Life Extension Magazine

Life Extension Magazine October 2008

Report

Reverse Aging by Restoring Youthful Sexual Function

By Eric Braverman, MD

By Eric Braverman, MD

Improving Resolution with Serotonin

Improving Resolution with Serotonin

Resolution is related to serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan in serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system, as well as cells in the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin modulates anger, aggression, body temperature, mood (thus its depression-busting effects), sleep, and sexuality.23 Low serotonin levels can result in a lack of joy and decreased feelings of intimacy.

Serotonin may also play a role in the timing of sexual release. Premature ejaculation affects 20-30% of men.24 Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which delay serotonin’s reuptake into nerve cells, may increase ejaculatory control and delay ejaculation in men with premature ejaculation.25 SSRIs have been associated with sexual dysfunction such as low libido, erectile dysfunction, and anorgasmia.26 Short-acting SSRIs are under development and might help address premature ejaculation while avoiding the unwanted sexual side effects of this class of medications.27

In common with GABA, serotonin taken orally does not pass directly into the central nervous system because it does not cross the blood-brain barrier. However, tryptophan and its metabolite 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), from which serotonin is synthesized, can and do cross the blood-brain barrier. These agents are available as dietary supplements and may help promote sexual satisfaction.

Numerous vitamins, minerals, natural treatments, and hormones can support sexual resolution in individuals who experience symptoms of low serotonin levels:

The Serotonin Brain Code18
Supplements
Hormones (Endogenous and Replacement with Bioidenticals)
  • Tryptophan
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan
  • Vitamin B6
  • Fish oils
  • Magnesium
The Serotonin Brain Code
  • Progesterone
  • Human growth hormone
  • Pregnenolone
  • Melatonin

Achieving Hormonal Balance

When low levels or imbalances of hormones occur, the ability to engage in healthy sex is challenging. Sex can be unsatisfying, difficult, or even impossible. Correcting these imbalances achieves rejuvenation of the body and the brain. There is no better way to make yourself feel 15 years younger than to enjoy frequent, long-lasting sex. This will also have a welcome spin-off effect, not just in heightened sexual desire and performance, but in improvements of all health-related aspects of your life, since sexuality is a marker of overall health. Sexual activity ideally should never fall to less than once weekly if we want to stay young.

Cholesterol is a precursor of all sex hormones. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, pregnenolone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) all come from cholesterol. All of these hormones in tandem play some role in sexuality. As we age, our bodies’ cholesterol levels naturally rise, but the ovaries, testicles, and adrenal glands cannot convert cholesterol into hormones. The result is reduced sexual motivation, and the typical self-image of feeling “less sexy.” In men, erectile dysfunction is a frequent result, while women tend to lose interest in sex.

The Younger You Rainbow Diet

Regardless of gender, healthy sexuality depends largely on a healthy diet. The Rainbow Diet—consuming foods that reflect the colors of the rainbow—guarantees high doses of vitamin-rich foods, including fresh spices, herbs, teas, fruits, and vegetables.18

Men should look for foods that are high in zinc to support reproductive health and aid hair growth. Good sources are barley, beans, nuts, seafood (also provides essential fatty acids), and soy.43 Vitamin C-rich foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, blackcurrants, citrus fruits, sweet peppers, and pineapples44 can improve stamina and circulation. For women, Rainbow Diet eating habits improve sexual desire and performance and help combat side effects of menopause such as obesity. Soy and fish consumption are key components of the Rainbow Diet, providing protein and other beneficial compounds.18

A decline in the level of any hormone is neither irreparable nor permanent. Anyone can turn back the clock on their sex life. A variety of blood tests can help determine which specific hormones are low and need to be corrected and can guide dosing strategies to restore biochemical balance and rejuvenate one’s sex life. Maintaining blood levels within youthful ranges can provide great benefit with little or no risk. But remember—hormone replacement with bioidentical hormones, not synthetic hormones, is optimal for health.

