What Happens To Your Sex Drive When You Eat Too Much Salt

Eating too much salt has been linked to many health conditions; heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and calcium loss are just a few. But the average American eats more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day, when the absolute limit is 2,300 milligrams and the ideal recommended amount is 1,500 milligrams, per the American Heart Association. But did you know that excess salt intake could be the reason for your low sex drive, too? 

High blood pressure caused by high sodium intake can impact men's ability to get an erection and can also cause libido-related problems for women, per experts. "Blood pressure has an undeniably relevant effect on sexual health in both men and women because, for more reasons than one, the health of one's heart is directly tied to the health of one's sex life," explained Toronto-based registered dietitian Andy De Santis. Clogged arteries brought on by high blood pressure can make it so that your heart is unable to efficiently pump blood to all areas of your body, including your pelvis. 

Another thing that can happen with high blood pressure is damaged blood vessels or endothelial dysfunction, explained Dr. Mike Hsieh, urologist and director of the Men's Health Center at the University of California San Diego (via Giddy). "Basically, the blood vessels are damaged in a sense it cannot expand or contract the way it's supposed to in order to regulate blood flow."

Even without high blood pressure, too much salt can affect your sex life

According to a 2019 study done on lab rats published in the American Journal of Hypertension, high salt intake was linked to erectile dysfunction (ED), even when high blood pressure wasn't a concern. 

A 2020 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine also found a direct connection between high salt intake and ED in lab rats. Dr. Hsieh explained that this is because high sodium levels in your system can disrupt communication between cells and blood vessels (per Giddy). "Basically, there are different factors and signals that tell the blood vessels to react in certain ways. Having high salt intake disrupts that communication," he shared. 

Fortunately, reversing the damage to your sex life can be pretty simple. You can start by reducing your salt intake. Yes, this is easier said than done when you consider the fact that a lot of the snacks, treats, and even preserved food we buy at grocery stores today come packed with sodium content. But a little mindfulness while reading labels and awareness when cooking at home can help boost a low sex drive

How to reduce your salt intake

A good place to start might be to assess your particular diet and do some rough calculations of just how much sodium you're eating. And yes, this includes all the treats you nibble on while at work and the late-night snacks you pull out of the fridge. Santis cautioned that high-blood pressure-related libido issues aren't just an older generation problem. They affect young people too. "According to a 2013 study [...] one in four patients seeking medical assistance for erectile dysfunction was under 40 years old," he wrote on his website. 

Dr. Helen Bernie, urologist and director of sexual and reproductive medicine at Indiana University Health, told Giddy that your relationship with food can greatly dictate your sex drive, but changing your palate from one that craves salt to one that doesn't might take some discipline and consistent practice. Cutting back on salt and turning to other forms of spices or herbs to flavor your food is a good start. 

"Your body eventually develops a taste for the natural flavors of food, and when you eat something that has such high salt content, it tastes terrible to you," explained Dr. Bernie. "It is a modifiable factor. Low-salt diets are just so much better for your heart." Try to avoid takeout and pre-packaged treats whenever possible and cook at home. This way, you know what's in your food.