Interesting Facts About Oxytocin: The Love Hormone

If you have given birth before, you have probably heard of oxytocin – especially if you are a breastfeeding mother. Oxytocin works to stimulate the uterus to contract and dilate the cervix during natural labor. It also helps with stimulation of milk ejection during breastfeeding. However, this amazing neuropeptide plays a vital role far beyond these two functions.
Several studies conducted in the past decade have revealed effects of oxytocin on body and mind. Oxytocin is calming and can improve mood – it blocks stress hormones and lowers your blood pressure. It is our body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormone. In addition, it can stimulate metabolic functions, such as growth and digestion.
Oxytocin is present in males and females. It’s active in social interactions and brings about feelings of love, relaxation, and selflessness. Oxytocin may be critical in adapting to motherhood. Physicians and midwives often use synthetic oxytocin to augment or induce labor. However, it doesn’t act the same way in the body as naturally occurring oxytocin.
Syntocinon/Pitocin doesn’t traverse the blood-brain barrier. It produces the same mechanical effects on the body. However, it doesn’t lead to the same behavioral effects, such as maternal-attachment promoting behaviors.
The incredibly versatile hormone serves several functions since it is present throughout the body during several different activities. Here are FIVE fabulous and interesting facts about oxytocin you probably didn’t know:
1. Oxytocin Makes Dogs More Friendly
Apart from humans, oxytocin affects other animals such as dogs. One study of 16 adult dogs of different breeds suggests the hormone makes dogs friendlier toward their owners. Researchers administered oxytocin to the dogs and watched their behavior, paying special attention to “bonding” behavior such as playing, licking, sniffing, and nudging.
“We found that after receiving the oxytocin spray, dogs displayed more affiliative behaviors and paid more attention to their owners than during the controls,” said Teresa Romero, the lead author of the study.
Abused dogs usually find it difficult to trust their new, loving owners. Therefore, the substance may someday prove useful in helping them.
2. Oxytocin Could Help Treat Eating Disorders
“Oxytocin reduces patients’ unconscious tendencies to focus on food, body shape,” said Youl-Ri Kim, a professor at Inje University in Seoul, South Korea. The researchers who carried out the study discovered that oxytocin nasal spray helped patients suffering from anorexia stop obsessing over things such as body image and food. This “hints at the advent of a novel, ground-breaking treatment option for patients with anorexia.”
3. It Makes Us Liars and Cheaters
In one study, the researchers asked the participants to predict the outcome of a coin toss and then self-report their success rate. Correct guesses resulted in cash that the team members would split amongst themselves. Predictably, the financial reward encouraged the participants to lie about their accuracy. However, they lied even more, and without hesitation after taking a dose of oxytocin. “This is the best evidence yet that oxytocin is not the ‘moral molecule,’” said Carsten de Dreu from the University of Amsterdam, who co-led the study.
4. Oxytocin Affects Blood Pressure
Oxytocin can either lower or increase your blood pressure depending on the situation. A small amount of oxytocin can increase blood pressure slightly and then it drops lower than the normal rate.
Higher oxytocin levels keep blood pressure low for a long period. Oestrogen strengthens the effect of oxytocin. Therefore, the blood pressure of females (still producing oestrogen) will remain lower for three weeks. The blood pressure of males (and females not producing oestrogen) will be lower for only half that time. They can’t have the same three-week effect unless they take a double dose of oxytocin.
5. The Peak Of Oxytocin
The highest peak of oxytocin in the lifetime of a woman is right after giving birth, but before delivering the placenta– we can put the baby skin to skin with the mother and leave the two undisturbed during the time to maximize the potential of the hormone.

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