by Mantak Chia and Rachel Carlton Abrams, M.D.
from the book The Multi-Orgasmic Woman
As you may have already intuited from how amazingly good you feel after having an orgasm, orgasm is in fact good for you and your health. Since many of us were taught by our religions or our parents that something so good had to be bad for us, it is worth taking the time to explore this point. For those of you who are fitness minded, sexual activity burns quite a few calories and boosts your metabolism. Regular sex improves your immune function, helps you to sleep better, relieves menstrual cramps, and reduces stress. Studies over many years have confirmed a correlation between regular sex and longevity; sexual activity is associated with better health among sexually active older adults when compared with their similar peers. Though we don't yet understand all of the reasons that sex and orgasm are good for us, there is mounting (no pun intended) evidence of the tremendous ability of sex and orgasm to "tone" our hormones--which many of us could use some help with--and improve our emotional state. Let's take a closer look at the hormones that sex and orgasm tone.
Our bodies produce a natural form of amphetamine (or "uppers"), called phenylethylamine (PEA). It is nicknamed the "romance hormone" because it is high during early courtship, but it also peaks with orgasm. High PEA is associated with giddiness and excitement; low PEA is associated with depression. When PEA is too high, it can cause psychosis. (Now you finally understand why it was you stayed in that lousy, but exciting, relationship. It was romance psychosis!) The "high" of PEA is one of the reasons that we crave early romance. But it is possible to get this natural high, whether or not you're in a new relationship, through orgasm! Orgasm helps feed the fire of romance in a relationship, no matter how old your relationship is. And, ladies, guess how we can artificially increase PEA? That's right. Chocolate. Thus the post-romance "I must eat a box of chocolate because I am in PEA withdrawal" syndrome. So if you're watching your waistline and need a little pick-me-up, pick up your vibrator (or your lover) instead of the Hershey's.
Touted by many in the alternative health field as the "anti-aging" hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is the precursor to all of the sex hormones. It peaks in humans at age 25 and then declines thereafter. Low DHEA is associated with chronic disease, bone loss, and weight gain, whereas higher DHEA levels protect the immune system and may lower cholesterol. Although I cannot recommend supplementation with DHEA, as we do not yet know whether this is safe, it does--you guessed it--peak at orgasm. And there's no evidence that "natural stimulation" of DHEA has any untoward effects. It may be one of the major reasons that sexually active adults live longer and feel better.
Our "bonding hormone" is called oxytocin. It is produced in large amounts during birth (when it stimulates uterine contractions) and breast-feeding and assists in maternal and child bonding, hence its nickname. It is also increased by nipple stimulation in women and men. Oxytocin helps us feel connected to one another, and it promotes touch and affectionate behavior, as well as relaxation. Interestingly, it also increases with giving or receiving loving touch (that includes our pets), genital stimulation, and intercourse. Oxytocin also decreases cognition and impairs memory, contributing to that befuddled "milky mind" that new moms often experience. Oxytocin is important in that it stimulates the release of all of the other sex hormones, and, like the hormones above, it peaks at orgasm and contributes to that lovely, "let's cuddle" afterglow. The feedback loop of oxytocin--loving touch increases oxytocin, which stimulates more touching--helps to explain why affection and sexuality often have that "use it or lose it" mentality. When we are sexual or affectionate, it drives us to more sex and affection. When we are distant (literally) from our partner for prolonged periods of time, we are less inclined to sex and affection. When touch is abruptly withdrawn (a business trip or, in the worst case, the death of your partner), skin hunger ensues. We crave the person--and the touch--who we have been missing. I regularly recommend to the women in my practice who have lost relationships to continue to self-pleasure and consider getting regular massages to try to boost their oxytocin levels, and their corresponding level of well-being.
Testosterone is the sex hormone with which you are likely most familiar. I'll discuss more fully in chapter 8 in its relationship to female sex drive and changes with menopause, but for now, know that it is a potent contributor to sex drive in both women and men, increasing sexual thoughts and fantasies. It is also increased by sexual thoughts and activity, a feedback loop similar to oxytocin's. The more sexual thoughts or activity that you have today, the more that you will want to have tomorrow.
Estrogen is considered the quintessential female hormone, and indeed we have much more of it than our male counterparts. Synthetic estrogen has been in the news of late because of new evidence that it increases health risks when given to post-menopausal women. I will discuss estrogen, its importance, and its difficulties, in chapter 8. Estrogen influences our seductive sexual behavior and is released into the body with intercourse.
Orgasm also releases endorphins into the bloodstream. Endorphins are those feel-good, pain-blocking, natural morphinelike substances that flood our bodies when we need them. Endorphins are responsible for that "runner's high" that you get just after exercise, when you feel great and your legs don't yet ache. It's because endorphins are blocking the pain. I have had several of my patients with chronic pain attest that when they found a new relationship and were having a satisfying sex life, their need for chronic pain medications dropped considerably.
The release of these hormones is only one of the reasons that sex and orgasm help us feel good, and are good for us. We do not yet have any research on the relationship between Taoist sexual practices and hormonal or physiological responses, but it is the experience of practitioners that the Taoist sexual practices prolong the feelings of wellness, vitality, and bonding with one's partner that follow sex. Debra, a long-time practitioner and instructor, told me, "After doing the practice for years, the level of the energy is so high that you don't need to go on forever. The feeling of orgasms can last for several hours. You can still feel the vibration while making dinner, and you wake up energized." Because sex and orgasm are so beneficial to our bodies, I'm going to discuss in full what might be preventing you from having an orgasm as often as you want.