Updated August 03, 2012
Many women suffer from low libido at some time in their lives. The causes of low libido
can range from physical health to environment to relationship issues. Dr. Laurie Steelsmith is a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist who specializes in helping women improve their sex lives. She’s a leading spokesperson on natural medicine and co-authored with her husband Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman's Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine
Dr. Steelsmith spoke with us about some of the causes and low libido in lesbians and what they can do to increase their libidos and have a great and healthy sex life.
Lesbian Life: Dr. Steelsmith, you say studies show one in three women report low libido. For lesbians, if both women have a low libido, the problem might seem insurmountable. Do you have anything specific for female-female couples who have low libido problems in their relationship?
Dr. Laurie Steelsmith:
First of all, the problems
for lesbians are hopefully not more insurmountable than they are for female-male couples, because studies also show that surprisingly high numbers of men in some age groups report low libido too. So there is perhaps more reason than you might think to be optimistic about finding a solution.
One of the most important things in any relationship to boost libido is to share intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Create time for your relationship to grow, and do things that you both enjoy together.
The numerous tips in Great Sex, Naturally for physically enhancing a woman’s libido can all be effective as well. These include enhancing your mental and spiritual well being, eating the “Great Sex Diet,” doing the “Great Sex Detox,” and making a point of getting meaningful movement each and every day. And that’s just the beginning; the book outlines countless other ways for women to get in touch with their bodies, heal from pelvic health issues, and balance their hormones so that they can be their most creative, vital selves.
Herbal aphrodisiacs from all over the world can also help to enhance libido so that both partners can share more physical intimacy. These herbs have stood the test of time, some have been handed down for generations, and many work by enhancing the health of the whole body. Some are adrenal tonics that also increase circulation through nitric oxide production, which enhances sexual health.
Lesbian couples are in a good position to enhance their libido through all of the tips and tools mentioned in the book because they can do many—perhaps all—of these things together, incorporating them into their shared lifestyle, and enjoying all of their benefits together as partners.
How does someone know whether a lack of libido is a physical problem or a relationship problem?
That’s a great question. There are times when it can be difficult to tell which comes first, a physical issue or an emotional one. Typically, it’s a physical problem when chronic health issues continually get in the way of having great sex
. It’s generally a relationship problem when there’s poor communication, and the relationship needs some emotional nurturing.
In your book Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman's Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine, you talk about different household chemicals that can impact one’s libido. What are they and what can we do about it?
Many household and environmental chemicals can interfere with liver function, which in turn can interfere with balanced hormone function. For instance, bisphenol A, a compound found in plastics, can be a hormone disrupter that promotes the formation of the “unfriendly” estrogens that can lead to hormone imbalances—which can be a real libido buster. There are numerous other chemicals in our kitchens and makeup cabinets, as well as cleaning supplies, that can similarly contribute to a lack of wellness through increasing liver stress and preventing good detoxification. Doing the “Great Sex Detox” (outlined in the book) is a great way to clean out these toxins from both your environment and your body, and create better hormonal harmony.
In your research, have you found that lesbians have any difference with their libido than straight women? I’m sure you’ve heard of “Lesbian Bed Death.”
I think the same patterns generally exist in both women-women relationships and women-men relationships. We are all human beings, and we can all experience libido lows because of life stressors, lack of sleep, poor health, and poor communication in the relationship. Probably one of the best ways to overcome low libido is cuddling, because it can be effective for reigniting passion, and the sweetness of the love that partners have for each other.
You talk about adding certain foods to your diet to enhance your libido. How do flaxseeds; hemp seeds; chia seeds; pumpkin seeds; coconut oil; pomegranates; blueberry juice; acai juice; mangosteen juice; cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli sprouts; green tea; and shiitake mushrooms help enhance the libido?
All of the super-libido foods listed in the book can enhance sexual energy by boosting overall health and vitality in a variety of ways. They are each included in the book because they’re chock full of vitamins, minerals, or other essential ingredients that can help cells work optimally. (A central theme of the book is that if you have great health, you can have great sex.) In addition, many of the foods listed have particular attributes that pertain specifically to sexual health.
You also point out foods that can have a negative impact on one’s libido like alcohol, fatty foods and caffeine. Fats, I can understand, but wouldn’t alcohol enhance the libido by reducing inhibitions?
Initially, yes, alcohol will reduce inhibitions. But ultimately it will dull your senses, and cause your liver to work overtime—resulting in fatigue, easy weight gain, edema (swelling), loose stools, gas, and other libido-limiting symptoms.
You also talk about doing fun things with your partner to enhance the trust in the relationship. What kinds of non-sexual things can a couple to increase their sexual relationship?
First, create time to be with each other and no one else. Consider once a week creating a “date night
” in which one of you plans the whole evening and surprises the other on the evening of the date. I’ve seen this effectively enhance relationship bonding, friendship, and joy. Explore doing something new that you both can share. If partners have gone separate ways in their interests, finding something that they enjoy together, and trying something new (whether that’s a sport, an activity, or even reading a book to each other out loud) can make a huge difference. The most important thing is for partners to share their lives with each other.