ColumnCold and flu season is almost upon us, but I’m not going to tell you to load up on echinacea or get a flu shot. I’d like to suggest a novel way to boost your immune system – have lots and LOTS of sex.
It’s early fall. You’ve heard that something is going around, and you feel a tickle in your throat. Your first instinct might be to tell your partner to slowly back away, lest you spread those nasty germs. But your instincts, at least in this case, are probably wrong: sex can boost your immune system, helping you ward off those pesky, snotty invaders.
A study from 2004 showed that people who have sex once or twice a week have higher levels of immunoglobulin A, or lgA – one of the most important defenses your body has against invading organisms.
Human touch lowers cortisol, so you don’t even have to go all the way – just a bit of cuddling, stroking and kissing can do the trick — even getting a massage can help. Skin-to-skin touching is the trigger for cortisol support, something we require in the delicate dance of hormonal balance. But getting your orgasm on brings the suite of benefits to a higher level, as you’ll soon see.
Women have it better than dudes when it comes to the immunity game, because we naturally produce estrogen, linked to an enzyme called Caspase-12, which blocks the inflammatory process. (Men do have estrogen, just in much smaller amounts.) And guess what, girls? Having regular sex increases your estrogen, and not the bad kind as we see in estrogen-dominance. The sweet side benefit of all this is that estrogen is good for your skin and your mood. That post-coital glow is really a thing – estrogen helps your body produce collagen. So skip the botox and go for a nice boink instead.
Oxytocin, the chemical released at orgasm, is a pain reliever and stress-reducer. So do your best to make sure that you get the orgasm you deserve when you have sex. Ask for it if it doesn’t seem to be forthcoming – you deserve it. If partnered sex isn’t in the cards for you as often as you’d like, solo sex offers many of the protective immune benefits that you want during cold and flu season – so don’t assume you’re out of luck – you can boost your immune system with self-pleasure, too.
The “more I get, the more I want” principle applies here as well. Estrogen boosts your sex drive – and having sex makes you produce more estrogen. You see how this delightful hormonal merry go round works, do you not? This is in part why we tend to be hornier in the days leading up to ovulation, when our estrogen is surging. Women’s sex drive flattens after ovulation, when progesterone is the major hormonal player. Progesterone makes you sleepy and PMS-y, horny, not so much.
However, if we focus on having lots of sex (or masturbating) throughout the cycle, at minimum once or twice a week, we can boost our immune system by encouraging healthy estrogen levels. There will be peaks and valleys, but having more sex (or solo sex) even when you’re at your peak estrogen level will help you to avoid that libido-plummet that can begin to feel inevitable after ovulation. This is in part why I created the #30DayOrgasmChallenge — to encourage people to have orgasms as early and often as possible.
Sex also improves sleep, and healthy sleep is basically the key to everything that is good and holy – including a strong immune system. A recent study showed that the oxytocin release paired with the cortisol-lowering effects of sex leave your body in a super relaxed state – the perfect conditions for a beautiful night’s rest.
Another sleep-inducing hormone called prolactin floods the brain at orgasm. The whole thing about women being chatty after sex vs. men rolling over and wanting to sleep is probably a bit of cultural programming – sex primes both genders for sleep. The real truth here is that men are probably having more orgasms than women are, and so the women are left wanting while the men’s brains turn off. You can shift this, again, but making sure you get the orgasm you deserve.
This is one-hundred percent anecdotal, but when I caught the abysmal flu that was going around in the winter of 2013, against my better judgment, I had sex. And I swear to the gods of congestion – I was instantly better. Sex did what all my obsessive ginger/garlic eating, green juice drinking, and neti-pot slinging could not. Just sayin’. And last winter I didn’t get sick once – guess why?
This isn’t to say that having loads of sex means you can slack off on the basic rules of cold and flu season, especially hygiene. If this recent study doesn’t freak you out about the important of hand-washing, I don’t know what will.
Will you boost your immune system by adding sex to your anti-cold and flu arsenal this season? Let me know by tweeting at me @ecosexuality.
Here’s to good health (and equal amounts of pleasure).
Keep in touch with Stefanie on Twitter: @ecosexuality
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