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No Sex Please, we are knackered

All work and no play makes dull partners of all of us. Are you suffering from a loss of libido because you are working too hard

Judy Byrne

The senior manager leaves the office at the end of a tough day, looking the picture of total control.

The smart suit, expensive briefcase and crisp step say one thing: “I’m in control, and I know where I’m going”.

Fast forward a few hours to the armchair in front of the telly. Exhaustion fights it out with guilt that yet again it is going to be not tonight Josephine.

For a sad fact of Nineties life, is that too many of us are just too tired for love at the end of a working day.

Disorders of desire, are now the commonest sexual complaint taking people to their doctors.

“It has become one of the major epidemics of our age” says Norfolk, whose book Sex Drive the compete programme for revitalising your sex life has just been published.

“It is a leading cause of sickness, depression and marriage breakdown”.

 

A survey found that one senior manager in three in the United Kingdom admitted getting home in the evenings too tired to make love.
And when Doctor Stephen Levine asked on radio for volunteers with low sex drives to test a new drug that night have aphrodisiac qualities, the switch board at the University Hospital of Cleveland was jammed for the rest of the day.

Weekslater, there were still calls coming in from people begging for the chance to be included in the trial.

Norfolk, an osteopath as well as a health researcher, writer and broadcaster, adds: “Relate-formerly the Marriage Guidance Council-tells me that more than half the women who ask for help from their sex counsellors now do so because of their lack of sexual desire.
The bad news, says Norfolk, is that the average family doctor is better equipped to talk about exotic diseases than erotic disfunctions. One survey found medical students actually knew less about sex on average than students doing other courses.

But if lack of sex drive often goes untreated, it is not, he says, because it is untreatable.

Self help in the form of fitness, herbal remedies and a balanced diet can work wonders, as can a more active imagination when it comes to love.

Norfolk says: “Variety is the spice of married life and boredom is the kiss of death to do it. If you dream of a candlelit dinner for two, or strolling hand in hand along a moonlit beach, what’s stopping you?”.

Sexual desire can wane due to exhaustion, says Norfolk. If we are took tired to feel like walking round the block we are certainly going to feel too tired for making love.

But the mind, too, plays a role. There is a neural centre in the limbic system of the brain responsible for sexual arousal. It responds to a wide range of stimuli from thoughts to sensation that can be seen, heared, felt or smelled.

The limbic system can respond to a provocative glance, a daydream, light stroing of skin, a whiff of perfume or a few lines of erotic poetry.

And it’s not just an on-off switch. It has a volume control that can be turned on to different levels, from a vague feeling of general restlenessness to highly sexually aroused.

The limbic system is sensitive to the hormone testosterone, a chemical messenger often mistakenly described as the male sex hormones. Actually both women and men produce it. Men just make more of it than women do.

 

Men produce it in the testes and women in the overies and both sexes manufacture more in the outer layer of the adrenal gland. Women have most around the middle of the menstrual cycle and it’s no coincidence that their sexual desire tends to peak about the same time.

One of the pathways by which watching sexually arousing films or reading books or magazines influences sex drive is by giving testosterone production a boost. But they are not the only ways we can persuade our bodies to produce more. Exercise has a beneficial effects too.

Australian researchers found an increase in both testosterone levels and sexual activity and desire after vigorous sports like rowing, cycling and swimming. And studies at the Los Condores University, in California, found that testosterone levels and sexual activity rose steadily when people jogged between five and 15 miles a week.

There is only one problem.

The Californians also found that testosterone levels and sexual activity went into a decline when joggers carried on beyond that. Most marked was the difference between those who did 15 miles and those who went on for 120 a week. The 15-mile-a-weekers had 16 times the testosterone levels and nine times the level of sexual activity of the marathon performers.

This is now known as the Condores Effect and the jury is still out on hwo it happens. Some experts say overheating of the testicles is guilty, others that the shock that goes up through the feet via the body and into the head every time a foot strikes the ground traumatizes brain cells so they can no longer do their stuff.

It is not only too much exercise that can turn off a would-be lover. Alcohol, tranquillisers, sedatives or antidepressants can take away desire and ability to perform.

 

Long-term heavy drinking switches off testosterone production, and hence desire, but it also increases the secretion of the female hormone oestrogen. This, in turn, may lead to loss of body hair and to fat settling on buttocks and breasts. The overall effects is to make men look more feminine.

Norfolk believes that beef and poultry contaminated by oestrogen and other banned steroid drugs in feed are also contributing to decreased libidos, despite the attempts of Governments to minimize their use.

Smoking, too, lowers sex drive. French studies have found that heavy smokers have much lower sexual activity than occasional smokers. And american stop-smoking clinics report that many people attending them have reported how much better their sex lives became after quitting than it was before.

 

Says Dr. Alton Ochsner, one of the pioneers of such clinics: “The ironic thing is that many men don’t recognise they have had a libido problems until they stop smoking. Then they realise what they’ve been missing”.

Tension and stress can damage the libido but, says Norfolk, we can increase our sex drive by giving ourselves positive suggestions.

One exercise he advocates is to repeat over and over just before failing asleep: “Every day from now on I am going to find my sexual energy increasing and my lust for life growing”.

He also advises us to take time when it comes to love-making. Western males rarely devote adequate time to the process of sexual arousal and as a result are seldom adept lovers. The French have a saying which translates there are no frigid women, only clumsy husbands.

Last word from the experts: If your sex drive goes into overdrive and your problem is how to gear down, don’t depend on that old chestnut-taking cold baths.

Researchers at the Thrombosis Research Institute in London who asked a hundred volunteers to go on a daily cold bath regime in the interest of science were astonished to discover an increase in sex hormone output as well as a rise in the cells the immune system produces to help us fight infection.

This delighted the Institute director, Professor Vijay Kakkar, a dedicated cold bath man himself.

He does advise you to gradually acclimatise yourself, and to seek medical advise if you have a heart condition or anything else serious that might affect your endurance.

Professor Kakkar warns: People must realise cold water is not a cure for everything. However, it is a way to make our bodies perform better”.

 

Natural Aphrodisiacs.

Ylang-Ylang is an aphrodisiac aromatic oil, extracted from the yellow flowers of a tall tree which grows in Far Eastern rainforests. Its exotic perfume is reputed to stimulate desire. Try a little in a long, warm bath with or without other aromatherapy oils said to have aphrodisiac qualities – clary, jasmine and rose.

Tests at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London found that when older women took ginseng, it increased the size of their breasts and stepped up their sexual responsiveness.

The herb damiana was first uded by the Aztees of Mexico more than 500 years ago and is still thought to increase sex drive. Its botanical name is Turnera aphrodisiaca.