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The health benefits of making love

By DR. GRACE CAROLE BELTRAN, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 15, 2022 5:00 am

Intimacy in a relationship is a feeling of being close, emotionally connected, and supported. It means being able to share a whole range of thoughts, feelings and experiences that we have as human beings. And so, intimacy doesn’t always have to be about sex.

However, based on surveys, a majority of respondents say that they expect sex on Valentine’s Day. Gestures such as a romantic dinner, a box of chocolates or maybe a bouquet of roses seem to all be regarded as a thoughtful deed, but most couples have something a little more intimate in mind.

According to a survey, 55 percent of men and women are open to try something new sexually, especially during the love month. Sex has many valuable benefits for the overall health, but that is not the case all the time.

You could also get trapped in a situation where you could not run away from or a situation that changes your life forever or possibly endangers your life by having sex.

Here are some health benefits of having sexual intercourse:

Sex as a stress reliever. Our body releases endorphins and other happy chemicals during sexual intercourse, which elevate mood and minimize the risk of depression and anxiety.

Healthy sex itself is an indicator of good health, because poor health compromises the ability to engage in healthy sexual encounters.

It lowers the risk of developing serious health issues. A study (Biological Psychology) suggested that individuals in steady relationships are at lower risk of developing hypertension, as compared to single individuals. Investigators proposed that individuals in monogamous relationships are more relaxed, free from infectious diseases and overall more satisfied emotionally and sexually. Men who engage in sexual encounters at least twice a week are less likely to develop cardiovascular issues, too.

Calorie burner. Regular sex helps in burning calories and keeping basal metabolism in check. Healthy sex itself is an indicator of good health, because poor health compromises the ability to engage in healthy sexual encounters.

Lowers risk of mental health issues. Research indicates that men in steady relationships tend to engage in sexual intercourse more frequently when compared to single men. In addition, their partners experience orgasms more frequently. All these factors improve the quality of relationships leading to a lesser risk of mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, etc.

Regular sex helps in burning calories and keeping basal metabolism in check.

Improves immune functions. Several research studies have shown that regular sex improves the functioning of the immune system in men. Carl Charnetski, the lead researcher, provided statistical evidence that men who engage in regular sexual encounters (at least once a week) are less likely to fall victim to common illnesses such as allergies, colds, etc. mainly because of improved immunological functions. A study also suggested that the effects on immunological health are partly mediated by elevation in the serum IgA levels (the immunoglobulin that serves as the first line of defense).

Increases estrogen levels during orgasm. This hormone is key to normal functioning of the skin, blood vessels, hair follicles, oil glands and melanocytes (the pigment producing cell). It also plays a role in supporting normal skin barrier function (that part of the skin that protects us from the harsh effect of the environment), maintains hydration, keeping oil gland production at bay, improves wound healing and modulating inflammation (common problem in eczema and acne).

Estrogen is responsible for speeding up acne healing and production of thicker and fuller hair. It is also a form of exercise that boosts the release of nitric oxide which increases blood flow and oxygen throughout the body, making the skin glow. Women, the increase in blood flow can make your breasts look bigger as they swell up to to 25 percent during sex. It also helps in the management of menopause symptoms.

Lowers the risk of sexually transmitted infections. People who are in steady sexual relationships are more proactive and careful when it comes to protection. According to a new survey, people who are less likely to engage in monogamous sexual behavior are less prepared for protection against STDs. Needless to say that chronic STIs can greatly deteriorate the overall physical health and wellbeing in individuals.

Sex is a natural analgesic. Our pain threshold increases during sexual activity in response to the hormones and neurotransmitters released (that is because the pituitary gland releases endorphins, oxytocin and vasopressin). In other words, people are less likely to feel pain. It’s also the reason why some people derive pleasure from experiencing pain at the same time, as orgasm and pain actually activate some of the same brain areas.

According to a new study reported in the clinical journal Cephalalgia (6), investigators suggested that although most people don’t feel the urge to engage in a sexual encounter during migraine attack or cluster headache episode (“Not tonight, I have a headache”), engaging in sexual activity during such an active episode can lead to partial or complete resolution of symptoms. Based on the data obtained from 800 patients with a history of migraine headaches and 200 patients with cluster headaches, about 60 percent and 31 percent, respectively reported complete resolution of symptoms after engaging in sexual activity.

The logical part of the brain basically shuts down during sex. Our logical, reasoning skills temporarily go on vacation. That is the part of the brain responsible for reason, decision-making and value judgments, and this temporary pause is associated with decrease in fear and anxiety.

Sex is a happy pill. After an orgasm, the brain releases hormones that can make you feel happy and sleepy.

During orgasm, our brain releases a surge of Dopamine, the hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure, desire and motivation. Known as the “pleasure chemical,” dopamine is much more a learning chemical, actually helping us to take notice of rewards like food and sex and figuring out how to get more of them. Experiencing a moment or two of pure euphoria effectively rewards us for having sex. It reinforces this behavior and keeps us coming back for more.

Enhances feeling of satisfaction. Oxytocin, known as the bonding hormone, is also released during orgasm. This hormone is known to facilitate a sense of love and attachment. Prolactin, the hormone responsible for that feeling of satisfaction that accompanies orgasm, is also released. Sex, like drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating, listening to one’s favorite music, etc., is experienced as more pleasurable; that is because the reward pathways in our brains are activated.

Sex is a happy pill. After an orgasm, the brain releases hormones that can make you feel happy and sleepy. Once an orgasm has occurred, your brain tends to slow down. But it doesn’t go off-duty entirely. In both men and women, the orgasm signals the parasympathetic nervous system to start down-regulating (or calming) the body. The prefrontal cortex (part of the brain), which was previously activated leading up to orgasm, also becomes down-regulated — and this is linked to increased levels of oxytocin to facilitate attachment.

Studies show that the brain also churns out serotonin after an orgasm. This hormone is known to promote good mood and relaxation. In some people, serotonin can also lead to drowsiness and the desire to curl up for a nap. In women, oxytocin tends to continue to be released after orgasm, which may explain the motivation for post-coital cuddles.

Since this activity increases blood flow across the brain so dramatically, it may have developed in part to help keep the brain healthy, too.

Regular and safe sex can, therefore, help in improving vitality, quality of life and physical health, which directly impact your cosmetic appearance (beautiful skin, hair and nails) and emotional well-being.

Note: This is if you practice safe sex.

However, if you are not careful, you could also get sexually transmitted diseases that can change your life forever or endanger your life — such as HIV, Hepatitis or COVID-19, etc.