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The Neurological Roots of Sexual Pleasure

June 03, 2008 | 110,974 views

sex, sexual pleasure, romance, relationship, libido, orgasm, erection, viagra, levitra, cialis, potency drugs, potency, sex life, sugarSexual desire, as well as orgasm, are controlled by various influences on the brain and nervous system. Researchers have revealed many similarities between men and women; contrary to popular belief, for example, visual stimuli spur sexual stirrings in both.

Brain imaging studies show that achieving orgasm involves far more than merely heightened arousal. It requires a release of inhibitions, culminating in a shutdown of the brain’s center of vigilance in both sexes, and a widespread neural power failure in women.

The fascinating Scientific American article linked below explores the body of research on this compelling and universal subject.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Sexual desire and orgasm are far from simple issues that can be resolved by taking hormones or popping a pill that will turn your world into varying shades of blue. There are a host of influences on your brain and nervous system that control your sex glands and genitals, and some of those influences are your very thoughts themselves. 

Anxiety, defensiveness, fear, and failure of communication are destructive psychological forces that can take a heavy toll on your libido, whether you’re a man or a woman, by acting as road blocks to desire. According to Professor Gert Holstege with the University of Groningen in the Nederlands, “Fear and anxiety need to be avoided at all costs if a woman wishes to have an orgasm.” 

It All Starts in Your Brain

Every erection begins in your brain. Your brain stem emits nerve impulses that control erectile function. These nerve impulses navigate through the erection center of your spinal column to the erectile tissue of your penis, where they trigger a chain reaction in the membranes of your vascular muscle cells. This sophisticated chain reaction is dependent on a messenger molecule called cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or cGMP.

However, this works in reverse as well; an erection softens as soon as another enzyme called phosphodiesterase starts to degrade the cGMP molecules.

Drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis, work by inhibiting phosphodiesterase, which may help maintain your erection. But, these pills will not create an erection in and of themselves. Your initial erection still has to be triggered psychologically. Without that initial impetus, potency pills will have no effect whatsoever.

This is also why these pills are ineffective for many men who take them hoping for a magic jack-in-the-box effect.

Bigger, Better, Longer, Stronger – The Myths That Make Reality Shrivel

The pressures of “performance and potency” itself is a large contributor to impotence, and this theme is pushed continually in advertising, whether related to sexual potency drugs or the latest razor.

Studies by sexual psychologist and popular author Bernie Zilbergeld have shown that most men with potency problems believe in these advertised myths. Zilbergeld also pointed out that many of these men engage in what he called “spectatoring,” in which the man gets stuck in observing and assessing the sexual situation as if he’s an outsider, rating the woman’s expectations and what he can deliver.

And then there’s stress. But it’s not necessarily the type of stress typically portrayed by the media. Turns out the problem is rarely the work stress itself, but rather it’s a transference of work performance standards to your sex life. Approaching your sex life with that same attitude; feeling pressured to perform to certain standards, can turn the act of love into another grueling task that must be completed, and completed well.

Scientific Research is Not Altruistic

As this article points out, all this research into the mechanics of your love life is not done for some altruistic purpose. Scientists don’t necessarily care about figuring this out in order to help you understand yourself better and improve your life.

This research is done to create medications that act on your nervous system to stimulate desire, which, I believe is a travesty to love itself.

Instead of dealing with your emotional and psychological issues that are blocking you from connecting with and feeling desire for your partner, you may soon be able to take a pill that removes the very act of needing to feel anything.

One such experimental compound already under development is a peptide called bremelanotide. It works by blocking receptors in your brain that are involved in regulating basic drives such as eating and sex. In human studies bremelanotide has triggered spontaneous erections in men, and boosted sexual arousal and desire in women.

Side effects? Rising blood pressure, for starters.

As convenient as these drugs may appear, impotence drugs contribute to infertility, heart problems and can even blind you. And taking synthetic hormones in hopes of putting the spring back into your step causes all sorts of terrible health problems too.

Getting Your Sex Life Back on Track the Natural Way

Did you know that boosting your sex drive may be as easy as cutting out sugar?

According to a study published last year in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, high levels of sugar in your bloodstream can turn off the gene that controls your sex hormones.

Simple sugars (glucose and fructose), are metabolized in your liver, with the excess stored as fat lipids. Excess fat synthesis in turn deactivates your SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) gene, causing your levels of SHBG protein to drop dramatically, and it is this SHBG protein that controls your testosterone and estrogen levels. 

As you can see, there’s no end to the negative health ramifications of eating too much sugar!

Other ways to help get your sex life back on track (and improve your health as a happy side effect!) include these natural alternatives to treating sexual dysfunction:

  • The neurotransmitter that triggers the sexual message, in both men and women, is acetylcholine (ACH). With too little ACH, sexual activity goes down. One way to safely and effectively enhance ACH levels in your body is to take choline supplements (1,000-3,000 mg) and vitamin B5 (500-1,500 mg).

  • Studies have shown active men who engage in regular physical activity lowered their risk of experiencing sexual dysfunction. So start an exercise program guys! Remember, when using exercise as a drug, it’s important to set a goal of 60 to 90 minutes per day, every day. Obviously, depending on your current condition, you may need to work slowly up to this level.

  • Optimize your diet based on your body's unique nutritional type. We each have a unique nutritional type with varying demands for the ratios of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to function optimally. This is why you may respond well to a low-carb diet while your friend on the same exact diet might not.

  • Because sexual dysfunction can worsen due to stress and anxiety, take control of your emotions by learning the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is a psychological acupressure technique that can help you effectively address your stress-related thoughts and leave you feeling calmer and more able to face your challenges, whatever they may be.


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