Does Alcohol Kill Libido?
Consumed by many, and cautioned by some, alcohol has become part of our everyday culture. While some of us like to de-stress with a drink at the end of the day, many others abuse alcohol. It is a known fact that alcohol when used occasionally is euphoriant, but, when consumed regularly or in binge drinking is a depressant, can be addictive, and can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms. But, what’s most often forgotten is that it can also lower the body’s ability to respond to sexual stimuli.
It can affect hormone levels and cause physical discomfort such as making you feel bloated or even sick to your stomach. This article will dive into alcohol and how it affects sexual health - does alcohol cause sexual dysfunction such as ED? Does it reduce libido? There’s no question that alcohol use can negatively impact sexual functioning - which is yet, another reason, why you should limit your intake.
Alcohol Addiction Signs
Alcohol addiction also called alcoholism or alcohol abuse disorder is essentially defined by impulsive uncontrolled drinking. Individuals with alcoholism lose the ability to control their drinking habits and develop a dependence (both emotional and physical) on alcohol.
Symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Drinking despite alcohol causing physical, emotional, and personal issues
- Experiencing the feeling of guilt while drinking or hiding drinking habits from those around them.
- While intoxicated, individuals may experience:
- Dizziness and nausea/vomiting
- Impulsive and compulsive behaviour
- Inability to exhibit physical and emotional restraint
- Increased anxiety, guilt, loneliness
- Slurred speech
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?
Alcohol has many effects on the body - physical, mental, and emotional. Understanding how the depressant affects the body’s organs will further help you understand how alcohol can cause an impact on sexual dysfunction.
Alcohol can affect the way the heart works leading to conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), and increased risks of other heart-related conditions such as arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), cardiomyopathy (heart muscle damage), and strokes. Furthermore, hypertension, a chronic condition, can increase the risk of heart disease, vascular dementia (lack of blood supply to the brain), and kidney disease.
It is a well-known fact that alcohol can cause major changes to the brain. Experts have said that it causes an interference with the brain's ability to communicate leading to the lack of control in individuals while drunk. As mentioned above, it can also affect hormone levels - such as lowering serotonin, and dopamine. It also slows down brain cell development and can cause damage to both nerve cells and brain blood vessels. Brain damage due to alcohol abuse can further lead to physical and mental disabilities such as difficulty with short term memory or learning new things, negative personality and behavior changes, lack of balance and coordination, inability to concentrate, and mental health conditions such as depression (due to lack of serotonin).
The liver is one of the main organs directly affected by alcohol abuse. This is because the organ's (fun fact: the liver can regenerate itself) job is to break down the alcohol that is consumed. Unfortunately, the process also results in the introduction of substances that can cause organ harm. Some of the medical conditions related to the liver caused by alcoholism include steatosis (increased fat in the liver), hepatitis (inflamed liver) cirrhosis (scarred liver), acute alcohol hepatitis, and even liver failure.
Just like the liver, alcohol consumption leads the pancreas to produce harmful substances that can lead to medical conditions such as pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas) and blood vessel swelling in the pancreas.
When alcohol is consumed, the amount of stomach acid produced increases which causes irritation and inflammation of the gut's lining. This can lead to medical conditions such as gastritis, acid reflux, and even stomach ulcers.
Now that you know how Alcohol can negatively almost all of the body's important organs - we can move on to understanding how it can affect your sex life and fertility.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Sexual Health
Alcohol is considered to be a nervous system depressant in which case it can affect respiration, nerve sensitivity, and circulation. Furthermore, it also causes dehydration which can impact blood and oxygen flow - this is where sexual dysfunction comes into the picture. The mind and body work together when it comes to sexual intercourse - which means that if they aren't working together there can be issues in either of the following stages: sexual arousal, intercourse, and climax. Blood flow is an essential part of sexual health.
The nervous system is what aids in an erection because it triggers signals required for an erection to occur. The nerves in the penis also can suffer damage. The three main reasons alcohol can result in ED is because it causes
- Increased angiotensin (a hormone that can lead to ED)
- Reduced blood flow
- CNS depression
Dehydration is the main cause of alcohol-related lack of natural lubrication. During arousal, increased genital blood flow is what leads to females getting "wet" or naturally lubricated. Increased alcohol consumption can disrupt this psychological sexual response and lead to vaginal dryness which can cause discomfort and pain.
Anorgasmia or delayed orgasm
We're talking about alcohol abuse, therefore this means excessive and impulsive drinking. This can, over time, lead to what experts call alcohol-induced orgasmic dysfunction. In simple terms, this means that it can be hard for an individual to climax, they can take longer or can't climax at all. They can also experience less intense and satisfying orgasms.
Decreased Sexual Arousal
While most individuals commonly find that alcohol can result in an increased sexual desire, studies have revealed that there is a negative psychological impact and also decreased genital response to sexual stimulation.
Testosterone, one of the body's most important homes aids in muscle and bone growth along with significantly affecting sex drive. Due to the lack of testosterone, many symptoms, including those of sexual dysfunction can occur such as Low Libido, lack of energy, increased irritability, increased weight gain, and mental health conditions such as depression, and ED. After alcohol is consumed, the body moves to metabolise the ethanol present in alcohol. This metabolism process of ethanol results in lowering NAD+, a coenzyme that helps in testosterone production in the testicles and the liver. Alcohol abuse can also lead to the increase of estrogen, the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, and can increase levels of cortisol. Furthermore, the lack of proper Circadian rhythms regulation results in a disrupted sleep schedule which can impair the body's ability to produce testosterone.
Due to the lowered testosterone levels, sperm production in males can be significantly impacted. This has a direct impact on fertility, as expected. Furthermore, women who abuse alcohol can also have disruptions in their ovulation cycle.
Sexual health is as important as physical and mental health. In most cases, one consultation can go a long way. If you have concerns with drinking alcohol and have experienced any sexual dysfunction symptoms, consult with an expert today. Personalised, discreet, and judgement-free treatment at your fingertips - book an online consultation with one of Allo’s leading experts.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Sandip Deshpande