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Obesity and Sexual Dysfunction: What's The Deal?

June 14, 2022

Admit it. You're not surprised. Anyone who's read the news in the past several years has seen the growing research on how obesity can lead to a host of health problems, including hypertension, chronic inflammation, and diabetes. With all these (and many more) negative effects on your health, it's not shocking that obesity can also cause sexual dysfunction.

Obesity or being overweight has been a topic of conversation among medical experts for a while now. The reason being is because the excessive fact has a drastic and significant impact on the individual’s organs and therefore, physical and mental health. By definition, Obesity is referred to as a condition in which excess body fat puts an individual at risk of many medical conditions such as heart disease.

| An individual is diagnosed with Obesity if their Body Mass Index (BMI) is 30 or greater. They are overweight if their BMI is 25 or greater. |

Now, how does excessive fact affect sexual function? Let’s do a brief introduction. Sexual Dysfunction is an umbrella term used to describe disorders that affect an individual through any point of the sexual response cycle - these include, desire, arousal, orgasm, and pain disorders. The most common types of sexual disorders include Low Sexual Desire or Libido, Erectile Dysfunction, Premature Ejaculation, Performance Anxiety, and Lack of Lubrication. 

Obesity-Related Sexual Dysfunctions

Let’s get to the main question, how can obesity lead to sexual dysfunction?

In women, obesity can lead to:
- Decrease in Libido
Obesity can affect hormones like insulin and cortisol which can ultimately lead to decreased libido.

- Difficulty in reaching orgasm

- Decrease in vaginal lubrication 

- Increased risk for pelvic pain or pain during sex

In men, obesity can lead to:
- Erectile Dysfunction
One of the most common causes of ED is obesity, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. What's more, it seems that the greater your BMI, the higher your risk for sexual dysfunction becomes. When you have excess fat around your waist and stomach, it can make it difficult for blood to flow normally through your body—and since this is what makes an erection possible by sending blood flow to the penis, having too much belly fat could be putting a damper on your sex life.

- Lower testosterone levels
Estrogen and Testosterone are sex hormones that help regulate reproductive health and are produced by both males and females. However, studies have revealed that obese men have imbalances in their estrogen levels which can cause their testosterone levels to plummet. Testosterone is an essential hormone, especially for sexual health. Low testosterone levels can also lead to Erectile Dysfunction and Infertility.

- Narrowing of Penile length
Due to the increase in the pad of fat around the pubic area due to obesity, there is an appearance of shrinkage of the penis length.

Physical Effects

Due to the fact that obesity can lead to physical medical conditions, it can lead to uncomfortable and/or painful sex. Some of the conditions that can be caused by obesity include:
- Arthritis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Diabetes
- Heart disease and/or heart disease-related Edema (fluid build-up leading to body swelling)
- Sleep Apnea and other respiratory problems
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Hypercholesterolemia or high cholesterol

Mental & Emotional Effects

An obesity diagnosis is, at times, associated with emotional and mental health conditions. Stress and anxiety are caused by weight problems themselves and in many cases, it's not just about being overweight but rather feeling like a failure because they're not able to lose weight despite repeated attempts at dieting or exercising regularly; this can lead them to depression as well as other mental health issues such as anxiety or low self-esteem which could further hinder their ability to perform sexually with their partners later on down the road (if at all). This coupled with many individual and subjective factors can also become a barrier to sexual intimacy in a relationship.

What’s the solution?

Obesity is a major risk factor for sexual dysfunction. It can cause low testosterone levels, erectile dysfunction, low sexual desire, and infertility. It's also been linked to Gynecomastia (breast enlargement) and Hypogonadism (low testosterone). Many studies have shown that obesity is associated with lower self-reported levels of sexual activity and satisfaction.

If you're looking for a quick fix, though, we have some bad news: there's no magic pill or anything like that. There's treatment, but it isn't particularly easy or fun.

First off, you'll need to give up your junk food habit and start eating healthy—that means lots of fruits and veggies with lean meats and whole grains. You may also want to exercise more often than before—a good rule of thumb is 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardio exercise (like brisk walking), plus two days per week of strength training.

If that sounds too hard on its own, consider working with a nutritionist who can help guide you through the process step by step without feeling overwhelmed by all those new rules about what 'healthy' eating means. A good place to start would be asking friends if they know anyone who could recommend someone; otherwise, search online for "nutritionist" along with your city name.

Well, it’s not just the physical effects that cause problems like ED. The psychological and emotional problems that come with obesity can also harm your sex life. It can be hard to feel confident in the bedroom if you’re not feeling confident in your body. But remember, there are many ways to treat obesity so that you can start feeling more comfortable in all aspects of life.

With all this being said, it is important to know that Obesity is not a disease, but it is a serious condition that can lead to life-threatening health conditions and sexual dysfunction. The stigma associated with it is unnecessary and counterproductive. Treatment is possible, and the journey is worth it. 

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 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

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