How can you boost libido, lift energy and improve wellbeing? We ask naturopath and men's health specialist, Carl Gagnon.
Q. What are the essential nutritional needs of men?
Carl Gagnon: Men particularly need to focus on good levels of zinc. Zinc is important for male hormones as well as producing healthy sperm and for prostate health. The best known source is oysters, but zinc can also be found in other seafood and nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds and almonds. Also, lycopene is a well known antioxidant found in cooked tomatoes that has shown to be important in protecting the prostate.
Q. What are some great ways for men to boost their energy levels?
CG: The simple way is to increase fluid/fibre and nutritional intake. Making sure we are getting adequate exercise, 30 minutes three times a week, will help boost energy levels and stamina.
Making sure you're well-hydrated (with water, not coffee or alcohol), makes a big difference to our cells, circulation and energy. If we're deficient in water, we need to draw it from somewhere in the body, like the bowels or other organs not as important as the heart or the brain. We all need different amounts at various times, but a rough estimate is 1½ to 2 litres to replace fluid loss throughout the day.
Men tend to miss out on a good variety of whole grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables in their diet. These provide a great source of B-vitamins, magnesium and other nutrients important for energy. They also provide good fibre, which prevents us from becoming constipated and sluggish and can give us a steady blood sugar level.
We should always include fish in our diet or supplement to make sure we get the omega-3 oils needed for every cell in the body. Lifting energy and not becoming fatigued helps men with their mood, quality of life and can improve their relationships.
Q. What are the major triggers behind low libido?
CG: As a naturopath, I look at the overall picture. Stress and fatigue are major triggers and the causes need to be addressed. Nutritional deficiencies, smoking, excess alcohol, drugs and chronic illness can all be factors. Depression can be a cause as well … it affects your energy and sleep. Essentially it's locking yourself in a prison: even though you're expressing something on the outside, it may not be the way you feel on the inside. So people who are depressed tend to attack themselves in some way and it brings down their confidence.
Part of libido is how you feel: attitudes towards sex and towards yourself. It's also a creative expression. Libido is instinctual it could be an attraction or feeling of desire. But depending on how you use it, it can be transformed into something creative. It might come out through your art, music or sport. We can use that drive and energy for other things, not just for sex.
Q. What is the best way to treat low libido?
CG: Basically, looking after general health as I explained above in boosting energy levels. We need to treat the whole body's general health, rather than just taking something for it. If someone isn't sleeping, I would help them with that to help increase their energy.
In terms of the herbs I love to use, Tribulus is a big one. It has been shown to increase testosterone in men and works very well. And Withania is another great one for libido in India it is known as the 'herb of one hundred husbands'. It works as a tonic, or an 'adaptogen', which allows us to adapt and deal with stress, and it also has a relaxing effect. Although it tends to be marketed towards women, it is not gender specific, men can take it too. My other two favourites are Korean and Siberian ginseng.
Stress is also something that really needs to be dealt with when addressing low libido and stamina. Look at the things you can do to reduce stress. Take time out for yourself and exercise. Exercise lets us burn off the extra stress hormones we have, and also gives us time to process things. I recommend exercising without music for that very reason. Get some fresh air and be with your thoughts.
Find something that helps you to relax. Yoga is fantastic for the stretching and exercise. Often you're in a room full of women as well! I often give that as a tip to men: if you're single, try going to yoga classes you'll get a lot out of it physically, and you might even meet someone there.
Massage is another great thing for stress relief. It's often the only time people really take time out for themselves. It's a one to two hour holiday to recharge and take a break from the stimulation that surrounds us. People see it as a pampering thing when it's not, I see it as essential.
Q. Are there any foods that are good for lifting libido?
CG: Many cultures use hot foods like chilli as increasing libido. They certainly increase circulation, but we have to careful not to overdo it. Of course, zinc rich foods like oysters are good. Including nuts in the diet is very important, things like pumpkin seeds. With these, you're getting a source of fats, too, particularly the ones we tend to be deficient in. Almonds are known as the 'king of nuts' because of their zinc, magnesium and omega-6 content. Cashews are good also, as are avocados, more so for the fatty acids.
Magnesium is often something we can be deficient in, too. This is important for energy production and blood sugar levels. It also helps us to relax the body and eases muscle tension.