Is sex the ultimate immune booster?

Sex isn’t only good for your relationship, it has other benefits too (Picture: Getty Images)

What does good sex mean to you? Is it about having the best orgasm? Or perhaps it’s performance and adventure?

These days, the topic of sex usually hinges on frequency, positions and orgasms, and yet these are just a small part of what sex is all about. Whether it’s sex with a partner, or masturbation, the act itself is intrinsic to our health and wellbeing.

‘Conversations about sex tend be in terms of performance and prowess, so a lot of people develop a mindset of doing it right or wrong, or having good and bad sex,’ says Silva Neves, a psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist who appeared on BBC show, Sex On The Couch.

‘Instead, we should be focusing on what is really important, pleasure, connection, and wellbeing. Not only does sex underpin our intimate relationships, but it’s an important part of overall health and it enhances our wellbeing.’

When it comes to wellness, we’ve been quite open minded over the years, embracing everything from forest bathing and sound massage to bee sting therapy and ice baths. However, could equilibrium come from the simple act of having sex?

Sexology is the scientific study of sexual behaviour and relationships, and Silva’s new book of the same name is a guide to modern sex, debunking myths and taboos and looking at some of the health and wellbeing benefits.

Silva Neves says you reap the benefit of quality not quantity of sex

Psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist Silva Neves says it’s possible to reap the benefits of sex (Picture: Supplied)

While most of us know that sexual intercourse can be classed as a moderate physical activity (position depending), there are also studies to show that it can help with everything from boosting immunity and improving sleep, to reducing stress and releasing happy hormones.

‘The mind and the body cannot be separated during sex, because there 
is a strong and complex relationship between the two,’ explains Silva.

‘When the erotic mind is activated, a cocktail of brain chemicals are released, including oxytocin (the bonding hormone important for psychological wellbeing), dopamine (the learning transmitter and feelgood hormone), and the sex hormones such as testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone.

‘Therefore, sex is very good for relieving stress and feeling intimate with a partner(s) and also lowers cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Plus, orgasms release oxytocin and endorphins, too, and it has also been proven that orgasms, either through partnered sex or masturbation, improves sleep. Another fascinating study showed that orgasm improves nasal breathing just as much as a nasal decongestant for up to one hour.’

That’s certainly something to think about as we head into cold and flu season. For women, the benefits of having an orgasm also extend to improved bladder control and relief from menstrual and premenstrual cramps.

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It’s also thought that frequent sexual activity, whether with a partner or alone, can make you look younger thanks to the release of oestrogen.

Physiologically, Silva says that while research on sex and health is still in its infancy, sex is thought to boost our immune system.

‘One study showed that people who had more frequent sex has more immunoglobulin, a blood protein that is part of the immune system,’ he says. ‘We also know that for for men, a higher frequency of ejaculation reduces the risk of prostate cancer and having sex helps lower blood pressure so is good for the heart.

‘However, it’s only if people feel satisfied with their sex lives, so, what is important to remember, is that it’s the quality of sex, not the quantity from which you will reap the benefits.’

Sexology: The Basics by Silva Neves is out now,

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