As our society is often not open to talking about sexual health, many men and women with sexual dysfunctions stay untreated due to lack of information, ignorance or shyness to speak out the problem but sexual health plays a very important role in one’s life as it is directly connected with not only fertility and reproductive capabilities but also emotional distress, anxiety, low self-esteem and depression as well. It affects overall mental well-being, causes stress in relationships, social isolation and reduced quality of life.
Sexual wellness is an essential aspect of an individual’s overall health and wellbeing but while having a good diet and nutrition helps in improving physical health, there are several mental health factors that impact an individual’s sexual wellness. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Murugan Nandagopal, Senior Scientist and General Manager at Lifecell International, shared, “Sexual health is an important aspect of overall health and wellbeing in both genders. Despite leading a healthy lifestyle, there are a number of extrinsic factors that might have an impact on sexual health. These factors include stress, poor diet, lifestyle choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol, drug usage, environmental variables such as air pollution, exposure to hazardous chemicals, water contamination, and certain medications can have an adverse effect on sexual health.”
He revealed, “Stress can cause erectile dysfunction, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, which can impact libido and arousal. Hormonal fluctuations, such as those experienced during menopause, can also have an impact on sexual health. Environmental factors can lead to a weakening of the immune system with poor nutrition, which can impair sexual health. Poor dietary choices, lack of exercise, and smoking, drinking alcohol, and drug use can all result in diminished libido and erectile dysfunction, as well as an increased chance of developing a sexually transmitted infection.”
Highlighting that certain medications can also have an adverse effect on sexual health, he said, “Relationship dynamics and emotional well being are crucial factors in sexual health. Poor communication, unresolved conflicts, and emotional disconnect within a relationship can lead to decreased sexual satisfaction. Women, in particular, experience postpartum effects that result in a loss of sexual pleasure which can be modified by altering the environment for private sexual activity. Therefore, it is important to make healthy lifestyle choices, eat a balanced diet, and speak to your doctor about any potential side effects of medications to maintain optimal sexual health.”
According to Dr Pranit Ambulkar, R&D- Health and Wellness at Netsurf Communications Pvt Ltd, most of the time good diet and physical fitness is directly correlated with sexual fitness however, many individuals encounter sexual health problems despite their best efforts in diet and physical fitness. There are multiple factors apart from nutrition and physical fitness that can significantly impact one’s sexual health and he spilled the beans on the five external factors that affect sexual health –
- Stress and Mental Health: Stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can negatively impact sexual health. High-stress levels can lead to erectile dysfunction, decreased libido and difficulty achieving orgasm, fertility issue in both men and women. It is crucial to manage stress effectively through relaxation techniques, therapy etc.
- Medication and addictions: Certain medications can have adverse effects on sexual health. Antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and hormonal treatments may cause sexual side effects, such as decreased libido or erectile dysfunction. Consulting with a healthcare professional can help explore alternative medications. Alcohol and drug abuse can also impair sexual function and overall sexual satisfaction. Smoking can adversely affect female fertility and can cause erectile dysfunction in men.
- Metabolic disorders: Obesity, diabetes and other lifestyle disorders like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease can significantly affect your vascular health as well as cardiac capacity and endurance. This may result in sexual dysfunction, fatigue and decreased stamina. Eating pills may not help enough, one needs to adopt dietary and lifestyle modification and weight management for better results.
- Relationship Issues: The quality of a relationship can have a significant impact on sexual health. Problems such as communication issues, lack of intimacy, unresolved conflicts, or emotional disconnect can lead to sexual dissatisfaction and performance problems. Open and honest communication with a partner, couples therapy, or seeking professional advice can help.
- Environmental Factors: Environmental factors, such as a noisy or uncomfortable home environment, excessive light or noise, or even uncomfortable bedding, can negatively impact sexual desire and overall sexual experience.
Adding to the list, Meeti Vaidya, Psychologist at Mpower – Cell, listed five mental health factors that can impact sexual wellness in spite of good diet and nutrition:
- Anxiety could impact sexual wellness by causing fear, worry, stress and doubt about one’s performance, intimacy, or experiencing pleasure.
- Another factor is depression; it can inhibit sexual desire due to changes occurring in brain chemistry, hormonal imbalances, decreased interest in pleasurable activities, and negative thought patterns.
- Traumatic experiences are also one of the factors that impact sexual wellness by creating difficulty for individuals to trust, feel comfortable, and experience pleasure during sexual encounters.
- One common factor is having low self-esteem; it can lead to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, lack of self-confidence, or feeling undesirable during sexual experiences. Low self-esteem can make it difficult for individuals to engage in sexual activities, connect with their partners, or express their desires. Lastly, relationship problems can also impact sexual wellness by causing friction between partners, feeling uncomfortable, and reduced libido, or performance.
- Communication problems, disagreements, or infidelity can hinder sexual expression, pleasure, and satisfaction as well.
While a healthy diet and exercise are crucial for overall well-being, sexual health can be influenced by various external factors. Recognising and addressing these factors can help individuals overcome sexual health challenges and enhance their overall quality of life. It is essential to seek professional help when needed and maintain open communication with partners to foster a healthy and fulfilling sexual life.