Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sexual Desire - From a Patch?

Here's how it often goes down in the field of medical research: Pfizer, Merck or GlaxoSmithKline funds a study which confirms that the public is in dire need of another pharmaceutical drug to fix some new problem with an odd name. This month it's HSDD, which stands for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (remember attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Those terms didn't exist 30 years ago, either).

The study was published in Value of Health - here's a link to an abstract. If you read it, you'll see that the study consisted of a telephone survey which asked post-menopausal women about their sex lives. Here's a shocker: "Given a prevalence of 6.6% to 12.5% among US women, HSDD represents an important burden on quality of life." You know what that means...

...a testosterone patch! Just slap this on your skin and chemicals will seep into your pores and your bloodstream, which will magically increase your quality of life.

At least there's a little bit of transparency on this study. This story tells us that one of the members of the research team "works for Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which also funded the research and provided consultation for the survey. Procter & Gamble makes a testosterone patch, Intrinsa, which is approved for treating HSDD in Europe. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted against approving Intrinsa in December 2004, citing lack of evidence for its long-term safety."

To reiterate: Proctor & Gamble, the company which makes a product to treat "HSDD", not only funded the study but also provided "consultation." Intrinsa has not been approved by the FDA for use in America. I would not be surprised if this official scientific study, paid for by PG and carried out by people with lots of initials after their names and who are affiliated with universities, will now become part of the evidence they will present to the FDA as a reason why their product should be approved.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a lot to say about sexual desire and its relation to overall health. Sexual function is controlled by the Kidney. As you get older, Kidney function generally declines, and sexual function declines as well. In men, this can lead to impotence, premature ejaculation and lack of desire. In women there can be lack of desire, infertility and menstrual problems. Low levels of Kidney energy usually co-present with other symptoms, such as cold limbs, low back pain, knee pain, low energy, poor digestion and more.

This is the strength of TCM: integrating the patient's main complaint into a complete clinical picture. We then treat the complete picture rather than just one symptom. We call this "root and branch" treatment. If the branch is low sexual desire, the root could be in the Kidney, in which case we would focus on the Kidney. However, the root could also be due to constrained Liver energy, or low levels of qi and blood, or an accumulation of Damp Heat, all of which have different treatment strategies.

If you have low sexual energy, try these three things before you go shooting up testosterone or anything crazy like that:

1. Get up at 6 every morning and do some gentle stretching for about thirty minutes. Then go for a brisk walk outside (no treadmills).
2. Stop drinking soda, coffee and energy drinks. If you can't do without coffee, cut it down to one cup a day, or try substituting green tea.
3. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day, and keep that routine up day after day. Your body appreciates regularity - if you keep to a regular schedule of food intake, levels of blood sugar won't spike and fall as much throughout the day, giving you more energy and better, more even moods.

Some of you might be looking at those three changes and thinking it's impossible. If so, I ask you to try and shift your perspective on what's unreasonable. These three things are all completely natural ways to regulate your endocrine and nervous system, without popping pills or getting injections or surgery. Do your best to avoid taking drugs. Give yourself the best chance at a healthy life.

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