Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Love Hormone

An article published in the Wall Street Journal on October 4, 2011 discussed the role of the hormone oxytocin in building emotional bonds in the treatment of people suffering from schizophrenia, autism, and other psychiatric disorders.  Oxytocin is also know as the “love hormone” because it helps to build trust between people and stimulates sociability and friendliness more than any other hormone. Oxytocin reduces anxiety especially in social situations and improves mood causing people to smile more.

What are the Physical Effects of Oxytocin?

  • Oxytocin dilates blood vessels improving blood flow including and helps to lower blood pressure.
  • Oxytocin improves wound healing because of improved blood flow.
  • Oxytocin stimulate enhance attachment between lovers.
  • Oxytocin quickens and heightens orgasm and improves sex drive or libido.
  • Oxytocin increases production of anabolic hormones (growth hormone and testosterone), and reduces the production of catabolic hormones like cortisol.

Oxytocin in Women

In women oxytocin increases vaginal lubrication and improves vaginal contraction during sexual intercourse.  Women have quicker and more intense orgasms when taking oxytocin and are more likely to experience multiple orgasms.  Women tend to more alert after achieving orgasm while taking oxytocin, but just the opposite effect is seen in men in that regard. Oxytocin is sometimes used during labor and delivery of a new child as it increases uterine contractions.  It also stimulate breastfeeding by contracting the milk producing glands of the breast.

Oxytocin in Men

Oxytocin in men increases sensitivity of the penis during sexual contact and increases the frequency of erections. It improves ejaculation by stimulating contraction of the seminal vesicles, seminiferous tubules, the epididymis, and the prostate.  Sperm release is also enhanced by oxytocin.  After orgasm oxytocin induces sleepiness in men, again having the opposite effect in women.

What Can I Do to Naturally Increase My Oxytocin Levels?

Oxytocin is increased through physical contact, hugging, massage, physical activity, sexual contact, and activities like singing and reading. Oxytocin levels are diminished by isolation or loneliness, anxiety, depression, chronic stress, and deficiencies in sex hormones. Oxytocin levels decline with age as the cells that produce oxytocin become less responsive to stimuli.

Signs and Symptoms of Oxytocin Deficiency

The signs and symptoms of oxytocin deficiency are many and can be broken down into mental and physical categories. Among the mental/emotional findings are irritability, lack of affection, and little joy from life.  People who are introverted and non-emotional, or cold-hearted and unfriendly, untrusting, and paranoid are more likely to have an oxytocin deficiency. And, the same is true for those who have a need for solitude, gravitate to solitary work, and have a small circle of acquantances.

Physical findings include rare smile, muscle aches, lower pain threshold, disturbed sleep, low sex drive, fewer ejaculations/orgasms, lower orgasmic intensity, and lack of love/emotion while having sex.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Low Oxytocin

While blood tests are available to measure oxytocin levels those tests are not widely available and primarily used for research purposes.  In individuals suffering from the signs and symptoms of oxytocin, replacement of oxytocin can be considered at least on a trial basis.  Oxytocin can be given any number of ways including orally, sublingual, intra-nasal, and through subcutaneous injections – each having its own advantages.

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