Insulin is a hormone that the human body needs in order to get sugar into cells so that it can be used. Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body does not respond appropriately to the insulin that is there, resulting in a buildup of sugar in the blood. Excessively high blood sugar levels mean that cells can’t metabolize their fuel properly, causing symptoms like fatigue. This state of “hyperglycemia” can also cause complications like nerve damage when left untreated. Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is present from childhood and has a strong genetic component, type 2 diabetes is usually develops in adulthood and is fully preventable.
Risk Factors for The Development of Diabetes
A few things that can increase your risk of developing diabetes include:
- getting older
- heavy drinking
- high blood pressure
- high blood triglycerides
However, these risk factors are actually not the main cause of diabetes. Much evidence points toward diabetes being a disease caused by the typical modern lifestyle. The average body weight of Americans has skyrocketed in the last few decades due to the increasing prevalence of unhealthy foods and beverages and a more sedentary lifestyle. Almost all cases of type 2 diabetes occur in people who are overweight or obese.
Yet, diabetes is not caused by obesity in and of itself. Research shows that diabetes is mostly due to sugar- and carbohydrate-related obesity. One large epidemiological study, that examined 10 years’ data from 175 countries, found that excessive sugar is responsible for diabetes independently of body weight. People who become overweight through over-consumption of soda, sweets, bread and other baked goods, rice, potatoes and other high-carbohydrate foods are the most likely to develop diabetes, while those who become overweight by overeating high-fat foods have a much smaller risk.
Why Diabetes Affects Sex Life
Sexuality is intricately tied with various aspects of physical health. Having diabetes can greatly reduce the pleasure you get from sex. Both men and women can suffer from nerve damage at the hands of diabetes. This nerve damage can affect the nerves of the genital area, reducing sensation. Both sexes may have trouble getting aroused and achieving orgasm. Women may also lose their ability to self-lubricate because of this.
Not only can your nerves become damaged from diabetes, but your blood vessels as well. Proper circulation is necessary for arousal, and for men, for achieving an erection. The circulatory damage caused by diabetes is so severe that medical experts estimate that among men who have had diabetes for 10 years, 50 percent of them suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Many other side effects of diabetes can spell disaster for your sex life. For example, women who have diabetes are more likely to contract infections of the genital area, such as thrush and urinary tract infections. Such infections can easily make sex less enjoyable. A great deal of diabetic people also experience frequent fatigue, which puts a damper on libido.
One study, conducted at the University of Chicago Medical Center, examined data from almost 2,000 participants and definitively proved that people with diabetes are more likely to have low libido, suffer from erectile dysfunction and have difficulty reaching orgasm. Though diabetes affects sex life a great deal, it isn’t something you just have to put up with.
Treating Diabetes-Related Sexual Concerns
Most anyone who has had diabetes for some time can tell you that diabetes affects sex life. Rest assured that you can recover from sexual health problems caused by diabetes. The most important thing is to treat diabetes itself. Make sure to visit your doctor regularly if you have diabetes, and to follow all of your doctor’s instructions to the letter, including taking your diabetes medications exactly how you should.
Adjust your diet to include fewer foods that have a high impact on your blood sugar. Some of the recommendations for a diabetic diet include to limiting sugar, eating smaller portions of carbohydrates, eating whole grains instead of refined grains and limiting alcohol consumption. If you have diabetes, chances are you have already heard such advice from your doctor. However, it bears repeating as reducing your carbohydrate consumption is one of the most important steps in treating this condition.
Exercise is great for blood sugar regulation, and the health benefits should not be underestimated. One study had type 2 diabetes exercise for 175 minutes a week in addition to eating a reduced-calorie diet. 10 percent of participants no longer needed their diabetes medications after just one year of maintaining this lifestyle adjustment. Find something physically active that you genuinely enjoy, and do it often. Even low-intensity exercise such as walking can make a big difference if made into a habit.
A low-carbohydrate diet combined with regular exercise will produce the most results for your sexual function. You can also take other measures to improve your sex life in the meantime. If diabetes has reduced your desire for sex, many natural supplements such as maca root and Panax ginseng have been shown to improve libido. These are only a couple possibilities. There are many other herbs, vitamins, minerals and amino acids that have been shown to boost sex drive and strengthen erections. You can also talk to your doctor about other options like medications for erectile dysfunction.