We know that a healthy microbiome is vital for wellbeing. Most people tend to think that the microbiome mostly affects digestion. While your body’s natural microbial environment does play a role in proper digestion, it actually does so much more. The microbiome is essential for immune system development and function, cognitive (brain) health, metabolism, mental health, and even reproductive health. It may come as a surprise that the multitude of microbes in your gut actually help with hormone regulation. This in turn, means that there is an intricate relationship between the microbiome and sex, and a healthy gut environment can actually lead to a healthier sex life, including improved libido and better orgasms.
What is the Microbiome?
Your microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microscopic organisms. These microbes reside primarily in your intestines and constantly exchange chemical signals with the body’s cells. They also produce certain enzymes and aid in the synthesis and absorption of important nutrients, vitamins, and fiber. Proper function relies on a delicate balance of specific types of bacteria that the body needs. When this balance becomes disrupted, an increase in pathogenic bacteria can develop. This is called dysbiosis and can lead to various health issues.
Microbes, Sex Hormone Regulation, & Libido
In the body, hormones exist in both “bound” and “unbound” forms. Bound hormones are attached to something else that transports them through the bloodstream, such as sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Bound hormones are inactive until they are released. Once unbound, they become biologically active, or bioavailable. Here’s where microbes come in.
We know that estrogen is the major player in female libido, while testosterone drives male libido. Getting the right amount of these hormones into their bioavailable forms is key for proper hormone balance. Microbes secrete an enzyme called β-glucuronidase, which metabolizes estrogen into its active form (Baker). Similarly, studies show that increased microbiome diversity is related to increased free testosterone in men (Liu, et al).
So we see a direct relationship between microbial diversity and levels of primary sex hormones that control sex drive. It doesn’t stop there, however.
Microbes & Feel Good Hormones
The microbiome also affects the levels of other hormones that control sexual appetite and pleasure. In fact, many of the hormones produced by the microbiota also serve as neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. “For example, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the most important inhibitory transmitter in the brain is produced by several lactobacilli, whereas monoamines such as noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin are also produced by certain strains of bacteria” (Clarke, et al). Among other things, these hormones control arousal, pleasure, desire, and motivation in the brain.
Microbes & Orgasm
Ah, the orgasm: the culmination of the attraction, the anticipation, and the efforts of sex. It’s no wonder that a myriad of drugs and other interventions seek to improve sex for better orgasm. We all want that moment of divine release and the subsequent surge of hormones that allow us to feel a temporary surge of euphoria. And as if that alone is not enough, the proven benefits of orgasm go way beyond simple pleasure. (Learn about those in this post.)
Think of your endocrine system as a finely tuned orchestra. Every part of the system is an instrument and your hormones are the notes. Music is how you feel when every part of the orchestra is doing its job and working in sync with the others. However, when one part of the symphony falls short, it disrupts the entire system and the results are less than musical.
Hormones drive sexual pleasure and orgasm. And proper hormone balance depends on a healthy microbiome. This means that a healthy and diverse microbiome = a healthy endocrine system = better sex (Shin, et al).
Does your microbiome need a tune-up? Join me to learn how to engineer your microbiome to boost hormones and prevent and reverse physical and mental illness! The free Engineering Your Microbiome summit takes place September 26-October 22, 2022!
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