HOLLAND, Mich.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Over 35% of diabetic women struggle with sexual dysfunction and/or urinary complications. November is National Diabetes Month, raising awareness of the 34 million people who have the autoimmune disease. Without proper care and consideration, diabetic women can face a myriad of sexual health issues such as yeast infections, urinary incontinence, arousal issues, and vaginal dryness.
“Controlling blood sugar is the first thing to do in managing diabetes and helps to minimize risk of infection and sexual dysfunction,” says Barb DePree, MD, OB/GYN , Founder of MiddlesexMD and Director of the Women’s Services at Holland Hospital in Holland, Michigan. “Diabetes and sexual side effects arrive steadily and silently unless steps are taken to stop and reverse the process, or at least help with symptom management.”
Five helpful tips for diabetic women to boost sexual satisfaction include:
- Prioritize diet and exercise: For diabetics, getting exercise is important for blood flow, which enhances sex by strengthening the heart and increasing blood to areas that may have nerve damage. In addition, exercise increases stamina and flexibility; adding confidence and boosting libido by providing ‘feel good’ endorphins. Remember that food choices play an important part in maintaining blood sugar levels and processed, sugary foods can increase the risk of yeast infections. Yogurts, fruits, veggies, whole grains, cranberry juice (in moderation), etc. can help to prevent and treat yeast infections and UTIs. Additionally, certain foods can act as aphrodisiacs, such as chocolate, red wine, oysters, bananas, avocado, salmon, walnuts, chile peppers, figs, honey and soy.
- Take vitamins (and all recommended medications): Vitamin B12 helps to keep nerve and blood cells healthy. Diabetics are often deficient in this vital vitamin, which can increase risk of neuropathy. Another vitamin to consider is vitamin D, which can reduce insulin resistance.
- Have more sex for better sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to higher blood sugar levels. Sex is a natural way to decrease stress and help with the onset and quality of sleep. The oxytocin released with hugging, sexual stimulation and orgasm can increase feelings of calm and safety. In addition, orgasm causes an increased release of prolactin which aids in falling asleep.
- What if sex hurts? Ditch the dryness: Vaginal dryness is the biggest sexual complaint of women with diabetes, ranging from minor discomfort to chronic pain that can lead to what some may liken to ‘sandpaper sex’. To ease vaginal dryness, talk to a healthcare provider about estrogen treatment and try hormone-free Replens, a vaginal moisturizer that helps rejuvenate dry vaginal cells for 3 full days. But remember to use a good silicone lube just prior to sex to ease penetration and enhance intimacy.
- Balance vaginal yeast and bacteria every day: Constant high blood sugar can cause an imbalanced pH. When there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria, healthy lactobacilli can no longer survive in the vaginal environment which can lead to recurrent bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections. A pH balancing product such as RepHresh Gel can help with odor and discomfort by balancing and maintaining vaginal pH. Another helpful tip is to take a probiotic supplement like RepHresh Pro-B to balance yeast and bacteria daily as it contains two clinically tested vaginal strains of healthy lactobacillus (flora), L. rhamnosus GR-1 and L. reuteri RC-14; keeping flora in a normal range.
“By exercising, eating healthfully, and being proactive about good vaginal health, diabetic women can enjoy a pleasurable sex life for years to come,” adds DePree.