Gut Health and Sex
If you know my personal story you know early childhood trauma might have something to do with gut inflammation, poor digestion, and a compromised immune system. The unfortunate thing about this is the research shows it is very difficult to reverse the damage done to the gut once it’s already been done in our early developmental years. However, I am a living testament to that research not being 100% correct for all trauma survivors. However, this requires a ton of diligence to transform not just the gut, but also the heart & the mind as well. Due to the additional stress on the overall system and the fact that the gut has its very own nervous system, outer circumstances can cause hormone secretions which can inflame the gut/brain complex, making total sense of the polyvagal theory. A weakened immune system stems from a challenged microbiome because of the nervous system’s reactions after one has suffered from trauma. While the body is pretty good at dealing with isolated incidences of stress, long-term stress is a different story. Th body truly does keep the score. Ongoing stress creates conditions in the gut that lower microbial diversity and encourage the growth of inhospitable bacteria. If left unchecked, gut bacteria can become very unbalanced, leading to issues throughout the body, and in the immune system in particular, as 80% of it is located in the gut, leaving you susceptible to contracting pathogens quite easily. Never underestimate the power to heal thyself. I actually felt I might have a stronger immune system after living with Epstein Barr virus since age 9 and having Covid 2x so far. My autoimmune markers are undetectable. Healing requires self-responsibility.
A UCLA study indicates that severe stress (*such as childhood trauma) can affect the microbiome, leading people to experience longer, more significant issues with their digestion than people who have the same underlying digestive problems, but no trauma…not to mention other reactions happening in the body not discussed in the study.
What's more, the health of our brain affects the health of your gut, and vice versa. When our gut microbiome is in balance, it can actually help keep us feel good by signaling our body to produce important neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin, and oxytocin, as well as reducing your levels of cortisol, which is associated with feeling stressed. Stress indeed is linked to 100% all dis-ease.
In light of this connection, it becomes increasingly clear just how important it is to maintain the balance of our gut microbiome when faced with other factors that can cause a hazardous uptick in stress, such as trauma and its aftereffects or even exposure to new sexual partners being single after being married most of your adult life for example.
The more we learn about the gut, the more it becomes clear that having a healthy balance of bacteria is the keystone for all kinds of health. Whether you have a history of trauma or experience stress-related digestive issues, supporting this incredibly important ecosystem is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being.
While you can't change the past, you can do a lot for your microbiome today to support a foundation for a healthier future, including the importance of choosing sexual partners that are not only healthy in their emotional state and have ‘done the work’, but are also tending to the garden of their own microbiome consciously.
Sexual activity involving a partner with unhealthy microbiota may increase the risk of dysbiosis, defined as a reduction in microbiota diversity, including a loss of beneficial bacteria and a rise in harmful bacteria. When our gut microbiome is unhealthy, it can lead to inflammation, Sadly, inflammation is quite the c*ck-blocker.
Sexual activity, whether it is heavy kissing, vaginal intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, or extensive skin contact can lead to the exchange of microbiota. If an individual has dysbiosis, that could impact the mental health of their sexual partner(s).
Everyone should be concerned about maintaining a healthy diversity of microbiota in their body. Apart from intimate sexual contact, simply sharing a household with someone leads to sharing of gut microflora. Persons who live together, whether genetically related or not, have similar microbiota.
A consequence of acquiring pathogenic microbiota in the vagina is called bacterial vaginosis (BV), which is not an infection but an ecological imbalance in the composition of the vaginal microbiota. BV is caused by a significant decline in the beneficial vaginal Lactobacillus. Ladies, if you have had it you know, it can be a bitch to get rid of and can be detrimental to a woman's self esteem with its stinky odor leading to shame and feelings of self consciousness. Circumcision decreases the risk of BV. There is an increased rate of BV in men with extramarital affairs and in women with multiple partners.
Both oral and vaginal sex increase the abundance of Lactobacillus in the male oral and penile microbiota. Gingivitis has also been reported after oral sex. Seriously, Know your partner’s hygiene, yikes!
Another pathogen that can take years to get rid of and with just one incident of unsafe sex it can come back with a vengeance is Candida. I have found the energetic vibration of candida is ‘lack of boundaries. I talk about it at length in my ‘Let’s Not Sugar Coat This’ presentation. Are you starting to see how it truly is all connected?
If you are not yet convinced choosing sexual partners wisely isn’t vital to your underlying health, read on…
Given that all forms of sexual contact (vaginal, oral, anal, or skin) can transmit microbiota bidirectionally between partners, it is imperative to practice safe sex and consider a monogamous relationship rather than indiscriminate promiscuity. Sorry burst your poly bubble but certain psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder, are associated with hypersexuality and multiple partners, which may disrupt the microbiota. This can further disrupt the diversity of an individual’s microbiome and may put them at risk for mood, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders. Another problem is sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea or syphilis require antibiotic therapy. It is well established that antibiotics kill both the bad pathogenic and the good non pathogenic microbiota, further exacerbating dysbiosis, leading to disruptions in the microbiota-gut-brain axis, which then results in psychiatric disorders.
