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SMART NUTRIENTS FOR SEX: YOUR BODY'S OWN NATURAL APHRODISIACS

Here are a few examples of substances the body naturally produces that have been found to have a direct effect on sexual drive and performance, with a brief description of how they affect your body and how the body derives them:

Dopamine, made in the brain from the amino acid L-tyrosine, stimulates alertness, excitement, and sexual desire. The prescription drug L-dopa (used to treat Parkinson's disease) can increase the brain's production of dopamine, leading to increased sex drive.

Acetylcholine, the primary neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, helps control blood flow to the genitals in women and men, heart rate, and blood pressure during sexual intercourse. It is manufactured from choline or lecithin, vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B5, and zinc.

Norepinephrine is the primary neurotransmitter used by the sympathetic nervous system to stimulate the sex drive. It is made from the essential amino acids L-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine and vitamin N and vitamin B6.

Nitric oxide, a gas made in the body, has recently been discovered to be essential for penile erection. A gas that acts as a neurotransmitter, it is active for only five to ten seconds and seems to control blood flow in and out of both the penis and women's genital tissue. The body makes nitric oxide from the amino acid L-arginine.

Estrogen, secreted by the ovaries and the adrenal glands (in both sexes), helps maintain the health of the vaginal mucous membrane, stimulates lubrication, and preserves tissue elasticity. Postmenopausal women who are undergoing estrogen-replacement therapy report an increase in sexual desire and drive. It is interesting to note that postmenopausal women who are sexually active secrete more estrogen than do those who are not; thus sexual activity can reduce the need for estrogen-replacement therapy to treat the side effects of menopause, such as vaginal dryness.

Progesterone, another sex hormone secreted by both men and women, is highest in women during the second half of their menstrual cycles (it stimulates the uterine lining in preparation for pregnancy). Low progesterone levels are thought to be related to the onset of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Progesterone has been tested in men as a hormonal contraceptive, and though it inhibited fertility, it also depressed the men's desire for sex.

VIP (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide) helps dilate the blood vessels in the sexual organs of both sexes. Some researchers believe that a deficiency of this neurotransmitter is a primary cause of organic impotence in men when a psychological cause is ruled out. Researchers are now focusing on treating impotence with direct injections of VIP.

Oxytocin, produced in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain, is involved in the muscular contractions during orgasm (it is secreted by the brains of both sexes during sexual climax). Oxytocin has been credited with promoting feelings of romance and nurturance.

As I've said, the production of these naturally occurring substances can be influenced and enhanced by the consumption of certain foods and smart supplements. This is especially the case with the second group of sex-enhancing nutrients: vitamins and minerals.

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