Your body is an ongoing miracle of life. When you stop to think about the millions of little things that are happening within you every second of your life to keep you functioning, it’s easy to marvel at the improbable job your body undertakes nonstop throughout your lifetime.
Often, it’s the little things that can make all the difference in your health, happiness and well-being. It’s easy to base your choices in life without considering what long-term effects these little things may have on your health. To illustrate this idea, the rest of this issue addresses one specific hormone that your body manufactures, how it affects your health, and how massage can play a role in its production.
My purpose as a your Jefferson Massage therapist is to help you improve and maintain your health through massage. The better you understand all the little things massage can do to help you to function your best, the more you should appreciate what a wise choice it is for you to commit to your regular massages.
If you have any questions regarding your health and massage, please ask me at your next appointment. Enjoy spring; I’ll see you soon!
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Massage Benefits: Increasing Oxytocin Production You’re probably familiar in general terms about the many ways massage can help your body to function better. Let’s take a look at a specific example of one of the positive health changes massage has been shown to bring about—an increase in the production of oxytocin.
What is oxytocin?
Best known for its role in childbirth and lactation in women, oxytocin is a hormone produced in the brain in both men and women and released into the bloodstream through the pituitary gland. In women, its effects are enhanced and expanded because of their higher estrogen levels. The presence of estrogen increases the number of oxytocin receptors and stimulates production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is also produced in the ovaries and testes as well as walls of blood vessels and in the heart.
What does it do in the body?
We all need oxytocin to stay physically healthy; it helps us relax and recover from stress, lowering blood pressure. It makes us feel calmer and helps reduce sensitivity to pain, while improving the body's ability to heal. Oxytocin also plays a critical role in our emotions. Released into the brain in social situations of all kinds, it's responsible for trust, generosity, and all kinds of love and personal connection.
How does it affect men vs. women?
While men and women produce oxytocin in relatively equal amounts, when it comes to the emotional effects, there are strong differences. Testosterone seems to mute oxytocin's bonding effects, while estrogen enhances them. This explains why it seems so much easier for women to bond with others.
How can we produce more oxytocin?
Any social interaction that feels safe can cause us to release oxytocin. Studies have shown elevated levels of oxytocin in the blood of people who sang together in a choral group and people who played with their dogs. Pleasant physical touch also releases oxytocin.
Massage and oxytocin
According to Dr. Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg, author of The Oxytocin Factor, massage is one of the best ways to get oxytocin released into the body.
The Effects of Oxytocin The release of oxytocin into the blood stream is thought to have important effects, both psychological and physiological. Some results from recent studies include:
Autism – Children with autism have been found to have significantly lower levels of oxytocin, as well as hyperactivity in the region of the brain where most oxytocin receptors are located. Studies on individuals with autism have shown a reduction in repetitive behaviors when oxytocin was introduced intravenously.
Enhanced Digestion – Oxytocin has been found to regulate the process of digestion. It stimulates the release of various digestive hormones and gastric juices, which in turn leads to a more effective absorption of nutrients.
Facilitates Wound Healing – Oxytocin accelerates the body’s healing process in part by helping to rejuvenate mucous membranes and encouraging the production of anti-inflammatory reactions.
Increasing Trust – Human subjects given oxytocin via a nasal spray displayed a higher level of trust. In one study, small doses of inhaled oxytocin reduced the wariness of strangers in volunteers, while another appeared to make them more empathetic.
Reducing Anxiety – Clinical trials using oxytocin sprays have been shown to reduce anxiety and ease symptoms of shyness. It seems to reduce timidity and may help to increase confidence, leading to improved healthy social interaction.
Additionally, oxytocin counters the effects of cortisol, a stress hormone, which, if over long periods of time is produced in high levels in the body, can lead to high blood pressure, lowered immune function and even clinical depression.
Hopefully this information clarifies why you feel so much better after your massages; see you at your next appointment!
Sources: www.integrative-healthcare.org; www.abclocal.go.com
Commit to your health! Schedule your next massage. Regular appointments can:
- Help support better health
- Minimize stress
- Strengthen your immune system
- Give you something to look forward to each month
- Make you feel great!
— Lin Yutang