Is your exposure to everyday toxins affecting your sex life?
Sexual Function, Libido and Fertility are all topics that seem to be a little bit taboo. Many people experience these challenges; women who avoid going to bed at the same time as their partner as they have little to no desire for sex, men who avoid intimate relationships due to difficulties maintaining an erection or couples who have been trying for a baby for many years without success.
“It amazes me how many people settle for health problems like a low libido because they think it's normal or they are just getting older. Just because something is common doesn’t make it normal.” William Cole, Functional Medical Practitioner
There are many elements that are contributing to a decline in sexual function and reproduction including the aspects that effect low libido and desire, hormone production and function and the consequences these in turn have on fertility. The factors are numerous!
One such factor that is gaining more scientific support is the link between exposure to daily toxins in our environments and hormonal issues like fertility, low libido and performance challenges.
Toxins are in our everyday environment and we often don’t even realise it. They lurk in old homes and apartments. They're in microwave popcorn, dyes in food, paper inks, vinyl products, new furniture and carpet fiber, as well as in beauty products and of course our perfumes. All these chemicals that we either inhale or come into contact with our bodies can mess with our hormones.
Lack of desire can be an indication that your body may be overly toxic. We are surrounded by so many endocrine disrupting chemicals every day. These include, but are not limited to, Bisphenol A and phthalates, found in many plastics, solvents found in most synthetic fragrances and parabens, an artificial preservative used to increase a products shelf life.
You’re also exposed to additional hormones from countless outside sources. The hormones that farmers administer to animals make their way into your dairy, meat, and water supply, which trips Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) production in a similar way to the contraceptive pill. These hormones, along with the endocrine disruptors and estrogen-mimicking chemicals in your everyday household products, cleaning supplies and personal care products, build up in your system over time and have a libido-dampening effect.
Two of the six major contributors to low testosterone levels in men that Dr Rawls, a leading Integrative Doctor from the US, noted include synthetic estrogen mimicking chemicals in the environment (such as BPAs and Phthalates) and added hormones in the meat we eat.
The Jounal of Andrology published an article on research conducted into the link between environmental factors and erectile dysfunction by The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
“A relatively new concept in the determination of potential risk factors for erectile dysfunction is the possibility that exposures to harmful biological or chemical substances existing in one’s surroundings constitute a pathogenic basis for this sexual dysfunction.”
“This evaluation of the potential relationship between environmental exposures and erectile dysfunction suggests the possibility of a risk association. Enough intriguing information currently exists to raise a strong consideration for this possibility. Research from as long as 40 years ago has been looking at the links between environmental toxins on fertility. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says “Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and potential EDCs are mostly man-made, found in various materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food, and personal care products. EDCs have been suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function in males and females.”
In many cases these EDCs are recognized and stored as the hormone estrogen in the body. For many women this is leading to an imbalance, resulting in too much estrogen and too little progesterone which can result in changes to a women’s menstrual cycle, likelihood of ovulation or being able to maintain the lining of the uterus to sustain a pregnancy.
But there’s not just the hormone picture. If your body is overloaded with other toxins from your environment such as pesticides, pollution, preservatives and artificial ingredients in food, drugs or alcohol or the chemicals in your daily cleaning and personal care products, this also has a dramatic impact on your body's detoxification pathways.
For your survival, the body prioritizes keeping you alive over keeping your sex life alive. The liver and immune system focus all their energy on detoxification over other functions such as reproduction.
In a study published in Human Reproduction Update, researchers documented a 60% decline in sperm counts over the past 40 years in Western countries, including North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
“A man’s fertility generally relies on the quantity and quality of his sperm. If the number of sperm a man ejaculates is low or if the sperm is of a poor quality, it will be difficult, and sometimes impossible, for it to lead to a pregnancy.”
According to lead researcher Hagai Levine in the study, we don’t yet know for sure what caused this steep drop in sperm. We do know, however, that endocrine disruptor exposure in utero can harm the male’s fertility potential. However, it’s far more likely that exposure later in life from man-made chemicals like pesticides can cause such a pronounced effect.
“One possible explanation is that men residing in Western countries over the last decades were exposed to new man-made chemicals during their life course, and there is more and more evidence that these chemicals hurt their reproductive function.”
It would be far too simplistic to suggest that the cause of impaired or decreased sexual function, libido or fertility is single faceted. There is often a complex web of genetic and environmental factors that determine or contribute to the issue. However, what is apparent is the increased interest and research by medical and scientific professionals into the impact of environmental hormone and chemical exposure with both proven and potential links to their influence.
At the end of the day if decreasing the toxic load on your body could potentially resolve or improve any issues you have in the bedroom or beyond, or decrease the likelihood that you might face these issues in the future, I think it’s worth it! At the very least you will see general improvements in your health and wellbeing with a potential side-bonus!