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How Our Everyday Exposure to Environmental Toxins Affects Sex

Published: AUGUST 18, 2021
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Reviewed by Dr. Sunny Rodgers
on August 14, 2021
They are called "toxins" for a reason! This is how exposure to environmental toxins affects your sexual health.

If we want to have hot sex, we need to take care of our bodies, right? But every day we are exposed to environmental toxins that make that task more challenging.


We’ve all heard those stories of some town where the people have been unknowingly drinking contaminated water because a factory decided to cut corners. But what about the normal, everyday exposure to toxins in our air, food and water? Does this affect sex?

The answer, according to a growing body of research, including a study from Johns Hopkins University and others, is yes. Fortunately, we can take steps to help our bodies deal with this environmental assault on our sex lives.

Great sex, physiologically, is a coordinated effort between nerves, hormones and blood vessels. The systems most damaged by exposure to environmental toxins are:

  • The nervous system, where pleasure is processed.
  • The endocrine system, which controls sex hormones.
  • The cardiovascular system, which is responsible for delivering blood to the penis and clitoris.

Simply put, these toxins make for bad sex.

Read: Is Your Sex Toy Ethical?

Even those of us who don’t live next to a toxin-spewing factory will, unfortunately, be exposed to heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium. In fact, due to years of industrial waste, most adults have measurable amounts in their blood.

As it is mined, cadmium, for example, is released into the air, and industrial waste accumulates in soil. It is then absorbed by the fruits, grains, and vegetables that we eat. Toxic heavy metals exist in different concentrations in soil throughout the developed world.

We know from epidemiological studies that exposure to cadmium, lead and mercury specifically are associated with adverse effects on the human reproductive system. Cadmium has been shown in numerous studies to affect the bioavailability of testosterone and estrogen in the body. Levels of these hormones affect libido, lubrication, erectile strength, orgasm and all other aspects of sexual function.

In one study, researchers measured reproductive hormones in healthy females aged six to eleven years old. The higher the lead and cadmium levels in these females, the lower the production of hormones associated with puberty.

In another study, 252 healthy females who didn’t have any identified exposure to heavy metals were randomly selected from the general population. They found that lead, mercury and cadmium levels existed in large enough quantities, even in supposedly uncontaminated areas, to have detrimental effects on the reproductive system. The number of similar studies is now quite sizable. Male sexual health is also affected by environmental toxins. For example, studies have shown that cadmium, cobalt, and copper adversely affect testosterone and damage testicular cells.

Heavy metals are also known neurotoxins, which means that they damage nerves. Nerves carry signals of pleasure to and from our genitals, and when they’re damaged, these signals are slower and weaker. This can translate to softer erections, difficulty achieving orgasm, or orgasms that aren’t as good.


Does it Even Matter?

I know what you’re thinking, don’t we have governmental agencies that ensure that our exposure levels are safe? To answer this question, the World Health Organization launched the Environmental Burden of Disease Project. The goal was to assess how much our exposure to the nine most common environmental toxins affects our health. They looked at the impact of substances like benzene, dioxins, particulate matter, and radon. They determined that 3-7% of human disease is caused by these nine substances. That’s a lot, especially considering all of the other things that affect health, like diet, exercise and genetics.

What Can We Do About It?

We can’t control our environment, but fortunately there are things we can do to help our bodies deal with these toxins in our daily lives. We have two options to protect ourselves; we either help our bodies absorb less toxins when we are exposed to them, or we help our bodies remove them.

Remove Toxins from Our Bodies

Humans produce proteins called metallothionein and phytochelatin, which bind to toxic heavy metals and deliver them safely out of the body. Each person’s body produces different quantities, though, and zinc helps our bodies produce these proteins. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans have a zinc-deficient diet. Improving our intake of zinc, then, is essential to protecting ourselves from heavy metals. Leafy greens are a great source of zinc. For those who eat meat, oysters, beef and chicken are rich in bioavailable zinc. For plant-based eaters, legumes and grain are good sources, but the zinc is bound to phytates which render them unavailable to the body. To remove these phytates and make the zinc absorbable, these grains and legumes must be soaked overnight before cooking, or sprouted. Sprouting involves soaking and then rinsing repeatedly over the course of a few days.

Help Our Bodies Absorb Fewer Toxins

What we eat affects how much toxic heavy metals are absorbed by our bodies. People whose diets contain more minerals such as calcium and magnesium absorb less environmental heavy metals, according to research. High fat intake though, was associated with greater absorption of heavy metals. For example, if you were to drink radioactive lead alone, your body would absorb less lead than if you drank it with vegetable oil. Fortunately, you need not try this experiment out yourself. Scientists somehow got people to volunteer to do it and published their findings.


There are also certain foods that were shown in research to be particularly effective in helping our bodies deal with environmental toxins. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, and berries, for example, help remove heavy metals from the body. This is due to their high mineral content.

If you want to adopt a diet which counteracts the cock/clit-blocking effects of environmental toxins, try starting with one meal: lunch. Eat a big leafy green salad with tomato, onion and a baked yam or potato with the skins on most days. This one meal packs a hefty amount of protective minerals which will help your body absorb fewer toxins and encourage their removal from the body.

Despite our exposure to everyday environmental toxins, we can protect our blood vessels and endocrine system from damage. And we can help our nerves continue to fire strong pleasure signals to and from our genitals. You can learn more about environmental toxins and sex in my book, Diet for Great Sex: Food for Male and Female Sexual Health, available on Amazon.

Photo for Christine DeLozier
Christine DeLozier

Christine DeLozier, L.Ac., is an acupuncturist and herbalist in private practice specializing in sexual health, treating males, females, and all orientations and identities. Her book, Diet for Great Sex, is a cheeky, scientific look at eating for blood flow, hormonal balance, and strong nerve conduction to and from our genitals.