I recently asked a large group of midlife women for advice on one of the more personal symptoms of my perimenopause – painful sex. One recommendation came back very loud and clear, raw virgin coconut oil. I did a bit of research and it seems that in its raw organic natural form – coconut oil is indeed the lube of choice for mid-lifers. It is solid but melts quickly in warm hands, has a soft sweet coconut smell and is completely safe to use (though not with condoms*). It also has natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties so it also helps to prevent yeast infections. I bought myself a jar from the health food shop and put it to the test…
Use it or lose it
It seems I am not on my own in feeling sore ‘down there’ – it’s a classic symptom of ‘the Change’. It’s also bit of a vicious circle – it hurts so you have less frequent sex – then its hurts even more. The technical term is Vaginal Atrophy (doesn’t that make you feel great) and the science is simple, a change in hormone levels reduces lubrication and decreased amounts of oestrogen leads to a thinner, less elastic and more fragile vaginal lining. When I first noticed the symptoms girlfriends suggested an over-the-counter medication called vagisil and this helped but not enough to make it enjoyable. At this point I should mention that it was actually painful for BOTH of us, not just me, and it made me realise just how clever mother nature is. She has created a wonderful process whereby mutual attraction leads to relaxed, copious lubrication, procreation and the endless cycle of the universe. Copulating couples in their fifties were not part of her plan – we are past-use, barren and, some of us at least, ‘dried up’.
But not any more. Without going into too much detail let’s just say this is what I have been looking for, coconut oil works for me and we’ve got a part of our relationship back that I had missed more than I was prepared to admit. I’m finding writing about this very difficult and embarrassing but I am smiling and that says it all.
A by-product of the research I did on coconut oil revealed how good it is for your skin generally. As well using it during romantic encounters I’ve been using it on my legs to get them summer-ready. Well it started with my legs but now I’m using it everywhere. Unlike other ‘oils’ it doesn’t stay on my skin too long and leaves it feeling silky smooth. Dry itchy skin (pruritus) is yet another delightful symptom of perimenopause – a change in hormones slowing down the body’s oil and collagen production and ability to retain moisture. So far, so good.
The internet is full of all sorts of claims and counter-claims about the benefits of using coconut oil as part of a healthy diet. Yahoo News (Eat this not that) recently put together this list of 20 benefits of coconut oil:
- It helps to burn calories
- It kills bacteria
- It can be used in the bedroom
- It can help build and maintain muscle
- It curbs appetite
- It can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- It helps with memory
- It can protect organ function
- It promotes a healthy heart
- It supports the pancreas
- It is great for skin and hair
- It improves digestion
- It is good for oral health
- It may help to balance hormones
- It helps repair chapped lips
- It can prevent and treat cancer
- It can reduce the risk of seizures
- It can prevent insulin resistance
- It can help treat inflammation and arthritis
- It can help with osteoporosis
Frankly the jury is out on how much some of these benefits can be proven. I can personally only attest to numbers 3 and 11. But as I am going to be buying a jar regularly I think I might as well include it in my diet too; if only a few of these other benefits turn out to be true it will be more than worth it.
* The properties of coconut oil may break down the integrity of latex.
Coconut Palm image by Tomas Sobek, Flickr