You have been told that it helps, but in actual fact it doesn’t. Alcohol’s ability to boost intimacy between couples in any way is just a myth. Moreover, alcohol consumption not just fails your liver, it is also likely to lead to disappointment between the sheets.
Experts say drinking alcohol either occasionally or for a prolonged period may affect sexual sensitivity — the feeling of being aroused and experiencing intimate moments — in both men and women.
Drinking is associated with erectile dysfunction (ED) and deficient performance in men and with decreased sexual stimulation in women.
Link between heavy drinking and sexual dysfunction in men
“Excessive use of alcohol causes a condition called alcoholic neuropathy, which causes damage to the nerve function,” says Dr Shashidhar B, an andrologist at Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru. “This may even lead to a more permanent type of ED in men.”
Many studies have also revealed a direct connection between alcohol consumption and erectile dysfunction.
Heavy drinking may also lead to other comorbidities like diabetes (as alcohol disrupts the liver’s function to break down glucose in the body) hypertension and obesity. “ED can stem from these comorbidities, too,” says Dr Shashidhar.
ED may also stem from liver disease caused due to alcohol abuse, says Dr Karthikeyan VS, microsurgical andrologist and urologist, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai.
- Alcohol and delayed ejaculation
Men may also suffer from delayed ejaculation due to excessive drinking, says Dr Shashidhar.
“Delayed ejaculation is when it takes longer than 30 minutes for men to ejaculate or have an orgasm with sexual stimulation,” he says. “Some people may even fail to achieve orgasm, leading to dissatisfaction with intimacy.”
- Alcohol and testosterone levels
The testosterone hormone plays an integral role in male sexual desire and arousal. “Due to excessive alcohol consumption, development or formation of sperms gets reduced,” says Dr Shashidhar.
How alcohol affects sexual health among women
A recent study reported that there is an increased risk of sexual dysfunction associated with alcohol consumption in women.
Occasional consumption of alcohol in women can lead to reduced sexual stimulation, it said. And among chronic alcohol users, it can lead to decreased vaginal lubrication, dyspareunia (pain in the genital area or pelvic during intercourse caused due to less lubrication) and difficulty in achieving orgasm.
- Alcohol and ovulation
Consumption of alcohol over an extended period can lead to lower sex drive or libido, says Dr Ramyasree Reddy, fertility consultant and gynecologist, Apollo Fertility, Chennai. “Drinking alcohol either excessively or in moderation can lead to hormonal imbalances, thereby affecting ovulation in females. It also affects the egg quality if the individual is a chronic alcoholic.”
Dr Reddy adds that if a pregnant woman drinks heavily, it can affect embryo quality and cause miscarriages and birth defects (fetal alcohol syndrome).
Apart from reducing sexual interest, excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to dehydration, which too affects female libido.
Moderate or quit drinking for better sexual activity?
Dr Shashidhar says moderate levels of alcohol consumption may sometimes be helpful in controlling anxiety in relation to sexual performance. “It can also increase your desire — which may be beneficial to sexual performance,” he says.
Also, it is a good idea to maintain a gap of six to eight hours between drinking and intimacy.
Quitting drinking all at once may not be possible for chronic users. Experts say such individuals can first try to limit their alcohol intake to not more than two drinks per day, then gradually reduce the number of drinks and finally give up completely.
- Alcohol is a depressant and causes body systems to slow down. So, excessive drinking decreases libido.
- In men, excessive drinking leads to erectile dysfunction and low sex drive.
- In women, overconsumption of alcohol leads to vaginal dryness, dehydration and difficulty in achieving orgasm.