Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about T and 3.
Written in partnership with Paloma Health
Your sex drive says a lot about your overall health, and a libido in crisis could be cause for concern. Sex is designed to be a pleasurable part of life, and a loss of sexual desire can be discouraging to partners in a relationship. Understanding the problem and finding a solution may help bring some oomph back into the bedroom (or wherever you get your kicks).
While it may feel weird to bring it up with your doctor, a waning libido can indicate some serious health problems. These issues might include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or a thyroid condition. Ahead, we look specifically at hypothyroidism as a root cause of low sex drive.
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid hormone production drops. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland makes and stores hormones that help regulate the body’s energy use, along with many other essential functions.
When your thyroid hormone production drops, your body processes slow down and change. Hypothyroidism affects virtually every system in your body, causing a whole host of symptoms that affect the way we work, play, and love.
How thyroid hormones affect sex hormones
Thyroid hormones can directly affect the ovaries and testicles, which produce our primary sex hormones – estrogen in the ovaries, and testosterone in the testes. Biologically, these sex hormones regulate our libidos.
Many of our hormones are part of a regulatory feedback loop that gets disrupted when thyroid hormone production drops. Thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3) increases the sensitivity of the luteinizing hormone (LH), which controls the production of sex hormones by the ovaries. So, when thyroid hormone production drops, LH may also remain low, resulting in lower desire.
Thyroid symptoms can be a mood killer
Thyroid hormones may also indirectly impact your libido. Hypothyroidism can cause sexually disruptive symptoms like vaginal dryness, depression, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, or weight gain. These symptoms may lead to low desire, difficulty with arousal or orgasm, pain before, during, or after sex, or simply just not feeling in the mood.
Other common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Dry, flaky, or scaly skin
- Hair loss or thinning
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Muscle aches, tenderness, or stiffness
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Slow heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Stress can wreak havoc on your sex life, too. Research suggests that elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is present in hypothyroidism, is associated with high cortisol. Produced in the adrenal glands, cortisol regulates the body’s stress response. High levels of cortisol can decrease your desire for sex.
Treat hypothyroidism to increase your libido
If you’re worried about your low libido, talk with your doctor about taking a blood test to understand how your thyroid is functioning. Many labs only look at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). Still, it’s critical to also measure free triiodothyronine (fT3), free thyroxine (fT4), and TPO antibodies. These four markers help you understand the big picture of what’s happening with your thyroid function, and where specifically to make improvements.
Should your results show that your thyroid is underactive, it is easily treatable in almost everyone. Optimizing your thyroid levels with thyroid hormone replacement medication is usually the first step in minimizing symptoms like menstrual changes. When choosing thyroid medication with your doctor, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.
Beyond taking thyroid hormones, you can support your thyroid with nutrition and self-care — no need to overcomplicate things here. Ask yourself, Am I eating well? Getting enough sleep? Doing something to relieve stress? Connecting with my partner(s) in a meaningful way?
Like Stella, you too can get your groove back. Work with a trustworthy doctor who can assess your symptoms, history, and lab results to determine the best treatment plan for you.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Not satisfied with your sexual desire?
Join Kati Scalisi, sex educator and coach, in our online class Maximize Your Desire. Learn all about how to overcome mismatched desire in your relationship and have the sex life you crave.
Maximize Your Desire
Does it feel like you and your partner never want sex at the same time, or perhaps, even at all? Mismatched desire in a relationship isn’t easy, but it is manageable. It’s time to spice things up and have the fulfilling sex life you crave.