Libido and thyroid relationship

Our body is comprised of different organs and systems that influence one another and thyroid gland isn’t an exception.

The functioning of the butterfly-shaped gland is deeply connected with a wide array of processes in your body.

But, what about libido?

Did you ever wonder if thyroid functioning has any sort of impact on your sex drive?

How can you boost libido?

We will discuss this interesting subject throughout this post. Keep reading, you will be surprised.

What is libido, actually?

In order to dive in and discuss the relationship between libido and thyroid, we have to define it first.

Libido isn’t just a desire to have sex, it’s more than that.

Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, defined libido as “the energy regarded as the quantitative magnitude of those instincts which have to do with all that may be comprised under the word love[i].”

Freud called these instincts id and the term is used to refer to the entirely unconscious structure of the human psyche.

Not only did Freud define sex drive, but he was also the first one to use the term libido in 1894. The term originates in Latin and means lust or desire.

The great Sigmund Freud wasn’t the only one to discuss libido. A Swiss psychiatrist, Carl G. Jung, didn’t agree with Freud’s opinion and he deduced that libido is a general, undifferentiated form of psychic, not sexual energy.

On the other hand, David A. Rapaport, a Hungarian clinical psychologist, understood libido as nonspecific and more general drive energy[ii].

As you can see, libido isn’t just some simple urge to have sex.

A person’s sex drive has a deeper meaning and its effects extend to different aspects of our life, which also explains why many factors influence libido.

Thyroid and sex drive

The truth is that relationship of thyroid and libido isn’t discussed as much as it should be. After all, both the gland and sex drive have a major influence on the overall quality of a person’s life. So, are thyroid and libido connected in any way?

It turns out they are!

A group of scientists from Italy carried out a study whose primary objective was to analyze the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in patients with hypo- and hyperthyroidism.

For the purpose of the research, they enrolled 48 adult men (14 with hypothyroidism and 34 with hyperthyroidism).

To get their answers, researchers evaluated different aspects of sexual functioning including the presence of hypoactive sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation.

Findings revealed that presence of HSD, ED, PE, and DE in hyperthyroid men was 17.6%, 2.9%, 50%, and 14.7% respectively. On the other hand, in men with hypothyroidism, the presence of HSD, DE, and ED was 64.3% while PE affected 7.1% participants.

Scientists concluded the study explaining that a vast majority of patients with different thyroid disorders experiences some sexual issue[iii].

As you can see, low sexual desire is one of them. It is also important to mention that experiencing other sexual dysfunctions such as premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction due to thyroid disorder can still decrease a person’s libido.

The reason is simple, an affected individual is scared of experiencing same issues again and his desire to have sex diminishes.

Now that we know thyroid has an influence on libido in men, you’re probably wondering if the effects are the same for women as well.

Yes, and it’s not just some random claim made by a pharmaceutical brand to improve the sales of libido-boosters.

Science proved it!

The Journal of Endocrinological Investigation published a study whose main goal was to evaluate the sexual function in hypo- and hyperthyroid women.

Researchers enrolled 56 ladies between 19 and 50 years of age. Of these, 17 women had hypothyroidism, 22 hyperthyroidism, and 17 with euthyroid Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

In order to get the most accurate results, scientists investigated the prevalence of women’s hypoactive sexual desire, a disorder of sexual arousal, vaginal lubrication, satisfaction, orgasm, and pain during sex.

At the same time, they evaluated levels of T4 and TSH.

Results showed that both hypo- and hyperthyroid women experienced significant problems with sexual functioning[iv].

Fortunately, scientists also discovered that normalizing thyroid hormone levels lead to improvement in libido and other aspects of sexual performance.

Why do thyroid problems decrease libido?

Low libido is primarily characteristic of patients with hypothyroidism.

In fact, it is one of the major symptoms[v] associated with this thyroid disorder.

Also, it is not uncommon for hyperthyroid patients to experience low sex drive too, but they also have episodes of increased libido when the levels of thyroid hormones increase and speed up metabolism.

In hypothyroid individuals, metabolism is slow which is why they are also prone to weight gain and cholesterol problems.

Due to slow metabolism, reproductive organs slow down too. Not only that, but adrenal glands produce hormones that are later converted into much-needed sex hormones at a much slower rate.

As a result, both men and women usually experience decreased levels of vital hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.

In addition, patients who suffer from autoimmune thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis experience a great deal of inflammation.

When the body is in the state of inflammation, it starts producing higher levels of stress hormone cortisol[vi], which negatively affects the production of sex hormones.

For example, a growing body of evidence confirms that cortisol and testosterone function in a seesaw manner, higher levels of one hormone decrease the concentration of the other. Studies show that the higher the cortisol levels, the lower the testosterone[vii].

More research is required for better understanding of the relationship between thyroid functioning and libido, but working to improve thyroid hormone levels can boost your sex drive too.

That’s why you should feel free to consult your doctor about this problem and see what they can suggest for higher libido.

How to revive sex drive?

Strong sex drive is an important aspect of a healthy and happy relationship, but it can be difficult to have intercourse when you don’t feel like it.

What’s more, most people are frustrated when they have low sex drive, but you’re not powerless.

Even if you also happen to have some thyroid problem, many solutions are out there.

Consult your doctor

The very first thing you should do is to consult your doctor about the issue, as mentioned above. This is particularly important if you are taking thyroid medications.

