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How Sex Can Improve Your Brain Function

As you age, it’s important to start thinking about how to maintain or even improve your brain function. People are living longer than ever, yet this increased longevity is often accompanied by mental degradation.

For people who suffer from this problem as they get older, it severely decreases their quality of life. This can also be a problem for people who have disorders such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), which can severely impact cognitive function. To keep your quality of life high into your old age, you need to implement strategies to protect your brain function as soon as possible.

There are a variety of ways to protect your brain. Keeping mentally active, eating foods that nourish and protect your brain, and getting regular exercise are all good tactics. But a recent study has found a new method in the fight to improve cognitive function, and it’s one that almost everyone can employ in their life.

The Cognitive Study
A recent study found that adults over fifty who are still sexually active actually have better brain function than those who aren’t. The research examined 79 participants and evaluated certain cognitive abilities compared to self-reported sexual activity. The researchers found that participants who were more sexually active showed better results in verbal fluency and spatial ability. However, level of sexual activity didn’t seem to improve the results of other cognitive tests such as those for memory, language skills, or attention span.

The improvement in these areas of brain function may be due to the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Specific activities such as sex stimulate the release of dopamine, which then activates the reward center of the brain. When this part of your brain is activated, it makes you feel happy and gives you a natural high that may also improve brain function. The release of this neurotransmitter may also have further implications for your overall health, particularly if you suffer from AFS.

What is AFS?
In the modern world, stress is an accepted part of everyday life. For some, it’s even a badge of honor, a sign that you’re working hard and getting somewhere. But stress is also incredibly destructive. It’s been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and certain cancers.

Your body has a system that activates at times of stress. This system causes changes that help protect the body from stress and prepare it to move into action to cope with the stress. This is called the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system.

But this system is only meant to be active over the short-term, to deal with a physical threat. When it’s active every day, trying to cope with the variety of small or large stressors that make up modern life, the organs and systems that make up the NEM stress response can become fatigued.

This is particularly true of the adrenal glands, which are responsible for releasing essential hormones into the body. With continued overuse, the adrenal glands become unable to keep up with the demand for hormones, which leads to a variety of imbalances and problems in the body along with troubling symptoms. These symptoms can include brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, depression, anxiety, and digestive issues.


AFS Recovery
Managing AFS is highly individual. It will depend on your general condition and on how the disorder manifests in your body and life. Generally speaking, implementing strategies to reduce stress will help to alleviate the symptoms of AFS and allow your body to heal any damage that’s been done.

Effective strategies include identifying and reducing exposure to stressors, along with adopting stress-reducing practices such as yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation.

Your diet is also vital in this process as it will support your healing and give your body the nutrition it needs to fuel itself and repair damaged systems. For AFS recovery, this means adopting a diet that’s based on whole, natural foods such as vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains.

Sex and AFS
If you have AFS, it may seem like a good idea to make sure you have regular sex. After all, sex releases a range of hormones and neurotransmitters into your system that make you feel good and can even increase your energy levels.

However, there are two problems with this idea. The first is that AFS often lowers your sex drive. Because your body is low on energy when you have AFS, the non-essential systems in your body are shut down in favor of supporting essential systems such as your cardiovascular system. Thus your body’s production of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, the hormones responsible for your libido, is greatly reduced if not stopped completely.

The second problem with the idea of using sex to improve your mood when you have AFS is that it can actually make your condition worse. If your body has limited amounts of energy, then it needs to rest and recover. Engaging in strenuous activities such as sex may deplete much-needed energy stores, which will result in the body becoming weaker in the long-term.

What this means is that this tactic should be used with caution if you have AFS. If your condition isn’t advanced, you can try this strategy and monitor your energy levels over the next few days to see if there’s a noticeable dip over time. If there is, it might be better for your wellbeing and your energy levels if you refrain from having sex until your condition improves. In advanced cases of AFS, sex is usually not recommended as it can cause your energy levels to crash and increase the already crushing load on your body and its various systems.

Neurotransmitters and AFS
AFS, particularly in the advanced stages, is strongly associated with imbalances of certain neurotransmitters. This can cause problems with brain function as well as a variety of other problems and concerns. These imbalances may be caused by the following issues:

Poor diet
Chronic stress
Environmental factors such as toxins
Bowel dysfunctions
Sensory overload
These factors are also strongly linked to AFS because they can increase the body’s stress load and bring on adrenal fatigue or exacerbate the condition.

Improving Brain Function When You Have AFS
People with AFS frequently complain of cognitive symptoms. If you have AFS, you may suffer from issues such as anxiety, depression, brain fog, or memory problems as a result of the disorder. There may be a variety of reasons for these symptoms. Fatigue, lack of sleep and hormonal imbalances can all contribute to decreased brain function. However, they may also be a symptom of an imbalance in your neurotransmitter levels. Dopamine, in particular, can cause anxiety, and paranoia if it’s in excess, or cravings, depression, compulsive behavior, and the inability to concentrate or focus if there’s a deficiency.


If you suffer from any of the above symptoms of dopamine deficiency, sex may seem like a natural and enjoyable way to increase your dopamine levels and correct the problem. However, because neurotransmitter imbalances usually occur in the later stages of AFS, this strategy may only exacerbate the problems and cause more damage. So be cautious and get professional advice if you want to try this strategy. Generally speaking, most neurotransmitter deficiencies including dopamine deficiencies can be managed by making dietary and lifestyle changes as well as supplementing with amino acids that support neurotransmitter production.

If you have an excess of certain neurotransmitters, they can be corrected by making specific lifestyle changes and taking compounds that inhibit neurotransmitter release. With both of these situations, balance is key, as too much one way or the other can have potentially devastating effects on your brain function and your overall well-being.

Final Thoughts
Protecting and maintaining your brain function should be a lifelong goal. Not only can the effects of aging take its toll on your mental abilities, but certain diseases such as AFS can also have deleterious effects on your cognition and on the chemicals that govern thinking and mood.

If you’re healthy, you probably take your ability to think and reason for granted, and it’s only once these abilities begin to degrade that you realize how vital they are for your quality of life. Protecting your brain function isn’t difficult either. It only takes a few minor changes to your lifestyle to nourish and support your brain health through natural and healthy practices such as a healthy diet and mental and physical exercise. Research shows regular sex also has a place with those practices, as long as your physical condition doesn’t preclude it.

Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


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