Not just skin and hair issues, even lower sex drive or libido is one of the 62 symptoms of long Covid. A new study published in the Nature Medicine journal by the University of Birmingham noted that this “broad range of symptoms” has been reported 12 or more weeks after infection. Notably, long Covid is when people experience lingering symptoms even after recovery. While the World Health Organization says long Covid starts three months after the original bout of illness or positive test result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets the timeline at just after one month.
Some of these symptoms are urinary incontinence, vertigo, mouth ulcers, anorexia, sneezing, ejaculation difficulty, reduced libido, shortness of breath at rest, fatigue, chest pain, hoarse voice, and fever. Dr Sonam Solanki, consultant pulmonologist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai explained how long Covid affects various organs of the body. “Not just blood and lungs but neurological and psychiatric symptoms are also being well-documented. These include memory to following basic commands and even sex drive, which is again neurological in nature,” she said.
We reached out to experts to understand more about sexual health and long Covid.
“For a person who is already battling fatigue and is unable to get back to his daily routine, having a lack of sex drive is very natural. Furthermore, social distancing, quarantine, anxiety, depression, and loneliness have also affected mental and emotional health. As a result, it affects sexual drive,” Juhi Pandey, fertility counsellor at Fertility Dost told indianexpress.com.
Dr Sanjay Kumavat, consultant psychiatrist and sexologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund said that Covid-19 virus has been responsible for reducing testosterone hormone secretion which has affected libido in males. “Loss of interest in any sexual activity is completely normal, considering libido levels may go up and down from time-to-time. When the body is under stress and experiences anxiety, it releases hormones called cortisol and epinephrine, which in excess amounts can lower the libido,” Dr Kumavat said.
“It is also known that Covid virus impacts the testis, in turn, decreasing the testosterone levels in the body that reduces the desire to have sex,” said Dr Amit Tiwari, consultant urologist, Manipal Hospitals, Gurugram. Adding, Dr Rajesh Sharma, Pulmonary Medicine, Sir HN Reliance Hospital said, “Many of these patients have financial burdens and other health issues along with stress which have an impact on their personal life and even libido.”
What can be done?
Stressing that “most of the patients visiting our OPD have this problem post-Covid”, Dr Tiwari said, “We all know Indians are not that open about their sexual life. So the problem indeed exists much more than what we see. So, for any issues regarding post-Covid erectile dysfunction, one must seek medical consultation at the earliest.”
Ayurvedic practitioner Dr Dixa Bhavsar Savaliya suggested few foods and herbs/minerals that “promote libido and fertility in males”.
“These foods are aphrodisiac, rejuvinative, unctous and energising in nature,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
These, according to Dr Bhavsar Savaliya include cow’s milk, cow’s ghee, honey, ashwagandha, shatavari, triphala, shilajit, amla, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
“They help improve the libido, and also fertility (takes care of overall nutrition and also improves the quality and quantity of sperm),” she said.
Semen-enhancing drvayas- Milk, ghee, shatavari, ashwagandha etc
Herbs promoting the quality of sperm- Brahmi, shatavari, guduchi etc.
Libido increasing dravyas: Saffron, garlic, long pepper, cloves etc.
Dravyas preventing premature ejaculation- Nutmeg, ashwagandha, chandana etc.
According to her, it is important to include fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, coconut, and milk in the diet. “Dry fruits like almonds, walnuts, black currants, figs, dates etc with milk also help,” she added.
However, she warned that it is necessary to consult an ayurvedic practitioner before including these herbs in the diet.