Can Too Much Sex be Bad for Your Health? Sex and Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

SEX.
There, I said it. It seems that sex is everywhere in Western culture, plastered on billboards, all over TV and in magazine ads – scantily clad beautiful people looking seductive and, well, sexy. So lets talk about sex and its role in our health.

Sex, or our drive to reproduce, is hard wired and a very primal physiological need. But sex has had a rough go throughout history, with many religions and groups trying to convince people that they should abstain, hide their desires and longings, or that sex itself is simply a sin.

Luckily, in Chinese medicine, sex and sexual activity is a healthy part of being human. It is perfectly natural, and we need it to be healthy, happy individuals.  I can hear the collective sigh of relief. But its true. The Chinese are realists. Pragmatists. Buddha bless them.

sex in Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine was developed out of prolonged observations of people, animals and their relationship to their environment, and the result was a deep understanding of what it is to be human – and sex is a fundamental part of the whole package.

Chinese medicine also views sex (either too much or too little) as a cause of disease. This may seem strange to us in the West, but allow me to explain how that is seen to happen. First, there are a couple of things to clarify when speaking about sex and its potential role in disease.

Men and Women Are Not the Same

The first is the difference between men and women. Men and women differ physiologically and this why too much sex is seen to affect men more than it affects women. To understand why we must look at how Chinese medicine views how boys and girls develop, the Tian Gui (heavenly water) and something called Jing.

In Chinese medicine growth and development is governed by the Kidneys and happens in cycles of 7 years for girls, and 8 years for boys. According to the ancient Chinese medical text called the Su Wen – at 14, girls “Tian Gui” arrives (menstruation), and she is able to reproduce.” At 16, the Tian Gui is said to arrive for boys, meaning they are able to produce viable healthy sperm. Tian Gui is the essence that allows girls to conceive and become pregnant and boys to fertilize a girls egg, leading to conception. Tian Gui manifests as sperm in boys and eggs or ovum in girls.

Both girls and boys ability to successfully reproduce however, depends on the strength and vitality of Kidney Jing. We are all born with a finite amount of Kidney Jing, but it can be supplemented and supported by the food we eat. When Jing is abundant, one is fertile and can conceive easily. If Jing is deficient, conceiving becomes difficult, and one can develop symptoms like weak and brittle bones, problems with development both physically and mentally, prematurely greying hair, and loose teeth that are prone to cavities. In young people, a deficiency of Jing can lead to delayed menstruation in girls, and delayed arrival of sperm in boys as well as developmental problems.

Sex in Chinese Medicine

Too Much Sex

In Chinese medicine too much sex is seen to affect men more than women. The reason for this is because when a man reaches orgasm and ejaculates, he is losing some of his precious Jing. A man who engages in frequent sexual activity, or masturbation that results in ejaculation, can deplete his Jing and this can lead to a deficiency. Yes, that’s right guys. Too much sex can be bad for your health. There are many ancient Taoism practices that teach ways for men to reach orgasm without ejaculation – a master of these techniques is Mantak Chia who has written many books that offer instruction on how to cultivate both male and female sexual energy, which are techniques that are useful not only for your sexual life, but have wide applications to your life in general.

For women, this is not an issue. Since the eggs or ovum are considered the direct manifestation of Jing, they are obviously not lost during sexual intercourse and orgasm, so they cannot become deficient in Jing by having too much sex. Good news, right ladies? There are things, however that can lead to a loss of Jing for women. Having too many pregnancies and births too close together can be depleting to a woman’s Jing. Pregnancy and childbirth are extremely taxing to the body’s resources, so it is important to give the body time to recover and rebuild in between pregnancies to keep your Jing strong and your overall health at optimum levels.

Under normal circumstances and in a healthy individual, the loss of Jing can be quickly made up so it never leads to a deficiency and potentially disease. It is only when sexual activity is in excess and/or engaged in by an unhealthy person that the body does not have the time or energy to recuperate and restore the Kidney essence. You may be wondering how you would know if you are engaging in too much sex. If you have weak kidney essence, then some symptoms you may experience after sex are:

  • marked fatigue
  • dizziness
  • blurred vision
  • lower backache
  • weak knees
  • frequent urination

These are all symptoms of kidney deficiency. So if you are experiencing any of these you might want to cut back on the sexual activity and seek out an acupuncturist who, with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, can help strengthen your kidneys and get you back to your normal sexual activities. So, this may be one of the best motivations ever for staying healthy, right guys? For a quick list, you can read – 10 Easy Tips To Get Healthy Right Now – which will get you going in the right direction and help you stay in tip top shape. :)

