10 sex tips for diabetics

Try these expert tips on how to deal with your biggest sexual roadblocks and boost your pleasure in the bedroom tonight.
© Prevention // © Prevention

When you got your diabetes diagnosis, you probably thought immediately about your weight, your diet, your sugar levels -- a million different things. What would happen to your sex life probably wasn't high on the list. But maybe it should be. Yep, that's right: What's going on with your blood sugar can have a huge impact on how you feel between the sheets -- and, you guessed it, not in a good way. "Medical conditions such as diabetes may cause your sex life to take a plunge, says Dr. Lauren Streicher, Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and author of Slip Sliding Away: A Gynecologist's Guide to Turning Back the Clock on Your Sex Life. "As a diabetic, you have multiple obstacles for achieving a satisfying sex life that other people don't have." Throw in menopause, with its shifting hormone levels and a host of unsexy side effects, and you have a recipe for -- well, we're not sure what exactly, but not romance.

The good news is that once you understand how to deal with the symptoms that may be putting a damper on your bedroom adventures, you can boost your sexual satisfaction big time. Try these expert tips to make sex more pleasurable.

How Your Diabetes Diagnosis May Affect Your Sex Life

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Find some new toys

If sex feels a little (or a lot) less intense lately, diabetes may be to blame. "Diabetics often have decreased blood flow to the vagina because of blood vessel changes, which leads to less arousal and sensation," says Dr. Streicher. "Studies show that diabetics don't orgasm as easily as others due to vascular changes and nerve damage." In short: What used to work for you in terms of reaching orgasm may not be working any more, so it's time to introduce some new tricks to your repertoire. The quickest way to get the stimulation you need is with a vibrator. Even if your partner is wonderful, having a little help from battery-powered toy could make it much easier for you to achieve the big O. "Make sure the model you use offers clitoral stimulation, because it won't help much to have something hard or overly powerful inside your vagina," Dr. Streicher says.

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Pay attention to pH

Increased blood sugar levels can throw the pH balance of your vagina out of whack, upping your odds of chronic vaginal infections. "When pH goes up, the healthy lactobacilli in your vagina can no longer survive, and you get bad bacteria growth like bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections," says Dr. Streicher. One way to keep your bacteria in balance is an OTC vaginal gel twice a week. Try RepHresh, which is FDA-approved to help restore normal vaginal pH and it also acts as a moisturizer for more comfort during lovemaking.

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Control your glucose levels

This is a no-brainer to keep yourself feeling great, and your vagina will thank you for it, too. "You may not think about how keeping your glucose in check can improve your sex life, but maintaing blood sugar in the normal range helps protect blood vessels, prevent nerve damage, and makes it easier for your vagina to fight off infections," says Dr. Streicher. That means ditching high-glycemic carbs in favor of whole grains, protein, and fruits and veggies (for ideas, see our roundup of the Best and Worst Foods for Diabetics). Paying attention to calories is also essential. "Taking in less food puts less demand on the insulin-producing cells so they're more efficient, as well as eliminating extra fat in the pancreas that inhibits insulin production," says David Kendall, M.D., Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at the American Diabetes Association. A dietitian can work with you to develop an eating plan that lets you lose weight slowly but steadily.

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Get moving outside the bedroom

Research shows exercise plays a role in reversing diabetes symptoms -- and it also works wonders for your sex life by strengthening your heart, improving flexibility and stamina, and increasing blood flow to those all-important areas. Luckily, you don't have to be a marathon runner to enjoy the benefits (although a new study found that's why many people train for them). Low-impact workouts like yoga can increase circulation, even awakening sensation in areas where you may have experienced nerve damage, like your fingers and toes. Get started with these 9 Yoga Poses for Better Sex.

5 of 12 Woman kissing man, lying on bed (© Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images)

Eat to get in the mood

Aphrodisiacs aren't just something your hippie cousin told you about -- there's some science to back up the popular notion that eating certain foods can have a positive effect on your sex drive. The mineral zinc may work as a libido-enhancer by helping with testosterone production -- higher levels of the hormone are linked to an increase in desire (yes, women's bodies produce testosterone, too). Which foods pack the most punch? Oysters take the prize, hands down. Besides being known as a classic aphrodisiac -- thanks to their resemblance to a certain female body part -- oysters hold more zinc than any other food. Other good sources of zinc include red meat (which is healthy in moderation, especially if you go grass-fed), crab and cashews. For more research on aphrodisiac foods, check out Spice Up Your Sex Life With Food.

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Use a sugar-free lubricant

Lubricant should be a part of everyone's sexual arsenal, but diabetics need to watch which lubes they choose. "Some lubricants actually contain forms of sugar, such as glycerin and propylene glycol, which will throw off your vaginal pH and possibly trigger yeast infections," says Dr. Streicher. "The last thing you want if you already have higher levels of sugar in your vagina is to add more sugar to it." Check the ingredients list and choose a silicone-based lube, which will last longer and won't break down in water, so you can take your lovemaking out of the bedroom and into the shower or bathtub when you want to. One to try is Wet Platinum Personal Lubricate.

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Learn to love your body

If you're like many people with diabetes, you've been advised by your doctor to lose weight -- which can lead to some awfully critical feelings about your body. Not that you need to be diabetic to have those concerns: A recent study found that both men and women in long-term relationships reported feeling distracted by negative thoughts about their bodies during sex, and women in particular said they were worried about what their partner thought. To quiet those nagging little voices in your head, try these 5 Ways to Love Lights-On Sex.

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Get some sleep

It's a sad fact that most Americans don't get enough sleep, and for diabetics, getting your zzz's is especially important. Sleep has been found to play a role in controlling blood sugar -- getting less than 6 hours a night on a regular basis means you're three times more likely to have elevated blood sugar levels, one study found. Not to mention, if you're completely wiped out at the end of the day, you're not likely to have the energy to get intimate with your partner. Most adults need eight hours a night to function properly. Try these 10 simple ways to get your best night's sleep ever.

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Don't have sex

We're not saying don't ever have sex. But if you're not feeling up to it on a given night, there are other ways to maintain the bond with your partner. "Spicing up your sex life doesn't necessarily mean that you have to try a bunch of unusual positions," says Justin R. Garcia, MS, PhD, evolutionary biologist at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University. "You can be erotic and sexual without engaging in sex. It could be as simple as lying together touching and telling each other what feels good." Relationship satisfaction is linked to sexual satisfaction, he says, and doing something intimate that doesn't involve intercourse -- whether it's cuddling during a movie, reading erotic literature, or splurging on a treat like a couples massage -- may strengthen your bonds to enrich your sex and love life.

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