Is Sex a Stress-Buster?
“Sexual healing is good for me. Makes me feel so fine, it’s such a rush. Helps to relieve the mind and it’s good for us,”-- Marvin Gaye.
Marvin Gaye knew what he was singing about when he crooned these frisky lyrics. Researchers have found a significant connection between stress levels and sexual activity, making sex good for you by relieving your mind. However, not all sex qualifies as sexual healing.
How Sex and Stress Are Related
When your senses indicate to your brain that you are in trouble, your brain tells your hormones to produce adrenaline, or norepinephrine. This hormone helps dilate your blood vessels to give your body more oxygen, as well as enhance your senses and increase your heart rate. These reactions may help you escape or defend yourself by enhancing your physical abilities. When the threat is over, your body releases epinephrine to help your systems return to normal.
But if you are stressed from work, moving, school, divorce, a death in the family, illness, or any other stressful event, your brain may be telling your endocrine system the wrong information. You might be in “fight or flight” mode nearly all the time, which can tax your body’s reserves on many levels.
Sex is an act of intimacy that also causes your brain to release hormones. However, the hormones released during sex are often associated with happy feelings and a sense of well-being—the opposite of the stress-released hormones. For instance, during sex, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released. One of its jobs is to regulate emotions. Another hormone released during sex is oxytocin, which is also called the “cuddle” hormone. It produces warm and fuzzy feelings and a sense of security.
Researching Sexual Healing
In February, the School of Psychology in Israel put sex to the test. To study how sex and stress affected one another, they asked 75 participants to journal about their stress and sex for 18 days. The participants were made up of heterosexuals of both genders. They were instructed to write about stressful events, sexual events, and emotional states throughout the day.
Results: Is Sexual Healing Real?
It only heals in a good relationship. Participants were asked whether they considered themselves to be in a satisfying relationship before the journaling. Those who said they were satisfied with their relationship reported that sex affected their stress levels in a positive way. This was true for both male and female participants.
Sex can actually cause stress in a bad relationship. Those who had reported being dissatisfied with their love relationships did not report decreased stress levels after sexual intercourse. This finding makes sense, because of the intimate nature of sex. If the experience of sex itself causes feelings of nervousness, resentment, or other negative emotions, the sex will not affect the brain in the same stress-relieving manner.
Stress can lead to love-making. Researchers noticed a connection between stressful days and sexual encounters. Participants who reported a stressful day often sought sex in the subsequent days. This may be the body’s way of helping regulate emotions.
Was the famous soul singer right about “sexual healing?” It appears to be true that sex can help “relieve your mind,” but only if it’s sex within a satisfying relationship.
Source: Rieve Chievrue, AltMeds.com staff writer
Stress and Alternative Medicine
Stress describes a condition in which the pressure of everyday life becomes a problem, leaving victims feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. Stress also has physical effects on the body that can be very damaging in the long term. Important strategies for managing stress include avoiding dependence on stimulants such as alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and learning effective stress-reduction techniques. Massage and exercise help immensely with stress.
- Vitamin A -- helps to mop up toxins that deplete energy levels
- Vitamin B Complex: 25 to 50 mg daily
- Vitamin B-1 -- improves mood and is vital for nerve function
- Vitamin B-3 -- regulates sleep patterns
- Vitamin B-6 -- essential for optimum production of the mood-enhancing brain chemical serotonin
- Vitamin B-12 -- helps to produce feel-good brain chemicals
- Pantothenic acid -- controls the actions of the adrenal glands, which play a crucial part in the stress response
- Choline and inositol -- have a calming effect
- Vitamin C -- is used up quickly during stress reactions; the resulting deficiency can worsen anxiety and irritability
- Vitamin E -- a powerful antioxidant
- Calcium -- helps you to relax (500 to 1,000 mg daily; older women should take 1,500 to 2,000 mg)
- Chromium -- stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Magnesium -- reduces stress (250 to 500 mg daily)
- Selenium -- increases the effectiveness of Vitamin E
- Zinc -- increases resistance to infection
- Omega-3 fish oils -- support the immune system
- DHEA: 25 mg daily for women over forty; 50 mg daily for men over forty
- St. John's wort / Phenol complex -- has a calming effect (300 mg once or twice daily)
- Melatonin: one to three, 1-mg, timed-release tablets before bedtime
- Siberian ginseng
- Whole grains
- Oily fish
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Fast-releasing carbohydrates such as those found in sugar, white bread, white rice, and refined cereals, stimulate the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, and nicotine, which put a strain on body systems.