Q: You are always talking about the health and fitness benefits of sex for men--which I totally agree with, by the way. What about sex for women? Is it just as beneficial for them to have frequent orgasms as it is for us guys? I am asking mainly for my girlfriends benefit. She seems to think that as long as I have an orgasm, sex is complete. She says she does not really want or need orgasms, but after reading your column, I am beginning to think she may be doing herself harm by not completely letting go and enjoying as many orgasms as I can give her. Can you shed some light on this? I would like for her to be as healthy and fit as possible--and I love to watch her come, even if it does give me neck cramps and a sore jaw.
A: What a man! I knew there were guys out there who really care about their partners sexual satisfaction as much as their own. And you are absolutely right. Women need orgasms to keep themselves healthy just as much as men do. Actually, they can receive even greater benefits from frequent orgasms than men.
Men and women can benefit mutually from sex because it strengthens the immune system, reduces stress and helps prevent heart disease, strokes and certain cancers. For women in particular, regular orgasms can prevent and heal yeast infections and ease the discomforts of premenstrual syndrome, menopause and pregnancy-related problems. Orgasms are also great for getting women back into shape after they have given birth.
You can share the following study with your girlfriend and anyone else who doubts the healing properties of a fulfilling sex life. According to research conducted by Carl J. Charnetski, professor of psychology, and Francis X. Brennan Jr., assistant professor of psychology, at Wilkes University in Wilke-Barre, Pennsylvania, it seems that people who engage in frequent sexual activity--once or twice per week--have substantially higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA) than those individuals who have sex less than once per week or no sexual activity. IgA, which is found in all mucosal linings of the body and in the blood, is the most prevalent of the five major antibodies that work as part of the bodys defense mechanism against disease. The general function of ones immune system can be inferred by measuring IgA levels.
In the study the researchers measured IgA in saliva samples obtained from a group of male and female undergraduate students. The researchers asked those students about sexual encounters that included some sort of genital contact with a partner, the length of their relationships and their satisfaction with their sexual relationships.
The data revealed four distinct classifications of sexual frequency: No Sexual Activity, Infrequent Sexual Activity (less than one occurrence per week), Frequent Sexual Activity (one to two occurrences per week) and Very Frequent Sexual Activity (three or more occurrences per week). The researchers found that the concentrations of IgA were approximately one-third higher in the Frequent group than in the other categories, including the Very Frequent group. So do not get greedy when it comes to planning your coital calendar. Sexual activity (with genital contact with a partner) once or twice per week appears to be the optimum frequency for boosting your immune system. Having a stronger immune system will help you fight off viruses that can cause colds, flus and ulcers, and your body will also be better able to combat allergies that can make life miserable.
We have talked about the hormone oxytocin, which is released during orgasm, in earlier installments of Sex-Rx. That hormone is responsible, in part, for the peaceful, relaxed feeling right after a great nut. There are myriad hormonal reactions, but in a nutshell, that stress reduction lowers the risks of heart disease and strokes.
Now, I bet you are wondering how in the world sex can help combat cancer. To name just a few instances, for men oxytocin causes contractions in the prostate during orgasm. That friendly prostatic massage helps to keep the prostate clear of congestion and inflammation that can lead to enlargement of the prostate and ultimately prostate cancer. For women there are a number of benefits of getting laid and getting off frequently. Scientists at the University of Adelaide, Australia, found that oxytocin production in sex reduces the cycling ovarian hormones (namely estrogen) and proves to be a preventative factor in the development of breast cancer. Women who have a happy sex life and low levels of stress are also less likely to suffer from cervical neoplasia--the precursor to invasive cervical cancer, according to data presented by the Society for Epidemiologic Research in Seattle, Washington. And if a woman is lucky enough to have her lover come inside of her (without a condom or spermicide), she can further protect herself from cervical cancer. Semen contains substances called prostaglandins that have been shown to exhibit anticancer effects.
A female own love juices can keep her smiling too. The vagina is typically a very acidic environment. If that acidity is not eventually balanced, bacteria such as candida albicans can begin to overgrow, causing a nasty yeast infection. The best way to make the vagina more alkaline is for a woman to have orgasms so that certain bodily fluids flow freely to neutralize the inner sanctum. Frequent orgasms can keep yeast infections at bay, but if one does happen to rear its ugly head, having an orgasm or two usually makes it go away quickly. The best way to have that orgasm, however, would be with nothing inserted inside the vagina. Use your imagination. Another great reason for women to decrease the acidic environment of their vaginas by having regularly scheduled orgasms is because they will taste sweeter.
Now for the kicker. Whats the number-one reason most women say they do not want to have sex? Anecdotally, it is the proverbial headache, but realistically it is because of the discomforts of being on their period. The reality is that having an orgasm can be just what the doctor ordered to get rid of the cramping and headaches that plague women and diminish their sex drive once a month. Endorphins, which are natural painkillers, are released during sexual arousal and orgasms. Oxytocin also helps to reduce pain and bloating by causing contractions of smooth muscles by massaging out the inflammation and congestion. So, guys, the next time your girlfriend complains of having a headache or blows you off because of Mother Nature, tell her you have got just what she needs!
Sex is not just for the younger generation. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study that shows sexual activity can help to diminish some symptoms associated with menopause. The hormones released during sex help keep the vaginal tissues supple and moist and relieve depression. And for women who have just had a baby, orgasms will jump-start your body into getting into shape. The oxytocin released during orgasm (and through breastfeeding) causes the uterus to contract back to its normal shape much more efficiently and more quickly than if one were to just wait for it to naturally shrink. That means a flatter tummy in a few weeks. Yours truly won a Venus Swimsuit model contest just five months after the birth of my second son. And I owe it all to a healthy sex life and my son ferocious appetite for breast milk! --Laura M. Moore
Editors note: Laura Moore is a science writer for IRONMAN and Penthouse magazines and www.ocnow.com. She is the host of the radio show The Health Nuts," which airs in the southeastern United States. Address your sex-fitness questions to her by visiting thefitdiva.com. IM