Vitamin Retailer December 2012 : Page 33
SafeHaven As it is more commonplace to speak openly about sexual dysfunction, Americans are turning to natural product retailers for options. By Shari Barbanel A Sexual Function H umans continue to exist as a society due to our ability to reproduce. However, over the last three decades couples are more likely to wait longer to start hav-ing children, choosing to focus on education, establishing a career and becoming financially stable before start-ing a family. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 600,000 babies (one in seven) were born to moms 35 and older in the United States in 2006. Further, the CDC reports that the birthrate for women 45 and older tripled between 1990 and 2006, and the actual number of births to moms 45 and older has quadrupled (up from 1,638 in 1990 to 6,956 in 2006). While many couples decide to wait to have children until their lives are “set-tled,” they run the risk of health issues, which may prevent or make it difficult for them to conceive. As we age, both men and women may have to face cer-tain sexual function issues. According to David Winston, RH (ACG), dean of David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies, founder of the Herbal Therapeutics Research Library and pres-ident of New Jersey-based Herbalist & Alchemist, common causes of sexual dysfunction for both men and women include obesity, low levels of sexual hor-mones, chronic stress, fatigue, HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, use of pharmaceutical med-ications as well as overuse of alcohol and recreational drug use. Sexual dysfunction for men includes a number of problems including a lack of VITAMIN RETAILER 33 DECEMBER 2012 s WWW.VITAMINRETAILER.COM
A Sexual Function Safe Haven
As it is more commonplace to speak openly about sexual dysfunction, Americans are turning to natural product retailers for options.
Humans continue to exist as a society due to our ability to reproduce. However, over the last three decades couples are more likely to wait longer to start having children, choosing to focus on education, establishing a career and becoming financially stable before starting a family. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , more than 600,000 babies (one in seven) were born to moms 35 and older in the United States in 2006. Further, the CDC reports that the birthrate for women 45 and older tripled between 1990 and 2006, and the actual number of births to moms 45 and older has quadrupled (up from 1,638 in 1990 to 6,956 in 2006).
While many couples decide to wait to have children until their lives are “settled,” they run the risk of health issues, which may prevent or make it difficult for them to conceive. As we age, both men and women may have to face certain sexual function issues. According to David Winston, RH (ACG), dean of David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies, founder of the Herbal Therapeutics Research Library and president of New Jersey-based Herbalist & Alchemist, common causes of sexual dysfunction for both men and women include obesity, low levels of sexual hormones, chronic stress, fatigue, HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, use of pharmaceutical medications as well as overuse of alcohol and recreational drug use.
Sexual dysfunction for men includes a number of problems including a lack of libido, low testosterone, andropause (male menopause) and erectile dysfunction (ED). In fact, The National Institutes of Health reported that approximately five percent of 40-yearold men and between 15 and 25 percent of 65-year-old men experience ED on a long-term basis.
Women can also experience a lack of libido in addition to anorgasmia (regular difficulty reaching orgasm), vaginal dryness, as well as dealing with the hormonal changes that come with menopause and pregnancy and breastfeeding. Further, according to The Mayo Clinic, as many as 40 percent of women have had hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD, low sexual desire) at some point in their lives. In fact, the Society for Women’s Health Research reported that HSDD is the most common female sexual dysfunction, affecting approximately one in 10 women.
A Changing Market
Since it hit the market in 1998, Viagra has opened the lines of conversation for sexual function issues allowing people to talk about a topic that was once taboo. “Sexual function is now out of the closet,” said Eileen Sheets, managing director of New York-based Bioforce USA. “Extensive advertising for Viagra and Cialis have brought the conversation into the mainstream. That helps. It gives people the vocabulary to talk about the subject.”
