Jun 17 2013
Nourishing Intimacy, Part 1
By Thais Harris, HoneyColony Original
This is the first installment of a two-part series by certified nutrition consultant Thais Harris. Along with her therapist husband, Peter Sholley, Harris runs Nourish Together, a unique couple’s counseling service based in San Francisco that combines hands-on nutrition education with hands-on emotional healing, so clients can get their hands back on each other. HoneyColony will be profiling Nourish Together soon. Stay tuned!
in· ti· ma· cy [IN-tuh-muh-see]
1: a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person (or group) – and I dare add “to oneself;”
2: an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity and affection
nour· ish [NUR-ish, NUHR-ish]
1. to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth;
2. to cherish, foster, keep alive;
3. to strengthen, build up, or promote
Have you ever planned an evening with your partner that would go something like this: dress up, go to a great restaurant, eat fancy food, drink good wine, and then go back to his/her/our house for fantastic lovemaking and happiness?
But after eating that fancy dinner, you felt too full or ended up talking about house repairs or your frustrations, and then lost the mood and had to cancel the juiciest portion of the plan? Well, you’re not alone.
We’ve all heard of aphrodisiac foods, but we don’t often hear about how to enhance sexual function through foods in our everyday lives. We also tend to initiate romance outside of ourselves (e.g. the clothes, the restaurant, and so on) yet we don’t always light that fire from within.
The key is to start with the dynamic in our own relationships.
This two-part series sheds some light on the subject and offers some insight into how you and your partner can gain vitality through nutrition and deepen intimacy naturally.
Let’s first take a look at nutrition.
Did you know that your digestion is very closely connected to your sex drive? Serotonin, the hormone responsible for mood, is not only made in your brain but mostly in your guts. If your body is overwhelmed with the process of digesting foods or if your liver is having difficulty detoxing (regularly due to too much caffeine, eating foods your are unsuspectingly sensitive to, and/or too much stress), then your libido gets sluggish and sex becomes less of a priority to your body.
There are many ways to address this. First, look at your daily food and beverage intake and start noticing what foods leave you energized and what foods make you sleepy and tired. I’m willing to bet that the ones with processed carbs such as breads, pastas, and refined grains will almost always make you sleepy. Meanwhile eating high amounts of sugar will spike your blood sugar and energize you at first, only to send you crashing down a few minutes later.
Everyone is different (it’s called “bio-individuality”), so be on the lookout for foods that don’t work well with your body. And vice-versa! Keeping a running list is handy, and you should also consider consuming the suggested great-for-sex foods below. These foods are not only historically considered aphrodisiacs but are backed by modern-day science for sexual vitality and overall health. Just make sure to allow at least one hour for digestion.
Arugula contains trace minerals and antioxidants that block absorption of environmental contaminants thought to negatively impact your libido.
Almonds are nutrient-dense and rich in trace minerals that are important for sexual health and reproduction, such as zinc, selenium, and vitamin E.
Avocados are rich in heart-healthy fats, and anything that keeps your heart beating strong helps keep blood flowing to the right places.
Known by the Mayans as the “beverage of the gods,” cacao is a phenomenal mood-booster, and the natural high that results from consuming it in its pure form does wonders in the boudoir. Just be sure to consume it without sugar, GMOs, milk, or other additives. Preferably go for raw organic chocolate.
Any citrus fruit is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and folic acid, all of which are essential for men’s reproductive health.
Figs contain fiber, which is important for heart health.
Strawberries are an excellent source of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps ward off birth defects and may also be tied to higher sperm counts.
Oysters are one of the best sources of zinc, an essential mineral needed for the production of testosterone, so it’s no wonder these succulent mother shuckers have long had sexual symbolism.
And oily fish like wild salmon and herring contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, which boost dopamine (firing up the brain’s pleasure center), charge up the metabolism, ease inflammation, and have even shown to slow the development of prostate cancer.