Another factor is that the Chinese believe that sexual activity should be adjusted according to ones age. We can get an idea of what frequency might be appropriate from references from ancient Chinese classics. Here is a helpful chart…

AGE           IN GOOD HEALTH          AVERAGE HEALTH
15              2x day                               1x day
20              2x day                               1x day
30              1x day                               Every other day
40              Every 3 days                     Every 4 days
50              Every 5 days                     Every 10 days
60              Every 10 days                   Every 20 days
70              Every 30 days                   None

Of course, this information should only be used as a broad guideline. The great thing about Chinese medicine, and why it works so well, is that each individual is diagnosed and treated according to their specific issues and imbalances, so knowing how much sexual activity is good for you is about you knowing your body and perhaps, if you are having problems, getting a thorough diagnosis and working with an acupuncturist/herbalist to rebalance so you can get back to healthy sexual activities.

Not Enough Sex

One subject that is not frequently addressed in ancient Chinese texts is a lack of sex, but this can definitely affect us both physically and psychologically. There is a physical component to not having enough sex in our lives, especially if we have the desire, but I think what can be even more detrimental is the psychological impact this has on us. As human beings we are social animals and most of us need connections to other people to give us a sense of belonging and connectedness. These are also important for our health and survival. This is a difference I see between Chinese culture and our culture in the West. In China, it is common for many generations to live in the same household. In the West, it is common for the children to move out of the house as quickly as possible as things like independence and self sufficiency are seen as desirable and fostered traits in our culture. This leads to a society with many people living closely together, but being alone. Chinese medicine really teaches us balance, and to have healthy, meaningful connections in our lives is an important part of both physical and psychological health and wellbeing on every level.

Sex and Love in Chinese Medicine

Sex is Not The Same as Love

When speaking about sex and its potential role in disease, we are speaking at the level of physiology. We are discussing the level of the body and not about the psychological aspect that accompanies sex (although not always), affection, companionship and love. When assessing a patient the practitioner would ask about the persons sexual life from a physical level, but would also be careful to discern the emotional component as well in order to get a complete picture (read about the importance of the emotions in Chinese medicine here). Ailments of physiology, at least in Chinese medicine, do not exist in isolation. They are one part of a larger picture, and it is important to bring into focus the entirety of that picture in order to determine where the root of the imbalance lies, and how to correct it.

Because ideas about sex differ wildly from culture to culture, the sexual problems encountered within that culture will differ also. In the West, we are perhaps seen to have a quite relaxed attitude towards sex compared to much of Asia and the middle East, but we seem rather uptight in comparison to much of Europe and Central and South America. But the basics remain constant. Sex is natural. It is something most everybody does and having a healthy and satisfying sexual life in an important aspect of our health. As important is having love in our lives, as this is proven to release endorphins which make us happy, give us energy and increase immunity helping us to fight off disease. If you can have sex and love together, you are exponentially increasing the benefits of both.

Libido - Sex and Chinese Medicine

Problems with Sex

There are many issues both physical and psychological that can create complications when it comes to our sexual lives. In many ways we are fortunate to live in a time and place where talking about those issues has become more commonplace and a dialogue can begin to help heal whatever problems have arisen. Many people are still quite shy to talk about sex, but in the comfort of their doctor or acupuncturists office can open up and talk about the sexual issues they are struggling with. Acknowledging and talking about your concerns, fears and questions is the first step in the healing process.

There are many different issues that can hinder a healthy sex life. Erectile dysfunction (inability to get or maintain an erection), inability to reach orgasm, vaginal dryness, low libido, excessive libido, infections of the sexual organs, and pain during or after sex are just a few of the issues that we can experience. And most of us will experience them at some point in our lives. The wonderful thing about Chinese medicine, is that instead of prescribing medications (which only deals with symptoms and not the root problem) the reason for the problem is sought and using Chinese herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion, Gus Sha, and the myriad other modalities that practitioners of Chinese medicine employ, a person can rebalance the system and enjoy a healthy and satisfying sexual life.

Chinese Herbs for Sexual Problems in Chinese Medicine

Chinese Herbs & Acupuncture

The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used to help sexual problems for thousands of years. There are myriad treatments for everything that could be hampering you in the bedroom. Sometimes, people find these types of problems difficult to talk about, but because sex is such an important part of our lives, health and wellbeing, it is worth it to sit down and discuss any problems or concerns with your acupuncturist as there are many things that they can do to help you sort out any problems you may be having. Like anything else, knowing your body and being able to tell when things are out of balance is important, and going and speaking to someone when you notice a problem is the first step to rebalancing the system and having a healthy and satisfying sex life.

 

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