Alternatively Speaking: Matters of the heart

In this Tu Be'av special, alternative medicine enthusiast Natalie Marx answers your questions: How can I increase my low sex drive?

Couple 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Couple 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Love may make the world go round, but is it powerful enough to keep us healthy? Most studies on health and love show that loving relationships encourage and reinforce healthy behaviors such as exercise and therefore dissuade unhealthy ones, such as heavy drinking and smoking. Positive romantic relationships can also provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life which again leads us to taking better care of life.Letting people know you love them is an important part of nurturing any kind of loving relationship. Few people tire of being told they are loved...
Q. I am a healthy 43-year-old woman and I am in a wonderful loving relationship. Over the last few months however my libido has been very low and I fear it is beginning to affect the relationship with my husband. Is there anything you can recommend?

A. Intimacy is important for the success of any long-term relationship, especially marriage. Improvement in sexual intimacy will make your relationship better and you will find yourself and your partner to be much happier and much relaxed. However it is important to remember that sexual intimacy does not always have to end up with sexual intercourse. Your focus should be on increasing the closeness that you feel with your partner and not on having sex.There are several wonderful herbs that are very effective at increasing womens' libido. One that my patients have had particular good results with is the traditional chinese herb called Dong Quai. It contains many nutrients including special plant sterols that have a similar chemical structure to the female sex hormone estrogen.By rebalancing the inbalance of this female sex hormone it helps to increase sexual desire.
Take one to three tablespoons of the fresh root or 1 teaspoon liquid extract.Low levels of testosterone is often one of the main reasons responsible for a womens low sex drive. Due to its positive effect on testosterone, the Indian Herb, ashwagandha is considered to be an aphrodisiacal herb. which in turn will also increase your energy levels and your interest in sex.
Ashwaganda is known to help the body adapt to stress and other changes caused by illness and the environment. It helps to clear the mind and enhances the strength of the body as a whole. Due to its ability to relieve stress, it allows the body to react in positive ways to sexual stimulation. Ginkgo biloba another great choice for all round health, but especially believed to increase blood flow to the genitals, which may result in an increase in sexual functions.
Another way to increase sex drive and arousal is massage. Ask your partner to use some essential oils and give you a massage, this will make you more interested and ready for sex. Clary sage oil has a positive influence on the sex hormones. It is particularly effective in relieving anxiety and fear. This oil is one of the best aphrodisiacs that can be used in a massage. Jasmine oil has aphrodisiac qualities too. It is often used for the treatment of depression and helps to lift low levels of confidence. It warms and relaxes the body, increasing blood flow to the female sex organs therefore heightening their sensitivity.You can also buy rose or ylang ylang scented candles to enhance your sexual mood and create a romantic atmosphere.
You may also want to change your diet. Try a bowl of oats for breakfast. Oats contains steroidal saponins and beta sitosterol. Both of these compounds help restore any imbalances in the three main sex hormones; testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Increase your intake of avocado. Avocado is one of the best libido boosters for women. The high levels of folic acid, vitamin B6 and potassium have a positive effect on the thyroid and testosterone levels in the female body.
Besides the above herbs, essential oils and foods, you can also try Kegel exercises at home. Lie on your back, contract your pelvic floor muscles, hold for five seconds, and then release. Doing these exercises several times a day will strengthen the pelvic area and increase the sensations in your sex organs.
Q. I recently suffer from very dry vagina. This is causing me pain when I urinate. I have not changed my diet dramatically in the last few months - can you recommend anything for this since it is very uncomfortable!
 A. Vaginal dryness affects nearly all women at some part of their life. There can be numerous reasons why it might begin. It can be associated with those who have had any treatment with radiation or chemotherapy. It often suggests some kind of hormonal imbalance and fluctuation that often takes place during significant changes in life such as the menopause. An estrogen deficiency is usually the main reason for vaginal dryness and this is why it is most common during menopause. With the right amount of estrogen vaginal walls remain moist, and protected but when this balance is altered the walls dry and thin resulting in dryness. Women of any age however can develop dryness and it tends to be accompanied by burning or itching and lead to painful intercourse and urinary frequent.
Treating the problem can be simple once the symptoms are established and lifestyle changes combined with herb supplements and remedies is the best way to cure vaginal dryness.
Flaxseed contain phytoestrogens, which can help relieve vaginal dryness and irritation. You can buy flaxseeds from any good health food store. I recommend taking one tablespoon daily (you can mix the seeds into soup or yogourt).  Soy is also high in phytoestrogens. Try incorporating more soy-based foods into your diet, such as soymilk and tofu. Sepia is a fantastic homeopathic remedy particuarly indicated for women. I recommended Sepia for women who are suffering from vaginal dryness, lack of sexual desire, hot flashes and a feeling of heaviness in the uterus. You can purchase a Sepia in 30c potency and take 3 times a day until you feel relief.
For instant relief you can apply Aloe Vera gel to the area, it will moisture the area and cool the burning. Vitamin E is also good for helping with vaginal dryness. You can use it as a vaginal suppository or as a cream.
Q. I have been getting terrible attacks of heartburn, causing me to have to leave abruptly in the middle of meetings at work. My doctor has prescribed me H2 Blockers. Can you offer any alternatives?
 A. Heartburn unlike its name suggests is actually a problem occurring in your esophagus. Food carries down the esophagus to your stomach, and is then 'burned' by the acids released by your stomach. It is then that we can heartburn or acid reflux. That's when some of the stomach contents, including the acid, come back up through the esophageal sphincter. This causes an uncomfortable burning sensation just beneath the breastbone.Keeping a food diary may help you to ascertain which foods are the triggers to your heartburn and which foods you should cut out. It would be best to lower your intake of the following; Citrus fruits, Tomatoes. Raw onions, Garlic, Vinegar any fatty and spicy foods since these can all trigger heartburn. I recommend drinking Aloe Vera Juice. This can bring almost instant relief to heartburn. To 'prevent' an attack of heartburn you can drink 1/4 cup of aloe vera juice approximately 20 minutes before every meal.
Marshmallow is another favorite remedy I prescribe for patients suffering from heart burn. This herb, also known as Althaea officinalis contains mucilage, which coats and soothes the lining of the esophagus. You can most easily take marshmallow as a root tea. Add one tablespoon of the dried root to a cup 8oz of boiling water. Let it steep for 5 minutes. You can drink this 3 times a day. Marshmallow should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women or for those with diabetes.
My favourite remedy of which I seem to have the best results with is the homeopathic tissue salt; Nat phos (6X potency). This is known as the ‘biochemic antacid’, Nat. phos. is commonly used to treat digestive comfort, especially after meals and works wonders for people who tend to suffer from common indigestion and burning.
Q. Natalie, I have read conflicting theories that chocolate is good for the heart...can you please clarify?!
 A. The good news is...some of what you have read is true! Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants have proven positive effects on many different body systems including the cardiovascular system. The high concentration of cocoa in dark chocolate is what offers the flavonoid benefit. Flavonoids keep cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reduce the risk of blood clots, and slow down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries. The important thing to remember here is that not all chocolate is the same. Dark chocolate contains a lot more cocoa than other forms of chocolate. Most standard chocolate manufacturing destroy up to half of the flavonoids. Look out for those chocolate companies who make dark chocolate that keeps up to 95% of its flavonoids.
Now while a little dark chocolate is good, chocolate still is full with calories and sugar. Keeping a balanced diet and doing plenty of exercise is still the key to keeping a healthy heart.
This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.
Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer then email Natalie with your question at [email protected]