Bioidentical Hormones—Natural and Effective
  • Aldosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Calcitonin
  • Cholecystokinin
  • DHEA
  • Erythropoietin
  • Estriol
  • Estrone
  • Human growth hormone
  • Hydroxycortisol
  • Incretin
  • Insulin
  • Insulin-like growth factor
  • Melatonin
  • Oxytocin
  • Parathyroid hormone
  • Pregnenolone
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • Thyroid: T3, T4


Non-Bioidentical Hormones—Unnatural and Intrusive
  • Birth control pills
  • Conjugated estrogens
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
  • Medroxyprogesterone
  • Methyltestosterone

In recent years, forward-thinking practitioners have turned their attention toward natural bioidentical compounds, as opposed to synthetic compounds. The molecular structures of bioidentical hormones are identical to hormones produced by the human body. Moreover, bioidentical therapies are generally free from side effects, unlike their synthetic counterparts. In fact, bioidentical hormones tend to be so safe that many are sold as over-the-counter supplements. Here is a list of some of the most important hormones affecting sexuality.

  • Estrogen helps maintain youthful brain function. Increasing estrogen levels in women helps beat the aging effects of menopause and memory loss as well as improving vaginal lubrication, supporting bone density, and even enhancing healthy skin, hair, and nails. Natural, bioidentical estrogen is also under investigation for possible cardioprotective benefits.28-30 Estrogen compounds include estradiol, estrone, and estriol.

  • Progesterone (topical formula available without a prescription) boosts mood and has calming effects. Increasing levels of this single hormone will help lower blood pressure, improve mood and sleep patterns, and help restore libido. Progesterone therapy may also help prevent breast and endometrial cancers.30

  • Pregnenolone (available as a dietary supplement), a steroid hormone, is also synthesized from cholesterol. It helps regulate GABA and serotonin levels in the brain, helping restore the feelings of pleasure derived from sex.18

  • Testosterone elevates brain function, physical stamina, and libido. Studies also show that restoring testosterone balance in men can improve memory and concentration.31 Topical testosterone has been shown to be helpful in some men with erectile dysfunction.32 Testosterone is not just for men, however. Testosterone therapy is also an important component to a balanced approach to hormone replacement therapy in women, and it may help women combat numerous menopause symptoms.33 Some women will also see improvements in sexual satisfaction and orgasm as well as increased muscle mass with testosterone therapy.34,35 Note that testosterone therapy in women should be approached with caution, and should not be used in women experiencing baldness or excessive facial hair.36 A variety of natural testosterone formulations are available in pill, cream, patch, or gel form. Topical creams provide the easiest and most effective delivery systems. Extracts of the herb Tribulus terrestris have also been used to manage the symptoms of low testosterone levels.37

  • DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone (available as a dietary supplement), is produced in the adrenal glands, gonads, brain, and skin. In humans, DHEA is the dominant steroid hormone and precursor of all steroid sex hormones. Its role in sexual physiology (for both men and women) is that of a mood modulator.38 As we age, DHEA levels start to decline, so that by 70-80 years of age, peak DHEA concentrations are only 10-20% of those in young adults.39 Re-establishing DHEA balance to original youthful levels can enhance sexual desire, receptivity and performance, and restore the pleasure derived from sex.40,41

  • Melatonin (available as a dietary supplement) not only helps modulate sleep-wake cycles—it may improve sexual performance, as well as enhancing serenity and relaxation after sex.42

Conclusion

Healthy sexual function is crucial to overall well-being and longevity. It is possible to maintain youthful sexuality well into your golden years by using targeted nutritional approaches to balance neurotransmitter profiles, along with optimal hormone balance and the healthy Younger You Rainbow Diet.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Health Advisor at 1-800-226-2370.

Eric Braverman, MD is director of the Place for Achieving Total Health (PATH Medical) and clinical associate professor of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

For more information, please visit his website at www.pathmed.com or call 888-304-PATH.

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