I think it’s safe to say that we can all get a sense of what Hippocrates meant when he stated that “All disease begins in the gut.” At some point in time we have all felt the dis-ease of indigestion, gas, bloating, acid reflux, constipation, or diarrhea, whether mild or intense. As a holistic practitioner, digestive issues and discomfort are the #1 complaints of my clients. However, did you know that digestive dis-ease could also get in the way of your sexual arousal and satisfaction?

I recently spoke with Dr. Edward Catalano who practices Functional and Integrative Medicine about the correlation between gut health and sexual function.

Sandra: Dr. Catalano, when most people think about sex, they don’t immediately think of the health of their stomach and intestines, but you claim there’s a strong connection between our gut health and our sexual arousal. How does that connection work?

Dr. Catalano: Sandra, you’re right—sexuality is a very complicated subject that we experience both physically and emotionally. What many people don’t realize is that the intestinal system is a major physical factor that has many unexpected effects on our ability to respond and perform sexually.

The gut contains billions of bacteria. In fact, there are more bacteria in our gut then there are cells in our entire body. These gut bacteria are living organisms that function together in a complex network, and they are so active and influential in our overall body function that they are sometimes referred to by doctors and scientists as a “second brain” in our gut. These bacteria are responsible for producing hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which are essential for sexual health.

Sandra: Yes, but isn’t serotonin produced in the brain?

Dr. Catalano: It turns out that only some serotonin is produced in the brain—about 80 to 90% of it is actually produced in the gut.

Sandra: How does serotonin in the gut affect our sexual desire and arousal?

Dr. Catalano: Serotonin is active in several areas that can affect female sexual function and arousal. It has been found in several regions of the female genitals and in the central nervous system.

Sandra: Most people understand serotonin as being a mood enhancer. How does it affect us sexually on a physical level?

Dr. Catalano: Serotonin does act primarily to affect mood; however, outside the nervous system it acts to control and improve blood flow to several areas including the female genitals.

Sandra: Does that mean that serotonin may also enhance an orgasm?

Dr. Catalano: Absolutely! The female orgasm starts with stimulation of nerves in the sexual organs, which then leads to contractions in the smooth muscle of the genital system. Serotonin is found in those nerves.

Sandra: How can we create and maintain a healthy balance of serotonin in our gut for better sexual arousal?

Dr. Catalano: A healthy gut is achieved and maintained by living a healthy lifestyle. Some things that damage gut health are a poor diet, certain medications, nutrient deficiencies, stress, and environmental toxins like artificial sweeteners and pesticides.

Food is always our first and best medicine. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil, nuts and seeds, and a moderate amount of lean protein is the best way to keep our gut healthy. Exercise is also important, along with mindfulness and stress reduction, which can come from practicing some type of meditation, yoga, and/or spending time in nature. These things ground us and help create a healthy environment for our body, mind, and spirit.

Dr. Catalano’s insights into the relationship between our gut and our sexuality reinforce what all the best doctors and health experts have known for centuries, all the way back to Hippocrates: The human body is a complex and completely interconnected whole. Every system affects all of the others, and it is impossible to disentangle the effects of the mind and the body on one another. To be fully happy and healthy, we must care for our whole being, guts and all.

For more information about Dr. Edward Catalano check his website at http://drcprevent.com/