What's love got to do with it....
My husband and I are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary today... life has thrown some curve balls at us in that time. We shared 12 of those years with our beautiful Weimaraner who has now sadly left us and took a little piece of our hearts with her but our love has seen us through it all and made us stronger as a result.
This started me thinking today about the strange times we find ourselves in now with a global pandemic forcing us to lock down and separating us from loved ones. Anxiety and depression has crept into many people's lives as this environment impacts the hormones that protect our brain's ability to function normally.
One of these hormones is oxytocin, often called the 'love hormone' or 'cuddle chemical'. It's released from the hypothalamus in the brain by the pituitary gland and is released into the blood when our neurons are activated. It plays a key role as a chemical messenger in childbirth by stimulating muscle contractions and also is released when we are aroused sexually or experience a loving bond (think puppy dog eyes!). Oxytocin is important for human social behaviour and is linked to stress, anxiety and depression when in short supply.
Working synergistically in the brain with oxytocin is a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). It keeps us mentally alert, improves memory, protects brain cells from stress or damage, helps weight loss, improves sleep and protects us against neurodegenerative disease. However, chronic stress can have a negative impact on BDNF.
Little wonder then that in times of self-isolation, lack of contact with loved ones and unprecedented stress and anxiety that we find ourselves struggling with our mental health and wellbeing.
Now more than ever we need to nourish our brains and strengthen our resolve against anxiety and stress.
Boost your 'love hormone' or 'cuddle chemical' by embracing love in your life and enjoy cuddles with your pets. Increase your BDNF through being outdoors in nature and exercising, ensuring good sleep and relaxation. Studies have also shown that dietary antioxidants and intermittent fasting have a beneficial effect on BDNF.
Book your nutritional therapy consultation today to optimise your health & wellbeing and find out how to nourish your brain with the power of food.
Neumann, D. and Slattery, A. (2015) 'Oxytocin in general anxiety and social fear: a translational approach', Biological Psychiatry,79(3), pp.213-221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.06.004
Carter, C. S., & Porges, S. W. (2013) 'The biochemistry of love: an oxytocin hypothesis',EMBO reports, 14(1), 12–16.https://doi.org/10.1038/embor.2012.191
McEwen, B.et al. (2015) 'Mechanisms of stress in the brain',Nature neuroscience, 18(10), 1353–1363.https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4086