Sofie Wise

Maria Shikary

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About Author — Dr. Shikary is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Medicine, and trained in pediatrics at UCSF in San Francisco. She specializes in holistic/integrative medicine and nutrition.

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Sex. It’s on our minds all the time and that’s a good thing because sex goes well beyond the bedroom when it comes to staying healthy. Surprisingly, there are many benefits to sex beyond the obvious pleasure related ones.

Sex increases our immune systems’ responsiveness by increasing  antibody levels. Antibodies increase during infections and help fight off germs like bacteria or viruses.

For those of you exercise fiends, sex also counts as a form of exercise, using five calories per minute and helping strengthen a variety of different muscle groups including pelvic floor, core abdominal, and gluteal muscles.  

Having sex will make you want to have more sex in that it heightens your libido.  With an estimated 30-40 % of women and men suffering from problems with libido, frequency of sexual intercourse can make a big difference. Specifically for women, regular sex increases elasticity, vaginal lubrication and blood flow, all of which contribute to a woman’s sex drive. And it also helps strengthen up those pelvic floor muscles ladies so that we don’t need to do as many kegels! Strong pelvic floor muscles help with bladder control and keep women from having uterine prolapse an unfortunate condition where the uterus slips down into the vagina as a result of weak pelvic floor muscles. Yikes!

Sex can lower blood pressure via release of a hormone called oxytocin and reduce the risk of heart attacks. In one study, patients who had sex at least three times a week were half as likely to die of heart attacks.

Sexual intercouse and masturbation can decrease pain of all kinds. Sex releases endorphins that help block pain signals in the body. One specific endorphin, serotonin, acts as a natural anti-depressant and another, phenylethylamine, activates the brain’s pleasure center. Oxytocin, a hormone that reaches peak levels during orgasms, promotes calm and reduces blood pressure and cortisol levels which can reduce the perception of pain.

A study done in Germany on headaches and sexual intercourse found that one in five people were pain free after sex and many people used sex as an abortive therapy for cluster and migraine headaches. Moreover, sex can decrease pain from cramping, arthritis and chronic back pain.

The cocktail of hormones released by the body also act as stress relievers and sleep aids. Anxiety and stress can spike blood pressure, decrease immune function and affect sleep. Sex helps with blood pressure control and anxiety which subsequently improves mood, sleep patterns, and physical and emotional well-being. It’s an important part of us and a prescription for a happy and healthy life. So remember to make time for intimacy with your partner and have a very happy Valentine’s Day!