Oxytocin, our skin and dark chocolate

February Tracker and the Love Hormone Oxytocin

I was planning to spend the next few writing episodes in review of the stereotypical hormones that control the menstrual cycle of a woman (estrogen and progesterone) but, it is February, so I got hijacked toward a totally different direction: Oxytocin, the love hormone. But stay tuned, I promise, my next post will be about estrogen and how we can add efficiency and motivation by understanding our cycle.

If you have had a baby, you have heard of oxytocin, as it is the hormone that makes contractions, to move the baby down and out of the uterus, but did you know it is also secreted during breastfeeding (the love glaze feeling some women get with milk let down) and to sensual touch? And this is really great news because when oxytocin increases, our experiences with social interactions, sense of well-being and stress response all improve. And even better, this is a hormone that women, men and children have access to. During infancy is it said to impact secure attachment, during social friendship interactions (hugs) in improves a sense of connection, and during intimate partner time, it leads to…the big O.

What I want you to know about oxytocin as we head into February is that we all have access to it, and we all need it. Here are my two tips to increase oxytocin in your life. Give them a try and see how it feels in your day to day.

#1: Increase physical touch: Oxytocin can be activated with low intensity stimulation of the skin with soft touch, caressing or even with just with warm temperature sensations. Lucky for us, skin is our biggest organ and happens to be responsible for receiving touch and warmth. Our skin can be stimulated with a hug, hand holding, a passing hand on the shoulder or even with the warmth and compression of our clothing. Having a rough day? Put on a warm cozy sweater. Have a kiddo in melt down mode, offer a hug or a gentle massage. Feeling distant from your partner, ask for a hug and be sure to hold on to it for a few extra moments to let the hormone surge settle in.
o Maybe add a long hug or 6 second kiss to your February tracker and see if it impacts your mood or sense of wellbeing by months end. February Symptom Tracker
o Find a healthy massage oil to use on your kids after bath time or before bed. Click here for 15% off at FullScript, our house favorite is the Weleda Lavender Massage oil.
o Noticing stress during a meeting or difficult conversation? Try some self soothing with gentle touch on your arm out of view from your colleagues. A little wiggle of the finger on you forearm may do the trick.

#2 – Eat that valentines chocolate: Dark chocolate is known to not only improve cognitive function by increasing blood flow to your brain, but also increases the release of oxytocin, leading to improvement in mood and feelings of pleasure.
o Buy organic when you can, and support local when you have the choice.

Sources

1. Brizendine, Louann, MD, The Female Brain, Harmony Books, New York, 2006
2. Rusnak, Kari, LPC, CMHC, BC-TMH, The Six Second Kiss, https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-six-second-kiss/, January 20, 2024
3. Thurrott, Stephanie , Contributing Writer for Banner Health, 7 Ways a Little Bit of Chocolate Can Boost Your Health, https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/ways-a-little-bit-of-chocolate-can-boost-your-health#:~:text=Dark%20chocolate%20also%20improves%20blood,responsible%20for%20feelings%20of%20pleasure, January 20, 2024
4. Uvnäs-Moberg K, Handlin L, Petersson M. Self-soothing behaviors with particular reference to oxytocin release induced by non-noxious sensory stimulation. Front Psychol. 2015 Jan 12;5:1529. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01529. PMID: 25628581; PMCID: PMC4290532.