Published Feb 23, 2023

Dr. B's Weekly Roundup: The sexual (health) feeling!

A color indoor photograph of a couple in a white and steel kitchen. A young Asian man with short hair wearing a gray t-shirt embraces a young brown-skinned woman, also wearing a short-sleeve gray tea, holding a coffee cup.
Published Feb 23, 2023

Welcome to the Dr. B Newsletter, a curated healthcare email that delivers vetted reads on whole-body health. A few weeks ago, we covered debunked oxytocin, a survey on singledom + semen-wielder birth control. But as love is a many splendored-thing, the science of love is multifaceted, too. So this week, we share more fascinating findings on the butterfly feeling, virtual reality flirting + (good) ways Viagra keeps things pumping.

  • The Checkup: when we're up + down
  • Oh hello! arousal + fidelity + mortality
  • Healthcare: viruses + binge drinking
  • We Now Treat:  urinary tract infections!

The Checkup

What causes the fluttery feeling?

A young lesbian couple embraces in a kitchen. One person with short hair wearing a blue t-shirt leans up to kiss another, with long red hair wearing a red t-shirt, who sits perched on a kitchen counter.

Ever wonder why your stomach flutters when romantically aroused?

Our gut contains over 100 million nerve cells that communicate with our brain along the vagus nerve, which acts like an information superhighway. Via this road, cognitive stimulation can cause a physical sensation—anything from awful news, abrasive sounds or telling a lie disrupts our gut rhythm. When we anticipate something sexy, our brain triggers the corticotropin-releasing hormone. This dampens our appetite, sharpens our focus, boosts cortisol + spasms our colon. And a slowed stomach + sped-up colon = butterflies in the belly.

It’s good that the honeymoon doesn’t last forever because these sensations are a form of fight-or-flight stress.

Read more to help your body play it cool.

VR butterflies = IRL fidelity?

A color indoor photograph of a young Black woman with short brown hair wearing a long white dress, sitting on a gray couch in front of a dark red curtain, wearing virtual reality goggles and looking off camera.

A titillating series of studies found that flirting in virtual reality strengthens real-life fidelity.

Without preparation, one group of study participants faced a virtual flirter. (Watch this video for a feel.) Compared to those who experienced a non-romantic interaction, these participants showed more resistance to potential infidelity when the goggles came off. They marked an attractive study interviewer as less attractive, spent less time helping an attractive stranger, rated their sexual desire for a stranger lower + scored their desire for their partner higher.

The researchers concluded that flirting in VR (where they couldn’t act on it) helped them anticipate IRL infidelity consequences, so they valued their relationship more. Who knew?

Can Viagra help you live longer?

An indoor color photograph of a white kitchen, where a young white man in a dark red sweater embraces a young white woman with tied up brown hair, a white shirt and jeans who's sitting on the counter holding a coffee cup.

Sildenafil (generic Viagra) was developed as a heart medication—a PDE5 inhibitor, it helps the walls of blood vessels relax, widen and increase blood flow to areas including the penis. So it should be no surprise that a new analysis found it provides cardiovascular benefits. Those who’d used PDE5 inhibitors for at least one year had a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, chest pain and mortality than those who’d never taken such drugs. The more of the drug they took, the more their heart risk was reduced.

This study was observational, not controlled. So it’s ripe with limitations. But read if curious.

And if erectile dysfunction disrupts your bed-romping…

Learn more about our online ed treatments!

Healthcare 411

Wash your hands and pray you don’t get sick (The Atlantic). Rising cases of norovirus are annoying + nauseating more than anything else. It causes excruciating GI symptoms that resolve within days but can cause major outbreaks fast—it only takes 18 units of the virus to infect, and a sick person sheds billions at once. Hand sanitizer doesn’t kill it + particles can remain on surfaces for days. So families, immunocompromised + older people are at particular risk. Read the article for the (gross) details.

White House mulls post-Covid emergency backstop for uninsured (Politico). While the Covid-19 health emergency ends in May, the Biden administration won’t start shifting protections to the private sector until late summer. They’re stockpiling tests, vaccines and treatments so that uninsured people have cost-free access. And lobbying to make Covid-19 vaccines permanently free for all adults. (There’s little chance the program will pass in the Republican-led House, though.) Moderna reps now promise their vaccines will remain free for uninsured people. And here’s what we know (+ don’t) about who can get a second bivalent booster.

Binge drinking may be curbed with a pill (NY Times). A small study on naltrexone—usually prescribed for severe alcohol and opioid dependency—shows promise in reducing binge drinking in those with mild or moderate dependence. Take via pill one hour before imbibing, participants binge drank less frequently + drank less in quantity than those given a placebo. (They all received alcohol counseling, too.) This could be a promising treatment for those who want to reassess/reduce their relationship with alcohol while not disrupting dopamine levels long-term.

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