You may know it as the love hormone, but there’s more to oxytocin than the feel-good emotions it creates when you give someone a long and warm hug.
Oxytocin is an endorphin that helps to regulate social interaction, playing a pivotal role in bonding. Now while it is commonly referred to as the love hormone, it is anything but a love potion. The brain chemical won’t make you instantly fall in love with someone. Rather, it will boost feelings of love, care as well as trust towards someone you already care for. That said, strengthening your social circles isn’t all that oxytocin is good for.
7 Benefits of Oxytocin
1. Helps Build Relationships
According to research, oxytocin can help to improve relationships by enforcing sociable behavior. In fact, one study found that the love hormone not only helps to increase trust and generosity, but it also reduces the fear of betrayal. Additionally, an earlier study found that oxytocin helped to promote fidelity within monogamous relationships.
2. Sexual Health
Oxytocin may be the boost that your sex life needs. According to German researchers, after being treated with oxytocin, female partners not only experienced improved sexual response but their male partners also experienced an improvement in their erectile function.
3. Protects Fetal Brain Development
Neuroinflammation refers to inflammation of nervous tissue, most notably of the neurons in the developing brain.
That said, a recent study published in the Frontiers in Neurology journal suggests that oxytocin may play a role in the protection of the fetal and infant’s brain, particularly during gestation, birth trauma, as well as early growth.
4. Addiction Treatment
While there has yet to be any human trials, oxytocin is currently being investigated for its potential role in drug addiction treatment. A 2017 study found that the love hormone helped reduce addictive behavior in animals.
5. Helps with childbirth
During childbirth, oxytocin not only strengthens labor contractions but also facilitates the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that help cause the cervix to dilate and contractions to occur. The brain chemical also helps to control bleeding after childbirth.
6. Supports Breastfeeding and Child Rearing
When a mother breastfeeds her newborn, the act stimulates the release of oxytocin and this helps to foster a strong loving, and caring bond between mother and child.
7. Anti-Aging benefits
Oxytocin may be the secret to anti-aging.
According to a study published in the Nature Communications journal, high levels of oxytocin may help to protect against accelerated signs of aging and it may even encourage better regeneration of aged tissue stem cells.
Is Oxytocin dangerous?
In a sense, yes. Oxytocin helps to strengthen the bond you have with those closest to you. Now while this is a good thing, it can also make you more overprotective and willing to do anything for them including lie or bend ethical rules. In fact, one study found that those who received oxytocin were twice as likely to lie than usual.
Additionally, too much oxytocin can also make you less trustworthy of people outside your inner circle, and in the worst cases, it can fuel prejudice, envy, aggression, as well as xenophobia.
Could I have an oxytocin deficiency?
Signs of an oxytocin deficiency
- Trouble feeling affection
- Lack of joy at social interactions
- Trouble keeping long-lasting relationships
- Poor communication skills
- Lack of joy during sex
- Feelings of depression, anxiety or fear
- Craving addictive substances
- Feelings of anger and aggression
What causes deficiency?
According to research, autism, schizophrenia, depression, as well as anxiety disorders can each cause an oxytocin deficiency.
Additionally, high-stress levels can also cause a deficiency. Studies have found that as levels of the stress hormone cortisol go up, oxytocin levels go down. (1)
10 Ways To Increase Oxytocin
1. Vitamin D
According to research, vitamin D helps to activate the brain hormones serotonin and oxytocin.
Now ideally, you should get your vitamin D naturally from the sun but it can be hard to do so, especially in a pandemic. That said, you can either take a vitamin D supplement or opt for vitamin D rich foods such as salmon and fortified vitamin D foods.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps to stimulate the production of oxytocin. Now not only should you increase your vitamin C intake to raise your oxytocin levels, but it can also help to strengthen your immune system – which we all need to do right now.
In addition to supplements, vitamin C can also be found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, as well as cabbage.
Magnesium is a vital mineral that’s involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body, which includes increasing the action of oxytocin.
Up your magnesium levels by increasing your intake of spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, dark chocolate, as well as bananas.
Chamomile is a great calming tea, so much so that it helps to increase oxytocin levels all while lowering levels of cortisol (3).
Now, this may be a little hard to do with the social distancing regulations. However, if you’re on lockdown with your family, and they’ve each been tested, then there’s no reason as to why you can’t give them a long hug.
6. Loving-Kindness Meditation
Daily meditation is great for your health and mood. That said, loving-kindness meditation (also known as metta) has been found to increase your love-hormone levels as well as increase your sense of connection as well as strengthen your relationships with others.
7. Play with your pets
Animals are our best friends and if you have any pets, playing with them can help to lower your blood pressure as well as increase your oxytocin levels.
In fact, one study found that oxytocin levels increased in both humans and dogs after just five minutes of petting.
8. Play some tunes
Music is incredibly healing and it can do wonders for your oxytocin levels.
For instance, one study found that after listening to music for 30 minutes a day after open-heart surgery, patients had significantly higher levels of oxytocin compared to those who were simply told to rest in bed.
And it’s not just listening to music that can help as singing along can also increase oxytocin levels. It’s no wonder mothers are always singing lullabies to their newborns.
A little hard to do with the COVID-19 regulations, but that’s nothing the magic of technology can’t fix.
Calling, texting or checking in with your friends and family using various apps can help to increase oxytocin levels. In fact, research has found that your brain releases more oxytocin during social contact and social bonding, and this can help to speed up healing from disease.
If you want to do some good, as well as boost your own oxytocin, then volunteering is a great way to go.
A study published in the Hormones and Behavior journal found that volunteering not only reduces your stress levels but also increases oxytocin levels.
With the state of the world, there are plenty of ways you can do good from the comfort of your own home. Be it signing petitions in relation to social justice, or donating to COVID-19 relief funds – there’s plenty of good you can do.
Want to know more?
There are at least 20 different types of endorphins and each has a different function. That said, there are plenty of ways one can naturally boost their levels of endorphins.