Your gut’s microbiome plays a major role in your interest in, or ability to have intimate relations. Millions of neurons line your GI tract and send signals to your brain to control emotional responses. Research has shown that nearly 90 percent of serotonin, the hormone that controls libido, is produced by gut microbes! Grab me some of the coconut yogurt please!
So, if your gut isn’t healthy, your body & brain likely won’t be able to respond to sexual stimuli or intimate situations as they normally would. Add alcohol with sex and you might understand how a substance that was supposed to lube you up actually contributes to drying you up and limp veggies for him…no bueno! Similarly, an unbalanced microbiome, or gut bacteria, can interfere with your gut’s serotonin production and decrease feelings of sexual arousal. Alcohol decreases your serotonin levels. Some research suggests that when your serotonin levels dip, your physical response to sexual feelings dips, too, yikes!
Even more, common gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS, can lead to several sexual problems. Many IBS sufferers report experiencing performance anxiety due to the fear that they’ll have an IBS episode in the middle of intimate activities. Stress over gastrointestinal issues may take the fun out of most intimate scenarios or impede on attempts to make a baby if that is your agenda.
Instead of producing serotonin, your body will feel stressed, secreting cortisol. Thirty women were tested for arousal levels in the presence of elevated cortisol. Results found women who show an increase in cortisol in response to sexual stimuli in the laboratory have lower levels of functioning in certain areas of their sexual life compared with women who show a decrease in cortisol. Stress related to sexual performance may interfere with sexual arousal.
How to Improve Your Intimate Life
1). Eat Gut-Friendly Foods
Diversifying your gut’s microbiome will improve your wellbeing in several ways, including your sexual health. Drinking alcohol depletes gut health by increasing inflammation. Eating more fiber-rich and fermented foods (especially gut friendly alcohol & sugar free cocktails) while avoiding overly-processed snacks, sugar, and alcohol & amp up your fermented veggies, yogurt, and prebiotic foods like beans, leeks, jicama are great ways to make significant change in your digestive and nervous systems that impact libido and so much more! Lactobacillus is the strain of bacteria that’s best for both improving overall gut health and supporting vaginal health. Wildly fermented foods and drinks are superior to the probiotics marketed for your genitalia. Lactobacillus helps support a healthy vaginal Ph, as well as keep other pathogens at bay. These bacteria are found in sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles, all found in the refrigerated section of your favorite health food store. Bone broth can be very healing in repairing the gut lining after dysbiosis.
2). Exercise Regularly
Exercise can help your body adjust its gut microbiome to a healthy level. Cardiovascular fitness, in particular, can help diversify your gut’s bacteria.
Moving around causes the microbes in your system to bump into one another, essentially sparking chemical reactions. Naturally, this creates more diversity in your microbiome. These organisms inside of us are already having orgies, so you don’t need to but that could be great cardio---just teasing, not really lol!
Try to get around 150 minutes of cardio exercise in a week, whether that means several 30-minute jogs or some quick bike rides to the grocery store. Yoga is so important to address all the issues that lead to limp veggies and dry potatoes. Given serotonin’s relationship to both your gut and sex life, if you’re currently on the sedentary side of things, moving your body more may be helpful than you realize.
3). Meditate Daily
It has been proven that simply relaxing and observing the moment has significant influence over the gut microbiota. This is due to the gut/brain axis and our ability to control our own bodily functions through the act of regulating our nervous system thus changing the quality and quantity of the microbiota through the simple practice of sitting and watching the breath come and go. I believe this has played a significant part of my personal healing, Through mindfulness we can address and heal underlying emotional issues, which is key to taking control of your health from the inside out. Bringing more calm to your life will allow you to connect with your most intimate Self, a relationship that is always best to keep priority #1 so you are truly able to hear your inner voice of discernment based on what you are feeling in your gut so you can learn to trust it. Try some of my many guided Meditations Just commit to 2 x/day for 5-10 min a sitting.
4). Normalize being single & celibate
This may not be of popular opinion, but sometimes not partaking in promiscuity is the healthiest thing one can do while living the single lifestyle. If you are exploring partners, do you with integrity, but don't shame your friends who might be in a healing phase protecting their energy while ready and open to receive partnership. The key is not to shame either way and set yourself up for success with or without a partner. Remember: Life is a series of discernments. The key is to use your own IN-tuition, Listen to your Body, and do what feels good while always honoring yourself first. 'Intimacy' is 'IN TO ME I SEE', so if you are going around using people for sex, your health is what will pay in the end. For those in a healthier more grounded mindset-- Let me introduce you to my favorite toy that never spreads pathogens and is always ready to go. When you do find your worthy partner, this is a fun toy to share :)
Happy Month of Self Love friends!
- Psychology Today: Sex and your Gut
- Science Alert: There's a Bunch of Bacteria Having 'Sex' in Your Gut, And It's Wilder Than We Thought
- PLOS Pathogens: Gut microbiota from high-risk men who have sex with men drive immune activation in gnotobiotic mice and in vitro HIV infection
- Refinery 29: How Alcohol Impacts Your Sex Life