“The market has changed dramatically in the last few years with many more men first realizing that there might be an issue and then feeling increasingly more comfortable seeking solutions,” added Ken Seguine, executive vice president consumer products for California-based Savesta LifeSciences Inc. “The market demand is bigger than it has ever been and it seems that this new ease in seeking solutions to sexual issues is here to stay. All of this is good news for retailers of natural products as we provide safe, effective solutions to age-old, but formerly not spoken-of problems.”
As some men are becoming more comfortable and having the courage to speak up about their sexual function issues, Ramona Billingslea, marketing manager of Betsy’s Health Foods in Houston, TX, said she has noticed that while a number of men do come in with questions about sexual function or prostate health in general, female shoppers are more likely to ask questions for themselves as well as for their husbands. “As expected, women are more likely to actually ask questions related to sexual function,” she said. “The areas of concern for women range from fertility to vaginal dryness to drive. Women also ask about drive and ED for their husbands.”
While prescription products may have opened the door for people to speak more frankly about sexual dysfunction, some consumers are dissatisfied with these drugs after experiencing negative side effects. “Sexual function medications are used for immediate sexual results. With repeated use, their results diminishes and after a few years or months of continuous use, the effect is practically nil,” explained Shoreh Ershadi, PharmD, PhD, ABAAHP, NRCC, NRCT, ASCP, president and CEO of the ANTIAGING Institute of California. “Natural products increasing nitric oxide (NO) gradually have cumulative effect, and with continuous use will produce better results. They can be used not just for sexual purposes, but to improve circulation for a better memory, stronger heart and muscles. A healthier cardiovascular system should be a priority for all men over 50.”
Function For Men from the ANTIAGING Institute of California is 100 percent natural and has shown to improve blood flow significantly for a maximum sexual response both in size and in stamina, according to the company. The product contains high potency watermelon extract, grape seed extract, panax ginseng and L-tyrosine, among ingredients that are used to produce the NO to help enhance the penile blood flow.
And while men and women may be dealing with sexual function issues, it may be a sign that something else is wrong. Billingslea noted that she asks customers about their diet and lifestyle choices because consuming the typical, high-fat American diet, excessive alcohol consumption, a lack of sleep or exercise can add to sexual dysfunction. Additionally, she advises customers to seek medical advice to make sure that there isn’t a larger issue such as a hormone imbalance, blood flow or cardiovascular issues, or mental health/stress.
Because the body’s systems are connected, it is also important that consumers look at their overall health as pieces to a puzzle instead of separate issues. “It is important for our customers to keep their bodies in balance and well maintained. We believe in treating the body as a whole is just as important if not more important than treating symp-toms and individualized parts of our body,” said Vihn Ngyuyen, store manager of South Lake Union Supper Supplements in Washington. “We carry a wide range of sexual health products from natural herbs, Chinese herbs, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and more.”
Effective Ingredients & Products
There are a variety of natural ingredients for both men and women’s sexual function. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a root that grows in Peru. Traditionally used for sexual enhancement, maca has been clinically studied and naturally supports a healthy libido for both men and women.
Used in the traditional medicine of China and India for centuries, tribulus is often used for infertility, ED and low libido. Savesta’s bestselling sexual function product, Tribulus, standardized to 60 percent steroidal saponins, does well because of results, according to Seguine. “We have had retailers build up an excellent consumer base because of their satisfaction. It becomes a positive feedback loop,” he said. “Customers are satisfied, retailers hear back and act on these positive comments and feel even more comfortable recommending the product, which results in more contented customers.”
While sexual function was not a focus for Bioforce USA, research on the company’s saw palmetto product Prostasan, which is generally used for symptoms of swelling and enlargement of the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), showed a correlation. Studies from Germany, the U.K., Netherlands, France, Korea and Spain showed that BPH symptoms are the most significant factor and predictor for Eds, according to Sheets.
“It was found that 72 percent of men with Eds had BPH symptoms versus 38 percent who had no BPH symptoms,” she explained. “Plus, traditional uses for saw palmetto included use as a genito-urinary stimulant, impotence and as a sexual stimulant. This lead the research team at Bioforce to investigate saw palmetto for sexual health. They designed the first trial ever to investigate saw palmetto’s effect on sexual dysfunctions in men with BPH.
