”..men lie, women lie, numbers don’t..” Jay-Z.
During his acceptance speech at the 2009 American Music Awards, Jay-Z quipped about the ubiquitous relationship killer – trust. He’s not wrong. Infidelity is a leading cause of divorce, and in the U.S., rates are high: 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. But it need not be that way.
Through the simple act of hugging someone you release a feel good hormone called oxytocin, which promotes feelings of trust and bonding — both in yourself and the person you’re touching. Not only that, oxytocin can help control high blood pressure, anxiety, digestive disorders, and pain.
Could it be true then – All you need is love…..?
How it works
Nature has hard wired us to release oxytocin aka the love hormone in response to intimate activities. Childbirth, breast feeding and sex are the most powerful triggers, but even a few kind words can upregulate oxytocin, stimulating trust between individuals.
If you’re in a stable relationship but your health has a few gaps, oxytocin can help with that too:
- Reduction of cortisol and blood pressure: Elevated cortisol (the stress hormone) suppresses your immune system, while high blood pressure causes heart disease: the number one killer in the United States. Oxytocin is an anti-stressor, it mitigates high levels of cortisol and blood pressure.
- Pain killer and wound healer: Studies in humans show oxytocin aids in the healing of wounds and deep tissue pain, due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
- Anxiety: Because it produces feelings of trust, oxytocin can aid with social anxiety and depression. Studies on women suffering postpartum depression found they had low levels of oxytocin.
- Digestive disorders and weight loss aid: Digestive disorders often result from inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease and constipation happen when your gut is inflamed, mostly when stress (elevated cortisol) is present. Studies show low levels of inflammation in the GI tract exist in the presence of oxytocin. By countering the effects of cortisol and inflammation, oxytocin improves digestion. As an additional benefit, proper digestion aids in weight loss.
How to increase your oxytocin levels
Since it may not always be practical (or physically possible) to give birth, have sex, or breastfeed, here are some other ways you can trigger oxytocin production naturally:
- Kind words, handshakes and hugs: As noted earlier, human touch and empathy go a long way. Try it out – hug and compliment someone every day. It also helps to gaze into your partner’s eyes – this provokes an intense release of oxytocin.
- Food: According to bio hacker and triathlete Ben Greenfield, eggs, bananas and peppers are known to increase oxytocin.
- Gratitude – A daily gratitude practice (see here for my post on gratitude) can be a very effective way to raise oxytocin levels naturally. Supplement it by noting down who you can help that day.
So there you have it. Love really does cure all ills.
As always, pushing for health.