Increase your oxytocin: your favorite hormone against an overdose of stress

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health

We all know by now that a lot of long-term stress is not healthy. During prolonged stress, your body constantly produces cortisol, the hormone that provides the extra energy to cope with the stress. But it is also the hormone that blocks other hormones in the longer term and therefore slowly but surely destroys your body.

If you’ve ever had a burnout or the need to withdraw, including from your loved ones, it was because cortisol knocked out oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that opposes cortisol; the hormone that is produced during prolonged stress. These two hormones oppose each other like two boxers in a ring: who will win?

What exactly is oxytocin?

Fortunately, our body can also produce hormones that are counterparts to cortisol and that ensure that we feel relaxed and good. One of those hormones is oxytocin. This hormone was already known as the hormone that is produced during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It strengthens the bond between mother and child and promotes the release of milk during breastfeeding.

In the 1970s, it was discovered that oxytocin also worked as a neurotransmitter. A neurotransmitter is a ‘brain hormone’ that allows the cells in your brain to communicate with each other. Other neurotransmitters are, for example, dopamine and serotonin. While dopamine is an activating and energizing neurotransmitter, serotonin is more calming. It is also known as the ‘happiness hormone’.

Oxytocin has a positive effect under stress; it is also referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’.

How does that work?

Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus in the brain and reaches the nervous system and bloodstream through the pituitary gland. It makes us feel calmer, more secure and more comfortable when we are touched or cuddled. It is also created when, for example, we pet a pet or have a nice conversation with someone. This leads to more social bonding with others.

At the same time, it counteracts the stress-increasing effect of cortisol. That is why it is nice and soothing to be touched or to make contact in a positive way when stressed. Or, for example, to cuddle with your cat or dog! Even looking at a dear pet can lead to an increase in oxytocin.

Oxytocin provides social bonding, peace, security, relaxation and trust.

Women make oxytocin more easily than men!

Have you ever wondered why women love to chat and men prefer to do things together?   This is because women produce the hormone oxytocin in greater amounts when we meet and chat. Women have more estrogen, which enhances the effect of oxytocin. Men actually have more testosterone, which inhibits the effect of oxytocin. In itself, the same amount of oxytocin is released in men and women during positive contact, cuddling and making love. But women notice it more under the influence of their other hormones.

In short: women can really get rid of stress and problems by chatting with friends

Please note: your body makes no difference between actual stress and stress in your head. If you only talk about stressful things with friends, cortisol gets the upper hand again. So talk about fun and nice things and above all: laugh with each other! 

Oxytocin also has a positive effect on your weight

When you are under a lot of stress, you need extra energy. You get this extra energy because the hormone cortisol causes a rise in your blood glucose level. This glucose, fuel for energy, is brought to your cells by insulin where your mitochondria, your energy factories, turn it into energy.

Your body always produces a lot of glucose (by eating sweets, carbohydrates or stress), then your cells become ‘deaf’ to the insulin and insulin resistance arises. With insulin resistance, a vicious cycle of fatigue and feeling hungry begins. Read more about insulin resistance here. There is therefore a clear relationship between insulin resistance and obesity.

A 2013 study found that if humans or mice were given extra oxytocin, it reduced insulin resistance. Oxytocin is also involved in a feeling of satiety after a meal.Health

Health

Oxytocin lowers stress, but it promotes your health in more ways than just psychologically or behaviorally. It has multiple effects on your body. It promotes lowering of blood pressure, strengthens your memory, reduces chronic inflammation in the body, accelerates healing in illness and relaxes the muscles. It is therefore not surprising that people heal faster if they feel seen and loved by both practitioners and family and friends.

Cortisol keeps you stressed. Oxytocin keeps you calm. Who do you want to win?

Other positive effects of oxytocin include: improving sugar metabolism (it reduces cravings for sweets); regulating heart rate and body temperature, improving mood and increasing libido.

Monogamous men due to oxytocin?

A fun fact is that men with a steady partner seem to keep other women at a distance due to the effect of oxytocin. The University of Bonn has researched this. The researchers gave the men oxytocin via a nasal spray. These men showed a much stronger response in the reward center of the brain to pictures of their own partners than pictures of other women.

In other words, they found their own partner much more attractive than others. If the same men were given a placebo, they didn’t have that reaction. According to the university, this may be part of the reason why humans are more likely to have monogamous relationships compared to many other mammals.

Natural Tips To Increase Oxytocin

With a little more oxytocin in your body you become calmer and more relaxed, you feel better, you are more open to others and you have more self-confidence. This will make you more positive in life and you will also radiate this to others, which in turn leads to good contacts with the people around you.

But how do you get some more oxytocin? Fortunately, you have a great deal of influence on its production. If you think you could use a little more of it, try these tips:

  • Get a pet to cuddle with.
  • Talk or call regularly with close friends. Keep the atmosphere positive and cheerful.
  • Increase your oxytocin by meditating.
  • Calm your breath by doing a breathing exercise for 10 minutes a day.
  • Touches, cuddling, and sex are all highly oxytocin-boosting.
  • Treat yourself to a nice massage.
  • Have fun with friends or family.
  • Smile more! For example, watch humorous things on TV or the Internet, preferably together with good friends.
  • Listen to nice, soothing music that makes you happy.
  • Go for a walk in nature, alone or with your partner or a friend.

Finally: be kind to yourself and have as many positive thoughts about yourself as possible, even when the going gets tough. That’s when you really need them. All the cells in your body believe what you tell them. So nourish your cells with encouragement, patience and lots of love. Especially if there is no loving partner, girlfriend or dog around.

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