One of the simple pleasures in my life is sipping a cup of coffee while savoring a slice of dense coconut cake iced with 7-minute frosting. I might follow that with a chocolate chip biscotti, then maybe a sugar cookie coated in crystalline granules and then possibly I’ll nibble on a few dozen Reese cups. Don’t worry, they’re snack size! Before the last peanut buttery bite, I’m digging in the pantry to see if there’s any Trunk ‘r’ Treat candy left. I’m exaggerating, of course, but I have a rabid sweet tooth when I’m overwhelmed.
After months of letting myself go, the sugar coating of comfort is dissolving. I’m left feeling exhausted and irritable, not wanting to be comforted through any kind of touch.
So, I started to ask myself, “Why?” What’s deal with sugar? Why do I crave it? Why do I feel so bad after I eat it? And, most importantly, how does it affect my libido?
Let’s start with some fun facts.
Sugarcane, considered a giant grass, was first cultivated in New Guinea about 10,000 BC. The first written mention of sugar is in regards to Emperor Darius the Great in 510 BC. As soldiers of Darius conquered Persia (present day India), they reported finding, “reeds which produce honey without bees,” (Pulses, Sugar and Tuber Crops, 2007, p. 175).
Daniel, of the Old Testament, asked to be excused from the rich meals of the Babylonian King between 605-610 BC. I wonder if sugar from Persia was an ingredient in the King’s menu?
Muslims invaded Persia in 641 BC and learned the refining process. The first shipment of sugar reached England in 1319, a consequence of the crusades.
Our bodies weren’t designed to ingest insane amounts of sugar.
According to the American Heart Association, women should only consume 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of refined sugar per day. Men should only take in 9 teaspoons. Yikes. I almost hit that number in my morning cup of coffee.
Dr. Mark Hyman says that things we typically think of as age related (lagging sex hormones, hair loss, and irregular menstrual cycles) are really diet related partly a consequence of ingesting too much sugar.
Here are 8 Ways Sugar Sours Your Sex Drive
1. Processed sugar spikes insulin in your blood stream which reduces testosterone levels.
Testosterone isn’t just a guy’s hormone. Although females have much lower amounts of testosterone, it is still an important hormone that influences our sex drive.
The problem with processed sugar is that it spikes the body’s insulin production. Because high levels of blood sugar are toxic, insulin is released in the blood stream to chemically manage sugar levels. Think of insulin as sugar’s ‘handler.’ There is an inverse relationship between insulin and testosterone. The higher the insulin levels, the less testosterone. (I haven’t found the exact mechanism, but I’ve found research that alludes to insulin inhibiting testosterone building blocks so that testosterone can’t be formed.)
2. Processed Sugar spikes leptin production which drives down testosterone.
Honestly, I was not familiar with leptin. Apparently, leptin is the hunger hormone. (Now that I met her, I don’t like her. Hunger makes it hard for me to keep my weight at a healthy level.)
Dr. Joseph Mercola states, “It has been shown that as sugar gets metabolized and stored as triglycerides in fat cells, the fat cells release surges of leptin and those surges result in leptin-resistance, just as it results in insulin-resistance. When you become leptin-resistant, your body can no longer hear the messages telling it to stop eating and burn fat — so it remains hungry and stores more fat.”
Sugar creates leptin surges and over a period of time leptin reduces levels of testosterone, according to this study.
3. Processed sugar reduces growth hormone production which leads to lower testosterone.
Surprisingly, adults continue to produce growth hormone (GH) long after the crackling voices and training bras of adolescence. Get your beauty sleep because that is when this ‘fountain of youth’ is produced. GH is responsible for healthy immune system, increased muscle mass, and influences testosterone production.
Remember, sugar increases insulin production. This study shows how an increase in insulin reduces your body’s ability to produce Growth Hormone. Because GH and Testosterone work synergistically, the less GH available means the less influence it has on testosterone production.
4. Processed sugar makes you too tired for sex.
Exhaustion doesn’t set it only because of a ‘sugar crash.’ Exhaustion also sets in because of a little known neurotransmitter called orexin. Orexin is a key player in wakefulness. It also increases metabolism and regulates body temperature. (Orexin is no match for south Florida temps, though, let me tell ya! I’m burning up down here.)
5. Processed sugar triggers depression and anxiety which depletes sexual interest.
6. Processed sugar triggers stress which also depletes sexual interest.
When you walk into a room with a strong fragrance, after awhile you are no longer aware of the fragrance. As your nose becomes desensitized to fragrance, your body becomes desensitized to insulin. A high sugar diet creates consistently elevated amounts of insulin in the blood stream. Cells eventually no longer readily recognize insulin. Insulin resistance leads to damage between brain cells which can impair coping skills, memory, and cognitive function.
7. Sugar is addicting which leads to depletion of testosterone.
Sugar is as addictive as opioid drugs. Sugar works on the same reward center in your brain. So, if you are pummeling yourself over your inability to stay away from the Snicker’s, you have biology working against you.
Satisfying your sugar craving keeps you spiraling through the addiction cycle and continually depletes testosterone.
8. Sugar causes your cells to not “hear” testosterone
Chronic inflammation at the cellular level is seen as the symptoms of aging. It is highly influenced by our diets. In a nutshell, cellular inflammation causes our cells to no longer efficiently communicate to the rest of the body. They no longer take direction from hormones nor do they hear the knock of nutrients.
Sugar’s role in inflammation has to do with the sugar crash (overcompensation of insulin to bring blood sugar levels down). The yo-yo effect of insulin from high sugar consumption encourages inflammation.
Here’s an excellent article that explains inflammation in intelligent yet easy terms by Dr. Meghan Birt.
Sugar can steal the sweetness of your marriage bed.
The best way to physically lift your low libido is to eat more good stuff, less bad stuff, and move more. Even though you probably didn’t need another cautionary tale against over indulgence, seeing the specifics of how sugar complicates your libido may give you even more motivation to eat healthier.
“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103.