“Omega-3s simply makes the nervous system function better,” says Dr. Barbara Bartlik, assistant professor of psychiatry and sex therapist with the Human Sexuality Program at Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Putting It Into Action
Depending on the foods, you might even want to add them during play time: Drizzle hot cocoa on your partner’s body to add a little something special during foreplay. HoneyColony has the perfect raw cacao maca sauce that puts Nutella to shame. That way you skip the dessert at the restaurant and save time for the bedroom.
Food can also address more frustrating sexual dysfunctions. According to well-known alternative physician Dr. Joseph Mercola, if you are experiencing sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction or lack of libido in general, it is very likely your symptoms will improve or disappear altogether if you implement the following:
- Follow a proper diet and severely limit your sugar intake, which will normalize your insulin
- Optimize your vitamin D level
- Engage in physical activity (at least a half-hour) on a regular basis
- Get plenty of restorative sleep
- Avoid medications, many of which can cause or exacerbate impotence
- Avoid smoking and excessive drinking
- Address your stress level; super easy to do using the Emotional Freedom Technique
There are also herbs that positively affect hormonal levels (and therefore libido).
Choline and vitamin B5 are vital to building and repairing the body’s cell membranes. Combining choline (1,000 to 3,000 milligrams) and vitamin B5 (500 to 1,500 milligrams), can help you build acetylcholine, which is one of the neurotransmitters in your brain responsible for transmitting sexual messages. If you chose to use choline, look for sources from sunflower lecithin rather than soy lecithin, or make sure you are using non-GMO soy lecithin.
L-arginine, an amino acid vital to protein production, can be especially helpful if your sexual issues are linked to cardiovascular disease.
Panax ginseng is regularly used to boost energy levels and has been employed in the libido handbag for centuries.
Maca root (Lepidium meyenii), a Peruvian root great for the female hormonal system, balances endocrine hormones and enhances the immune system. Legend has it that the Incans took maca before a fierce battle, so just imagine what it can do in the bedroom!
Pine pollen tincture helps the body better assimilate available testosterone.
Yohimbine, an alkaloid from the Yohimbe plant, is a known monoamine oxidase inhibitor and stimulant.
As previously mentioned, sugar and refined carbs are the biggest downers when it comes to sexual function and overall health. Below are other ingredients you might want to consider avoiding (for periods of time, at least, so you can figure out if they are robbing your energy), according to natural medical practitioner Dr. Daniel Kalish:
Gluten intolerance is a very common undiagnosed problem that can be a serious health complaint causing a variety of symptoms. Avoid gluten for two months and you will likely notice what happens. Alternative options are amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn (organic only, of course, so you are not eating GMO corn), millet, potato (with skin), quinoa, oats, and brown rice.
Approximately half of those sensitive to gluten are also allergic to soy and soy products. Part of this may stem from the ways in which soy has been genetically modified and the frequency with which it is used as a food additive. Avoid all concentrated soy protein products, including tofu, tempeh, soy protein powders, and bars that contain soy protein, for at least two months. Most people tolerate the small amounts of soy proteins found in soy sauce or whole soybeans.
3. Pasteurized Dairy
Food reactions to pasteurized dairy products are the most easily detected. These products are pasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese—but not eggs.
There are two potential problems with dairy products: lactose intolerance, which is an inability to digest the carbohydrate or sugar portion of milk, and milk allergy, which is a reaction to the protein in milk. Pasteurization and homogenization destroys the enzymes in milk that help us digest it, as well as the healthy bacteria in milk that help keep the gut working well, and the beneficial fats in dairy, rendering what could be a very nurturing and healing food into a potentially harmful product.
With raw milk, you should also add raw butter. Raw butter has butyric acid, a short-chain saturated fatty acid that plays a very important role in the maintenance of gut barrier integrity and is a potent anti-inflammatory. Perhaps even more impressive, a 2009 study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that the harmful metabolic effects of a high-fat diet can be prevented, and even reversed, using butyric acid.
So lather up!
This is it for Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 by Peter Sholley, LMFTi on connection and intimacy. Sneak peek: “Love needs closeness, desire needs space to thrive,” says Esther Perel.