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8 Benefits of Sex That Have Nothing to Do with an Orgasm

A Good Sex Life = Good Health

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A good sex life is evidence of good health, says Lauren Streicher, M.D., an ob-gyn, assistant clinical professor at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, and author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever. "Sex lowers blood pressure, boosts relationship satisfaction, and increases your quality of life."

But can it heal you too? Indeed! Science shows sex can help ease the pains of plenty of health conditions. And while we can't say for sure that getting frisky is the cure, it can't hurt to try! Here, eight ways getting busy in the bedroom can help you get through life illness-free.

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Kick Kidney Stones to the Curb

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After hearing them described as being "more painful than childbirth," it's no mystery why people are desperate to find help for kidney stones. And a new study in the Journal of Urology found what may be the most fun cure ever: Regular sex could help "spontaneously dissolve" painful stones and prevent new ones from forming! The bummer here is that this study was done in men. But Sheryl Ross, M.D., an ob-gyn and women's health expert in Santa Monica, CA says, "the benefit was in the release of nitrous oxide during sex as it relaxed the ureter muscles, allowing more room for the stones to pass, and women release nitrous oxide as well." (So it could be likely the results hold for the fairer sex.)

Streicher disagrees, saying that the anatomical differences between men and women—men ejaculate through the same tube they pee through; women obviously don't—make it unlikely to be helpful. Either way, if you're prone to kidney stones, this is something to consider. Although Streicher adds that if you're in acute pain, skip the sex and head straight to your doctor. (While pain is something you should never ignore, check out these 5 Embarrassing (But Totally Normal) Side Effects of Sex.)

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Beat the Blues

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"Sex can make you happier, no question," Streicher says. But she adds that depression and sex can be a vicious cycle. "It's hard to say which comes first. Being depressed can lead to a loss of libido, as can some anti-depressant medications," she explains. "But not having sex when you want it can also be depressing." So can you romp the blues away? Maybe. A small Scottish study found that getting frisky reduced levels of stress and other negative emotions.

Ross adds that the hormones released during sex—dopamine and serotonin—are known as "the happy hormones" for their ability to boost mood. However, one of the signs of major depression is losing interest in things you used to love, lovin' included. So while sex might be a temporary mood booster, if you feel chronically sad and disinterested in the act, you should see a doctor.

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Relieve a Migraine

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Migraines are notorious for two things: being the worst pain imaginable and being basically incurable. But a study published in the journal Cephalalgia turned the old "Not tonight, honey, I have a headache" adage on its head. Researchers found that one-third of women who had sex during a migraine (brave souls!) got relief from their crushing headache. The idea: An orgasm interrupts the pain pathway. Ross explains that an orgasm releases powerful endorphins which work as natural painkillers, and adds that sex causes blood vessels to dilate, which has been shown to reduce some types of headaches.

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Fight a Cold

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Having sex may ward off the common cold, according to a study published in the journal Physiology and Biology. Researchers found that people who had sex several times a week had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and higher levels of immunoglobulin-A, an indication of a healthy immune system. Prevention may be the key word here though. Ross notes that once you're really sick, you should focus on resting, not sexing. "You don't want to risk spreading the illness to your partner—not to mention you probably won't want to have sex between all the coughing, sneezing, and snot."

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Calm Menstrual Cramps

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Curled up on the bed, cuddling with a hot water bottle is probably the least sexy position—but getting down may be the key to getting your cramps to lighten up, says Ross. "It's all related to the process of relaxation," she explains. "Sexual arousal, even without an orgasm, increases blood flow, which helps smooth muscles (involved in those pesky pains) relax."

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Stop Incontinence

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Do you pee a little every time you do jumping jacks at the gym? If so, you're not alone—it's one of the most common complaints women report, Ross says. But according to research put out by the American College of Physicians, learning to control and strengthen your pelvic muscles is the the best way to help turn off the sprinklers. And there's a happy bonus—women with a stronger pelvic floor have better sex, Streicher says. However, she cautions that this doesn't work for all cases of incontinence, especially more severe ones, where sex can even make the problem worse. So if kegels aren't fixing the leak—or if you have any pain during sex—she recommends a check-in with your gynecologist.

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Finally Fall Asleep!

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Good news for night owls: "Orgasm is nature's sleep aid," Ross says. Hitting the big O releases a powerful dose of oxytocin, also known as "the cuddle hormone," which can help you feel relaxed and soothe you into dreamland. Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Women's Health found that estrogen increases after sex and women with higher estrogen levels slept better. And don't stress if you don't climax—Ross says the act of intimacy still can release the hormones.

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Slash Your Risk of Heart Disease

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Do people who have a lot of sex have stronger hearts, or do people with strong hearts have more sex? Streicher says it's impossible to say that one causes the other. But according to a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, men who had a sexy romp twice a week slashed their risk of a heart attack by 50 percent. And Ross thinks the results are consistent for women as well: "Sex is exercise, it's basically a mini-workout, and exercise is great for your heart."

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