A dairy free diet may be beneficial for your sex life, according to the Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine (PCRM)—an organization of more than 12,000 physicians that promotes plant-based living and preventative medicine.
As it turns out, eating dairy products can negatively impact sperm count, libido, erections, and female orgasm.
4 ways ditching dairy improves your sex life
Dairy lowers sperm counts
During a 2017 episode of It’s All About Food—a podcast that covers plant-based living—Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of PCRM, discussed how the consumption of cheese can affect male fertility.
“Men who consume the most cheese have the worst sperm counts, the worst sperm motility, the worst sperm morphology,” he said. “Meaning the shape and the movement and just the absolute number of sperm is less the more cheese you eat.”
A causal link between the high consumption of dairy products and sperm count has not been identified. But studies suggest they are correlated. A University of Rochester cross-sectional study conducted between 2009 and 2010—known as the Rochester Young Men’s Study—analyzed the impact of diet on sperm.
Researchers found the consumption of full-fat dairy products (primarily cheese) decreased sperm motility among men between the ages of 18 and 22. The study pointed to the high concentration of estrogen in dairy products for the decline in semen quality.
Dairy throws off sex hormones
Suffer from low libido? The consumption of dairy could be one factor contributing to a decrease in sexual desire.
Some studies show the consumption of milk, cheese, and other dairy products can throw off hormone levels. These include the two main sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone. The chemicals play a role in influencing sexual motivation.
“Taking in these hormones may play a role in modifying sex hormone levels in humans and can, therefore, impact sexual function,” dietician Julieanna Hever explained to LIVEKINDLY. Hever is the author of The Healthspan Solution and Plant-Based Nutrition (Idiot’s Guides).
Levels of estrogen and progesterone are often higher among dairy cows. This is because they are repeatedly impregnated in order to produce milk. (Progesterone is a sex hormone that regulates pregnancy and the menstrual cycle.)
A 2010 study found that after consuming cow’s milk, levels of the female sex hormones increased significantly among men. This resulted in the decreased secretion of testosterone, which helps to promote male libido.
Susan Levin MS, RD, CSSD, PCRM’s director of nutrition education told LIVEKINDLY in an email that the “cross-species disruption in the natural order of human hormones is enough to send everything off the rails.”
“It is fairly easy to imagine that a cow’s lactation fluids, which are full of hormones, would impact the hormones of the being that consumed those fluids,” she said.
In early 2020, PCRM and its members urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make a dairy free diet part of its MyPlate dietary guidelines. PCRM urged the FDA to mandate warning labels on cheese products so that consumers could be aware of the potential health risks of dairy products.
In addition to impacting sex hormone levels, these potential health factors include increasing the risk for hormone-related cancers like prostate and breast cancer.
Dairy weakens erections
According to UW Health approximately five percent of men over the age of 40 suffer from complete erectile dysfunction (ED). (UW Health is the medical center and health system for the University of Wisconsin.) By the time they turn 70, that number will increase to about 15 percent.
While men can suffer from ED at any age, is it more prevalent in those who are older. A number of factors can contribute to this. These include anxiety, depression, and health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Other factors include high cholesterol and lipid levels, low testosterone, and hypertension—also known as high blood pressure.
Studies have also linked high saturated-fat dairy diets to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction—according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
Due to the fact they are high in fat, consuming large amounts of dairy products can increase cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
“It is important to remember that the human body is a hydraulic system. If there is a clog in one pipe, the whole system could break down,” Levin explained.
A study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine revealed high cholesterol may lead to ED because clogged blood vessel walls can reduce blood flow to the erectile tissue. This can impact the quality of erections—making them weak and short-lived.
“We have one cardiovascular system that feeds the entire body, including the sexual organs. Since dairy is high in saturated fat and is associated with cardiovascular disease, this also applies to the rest of the body,” Hever continued. “If the arteries are atherosclerotic, they can impede sexual function with decreased blood flow to the right places.”
A diet that is high in sugary foods and beverages and red meat may also lead to these same effects. Conversely, a dairy free diet high in whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruits is inversely correlated with these negative effects.
Dairy hurts vaginal orgasm
The lack of blood flow to sexual organs may also decrease pleasurable sensations.
In addition to erectile dysfunction, studies have linked hyperlipidemia—elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood—to the vagina, which can also impact sexual arousal.
When a person with a vagina is aroused, blood vessels found in their genitals expand so that more blood can flow to the area. This helps the body prepare for sexual intercourse, such as by aiding in lubrication. As blood flows to the area, the clitoris and labia swell, making them sensitive to touch. These processes can be compromised if blood flow is obstructed.
A 2009 study out of the Second University of Naples found people with vaginas who had hyperlipidemia reported a decrease in orgasm, lubrication, arousal, and overall sexual satisfaction when compared to those with normal blood lipid profiles.
Other dangers of dairy
Aside from sex, there are other reasons to opt for a dairy free diet. Cheeses, milk, and other dairy products can be hard to kick. That’s because dairy products contain small, morphine-like compounds called casomorphins. When the body digests casein—a protein in cow’s milk that gives it a white coloring—the milk protein turns into casomorphins.
Casomorphins can become attached to dopamine receptors in the brain, causing it to release dopamine—a neurotransmitter that is related to feelings of reward and pleasure.
The levels of casomorphins in unprocessed cow’s milk. But the addictive qualities of these mild opiates become magnified when producers ferment the milk to make products like cheese. This is what makes those ooey-gooey, cheese pizza slices so addictive.
In the American diet, dairy products are also the top source of artery-clogging saturated fat, according to Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the PCRM.
“It’s the type of “bad” fat responsible for raising blood pressure and cholesterol levels and increasing the risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease,” Levin said.
What foods will actually help your sex life?
So, what foods should you eat to actually help boost your libido?
Consuming a dairy free diet of foods that are high in zinc and vitamin B, such as avocados and bananas, may also help to increase libido. The former, an essential trace mineral, impacts testosterone levels. And the latter can help to boost mood, which may help to promote greater libido.
And the PCRM recommends ditching meat, too. According to the organization, a diet high in animal proteins may decrease serotonin levels—the hormone is responsible for stabilizing moods as well as for feelings of well-being and happiness.
Registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix told INSIDER that increasing blood flow is a key factor for getting in the mood for sex.
“We want to look at foods that boost circulation, because not only do we want to boost circulation to your brain. But it also boosts circulation to other parts of your body,” she explained.
She noted that “most of the foods that are vegan can do that. Foods like cayenne pepper, dark chocolate, fruits, leafy greens, sunflower seeds, beets. All of those foods would help to boost circulation, and when you boost circulation, there’s a greater chance that you’re going to get the [sexual] response you’re looking for.”