Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in the human body. It’s sometimes referred to as “the cuddle hormone” since it builds strong relationships and promotes feelings of trust and connection. This article will examine how oxytocin is produced, its role in hormone balance, and why aging adults need to understand this powerful hormone.
What Is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone that helps regulate various biological processes, such as childbirth, lactation, sexual arousal, social bonding, stress relief, and more. It’s sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” because of its link to social behavior and all things related to love. It has also been linked with trustworthiness, empathy, anxiety reduction, and even increasing fertility. As such, oxytocin plays a vital role in many facets of life — not just those related to love or sex.
How Is Oxytocin Produced?
Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus of the brain and released into the bloodstream. It stimulates contractions during labor and childbirth, helps reduce stress levels and blood pressure, promotes relaxation, helps regulate appetite and digestion, increases libido, boosts social bonding between individuals, and more! Oxytocin is also known as the “feel-good” or “love” hormone because it produces pleasurable sensations when it’s released into the body.
Role of Oxytocin in Hormone Balance
Oxytocin plays an essential role in hormone balance because it acts as a neurotransmitter that helps regulate other hormones like:
Essentially, oxytocin helps keep all these hormones in harmony by regulating their production while also aiding in vital functions connected to our longevity and health.
Additional Research into the Benefits of Oxytocin
Beyond regulating hormones, recent studies have shown that oxytocin has various other beneficial effects on our physical and mental health.
The Role of Oxytocin in Skeletal Muscle Aging
Research suggests that oxytocin is essential for muscle maintenance and regeneration — two processes necessary for keeping your skeletal muscles healthy as you age. Low levels can lead to weakened muscles and decreased mobility over time. That’s why it’s important to keep your levels of this vital hormone balanced to stay fit and active throughout your golden years.
Oxytocin as a Potential Treatment for Mental Disorders
Recent studies have shown promise when exploring oxytocin as a potential therapeutic target for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. This is promising news, as these disorders can be debilitating in nature and can significantly reduce your quality of life. While further research is needed to understand the exact role, oxytocin plays in mental health regulation, studies have indicated that it can play a part in modulating stress response, reducing fearfulness and improving social cognition.
Oxytocin’s Role in Addiction Treatment
Oxytocin also has potential therapeutic applications when it comes to addiction treatment. In fact, researchers are currently investigating the role of oxytocin in helping individuals overcome addiction cravings by reducing addictive behaviors through restoring abnormal drug-induced changes in the glutamatergic system and in its interactions with other neurotransmitters. However, the potential of oxytocin in this area is still under investigation. Therefore, more research must be conducted before any definitive conclusions can be made about its effectiveness as an addiction treatment option.
Does Oxytocin Decrease as We Age?
The decrease of oxytocin in relation to age generally correlates to our lifestyle, habits, and general behaviors. However, some research shows that oxytocin levels actually increase in many older adults. This is because, as we age, many of us spend more time volunteering, donating portions of our income and doing activities we enjoy with people we care about. Engaging in these activities gives us a sense of purpose and can keep our oxytocin levels balanced.
However, some see a marked decrease in oxytocin as they age due to factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition, increased social isolation, which plagues many of our older generations, can decrease oxytocin levels due to a lack of social interaction and physical touch. Therefore, it is crucial to be mindful of our lifestyle, stress levels, and relationships in order to maintain balanced oxytocin levels as we age.
How Can We Increase Oxytocin?
Foods, Nutrients, and Supplements
The simple act of eating food can stimulate the release of oxytocin. Eating foods rich in complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, and zinc can help to raise your levels of this hormone. Additionally, there are specific vitamins and nutrients that you can target through your meals and supplements to ensure your oxytocin levels remain topped up.
Commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is essential for a healthy body and mind. Not only is it important for strong bones and teeth, but it also plays a vital role in regulating mood and emotion. Research has found that vitamin D directly activates and controls oxytocin production in our bodies. Additionally, vitamin D is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system and reducing inflammation throughout the body.
You can get vitamin D from spending time outdoors in direct sunlight or through certain foods like fortified dairy products or fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel. It’s also available as a supplement if you feel you may be deficient in vitamin D.
Another important nutrient when it comes to increasing oxytocin levels is vitamin C. The synthesis of oxytocin partially depends upon vitamin C, which helps stimulate the secretion of oxytocin from the pituitary gland into your bloodstream. Not only does it play an important role in increasing oxytocin levels, but it also helps boost immune function by fighting off infection-causing bacteria and viruses in our bodies.
You can get vitamin C from foods like oranges, lemons, limes, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, or bell peppers, as well as from supplements if needed.
Magnesium is another mineral that plays an important role in maintaining optimal oxytocin levels. It helps with the proper functioning of your nervous system, including optimal neurotransmitter activity — the communication pathways between your brain cells. Studies have shown that magnesium increases the action of oxytocin at its receptor sites within your body, leading to increased feelings of connection with others around you. Additionally, magnesium is an essential electrolyte that helps with muscle and nerve function, healthy blood pressure levels, and sleep/wake cycles.
