MedTeam: Healthy Intimacy

Surveys show the average American has sex about twice a week. Regardless of the number, just doing it is good for you. In fact, a prescription for sex could be the best medicine.

Clinical Sexologist Ava Cadell, Ph.D., says there are many reasons to have sex, and have it often. She tells Ivanhoe, "Making love exercises so many different muscles. It actually exercises every muscle in the body.

It's good for the respiratory, all that heavy breathing. It relieves tension. Sex is good for the cardiovascular. Sex can even work as a laxative."

And, there's one more.

"Ladies, don't say you have a headache because sex is good for a headache," says Cadell.

It may also help you live longer. A recent study found that men who had sex more than twice a week were half as likely to die during the 10-year study as men who had sex less than once a month.

Add intimacy to the sex, and the benefits multiply.

Clinical Psychoneuroimmunologist Paul Pearsall, Ph.D., tells Ivanhoe, "If you said, is there such a thing as sex healing, my answer is no. If you said, is there such a thing as sexual healing, my answer is absolutely."

Pearsall is a well-known scientist in Hawaii. He says it's the connection you have with your partner that makes the difference.

"Not just touching their body or making love, but truly connecting. A word that Hawaiians call, for example, Lokahi, that's unity, harmonious, intimate connection with someone else," says Pearsall.

So, what is it about love that heals? Pearsall's research proves when you're in love, your oxytocin, the calming hormone, goes up and, cortisol, the stress hormone, goes down.

"Whatever you feel, whatever you think, literally, not just metaphorically, translates to every one of your billions of cells in your body almost instantaneously," he says.

In his book, "Love & Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health", Dean Ornish, M.D., examines additional research on the healing power of loving relationships. One study looked at the effect of a person's relationship with his or her parents.

"Thirty or 40 years later, those who said, 'No, I wasn't close to either parent,' 100 percent of them had major illnesses in midlife," says Dr. Ornish, who is the founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif.

With evidence like this, maybe there is truth to the saying, "Love conquers all."

Research also shows sex relieves pain and menstrual cramps, and boosts estrogen.