The Facts About Supplements
Supplements can be controversial. Various studies on their effectiveness have provided wildly different results, often with no clear conclusions about whether they should be used.
Regardless of academic findings, people around the world safely take supplements that they believe help them have a better, healthier sex life.
So should you? That comes down to research and a conversation with your doctor.
What are supplements?
Supplements are generally edibles people take to enhance their performance: They are not drugs or medication. Athletes, for example, regularly use supplements—for example, protein powder to build muscle, tinctures to increase energy—as part of their regimen to maintain high levels of performance. Supplements are not the equivalent of medication, but instead, function to fill in for vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
While all medications are reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure they are safe before they're allowed to be distributed to the general public, supplements are not FDA-approved and there is no official oversight ensuring that the ingredients listed are pure and safe.
In fact, you should be especially careful of bottles with "seals of approval" or other "certifications," as these are often nothing more than creations of the manufacturer that mean nothing. The only impartial certifying organization is the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).
If you do choose to take supplements, we highly recommend you discuss the ingredients with your doctor and do sufficient research before making a purchase.
Supplements come in the form of extracts, liquids, capsules and powders. Some of the most common ones include:
- Vitamin B12: B12 is a common deficiency for people with dietary restrictions. This vitamin is thought to keep blood cells and nerves healthy and can be found in most daily multivitamins.
- Fish and flaxseed oil: These supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with a wide range of bodily functions, from brain functioning to cardiovascular health.
- Iron: Many vegetarians and vegans have diets that may be deficient in iron and can benefit from a supplement. Iron helps transport oxygen to blood cells, and a deficiency can result in fatigue and decreased immunity.
- St. John's Wort: This is a plant that many people take as a tea or capsule and is thought to help with mild depression and anxiety. It does interact negatively with some other medications, so check with your doctor before taking St. John's Wort.
- Melatonin: Many Americans suffer from sleep disorders and might try melatonin before resorting to a prescribed medication. This supplement helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and can improve sleep. Doctors often recommend starting with small doses of melatonin, but check with your own primary care physician for their professional advice.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is an important part of the calcium absorption process and can strengthen bones among other benefits, such as helping lift your mood and ward off illness. Something to note is that vitamin D is not technically a vitamin—it's actually a prohormone, which means your body absorbs it and turns it into an active hormone. In this way, it's linked to the endocrine system. Too much vitamin D can lead to kidney damage, so make sure you are taking the correct dosage.
It's important to remember that while some supplements can be beneficial in supporting your bodily processes and overall health, there are inherent risks. Taking too much of a good thing can lead to major health issues. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any supplement to ensure the dosage and ingredients are right for you.
Supplements and sex
Wanting to boost your sex drive or performance is perfectly normal, but a lot of people are hesitant to start prescription medications for this purpose. Instead, they may turn to certain supplements they've heard can enhance sexual performance.
If you're researching which supplements may work best, the key is to determine the type of enhancement you’d like.
Sensitivity: One problem people often face during sex is sensitivity. For women, being more sensitive can lead to a higher chance of having an orgasm. For men, less sensitivity can lead to longer sex sessions, while being more sensitive can help with erectile/arousal issues.
Endurance: Sex can be exhausting even before reaching orgasm, and some people worry about being able to last to that point. Endurance is not a question of restraining orgasms but being physically able to keep going as long as you want.
To improve your sexual stamina, you can take many of the same supplements that athletes take for endurance. While these substances don't focus specifically on sexual performance, they do improve the fortitude of the body overall. Caffeine is an example of a common supplement that can help with alertness and endurance.
Energy and vitality: While having sex, it's easy to run out of energy. This is especially common among older people or anyone who enjoys highly spirited sex sessions. Fortunately, improving energy levels is a common goal of many supplements, so you have plenty of options. Vitamin B12 and magnesium are readily available supplements that claim to improve your overall amount of energy.
Erection and arousal: Primary hormones, such as testosterone, are largely responsible for erectile dysfunction (ED) and arousal issues, such as low libido.
A great many supplements, including maca, L-citrulline, fenugreek, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and ginseng, have a reputation—unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration—for helping with sexual health and performance. Make sure you carry out your own research on these supplements, get the recommendations of friends and, most important, seek the advice of your doctor as to whether they might be effective for you.
Balancing sexual health with overall health
While supplements may help improve your performance in specific situations, an alternative and more effective method would be to improve your overall health. Doing so can alleviate many of the underlying issues—such as diet, exercise and sleep—that have led you to want to take supplements in the first place.
The debate and research regarding the efficacy of supplements are varied and inconclusive, and very few supplements have the approval of the FDA.
If you have sexual issues you believe may be alleviated by supplements, step one is to consult with a medical professional about the appropriate dosage and possible side effects. Step two is to consider making substantial changes to your general health and lifestyle before relying on supplements to address your sexual issues.
Remember that supplements, while not prescribed medications, should be treated as if they were. Always keep your doctor in the loop with any decision you make about your sexual health.
Giddy Notice: Our medical experts have informed us that few supplements of this nature have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That is to say that statements and claims made about the efficacy or possible health benefits of these unapproved supplements have neither been evaluated nor reviewed by the FDA for safety and effectiveness. Furthermore, any statements or claims regarding the supplements are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Our medical experts advise that before you use a supplement in any way, you first consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you have full knowledge of appropriate dosages, if any, as well as any potential side effects or interactions with any prescription medications you're already taking.