The connection between sexual suppression and inflammation
Air, water, food, sleep and sex are vital to human survival. Not everyone has access to all for sure. If you have had trouble sleeping, you know how damaging it is to your health. In fact, there are times where you might be able to do without food, but you cannot do without sleep. The fact is, sexual activity or inactivity is also closely linked to your health. I’m going to take you through a journey to explore this aspect sensitively, but provide you with some evidence that suppression is a big factor that can contribute to inflammation, aggravate inflammation or prevent inflammation from going down. All of us know how suppressing our emotions can be inflammatory. If you are in a relationship of any kind where you are forced to suppress your voice and your words, then anger starts to bubble deep inside you and festers like a wound. Sexual suppression is very similar. Over the years of being in the wellness industry, I’ve noticed the impact of this on people, especially women, and seen the level of frustration and illness it creates.
The reality is also that not everyone can do anything about it. Perhaps you are in a relationship where you have drifted apart. Perhaps you are in a relationship where you are the best of friends but your partner is just not interested in sex. Perhaps you are in a marriage where your partner is working all the time, or travelling, or just too tired. Perhaps you are in a relationship where your partner has become an alcoholic. Perhaps you are not in any relationship at all. There are just infinite scenarios where sexual suppression is a reality, not because you choose to be that way, but simply because you have no other choice. Whatever the reason, it is important to understand how sexual suppression can cause serious impact on health. Perhaps you might not be able to make a change right away in this area of your life, but even just having the awareness of how it can impact your health, might position you to consciously calm down your immune system. In this article, we are going to take a deep dive into how sexual suppression can impact your body and your health, and look at some ways to deal with it.
In Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition, good relationships are crucial skills that support healing and recovery. You know how being with someone who makes you laugh and relax is powerfully healing. In the same way, sexual happiness supports your body in so many ways. So how does sexual repression impact your body?
How sexual suppression impacts your health:
- Increase in stress– Cortisol is your stress hormone and increases dramatically under all stress. High cortisol is directly linked to increased inflammation and conditions like fibromyalgia. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released with sexual activity, lowering anxiety and flooding your body with feelings of deep relaxation. When sexual suppression is high, there is limited oxytocin release and pent up emotions. This can lead to deep stress, increase in Cortisol and higher inflammation, since release of oxytocin and decrease in Cortisol are both crucial players in reducing inflammation.
- Suppression and Inflammation– Sexual satisfaction produces antibodies and a stronger immune system to fight against germs, virus and other pathogens. Sexual suppression on the other hands, raises overall stress in your body and depresses your immune system. C Reactive Protein or CRP, produced in your liver is elevated under inflammation. Studies have shown that CRP and white blood cells are significantly lower in those who were sexually satisfied. This implies that active sexual suppression can raise inflammatory biomarkers.
- Inflammation and the reproductive cycle of women– When there is immense stress and higher inflmmation from sexual suppression, it impacts your hormones as well. Studies have found that higher CRP levels in the first phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle, caused lack of ovulation. We need to ovulate not just to have babies. The fact is that your immune system and your reproductive system are linked deeply. If you are in a state of stress, inflammation or fight or flight, then your body is going to put functions like ovulation on the back burner. If you miss ovulating, then you might produce less Progesterone. Progesterone is your calm hormone, and helps you get better sleep, calms your mind and makes you emotionally stable. So you definitely want to ovulate, even if you have no interest in having babies. You need Progesterone for yourself.
- Pelvic stress– Sexual suppression can cause immense pelvic stress. Sexual activity strengthens the pelvic floor and helps bladder control. If there is active sexual suppression and subsequent tension stored in your pelvis, it can contribute to aggravation of bladder issues and pelvic pain. In yoga and Chinese medicine, emotions and the pelvic area are innately connected. Tension in the pelvis can create tension in the mind as well.
Now that we’ve explored some of the ways in which sexual repression and inflammation are connected, what can you actually do about it? The fact is that not everyone can create improvement in this area of their life. The main thing to understand in this context is that just having the awareness of these connections can support your recovery. Many times, women do not even acknowledge this aspect, especially if there is a cultural or social aspect of guilt or shame to speak about these things. Acknowedging sexual suppression to yourself can go a long way in supporting recovery from any inflammatory condition. There are many ways in which you can improve this area of your life. Here are some of those takeaways.
How can you get over sexual suppression:
- Talk to your partner– If you are in a relationship where you’ve simply drifted apart or think you are old, think again. Multiple studies have shown that inflammatory levels are much lower in older couples who are are sexually satisfied. If you are in a relationship, where it can be changed, simply by making time, that helps. If not, even just hugging, kissing and feeling connected again can release oxytocin.
- Practice yoga– Yoga is a great way to release tension in the pelvis. Practicing yoga with a gentle approach, and working through poses focusing on the hip with breath and awareness, allows release of tension deep within. Take time over hip opening poses and acknowledge the tension within the pelvis in order to let go.
- Improve elimination– Detoxification is a major tool in pelvic tension release. Improving bowel elimination and reducing constipation can trigger a process of “letting go” overall, which can include release of pelvic tension and suppression.
- Explore emotions– Journal what makes you angry and find ways of letting go of strong emotions.
- Meditate– In yoga, it is thought that suppressed sexual energy can be transformed to greater energy through meditation. Make it a daily practice. Gauge how meditation helps you, not by how you feel while meditating, but how it helps you overall in life, by improving your resilience to stress, how it helps you cope with suppressed energy and how it allows you to transform.
- Acknowledge and create an affirmation for yourself– It’s common how women feel insecure in sexual suppression and start to wonder what’s wrong with them personally. From there, denial of their feelings can wreak havoc. Just acknowedging that there is deficiency in this area of your life and that it perhaps is not your fault can help tremendously. Create an affirmation that helps you lower your inflammation, your suppressed feelings or just helps you love yourself in spite of anyone. Perhaps “I feel calmness through my body, mind and spirit” can help you to move beyond.