They found a 51 percent decrease in BPH symptoms and a 40 percent increase in sexual function, including sexual drive, erections and ejaculation.”
Used in ayurvedic medicine for approximately 3,000 years, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a plant found in India that is traditionally used for anxiety, ED, a lack of libido in men and menstrual cramps in women. In addition to ashwgandha root, David Winston’s Gentle- Man product contains oat milky seed (Avena sativa), black cohosh root (Actaea racemosa), mimosa bark (Albizia julibrissin), saw palmetto berry (Serenoa repens), pulsatilla herb (Pulsatilla vulgaris) and orange flavoring.
Cambridge Natural’s Kris Berg noted that one of the challenges the store faces in this category is training new staff members. “The main challenge is educating new staff, both to be comfortable talking to customers about sex, and to know the product specifics,” explained the general manager for the Massachusetts store. “The more trainings we can get suppliers to give us the better. We love to support those companies that are here for us. Our staff loves to learn and pass that knowledge on. We pride ourselves on how much one-on-one customer service we provide and take our position as a community resource very seriously.”
In order to train staff members properly, retailers look to their suppliers for support via trainings, literature and research to support product claims. Savesta offers retailers sell sheets that discuss product functions as well as reference the specific scientific studies that the company uses to support its efficacy claims. “Due to space issues, those actual studies are not on the print versions, but we invite our consumers to visit our website where, abiding by the FDA ‘two click’ rule, we provide links to those studies,” said Seguine.
The ANTIAGING Institute of California prides itself on completing research to ensure product safety as the health of its clients is a priority. “We apply cuttingedge scientific research together with peer-reviewed information tested in clinical trials for safety and effectiveness,” said Ershadi. “We then acquire the highest quality ingredients with certificate of analysis and reconfirm the values by testing based on FDA requirements.”
Even though sex is no longer a taboo topic to discuss in 2012, talking about it, especially if there is an issue or a potential problem, may still prove difficult for some people. “If at all possible, men and women will both feel most comfortable sharing the need for sexual function products with same sex retail employees,” recommended Savesta’s Seguine. “Other than that, the common sense and common (in our industry) practice of treating each person with respect and courtesy is always the best policy. The natural products business has always attracted people with kindness and intelligence. Especially with a sensitive topic like sexual function, this is an area where we can shine.”
A Sensitive Approach
For some people it takes a lot of courage to ask for help or advice regarding sexual function issues. Here, retailers offer some of their “do’s and don’ts” when it comes to assisting customers.
“First and foremost, we have signs on top of those sections which clearly say ‘men’s sexual support’ and ‘women’s sexual support.’ That way customers can find those products without having to ask, if that’s more comfortable for them. Next we have positioned those sections farther back in the store near the supplement help desk, but facing away from it so that customers can feel a sense of privacy if need be while looking through the products. Most other areas of the store we swoop in pretty quickly to see what we can do for them, but in the sexual support section we give them a little more time and try to suss out their comfort level.”
— Kris Berg, General Manager, Cambridge Naturals (Cambridge, MA)
“We normally do not approach the topic with our customers unless the conversation is headed in that direction. We do make sure to have the utmost respect for our customers and understand that it is a sensitive subject, so we try to maintain as much privacy as possible and are always confidential.”
— Vinh Nguyen, Store Manager, South Lake Union Super Supplements (Seattle, WA)
“Our older staff members usually handle sexual function questions, using the utmost respect. We have a ‘no stupid question’ policy in our store, along with the attitude that any genuine problem won’t be too ‘disgusting’ for us. This empathy on our part makes it easier for customers to ask the questions they need to ask to get the answers they really need to help them solve their issues in this often delicate area of concern.”
— Ramona Billingslea, Marketing Manager, Betsy’s Health Foods (Houston, TX)
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