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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Column: Alcohol and libido

You are at a party, beer in hand, with a multitude of possibilities for fun. While alcohol and sex are often on everyone’s mind in this setting, the question is: does that drink affect your libido?

When the beer goes in, strange things come out. Good things, too, from courage to stress relief. Some also believe it enhances sexual performance.

In terms of nutrition, alcohol changes sex drive by affecting your energy, blood flow and hormones. The problem is how you drink can help or thwart your drive, both in the short and long term.

Having the occasional drink or two a few times a week can actually boost your performance on a nutritional level, too. Obviously, alcohol’s ego boosting effects can help you achieve more pleasure when taken in moderation. But what you might not know is that a few drinks over the week can further improve it by enhancing your blood flow and health.

Moderate drinking can lower bad cholesterol and fat levels in your blood, reducing blood pressure and improving your circulation. This helps your circulation and sexual performance for future years, as high blood pressure and other vascular diseases contribute to sexual dysfunction. In fact, up to 80 percent of erectile dysfunction is caused by physical reasons, in people both young and old. To improve blood flow, you can also have more water, fiber and fewer animal fats.

The thing is, you will probably find better sex in half of a bottle instead of a whole one. If you drink a lot in one sitting, you may qualify as a binge drinker. And, unfortunately, binge drinking can decrease libido, both today and tomorrow.

Binge drinking is the consumption of four to five drinks or more in one day, two or more times per month. If this fits your profile, you are in good company. About one third of college students binge drink. So what’s the deal?

One consequence is a no-brainer: at some point, the toilet looks more attractive than your date. But even if you can hold your stomach, other aspects of your sex drive are changing, from impaired energy to low testosterone.

As your body rids itself of alcohol, frequent urination causes dehydration, contributing to dizziness and making lubrication more difficult. In as little as a month, binge drinking can also cause bad cholesterol and fatty blood, increasing blood pressure and decreasing blood flow, both of which can lower your ability, whether you are male or female, to perform optimally.

Immediate effects of binge drinking also include significantly lowered sex and growth hormones in men and women. Testosterone, for example, can remain depressed in both genders for up to a day or two. While I recommend retaining your hormone production by drinking moderately instead of chronically, adding strength training to your weekly routine can greatly improve overall hormone production, too.

Unfortunately, cells that use these hormones, including ovarian and testicular cells, are damaged or killed by binging, some of which can be irreversible. Your body is designed to repair itself, but it is not invincible. These factors are known to cause premature lost sexual drive and stamina. Alcohol is not the only contributor, but it is a top reason for erectile dysfunction in college males, and up to 30 percent of females in their 30s experience arousal disorder. Luckily, a diet rich fruits and vegetables has a lot of benefits, from increasing blood flow to repairing these cells.

Be happy to know that a diet rich in antioxidants, like vitamin A, can repair some of these damages. Ironically, red wine is also high in antioxidants. And vitamin A can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens and cantaloupe.

In the words of Shakespeare, alcohol “provokes the desire but inhibits the performance.” So I recommend a glass of something to ease the tension and even boost your blood flow, but don’t overdo it. I personally take pride in my endurance –– I can go hours without touching a drop.

THERESA RICHARDSON is bringing you the latest research to keep your college waistline and health in check. Feel free to contact her at terichardson@ucdavis.edu.

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