Oxytocin – the many facets of love harmone

Oxytocin is mammalian hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in brain. It’s released mainly in women when they are about to go into labor or when mother’s are breast feeding their infant babies. it is released in large amounts after distension of the cervix and vagina during labor, and after stimulation of the nipples, facilitating birth and breastfeeding, respectively.
Oxytocin is also found to be involved in males helping them to be better fathers.
Oxytocin secreted from the pituitary gland cannot re-enter the brain because of the blood-brain barrier. Instead, the behavioral effects of Oxytocin are thought to reflect release from centrally projecting Oxytocin neurons, different from those that project to the pituitary gland[38] Oxytocin receptors are expressed by neurons in many parts of the brain and spinal cord, including the amygdala, ventromedial hypothalamus, septum, nucleus accumbens and brain stem.

Oxytocin has been receiving popular interest, however, because of it’s role in promoting social well being. Oxytocin is found to be effective in various areas such as:
1. Increased trust and reducing fear
2. Increased generosity
3. increased ability to remember faces and other social skills
4. Increased sexual arousal
5. Maternal behavior
6. Inhibition of addictive behavior

Oxytocin is already used in inducing contractions during delivery. It’s given in the form of Pitocin injected into the spinal chord. Oxytocin is destroyed in the gastrointestinal tract, and therefore must be administered by injection or as nasal spray. Oxytocin has a half-life of typically about three minutes in the blood. Oxytocin given intravenously does not enter the brain in significant quantities – it is excluded from the brain by the blood-brain barrier. There is no evidence for significant central nervous system entry of oxytocin by nasal spray.

However, good a hormone is there is a reason why it’s deficient in some people or produced more in some. Since human body is a complex system, it’s hard to isolate one hormone and say it’s effect is this and as such it should be given. This is the problem with modern medicine. As should be expected, there are side effects that can be expected when Oxytocin is artificially injected or inhaled.
Wikipedia article sites these side effects observed in maternal events

  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Cardiac arrhythmia and premature ventricular contraction
  • Impaired uterine blood flow
  • Pelvic hematoma
  • Afibrinogenonemia, which can lead to hemorrhage and death
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Nausea and vomiting

However, because Oxytocin has a small short life, in general, the side effects are rare. However, the severity of some of these should be a warning.
More recently Oxytocin nasal sprays have been available over the counter and on Internet. These sites do boast that it can the use of these sprays creates environments that favor trust. They give examples like inducing your spouse for more sex, more favorable sales pitches etc. I think Oxytocin nasal sprays should be a regulated because of the possibility of abuse or misuse of off the shelf sprays.
Note Oxytocin nasal sprays are useful and have been found to be beneficial in helping people affected by autism spectrum disorder to get more socially connected. If you know of any regulation beyond those given by CMC, please leave a comment here.

Also more recently Oxytocin has been found to have a darker side. This should not be surprising. Most of the positive effects are studies conducted against healthy individuals.
There are better ways to get Oxytocin than taking drugs. I always like natural and organic ways to promote positive hormones like oxytocin, andorphines, serotonin etc.

  • Take care of a pet
  • Hold hands, hug and kiss more
  • Give and receive a back rub
  • Nurture others
  • Get a massage
  • Practice mind-body therapies like breathing exercises and yoga

Not listed in the above article could be things like carry babies, be nice to strangers and others (Nurture others), start your day with a big smile etc. are all things you can do to enhance Oxytocin production and feel good.

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