Although you feel it the most down south, sex can impact your whole body. From causing a flood of hormones to unknotting those tight muscles in your shoulders, it's a whole body experience. But intimacy can also impact your gut health, both directly and indirectly (and gut health can affect intimacy, too).
It's actually somewhat intuitive that your sexual activities may impact your gut, considering the genitals and the stomach are physically so close together. And since GI issues like diarrhea and constipation are common during menstruation or pregnancy, it makes sense that intercourse could create those problems as well, especially if your partner is more aggressive during intimacy. The relationship goes both ways, as conditions in your gut can cause issues in your sex life and your sexual activities can cause changes in your gut, too.
But it's important to remember that sex shouldn't be causing you discomfort in any form, and that includes stomach pain. If you are experiencing recurrent stomach issues as a result of intimacy (or for any reason), you should make an appointment with a doctor to get it sorted out and to ensure it's not something more serious. In the meantime, read on to find out some of the more surprising ways your gut and your sexual health are connected.
1. Serotonin levels
Serotonin, or the "happy" chemical as many think of it, helps regulate your sex drive, per Medical News Today. And although you may think of it as something that is produced in the brain, that's not actually the case. As Dr. Edward Catalano, a functional/holistic medicine practitioner based in New Jersey, tells Romper via email, "Serotonin is active in the central nervous system and the periphery with some researchers showing up to 80-90 percent being produced in the gut probably either directly or indirectly by the gut microbiome."
Oddly, though, low levels of serotonin are correlated with a higher sex drive, as Healthline reported. But everyone has different base levels of serotonin, so talk to your doctor if you've been feeling not like yourself to see if there's an issue.
Digestive issues can often be a result of anxiety, and anxiety can also lower your sex drive. Harvard Health Publishing warned that if you're experiencing heartburn, abdominal cramps, or loose stools in conjunction with a sudden disinterest in intimacy, anxiety could be the root of both problems. Only a doctor can identify what's really going on, so make an appointment if you're having tummy and bedroom issues or have been feeling more stressed than usual.
3. IBD and sexual dysfunction
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is essentially ongoing inflammation of the digestive track, as Mayo Clinic explained, and it's found to be linked to sexual dysfunction. A journal article in Gastroenterology & Hepatology listed fatigue caused by IBD, a higher risk of vaginal infections and vaginal dryness, a higher likelihood of erectile dysfunction, and a higher risk of depression as ways IBD can impact sufferer's sex lives. And Catalano also points out that people with chronic GI issues "may not feel clean, and [their condition may] reduce their confidence," leading them to not want to engage in sexual activities. But a doctor can help you deal with these issues if you speak up about them, so let your provider know if your IBD is impacting your sex life.
Ever passed gas during sex? You're not alone. As The Cleveland Clinic explained, it's common to pass gas during penetrative sex because "back and forth action can easily cause gas pockets that evacuate," and your muscles relax when you orgasm, allowing more gas to escape. Although it might be a little weird when it happens, know it's nothing to be embarrassed about. And going to the bathroom before you have some bedroom fun can help.
You're probably familiar with the ways endometriosis impacts your gynecological health, but it can hurt your gastrointestinal system too. Quick recap: endometriosis is when "the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows in other places," according to Live Science. Since that tissue is designed to shed once per month, it wreaks havoc on your system when the endometrium has no where to go.
And as Healthline explained, endometrium can attach to your colon, which will cause pain when you go to the bathroom because of irritation when the waste moves through you or from the growth of scar tissue. Doesn't sound like much fun at all. Excessive cramping during your period is the most common sign of endometriosis, so if you're experiencing cramping and major pain when you go to the bathroom, you should definitely make an appointment with your OBGYN.
Although it's most common to contract Sexually Transmitted Infections in the genitals, people can also experience STIs of the anus and rectum, or the "anorectum." Women are at a higher risk of STIs of the anorectum than men according to the Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery, as it's estimated that "between 5 percent and 10 percent engage in anal intercourse and they are more likely than men to have unprotected anal intercourse," while less than 2 percent of adult men in the US have anal sex.
Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis can all cause issues in the anorectum, through diarrhea, painful stools, rectal leakage, and more. If you've had unprotected sex and are experiencing any of these symptoms (or even if you aren't), you should get tested and talk to a doctor.
7. Sexual dissatisfaction
You probably know from your own experiences that having sex when you need to use the restroom can be uncomfortable, but it can also inhibit some of the pleasure. As Dr. Catalano explains, "when your bowel and bladder are empty, blood can leave the gut more easily and be more available to the genitals," making the sensations more intense. Moral of the story: "go" before you go at it.
Bottom line, sex should be fun, and issues with your stomach shouldn't be getting in the way of it. Talk to your doctor if you're having problems, so you can get back to the good stuff.