We’re older and bolder. Our confidence soars. We know what we like in bed and, if we’re in long-term relationships, our partners likely know, too. But fluctuating hormones can be a bedroom buzzkill. As perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms occur, our bodies change, and that means dips in estrogen levels.
Having higher levels of estrogen in the body promotes vaginal lubrication and increases sexual desire. Ob-gyn Hilda Hutcherson, an associate dean at Columbia University’s medical school and author of What Your Mother Never Told You About S-e-x, explains that when estrogen levels begin to wane, vaginal tissue tends to get thinner, drier and less elastic. Of course, when you’re not moist and stretchy, sex is less pleasant so you’re less likely to want it. Estrogen is also known as “the beauty hormone” for its role in promoting supple skin and healthy, thick hair, qualities that make many of us feel desirable. Testosterone, in both men and women, plays a function in mood stability and sexual performance, earning it the nickname “the mojo hormone.”
If you think your hormone levels are changing — or have health concerns, such as painful sex — talk to your health care provider. He or she can do a medical evaluation and, depending on the findings, may recommend treatment like medication or therapy. Also know there are many lifestyle adjustments you can make, like cutting down on alcohol and stocking up on lube, that can support sexual pleasure after 40. (Tip: To avoid irritation, consider skipping lubricants with warming ingredients and ingredients like glycerin or flavors.)
Plus, being careful about what you eat can support hormone balance and healthy aging. In both men and women, these chemical messengers play a role in cognition, memory, sex drive, mood, bone health, sleep quality, skin tone, weight and more, says Tasneem Bhatia, an integrative medicine physician and the author of the Super Woman Rx.
Research by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University also indicates that eating plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens may help women raise their estrogen levels. So grab your phone and open the notes app. Food shopping — and your sexy escapades — might get a little more fun.
Foods that may boost estrogen:
- Dark rye bread
- Fruit: apricots, oranges, strawberries and peaches
- Legumes: lentils, peas and pinto beans
- Olives and olive oil
- Seeds: flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds
- Soy products: tofu, miso soup and soy yogurt
- Vegetables: yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, kale and celery
Did you know that some of us experience an increase in libido during perimenopause because of a shift in the relative balance of testosterone and estrogen? For those whose reduced libido might be due to a decline in testosterone, here are some foods that may boost testosterone because they’re high in certain vitamins or minerals associated with increasing testosterone (like vitamin D or zinc).
Foods that may boost testosterone:
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Egg yolks
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kidney beans
- Shellfish like lobster and crab
When you’re done shopping, consider breaking out the blender and whipping up a sexy smoothie or firing up the slow cooker for a souper sexy supper. Then keep these satisfying superfoods in rotation as you plan your meals. You’re welcome.