If you have diabetes, you know that it follows you everywhere you go, even into the bedroom. When it does, it can cause numerous problems, including erection challenges, reduced libido, vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse, orgasm difficulties, and mood swings. If you experienced a diabetes-related weight gain or have marks on your skin from blood glucose (sugar) checks, pump infusion sets or injections, you may also feel uncomfortable having a sexual partner see you undressed.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reclaim your mojo and enjoy sexual activity again. Here are a few of them:
Follow the Mediterranean Diet
This healthy eating strategy is ranked #1 on U.S News & World Report’s list of top diets for 2019. People who use it to guide their food choices can enjoy increased heart and brain health, reduced cancer and diabetes risk, and weight loss. Best of all, research shows that choosing foods according to this plan can reduce the risk of sexual complications in people with type 2 diabetes.
Take care of yourself
How well do you function when you are stressed, hungry, or tired? To bring your best self to any sexual activity, get plenty of rest and keep your blood glucose level in a healthy range, as determined by your healthcare provider.
Reduce your stress level. Delegate tasks, cut back on obligations and adopt a “growth mindset.” Instead of seeing life’s challenges as roadblocks that prevent you from achieving your goals, view them as opportunities to expand your skills, experiences and abilities.
Video: Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset:
And don’t forget to “FLOW.” Each day, set aside time to participate in at least one activity that causes you to lose track of time. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Finding Flow, listening to music, reading a book, hiking, doing jigsaw puzzles, attending yoga classes, and doing other engaging activities can lower your stress level and can help you achieve a state of “effortless concentration and enjoyment.”
Limit your alcohol intake
Alcohol and sex may seem like the perfect pairing, but imbibing too much can sabotage your sexual ability, especially if you have diabetes. An alcoholic beverage may initially help you get “into the mood,” but drinking too much can make it more difficult to have or maintain a healthy erection and can cause vaginal dryness, which may make intercourse uncomfortable or painful.
If you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association suggests that women limit their alcohol intake to one drink per day and men limit their intake to a maximum of two drinks per day. One drink is equal to a 5 oz glass of wine, 12 oz beer, or 1 ½ oz distilled spirits, such as vodka, whiskey or gin.
Men and women, with and without diabetes, require good blood circulation to achieve a healthy orgasm. Smoking makes it more difficult for blood to flow to the pelvic area. If you smoke, try to quit.
Use lube in the bedroom, with Diabetes
Vaginal dryness, a common diabetes and age-related issue, can cause a woman to experience pain during intercourse. Unfortunately, once that happens, she may tense up during future sexual attempts and feel even more discomfort.
To reduce or eliminate discomfort during intercourse, keep a bottle or tube of vaginal lubricant near your bed, and use it! Choose a fun type and incorporate it into your sex play. Some are scented, flavored, warming, and more. If you don’t care for one, try another. If vaginal dryness continues to be a problem, ask your gynecologist about medical and hormonal options.
Video: Picking the Right Lube
Don’t give up if your ED pills fail
Erectile dysfunction (ED) pills, such as Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and Stendra only work in 50-60% of men with diabetes. If you try one and your erection doesn’t improve, don’t give up. First, be sure to follow the directions. Take the pill at the recommended time and then engage in actions that help you become sexually aroused (i.e. view erotic material). If that doesn’t help, you have many other options, including vacuum pumps, injections, suppositories, penile sleeves, testosterone treatments (if your level is low), and even implants. Ask your doctor or urologist for additional information.
Strengthen your relationship by communicating more clearly. Don’t assume that your loved one is a mind reader. Use “I” messages inside and outside of the bedroom to communicate your needs and wants. Here is one way to create them:
I feel _______when ______. What I need is ______.
Example: “I feel angry when I can’t get an erection. What I need is for you to help me pleasure you in a different way.”
Video: The Power of “I”: Using “I” Messages.
Take your time in the bedroom
Many women with diabetes need additional time to become physically and sexually aroused. Invite your partner to take things slow. Lead up to intimacy with romantic texts, walks in the park, compliments, and loving hugs. Some couples make appointments for sex, so they can build anticipation. Scheduling sexual activity isn’t spontaneous, but may be a great option for you, especially if you have a hectic and demanding life.
Invest in your relationship
Download and read “Intimacy & Diabetes.” It’s an entertaining book that is filled with information and suggestions that can help you and your partner enjoy more sexual fun! It even has a chapter filled with diabetes-friendly, aphrodisiac-containing recipes!
You can also schedule an appointment with one of the superb therapists on this website. This individual can help you and your partner strengthen your relationship and reduce the emotional impact diabetes and other issues have on your sex life.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997, July 1). Finding Flow. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199707/finding-flow
Giugliano, F., Maiorino, MI., Bellastella, G., Autorino, R., De Sio, M., Giugliano, D., &
Esposito, K. (2010). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and erectile dysfunction in men with type 2 diabetes. J Sex Med, 7(5):1911-7. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01713.x
Giugliano, F., Maiorino, MI, Di Palo, C., Autorino, R., De Sio M., Giugliano, D., & Esposito, K.
(2010). Adherence to Mediterranean diet and sexual function in women with type 2 diabetes. J Sex Med, 7(5):1883-90. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.01714.x
Oldways. (n.d). Mediterranean diet pyramid. https://oldwayspt.org/traditional-diets/mediterranean-diet
Puff, R. (2017, September 19). Growth mindset vs fixed mindset. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/meditation-modern-life/201709/growth-mindset-vs-fixed-mindset
Roszler, J., & Rice, D. (2020) Intimacy & Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.
U.S. News Staff. (2020, January 2). U.S. News’ 35 Best Diets Overall. U.S. News. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/slideshows/best-diets-overall?onepage
Watson, L. J. (2018, November 22). 8 ways alcohol can affect your sex life. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/married-and-still-doing-it/201811/8-ways-alcohol-can-affect-your-sex-life