Your doctor can suggest different things you can do to boost your libido and still protect your thyroid at the same time.

Trying out different things on your own, without informing your doctor, can negatively affect your thyroid disorder and that is not what you really want.

Dietary supplements

Nowadays, there is a dietary supplement for just about any health and lifestyle problem, including low libido. In fact, libido-boosters are incredibly popular.

Dietary supplements are dubbed as entirely natural products that use herbs, plants, spices, vitamins, and other healthy ingredients to help boost a person’s libido in an entirely natural manner.

They are available in drugstores, pharmacies, and on the internet.

But, you should be cautious.

While some supplements are effective, others are a pure scam and contain hidden, potentially dangerous ingredients. We review thyroid supplements on Thyroid Advisor, which may be helpful for you if you want to learn more about them.

Exercise

Regular physical activity can only be a good thing for you. It improves blood flow, speeds up metabolism, improves your mood, aids in blood sugar regulation, among other things.

Any kind of exercise is better than no exercise at all and you are more likely to stick to your workouts if you do something you really enjoy. If you’re not a fan of going to the gym, then jog, exercise outdoor, or sign up and practice some sport, options are endless.

Whatever you do, strive not to overdo it. Contrary to the popular belief, spending more time exercising doesn’t guarantee more benefits.

In fact, overexercising can contribute to low libido[viii].

Strive to work out about 30 minutes a day, which also comes handy if you’re busy and can’t fit long training sessions into your schedule.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important, yet we take it for granted. We watch TV in bed for hours, use smartphones to chat, check Instagram, play games etc. and wake up exhausted. Sleep deprivation is a major problem in modern lifestyle and it is classified as a public health concern[ix].

Due to insufficient sleep, we are more likely to experience traffic accidents, but its effects also expand to higher stress levels, lack of productivity, decreased energy levels, fine lines and wrinkles, and many other things.

Plus, the quality of good night’s rest also influences libido. Scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School discovered that longer sleep duration was strongly related to stronger next-day sexual desire.

Interestingly, one-hour increase in sleep length increased the chance of engaging in sexual intercourse by 14%. Better sleep quality improved genital arousal too[x].

Now that you know getting more sleep is a must for sexual (and overall) health, bear in mind that it’s not enough to get 8 hours of sleep only, you should strive to have a regular sleep schedule. What does this mean?

It would be ideal to go to bed every night at the same time and wake up every morning at the same time as well. Also, try to reduce the time spent on phone or tablet in bed.

Feel comfortable in your skin

Our libido is strongly associated with the way we think about ourselves. For example, a person with low self-esteem usually has low libido. This person doesn’t have a desire for sex primarily because he/she doesn’t feel comfortable in their skin.

Confidence and self-esteem play a big role in everything we do or think, including sex drive. When comfortable in your skin, you are more likely to be open to sexual intercourse or experiences that spice up your sex life.

This isn’t just about pleasing your partner, but self-love. Explore your body to feel comfortable in your skin, just the way you are.

When you’re more confident and feel comfortable with your body, everything will flow naturally.

Remember, nobody is perfect.

Imperfections make us unique.

Conclusion

Thyroid gland and its functioning influence many processes in a person’s body, including sex drive (see others here.) Even though this is an important subject, especially for people with thyroid disorders, it isn’t overly discussed.

Research on the thyroid-libido relationship is limited, but current data shows that thyroid disorders are strongly related to a number of sexual dysfunctions including weak libido.

Good thing is that improving levels of thyroid hormones can also help solve this issue successfully.

References

[i] Quotes from dr. Sigmund Freund, The Freud Page http://www.freudpage.info/freudquotes1.html

[ii] History of libido, News Medical https://www.news-medical.net/health/History-of-Libido.aspx

[iii] Carani C, Isidori AM, Granata A, et al. Multicenter study on the prevalence of sexual symptoms in male hypo- and hyperthyroid patients. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2005 Dec;90(12):6472-9. Doi: 10.1210/jc.2005-1135 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16204360

[iv] Oppo A, Franceschi E, Atzeni F, et al. Effects of hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and thyroid autoimmunity on female sexual function. The Journal of Endocrinological Investigation 2011 Jun;34(6):449-53. Doi: 10.1007/BF03346712 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21532331

[v] Hypothyroidism: overview, causes, and symptoms, EndocrineWeb https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/hypothyroidism-too-little-thyroid-hormone

[vi] Wolkow A, Aisbett B, Reynolds J, Ferguson SA, Main LC. Relationships between inflammatory cytokine and cortisol responses in firefighters exposed to simulated wildfire suppression work and sleep restriction. Physiological Reports. 2015;3(11):e12604. doi:10.14814/phy2.12604. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4673634/

[vii] Brownlee KK, Moore AW, Hackney AC. Relationship Between Circulating Cortisol and Testosterone: Influence of Physical Exercise. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2005;4(1):76-83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880087/

[viii] Hackney AC, Lane AR, Register-Mihalik J, O’Leary CB. Endurance exercise training and male libido. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2017 Jul;49(7):1383-1388. Doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001235 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28195945

[ix] Insufficient sleep is a public health problem, CDC https://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/index.html

[x] Kalmbach DA, Arnedt JT, Pillai V, Ciesla JA. The impact of sleep on female sexual response and behavior: a pilot study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine 2015 May;12(5):1221-32. Doi: 10.1111/jsm.12858 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25772315

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