolism. Libido and sex drive tend to decease with thyroid dysfunction that affects the T3 and T4 levels, which can occur at any age. A low level of these hormones is linked to hypothyroidism, while higher levels of these hormones signifies hyperthyroidism.
It should be noted that both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are linked to sexual dysfunction in both men and women. The most reported dysfunction in women is painful intercourse and severely dry tissues. For men, this complaint is most often erectile dysfunction and loss of desire.
How can I support my thyroid health and save my libido?
In addition to having your thyroid levels tested to know your status, you should also consider your diet and lifestyle habits that are affecting this gland from working optimally. By ensuring that your thyroid and pituitary gland are working in balance together, you reduce your risk of facing sexual dysfunction issues or loss of libido.
1. Try the Mediterranean Diet. The healthy fats from fish, nuts, and olive oil, a variety of vegetables, some whole grains and legumes, and moderate red wine consumption support whole-body health, decrease inflammation, and provide necessary vitamins and minerals to maintain optimal thyroid function and hormone balance.
2. Avoid environmental toxins. Exposure to toxins like heavy metals, industrial chemicals, plastics, and pesticides can overtax your body, including your thyroid gland. Although everyone has a different tolerance, the best practice is to avoid and eliminate contact with these toxins when you can.
3. Avoid stress and practice meditation. Stress can be a major factor in affecting your thyroid function. Practicing yoga or engaging in other relaxing activities, such as meditative stretching or low-intensity exercise, can help lower stress levels. Identify what’s causing your stress and incorporate healthy habits to minimize it.
What else can affect my libido?
Although thyroid abnormalities do affect sex drive, other issues can negatively or positively affect libido, either alone or in conjunction with any thyroid issues.
4. Prescription medications. Top of the list are anti-depressants, which have many side effects and can lower sex drive. For example, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and tricyclic anti-depressants are known to have significant sexual side effects that range from reduced genital sensations to inability to achieve orgasm to erectile dysfunction.
5. Medical conditions. Conditions like anxiety, depression, arthritis, diabetes, cancer, and sleep apnea all play a role in influencing hormone levels, energy levels, ability or desire to move around, and ultimately arousal. It is no surprise when your body is not in hormonal balance that you might not be in the mood.
6. Pregnancy. During pregnancy, many women report heightened libido and arousal. A pregnant woman has a larger volume of blood and extra blood flow around her vulva. After pregnancy, nursing, fatigue, or changes in perceived body image can lessen the sex drive. This is also another time when hormones play a role.
7. Life events. Life events, whether good or bad can change your libido. Getting married, receiving a promotion at work, or finally taking a relaxing vacation can have a positive impact on your libido for days or even weeks. And in the same aspect, losing a job, stock market volatility, or selling a home can cause enough negative stress to impact your libido.
8. Lifestyle habits. Making poor lifestyle choices, like drinking too much alcohol, too much exercise, or not getting enough sleep can all make you too tired for sexual activity. On the flip side, not enough exercise or too much sleep can have the same effect.
9. Your daily diet. The foods you choose to eat have a direct impact on your overall health and feeling each day. Eat plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables and colorful fruits to obtain necessary vitamins and minerals. Also, including healthy fats in your diet can provide the precursors that produce sex hormones, which will also boost your libido.
The thyroid gland affects virtually every organ in the body.
If you are having thyroid issues, do not hesitate to bring the issue up with your doctor to begin testing to find out if your levels are off.
Saran S, Gupta B, Philip R, et al. Effect of hypothyroidism on female reproductive hormones. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2016;20(1):108-113.
Krassas G, Tziomalos K, Papadopoulou F, et al. Erectile dysfunction in patients with hyper- and hypothyroidism: how common and should we treat? J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2008;93(5):1815-1819.