Decoding sex hormones

This article was last updated on June 18, 2022

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Ever wondered why Oxytoxin is referred to as the ‘love hormone’, while Testosterone is tagged as the ‘libido driver’? Why on some days you feel like a meek kitten, while on other occasions you are no less than a sex Goddess or a passion Guru? Or why your knees go weak and palms sweat at the thought of approaching the one you find attractive?

Well, the answer to all these questions lies in the cocktail of hormones working on your body at a particular given time, which gives lovers the much-talked about ‘high’. Believe it or not, but hormones are a major catalyst in turning that effusive first glance into a lasting relationship stamped by a well-endowed sex life.

“A set of male and female hormones generated in our body at different stages of a relationship play a vital role in making or marring our sex drive, libido or sexual desires,” tells, Dr Pankaj Aggarwal , a Delhi-based endocrinologist. So, here are some facts about the libido-governing hormones which constitute the major ingredients of our sex drive:

1. Testosterone: The first stage of love, which is pure lust and the final performance in bed, both the landmarks of a relationship are ruled by this hormone. So when your eyes meet someone, the body secretes testosterone, while the mind feels ‘in love’.
Tagged as the male hormone, testosterone governs libido and performance in males to a larger extent. But, a generous helping of this male hormone is also produced in women to improve their sexual desire, arousal and sexual response. “Note that high levels of testosterone alone doesn’t result into a higher sex drive, it needs to be a combination of hormones working together,” adds Aggarwal.
Testosterone killers:
Weight gain, particularly around the waistline
Chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high blood sugar and elevated blood lipids.
Alcohol suppresses the production of testosterone, so keep a tab on your booze binges.
Testosterone boosters:
Exercising maintaining a healthy and stress free lifestyle
A handful of almonds, peanuts or walnuts each day keep your testosterone levels high.
If your endocrinologist feels the need, he/she can prescribe external testosterones in the form of pills, or a transdermal patch or injection.

2. Estrogen : Though men also generate a tiny bit of this female hormone, but this hormone is of utmost importance in women. Produced in their ovaries, Estrogen regulates a woman’s menstrual cycle and keep her pleasure levels soaring high in a relationship. “They also determine a woman’s chances of conceiving a child,” reveals gynaecologist Dr Charulata.

“This hormone is the major desire trigger, arousal and performance stimulator that leads to the Big O in the case of women,” tells Aggarwal. Studies reveal that high levels of estrogen make women look and feel prettier. They also exhibit thrill-seeking behaviour or a higher interest in sexual activities.

In days, when your estrogen levels are high, you might find yourself open to relationships right from casual dating, harmless flirting to serious affairs. But an excess of this female hormone among men, however can dampen their sexual appetite, leading to erectile dysfunction and breast enlargement.
Estrogen killers:
Weight loss
Extreme dieting bordering on malnutrition
Estrogen boosters:
Supplements taken in medical supervision
Eating plenty of wheat and soy, which are considered as estrogen boosters
Studies reveal that two cups of coffee can also boost estrogen levels.

3. Oxytocin
Often referred to as the ‘hormone of love’ or the ‘cuddle hormone’, Oxytocin is a bonding booster that assists in childbirth and helps mothers bond with their newborn babies. The hormone is produced naturally in the brain of both the sexes. In males, moderate concentration of Oxytocin facilitates penile erection and accelerates ejaculatory behaviour.

On the whole, it intensifies feelings of intimacy after sexual intercourse, making the partners grow fonder of each other, which ultimately results in strengthening a relationship. Not just this, it also helps in reducing anxieties and calm phobias as the presence of this hormone helps to develops trust.
Oxytocin killers:
Lack of physical touch
Oxytocin boosters:
Dates have oxytocin boosting properties.
“Women’s brain reacts well to holding hands, kind looks, cuddling and caressing as such acts release increased amounts of oxytocin. While, men need an orgasm to have a stronger flush of oxytocin,” explains Aggarwal.
Now, you know why men feel loved after a sexual communion, while a woman needs a trusting touch.
4. Norepinephrine: The sweaty hands and weak knees that one experiences at the first touch of the opposite sex, often referred to as the adrenaline rush is caused due to the high concentration of this hormone – norepinephrine. The brain releases this hormone and it activates a host of physiological changes.

“A rise in the levels of norepinephrine leads to arousal and mood elevation, which makes you feel good. At the same time, when it comes to sexual prowess, this hormone leads to the contraction of the veins in the sex organs which trap blood and hold an erection in men,” explains Aggarwal. However, excess of this hormone can also trigger negative emotions and anxiety.

5. Dopamine: Known as the ‘feel-good’ chemical, dopamine is responsible for the rush of emotions that transforms an initial lust into a stronger bonding and finally a lasting relationship. “Dopamine affects certain brain processes which control emotional response and the ability to experience pleasure and generate responses,” explains Khurana.

These hormones play an important role in flagging off desire and arousal. Men report a higher release of this hormone in comparison to women and this can be traced as a reason why men have a stronger longing for sex than women.
Dopamine boosters:
Diets rich in proteins boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels heightening sexual sensitivity.
Fish, red meat, chicken, turkey or eggs can be taken in one’s diet to boost dopamine/norepinephrine.
Herbs like ginseng, nettles, red clover, fenugreek and peppermint also help in raising the dopamine/norepinephrine levels in the body.

6. Cortisol
Often referred to as a ‘stress hormone’, excess of Cortisol has negative affects on one’s sex drive. It will be no exaggeration to tag Cortisol as the antithesis of testosterone. The body releases his hormone in a state of being tired, frustrated, over worked, anxious, angry or depressed. And when stress attacks your body, your sex drive is the worst hit, apart from other ailments that come along. So, emotional well-being with a calm mind and a stress-free lifestyle are major players to enrich one’s sex life.
Cortisol killers:
Deep breathing exercises
Relaxation exercises
Meditation and sound sleep
Cortisol boosters:
Stress and tension: “Though it is impossible to eliminate stress from human existence, it is very important for your body and mind to get plenty of rest and recovery whenever it is overworked or stressed,” suggests Khurana.
Excessive weight training can strain the body to an extent that it starts producing excessive cortisol.

Advice: “Food alone can’t make-up for a particular hormone deficiency, so make sure you consult your doctor before going for any dietary changes,” suggests endocrinologist Dr Khurana. He further adds, “Also, a fall in sexual libido can also be the result of some other sexual, physical and emotional factor. So, consulting a doctor is advised in case the problem is acute.”

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