Edited and published by Wellness Monster Stacie
Common Functionality of Oxytocin
Oxytocin is a hormone that is necessary during the birthing process for those with a natural birth plan. It is a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland that causes increased contraction of the uterus during labor and stimulates the ejection of milk in the ducts of the breasts. Many times, when women are induced into labor, they are given oxytocin to get the process started. It’s not just for women, however. Men are affected by it too. Thought it plays a very important role during child birth, that is not the only time the hormone is beneficial.
The Social Hormone
Oxytocin goes by many nicknames. The “Cuddle Hormone” and the “Love Hormone” (livescience.com) are just two. This hormone is often released during times of intimacy, whether it’s simply cuddling, bonding socially, or during intercourse. However, it can also intensify memories of dysfunction or bad relationships. For men, it may encourage fidelity, whereas in women, the hormone plays an important role in the birthing process and in nursing. Oxytocin is known to stimulate milk for nursing mothers. For women, nurturing is the result of an influx of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus. It is secreted by the pituitary gland, at the base of the brain. It may also be prescribed as a drug for obstetric and gynecological reasons. (medicalnewstoday.com) What many may not know is that oxytocin may also benefit those on the autism spectrum, individuals with anxiety, and sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome. Another moniker of the oxytocin is the “Social Hormone”.
This hormone is one that encourages positive social behavior. Those on the autism spectrum may benefit from oxytocin, as it contributes to relaxation, trust, and psychological stability. Some children who receive an oxytocin treatment spray have shown a boost in social skills, but it was not effective for all. However, after testing the level of oxytocin in the children’s system prior to providing them with the nasal spray of oxytocin, the tests reflected those with lower levels prior to receiving the spray responded with the most improved social skills. (spectrumnews.org)
Those suffering from anxiety, depression, or fear in general, may benefit from receiving oxytocin hormone sprays. As the hormone has a reputation as a social drug, it may be beneficial for someone that is suffering from social anxiety. Generally speaking, oxytocin is thought to be a pro-social behavior stimulant. (Wikipedia.org) It produces antidepressant-like effects; therefore, it may be beneficial for those that suffer with depression.
Too much of a good thing is usually not a good thing. Most everyone has heard it. Too much sugar, though pleasant to the taste buds, may cause problems for your teeth and other health issues. The same goes with oxytocin. Too much oxytocin in the body may do exactly the opposite of what a person is taking it for. Rather than being less shy, or more social, too much of the hormone may cause someone to become increasingly sensitive. Rather than being intrigued or drawn by the slight smile of an attractive man at a party across the room, a woman may feel suddenly insecure. Is he laughing at her? Is he smirking? Does he think she’s attractive or unattractive?
The decision to begin hormone treatment must be researched. Medical professionals should always be utilized in the decision making process before taking any type of medication, hormone, or supplement, much less one that effects a person’s social behavior so greatly. Though some individuals may see immense improvement in their social behavior, others may find that their previous condition is intensified and they are feeling increased social anxiety. A test to determine current levels of oxytocin may be completed before beginning treatment.
So how is oxytocin measured in the body? Researchers believe that there are two areas of measurement for oxytocin in the body. There is brain oxytocin and then there is the central nervous system oxytocin. (blogs.discovermagazine.com) Neither has anything to do with the other. For the purpose of this article, the brain oxytocin would be of most value. A spinal tap is performed and the oxytocin is measured in the cerebrospinal fluid. However, it is believed that the results are too inconclusive, and there is not strong enough evidence indicating that the measurements received are accurate. Another measurement could be done via human blood. Both, however, reflect vastly different results. This is why it is believed by researchers and scientists that there is no tried and true process to measure oxytocin.
Know What You Are Getting Into
At this time, tests are far too inconclusive to confidently state that oxytocin may be measured. What is known about oxytocin at this time is that it is thought to be a social hormone. Oxytocin is provided to women preparing for birth in the form of Pitocin to stimulate labor, causing the uterus to contract. Oxytocin has been known to alleviate abdominal pain, resulting in relief for those that suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). That alone may be enough proof for many to consider speaking with their medical provider. It is also known to improve positive social behavior and stimulate trust, empathy and treat social phobias and postpartum depression. However, like all things, it should be approached with caution and with the assistance of a medical professional. By having either a spinal tap performed or blood tested, the oxytocin levels produced in the brain by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland may someday be determined to be the most accurate form of measurement with conclusive results eventually in the future. At this point in time, researchers are still unable to agree which is the best method.
Oxytocin written on a page. [ID 88635105 © Designer491 | Dreamstime.com]
Love, affection, romance, and falling in love. [ID 106542491 © M-sur | Dreamstime.com]
CPK model of the Oxitocin molecule C43H66N12O12S2. [By MindZiper – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OxitocinaCPK3D.png]