Sex: It does a body good

Lyssa Beyer

Imagine having the flu.

The common symptoms are present – fever, headache, fatigue, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Next, good ol’ mom comes in to feel the forehead and confirm her assumptions with the thermometer. She says the best cure would be to stay home and rest, drink plenty of fluids and to take some medicine – also to call whoever the current “flavor of the week” is for some sex.

Hold the phone. Did she really say sex?

While mothers probably aren’t telling their children to have sex to lessen their cold and flu symptoms, some experts are.

According to a study conducted by Queens University in Belfast, sex is beneficial when had a few times a week. The Queens study supported such inclinations that sex can fight the cold and flu, lengthen one’s life by promoting heart health and control cholesterol levels, provide weight loss and overall fitness, fight depression and ease joint, muscle and menstrual pain.

Student Health Services nurse practitioner Debbie Wright, however, said the study doesn’t provide any scientific basis to affirm these benefits.

Does sex really have benefits, or is it just a hoax?

Cold and flu
Mom’s “special friend” recommendation may actually come in handy in fighting off that cold.

A study from Wilkes University in Pennsylvania said individuals studied showed “30 percent higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A,which is known to boost the immune system.”

The Queens study suggests that the immune system has the ability of increasing when intercourse is experienced once or twice a week.

“This type of result is probably an association rather than a cause,” Wright said. “It was not a double blind test and it was probably a retrospective convenience sample. In other words, they tested people who said they had sex and people who said they didn’t have sex and checked their immunoglobulin A levels.”

Wright added sex might not have been the real cause of the high amounts of immunoglobulin A.

“Most likely, they tested a handful of college students, probably a small number, and came up with the higher immunoglobulin A in those who said they had sex,” she said.

Junior psychology major Kaci Kufalk said she can see the study being true and false.

“I would say that it may not be the thing directly affecting the levels,” Kufalk said. “Maybe the people having sex are more healthy . I would have to see more of the study.”

Longer lifespan
Finding the fountain of youth, a feat only Indiana Jones could master by obtaining the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” might also be obtainable during sex – in a matter of speaking.

Other studies based on the Queens University study have suggested that cardiovascular health could be improved by having sex three or more times a week. Apparently, sex for men could reduce their “risk of heart attack or stroke by half,” according to the Queens study.

Wright, however, doesn’t agree that a man’s sex-life will help him live longer. In fact, she said, the sex could ultimately kill him.

“If you get certain diseases, sex could shorten your life,” she said. “Men who are married live longer, studies have shown . it’s the relationship aspect.”

“It’s probably both,” Kufalk said. “I think it’s physical because it’s a form of exercise and if you have a companion, I know studies have shown you live longer.”

Weight loss and fitness
Fad diets are everywhere nowadays. Try the specially designed meals or buy the new super fast weight loss supplements. Anything that will keep individuals away from the gym will do in this day of age, but what about the bedroom?

Studies show rolling around in the sheets might provide exercise and physical fitness maintenance. According to the Queens study, “a vigorous bout burns some 200 calories – about the same as running 15 minutes on a treadmill or playing a spirited game of squash. The pulse rate in a person aroused rises from about 70 beats per minute to 150, the same as that of an athlete putting forth maximum effort.”

“I think it’s a legitimate argument that it’s a form of exercise,” Kufalk said in regards to the study.

The study also found that muscles in the pelvis, buttocks, thighs, arms and neck could be strengthened because of the contractions experienced in those areas during sex.

“I agree that if nothing else, sex, meaning intercourse, is exercise as the article stated,” Wright said. “The heart rate information and calories burned are probably accurate.”

Situations affect everybody differently, and stress takes a toll more on some than others. A 2002 study conducted by American psychologist Gordon Gallup involved 293 women and their use of condoms.

According to the study, females who didn’t use condoms with their male partners experienced less depression.

“One theory of causality: prostaglandin, a hormone found only in semen, may be absorbed in the female genital tract, thus modulating female hormones,” the study said.

This only being a theory didn’t convince Wright that sex, and especially unprotected sex, causes less depression.

“If there’s guilt and regret, there could be results of depression later on,” she said. “The immediate aftermath and during could make a person feel better.”

Kufalk agrees guilt and regret play a hand in depression.

“People who use condoms verses people who don’t use condoms could be two different groups of people,” she said, adding, “people who don’t use condoms are in committed relationships and aren’t stressed about STDs and pregnancy, while people who use condoms might be stressed because they aren’t in committed relationships and don’t know each other so well.”

Joint, muscle and menstrual pain
Over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol, Advil and Excedrin help cure the body’s common aches and pains. The hormones released from a sexual orgasm also alleviate pain, according to the Queens study.

According to the study, “Immediately before orgasm, levels of the hormone oxytocin surge to five times their normal level. This in turn releases endorphins, which alleviate the pain of everything from headaches to arthritis to even migraines.”

In addition, the study said, sex aids in the reduction of PMS pain because of triggered estrogen production.

“There are many people who find the production of hormones to reduce PMS symptoms and recommend sex to reduce them,” Wright said.

How much is too much?
Women can handle quite a bit of sex without experiencing any physical problems, Wright said.

Men can also benefit from sex. Men have healthier penises from regular ejaculation, Wright said. However, she added, having a large number of partners raises a man’s risk of getting genital cancer.

At times men can be too rough during sex, which could result in vascular damage, Wright said.

But too much sex can affect a person on a more personal level.

“Sex becomes dangerous when it interferes with the rest of your life . affecting work, school and other relationships,” Wright said.

Whatever the reason may be for having sex, Wright said that both people involved should be careful.

“Make sure you like your partner . Make sure you’re protected against pregnancy if you don’t want to become pregnant and also protected from sexually transmitted diseases,” she said.

To have sex or not to have sex?
Ultimately, as Wright pointed out, the decision remains in the hands of the individuals having sex.

The bottom line is, Wright said, “don’t do it unless you’re comfortable with it.”