By Sara Maret-Carter
THE PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS: enjoy sex’s natural high
Apparently, the idea of sex as a drug is not far from the truth. “Sex activates the same neurological pathways in the brain as drugs.” Says Montreal-based psychologist Jim Pfaus. “The euphoria we feel when craving it activates dopamine systems in I the brain, much like a dose of cocaine.” And an orgasm makes it that much better, providing us with an intense euphoria followed by a prolonged period of relaxation.
Sex is also important for sense of self-worth, Pfaus explains. “We know this because of what happens to intimacy and self-worth when sexual pleasure is lost in a relationship.” Good sex doesn’t always mean you are mentally healthy, but the self-confidence it builds keeps you buffered from things that could bring you down. “Negative events chip away at our self-esteem all the time, but people with good sex lives are better able to sustain self-esteem because they have real physical evidence that their minds and bodies work in their favour,” says Pfaus.
Also interesting to note, a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2002 showed that women whose partners did not use condoms (which should only be done in a monogamous relationship where neither partner poses any risk of STDs) were less subject to depression. The reason could be prostaglandin, a hormone found only in semen.
THE GYNO SAYS: the big 0 is a healthy boost
Think again before you say, “Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.” The act of orgasm can actually help a headache thanks to the release of beta-endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers, explains Dr. Nancy Durand, a gynecologist at Toronto’s Sunnybrook & Women’s Health Sciences Centre. Orgasms can also boost infection-fighting cells. A 2003 study from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., found that those who have sex regularly have higher levels of immunoglobin A, which boosts the immune system and can help fight off colds and other infections.
THE NATURAL HEALTH EXPERT SAYS: Be consistent, your vagina will thank you.
“Having sex twice a week can prevent thinning of the vaginal [lining],” says Vancouver-based natural health expert Lorna Vanderhaeghe. “This makes the vaginal walls stronger, thereby helping to prevent a prolapsed uterus, which is when the uterus inverts into the vagina,” says Vanderhaeghe. (This is a fairly common occurrence in women who have had many children; it can also happen naturally as you age.) Having sex will strengthen the muscles and ligaments surrounding the uterus to help hold it in place.
THE DERMO SAYS: you glow, girl
Nothing will give you a more natural blush than a recent romp. “The sex flush is caused by the release of mediators in the blood that cause blood vessels to dilate,” explains Toronto-based dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett. During foreplay, almost all women experience the beginnings of a sex flush on their face, neck and chest. During the orgasmic phase of sex, when your heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure are at their peak, the sex flush increases, leaving you with a rosy glow when the deed is done.
THE FITNESS EXPERT SAYS: work it, baby
Why just work out at the gym when you can work out in the bedroom? Maureen Wilson, owner of Sweat Co. Studios gym in Vancouver, says that a 30-minute lovemaking session can burn more than 100 calories, depending on your age, fitness level and gender. (The more vigorous your “workout” the more calories you can burn.) As another bonus, exercise increases your libido, making you desire more sex, which is exercise. It’s a win-win situation! Regular sex (a few times a week) is good for your heart and lungs – it can improve your aerobic capacity as it raises your heart rate.
Almost every muscle is used during sex, and flexibility can be increased (depending on your creativity with positions). Sex also strengthens your pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that you work when doing Kegel exercises), which, in turn, can lead to better sex!