The love hormone oxytocin: How touch and hugs affect our health and relationships?

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Modern science confirms that touching, cuddling, hugging and love are important both for good health and for creating harmonious interpersonal relationships. When you touch, the love hormone called oxytocin is released. According to the latest research, it affects much more in our lives than we thought.

Oxytocin in childbirth
Oxytocin is probably known to all mothers, as it is associated with childbirth. Oxytocin induces contractions during childbirth and thus helps the birth to go smoothly. Its discovery marked a major breakthrough in obstetrics. If the birth does not progress and threatens the health of the mother and the baby, it is given by injection. The oxytocin stress test, on the other hand, helps obstetricians in the event that expectant mothers carry more than 10 days past their due date. Administering oxytocin often leads to induction of labor and a smoother birth of the baby.

After birth, oxytocin causes muscle contractions in the mammary glands and facilitates breastfeeding. Although it is generally best known as the hormone responsible for childbirth and breastfeeding, it plays an important role throughout life. And not only for the fairer sex, oxytocin in men is just as important as in women.

Oxytocin as the hormone of love and fidelity
Touching, cuddling and stroking trigger the release of oxytocin from the pituitary gland. The University of San Francisco conducted research that revealed groundbreaking news. Women satisfied in a partner relationship showed higher levels of oxytocin than women living single or in unsatisfying relationships. Therefore, we should never forget the importance of caressing and hugging in partner relationships, during which hormones of love and happiness are released. Treat yourself to cuddles, preferably every day.

Another interesting finding was brought about by research on the behavior of voles. While prairie voles live monogamously with one female and participate in the care of the offspring, mountain voles alternate with several females and only female voles care for the offspring. Researchers found that prairie voles have more oxytocin receptors in their brains than mountain voles. During mating, prairie voles release oxytocin, while mountain voles do not release the hormone of happiness and pleasure. When researchers inserted the gene for oxytocin into the brains of prairie voles, the previously promiscuous males turned monogamous.

The discovery caused an uproar in the pharmaceutical industry. Every woman would like a faithful man at home. In the future, oxytocin spray could change the behavior of notorious philanderers and, on the other hand, increase the profits of pharmaceutical companies for selling it.

Oxytocin as a hormone of trust and harmonious relationships
By examining the brain, molecular biologists have uncovered another variety of oxytocin's effects. It is involved in the processes of memory, learning, social behavior, parenting, the formation of partner relationships or the response to stress. It also affects the development and treatment of malignant tumors.

Researchers from Bonn, Germany, and Cambridge, UK, have discovered that a small dose of oxytocin gives men the ability to empathize and be emotionally sensitive, which is normally the exclusive domain of women. According to a study by students from the University of Zurich, the administration of oxytocin increases trust in people, which is essential for healthy partner, friendship and social relationships.

Oxytocin cannot be found in food or dietary supplements, to release it you need the right stimulation and the proximity of a loved one. If you don't have a partner, hug your friends, parents or at least your pet and treat yourself to a good dose of the hormone of love and happiness. Or come to our dating evenings in Prague and find your soul mate.

Autor: Jakub Žwak