“The bottom line is that orgasms are probably better for your health than they are worse for your health,” says Barry Komisaruk, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University who specialises in behavioural neuroscience and sexual health. Here’s a close look at orgasm and how it impacts our health.
What is an orgasm?
During arousal, blood flow to your genitals increases and the muscles in the area tense up. Orgasm is your body’s way of getting rid of all that tension and getting back to your pre-arousal state through rhythmic contractions. What an orgasm feels like varies for everyone but often people experience changes in breathing, feelings of warmth or tingling, and a sense of altered consciousness. Men often ejaculate during orgasm but not always, since those are actually separate bodily processes. Most men average about two to three minutes of intercourse before orgasm but, if you count foreplay, the average jumps to seven to 14 minutes.
In his research, Komisaruk has used a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) to monitor what happens in the brain during climax. “What we see is a very widespread increase in the functional brain activity at orgasm,” says Komisaruk. “So, if there’s an overall increase in blood flow and oxygen utilisation that is probably good for the brain.”
The blood flow reactions Komisaruk observed indicate that orgasms bring extra nutrients and oxygen to the brain. The mental exercises some people do to train their brains are often intended to increase this type of brain activity but orgasm seems to do it in a larger portion of the brain.
The rush of oxytocin during orgasm may also alleviate several kinds of aches and pains. We know that this hormone is released in abundance during child labour, probably for the dual purposes of pain relief and accelerated healing. Because of its natural role, scientists are now seeing if oxytocin can help with migraines and chronic pain.
Neither partner needs to orgasm to make a baby but there is growing evidence that the female orgasm may aid fertility. This research is still very shaky but one study showed that women who orgasm retain more sperm in their bodies post-sex and another found that uterine contractions (which occur during orgasm) may help move sperm in the right direction.
In 2004, a study from the National Cancer Institute compared 50,000 men and found that those who had more than 21 orgasms each month were 30 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who had fewer than seven. Another study in 2003 had 2,000 men report their ejaculation history from when they were younger. They found that men who reported more than five orgasms a week in their twenties had a one-third lower incidence of aggressive prostate cancer later in life.
Researchers aren’t positive about why this happens but there one theory is that ejaculating often clears the prostate of old semen that would otherwise turn carcinogenic.
Orgasms can obviously take a person’s mind off stressful situations. They can also be indicative of a happy, healthy sexual relationship – a stress-buster all its own. Although the research is on-going, it looks like the oxytocin and endorphins released during sex (and even more so during orgasm) can make people feel more relaxed, comfortable, and safe. Studies have shown that partnered sex is usually a more effective way to get stress relief from sex but masturbation also likely lowers stress levels.
A 1997 study of villagers in the town of Caerphilly, South Wales found that men having the most orgasms (two a week) were 50 per cent less likely to die than those having the fewest (one a month). It’s a fun correlation but not really conclusive. “There certainly may be other mediating factors,” says Komisaruk. “The men who had fewer than one orgasm per month may [have had] other kinds of health problems.” Healthier men are more likely to have sex but sex may still keep us in better health because it is a form of exercise.
- Culled from mensjournal.com