A special chemical in your body, called oxytocin, helps to create the feeling of falling in love.
The hormone of love, oxytocin, influences the digestive system as much as it influences the brain. Oxytocin has been proven to cool gastrointestinal inflammation to alleviate food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and even Candida infections!
Oxytocin can act like a psychological buffer. Nature wired both men and women to experience an oxytocin surge (or several) during moments of bonding with each other or their children.
Oxytocin naturally enhances a sense of:
Oxytocin Benefits Other Systems in the Body
This is why synthetic oxytocin (also called Pitocin) is given during labor. It can promote delivery or speed up contractions. Unfortunately, synthetic oxytocin or even an epidural can interfere with the natural regulation of oxytocin that both mother and baby experience during labor and after delivery.
As much as oxytocin enhances the mother-child relationship, it can also help to generate a strong bond between romantic partners. We experience a surge of oxytocin during orgasm. Kind words or a gentle touch can also drive oxytocin levels up, enhancing the experience of what we identify as love and trust.
When the Body Cannot Make Oxytocin
Unfortunately, there are situations in life when oxytocin levels dip too low, or worse, never rise to the surface.
Some examples are:
1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those with PTSD are in a constant state of anxiety and low-grade fear. This anxiety can climax when startled or in trigger situations. It has been found that oxytocin reduces background anxiety in those with PTSD. (1) Even though oxytocin can reduce anxiety after trauma, it does not affect the actual memory of the trauma.
2. Childhood Trauma. Trauma during infancy or childhood can affect oxytocin levels for years, decades, or even an entire lifetime. This kind of trauma can range from severe abuse during childhood to a divorce between parents. When trauma during childhood occurs, the body and mind engage an adaptive defense mechanism that reduces levels of oxytocin. This type of programming is a survival mechanism. It can affect relationships and even physical health.
3. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In certain cases of autism, the receptor site for oxytocin is genetically not available. When oxytocin has nowhere to go, it cannot do its job. Sometimes in those with ASD, the production of oxytocin is also drastically low. (2)(3)
How the Hormone of Love Affects Digestion
Dr. Michael Gershon, author of The Second Brain and chairman of the department of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia University, has found that many of his patients who come in for chronic gut disorders have a history of childhood trauma.
According to Gershon and others in his field, the brain in the head shares a unique connection with the brain in the gut - or our “second brain.” This is because the gastrointestinal tract is full of nerve cell networks, called the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system helps to regulate behavior, much like the brain that belongs to the central nervous system.
When Gershon first put forth the theory that the gastrointestinal tract is in fact a “second brain,” equipped with neurotransmitters and the ability to control behavior, his concept was mostly ridiculed.
For example, serotonin is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for a feeling of happiness and wellbeing. It is mostly made in the gut. In fact, the cells lining the intestinal wall produce approximately 95% of the body’s total serotonin.
Like serotonin, Gershon has determined that oxytocin influences what is going on in the digestive system as much as it influences what is going on in the brain.
In a 2010 study, Gershon found that oxytocin cools down gastrointestinal inflammation. (4) Intestinal inflammation can not only cause abdominal discomfort, but it can also contribute to more serious disorders that involve the immune system, such as:
- Food sensitivities
- Autoimmune disorders
- Systemic infections like Candidiasis
What Is Good for One Brain Is Good for the Other
It has been found that even small expressions of support between family members and friends will stimulate the release of oxytocin.
When oxytocin levels are stable and elevated, the physical body benefits as much as the mind.
- Oxytocin reduces levels of cortisol in the body and lowers blood pressure. (5)
- Oxytocin and the receptor site for oxytocin have been found in the intestinal tract. (6)
- Oxytocin improves gut motility and decreases intestinal inflammation. (7)
Repair Gut Function and Naturally Build Oxytocin Levels in the Body
This means taking small steps to increase physical energy while gently detoxifying the multiple systems in your body. One of the best ways to accomplish this naturally and easily is by correcting digestion with fermented foods and probiotic beverages.
If you are new to fermented foods and probiotic beverages, begin with a small portion of truly fermented sauerkraut, the juice from a batch of fermented vegetables, or just a few ounces of InnergyBiotic. Remember:
- The good bacteria in fermented foods and beverages promote both healing and detoxification all at once.
- Beneficial bacteria have the ability to metabolize heavy metals! This means that they can gently help to clean up toxic debris that affects energy levels and mental performance.
- Fermented foods and beverages fight infection. Infection can contribute to multiple states of mental discomfort, including brain fog, fatigue, panic attacks, and depression.
- Good bacteria have been found to contribute to mental wellbeing by producing feel-good chemicals that the brain picks up and understands.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
You may be familiar with the hormone oxytocin for creating warm feelings when falling in love, bonding, or during childbirth. Oxytocin can promote trust, optimism, and even self-esteem. In cases where the body cannot make oxytocin, it could be related to PTSD, childhood trauma, or certain cases of autism.
Oxytocin levels can influence the digestive system as much as they influence the brain. Oxytocin has been proven to calm gastrointestinal inflammation, greatly reducing the risk of food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and systemic infections.
This is why it's more important than ever to restore gut health with fermented foods and probiotic beverages as one important step toward healing mental and emotional trauma. Good bacteria in fermented foods and beverages can stimulate healing and detoxification, metabolize heavy metals, and contribute to total mental wellness by producing natural feel-good chemicals that impact the brain!
- G Missig, et al. Oxytocin Reduces Background Anxiety in a Fear-Potentiated Startle Paradigm. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010; 35: 2607–2616.
- AJ Guastella, et al. Intranasal Oxytocin Improves Emotion Recognition for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Biological Psychiatry, 2010; 67 (7): 692.
- E Hollander, et al. Oxytocin Infusion Reduces Repetitive Behaviors in Adults with Autistic and Asperger's Disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003; 28: 193–198.
- MD Gershon, et al. Combined administration of secretin and oxytocin inhibits chronic colitis and associated activation of forebrain neurons. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2010 Jun;22(6):654-e202.
- K Uvnas-Moberg, et al. Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing. Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2005;51(1):57-80.
- MD Gershon, et al. Expression and developmental regulation of oxytocin (OT) and oxytocin receptors (OTR) in the enteric nervous system (ENS) and intestinal epithelium. J Comp Neurol. 2009 Jan 10;512(2):256-70.
- B Ohlsson, et al. Oxytocin is expressed throughout the human gastrointestinal tract. Regulatory Peptides. 2006 Jul; 135 (1-2): 7-11.