You can get magnesium through natural sources such as whole grains like quinoa or oats, nuts like almonds or cashews, and supplements if needed.
Lifestyle Habits and Therapies
The choices you make in your lifestyle can play an important role in maintaining healthy oxytocin levels. Here are a few lifestyle habits that you can adopt to ensure your body has the best possible chance of producing and regulating oxytocin:
Touch and Intimacy
Physical touch is one of the best ways to increase oxytocin levels in your body. This could be anything from a hug or cuddle with a partner, a massage, or even just lightly touching someone’s arm during a conversation.
Intimacy with another person can also help to increase oxytocin levels as it helps foster feelings of connection and trust. Furthermore, it has been shown that physical affection between partners increases oxytocin levels more than other forms of physical contact like hugs or massages.
Regular exercise is not only important for maintaining good health, but it also plays an important role in keeping oxytocin levels balanced. This exercise must be voluntary and something that you enjoy to properly increase oxytocin levels. Studies have shown that moderate aerobic exercise can increase oxytocin levels and help combat feelings of stress and anxiety.
So, for example, don’t go running if you’re struggling with joint pain. Instead, try swimming classes that will allow you to move your body in a comfortable and enjoyable way. It is also beneficial to do group exercise activities, as social interaction will help to further increase oxytocin levels.
Yoga, Meditation, and Mindfulness
Mind-body practices that embrace principles of mindfulness, like yoga or meditation, can help reduce stress, increase oxytocin levels, and promote feelings of connection and love towards oneself and others. They are great tools for calming the mind, reducing anxiety, and improving mood overall.
In addition to physical postures, yoga incorporates breathing techniques that can enhance feelings of relaxation and connection. Researchers have investigated yoga for its ability to stimulate the vagus nerve and produce oxytocin. Plus, being mindful throughout your day can help reduce stress, increase oxytocin levels, and improve overall well-being.
Mindful meditation has become increasingly popular as a way to relax and unwind from daily stressors. It has also been found to increase oxytocin levels in the body. Mindful meditations involve focusing on your breath or bringing awareness to physical sensations in your body. This helps bring about a sense of calm and grounding, which can be beneficial for increasing oxytocin production in the body.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is a form of medical treatment that involves the replacement of hormones naturally produced by the body with either synthetically manufactured hormones or plant-derived bioidentical hormones. This type of therapy is often used to treat conditions caused by an imbalance of hormones in the body. The primary purpose of hormone replacement therapy is to alleviate and treat symptoms of hormone-related conditions such as menopause and hypogonadism.
According to Dr. David Yeomans, “Estrogen can actually increase the amount of oxytocin there is available by activating the cells that make oxytocin. Estrogen could also increase the number of those oxytocin receptors on the trigeminal nerve. What happens if you drop your estrogen, you also drop your oxytocin because estrogen drives oxytocin.” Thus, it makes sense that among the hormonal imbalance symptoms in women that commonly accompany menopause, we often see similar issues surrounding oxytocin, such as trouble forming and maintaining relationships, struggling with intimacy, and even feeling lonely. Therefore, by pursuing HRT, you may help restore your estrogen levels and the amount of oxytocin available in your body.
The relationship between testosterone and oxytocin is a bit more complicated. Still, researchers found that they interact in significant ways by working with a population of indigenous people in the Amazon. For example, we know that oxytocin tends to make people generous, social, and willing to form relationships. In contrast, testosterone is often associated with the opposite. So, while studies have shown that testosterone has been linked to an increase in oxytocin levels, the reasons why may surprise you.
While studying hunters who spent time away from their families, researchers discovered that the homecoming, sharing the meat they caught with their families, and once again reconnecting with loved ones effectively combated the adverse effects of elevated testosterone and spiked oxytocin levels. So any hormone imbalance in men related to testosterone can also be detrimental for oxytocin levels.
Getting Help with Oxytocin Levels and Hormone Replacement Therapy
It’s easy to see how important oxytocin is to physical and mental well-being. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the various hormones in your body, it’s best to get help from a professional. A licensed doctor can work with you to conduct hormone imbalance testing and develop an HRT plan that will be tailored specifically to your individual needs. In addition, they can provide guidance and support in managing other lifestyle factors that can impact oxytocin levels, such as getting enough sleep and engaging in regular physical activity.
By addressing the underlying hormonal imbalances and implementing healthy behaviors, you may be able to improve your overall well-being and begin to experience the many benefits of improved oxytocin production. By taking steps towards finding balance within your body’s hormones, you can also enjoy a better quality of life.
The post How to Increase Oxytocin and Improve Hormonal Balance appeared first on BodyLogicMD.
Bioidentical hormones mimic natural hormones because they have the same molecular structure as the hormones produced by the human body. This structural similarity allows bioidentical hormones to bind to the […]Read More