Sometimes, counter-intuitive coping (doing the opposite of what you’d expect) is the best way forward. Reclaiming sexual satisfaction in the presence of IBS is one area where counter-intuitive coping can apply. Sex, and orgasm in particular, can be quite helpful in re-regulating healthy gut functioning.
Paradoxically, the behavior many IBS sufferers want to avoid may hold a key to resolving the problem they want to resolve. IBS involves dysregulated neuromuscular activity in the digestive tract. Diarrhea and constipation are clear signs that the usual muscular rhythms that define healthy gut functioning is off.
All muscles do two things, whether they are skeletal muscles, digestive tract muscles, or genital muscles. They contract and release. They tighten, building and holding tension, and then discharge their stored energy as they let go. Sexual activity is a way of deliberately and pleasurably exercising those bodily muscles systems.
As your body builds toward orgasm, tension builds as muscles throughout the body contract. Orgasm begins with a peaking of that tension, followed by the release of that tension in a series of muscle spasms.
What follows is a state of heightened “vagal tone” in which the bodily systems stimulated by the vagus nerve, including the gut, relax. In addition, oxytocin is released, which stimulates a positive outlook and stronger feelings of connection to your intimate partner, along with a lowering of cortisol, which reduces the body’s stress and inflammatory responses.
So, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, introducing regular orgasms into your weekly “diet” can be as good for your gut as it is for your body, soul, and your intimate connection to others.
1The 7 dimensions of body image are described by L. Hornyak, PhD, in Chapter 2 of, Healing from Within, APA Press, 2000. Washington, D.C.