Oxytocin Improves Your Thyroid?
Have you read John Gray, PhD’s Men Are from Mars, Women from Venus? His latest book on women, men + hormones is captivating, although John seems allergic to citations to back up his dramatic statements about women, cortisol and oxytocin. If you can get past the pop psychology and lack of data, his book presents a bold paradigm shift: that women at work have double the cortisol of men at work, and when we get home – it gets worse: women’s cortisol climbs even higher while men’s cortisol normalizes. What’s the best work-around for women? To raise oxytocin, the hormone of love + bonding, because it counteracts all the stress women face. John links women’s high cortisol and low oxytocin to difficulty relating to men, leading to disconnection, conflict, poor relatedness and, ultimately, lack of intimacy.
Why should you care?
We’re all busy, what’s this cortisol/oxytocin idea got to do with you and your thyroid? Recall my prior posts on how cortisol can cause the thyroid to underfunction; in fact, high cortisol is the worst culprit in what some call “thyroid resistance,” which is defined as chronically elevated cortisol causing cells to be resistant to thyroid hormone. The other problem, of course, is that both high and low cortisol interfere with production of T3, the active thyroid hormone.
What releases oxytocin?
Orgasm, probably related to contraction of the uterus and cervix. Breast stimulation, particularly breastfeeding. The role of oxytocin as a neuromodulator, or big time brain influencer, is proven in these scenarios: social recognition, bonding between pairs, reduction of both anxiety and depression, and in promoting maternal behavior.
According to Wikipedia, one of my favorite medical journals: “Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate.” This leads to oxytocin’s moniker as the “love hormone.”
I did find data showing that oxytocin inhibits the release of cortisol, so if you are a high-flyin’ cortisol type of a woman, oxytocin may indeed help you. Oxytocin increases trust and decreases fear. We can all use that.
In men, intranasal administration of oxytocin has been shown to increase empathy. Sounds good to me!
MDMA (Ecstasy) has been shown to act by stimulating oxytocin receptors.
Do Oxytocin Levels Correlate with Thyroid Function?
I found one study, published this month (Pedersen, 2011) showing that in women after delivering a baby, post-partum depression was associated with lower T3 and T4 levels in the blood, and lower oxytocin in the urine. Put another way, low oxytocin is associated with low thyroid function. Another randomized, double-blind study in men (Heinrichs, 2003) showed that intranasal oxytocin reduced cortisol levels and increased calmness. While these studies are not definitive, the data seems to fit with the story John is telling… that oxytocin helps us modulate cortisol and I would add that oxytocin may improve thyroid function. Furthermore, the benefit may affect both women and men.
Let’s raise our natural production of oxytocin and ecstatic experience, and by extension, improve our thyroid production with more nurturing support, orgasms and bonding. I’m always a fan of natural medicines, in this case nurturing and orgasm – how they may help your thyroid, with no side effects!
Written by, Dr. Sara Gottfried
Tags: breast stimulation, cortisol oxytocin can cause the thyroid to underfunction, oxytocin evokes contentment anxiety calmness, raise oxytocin the hormone of love + bonding, what releases oxytocin orgasm, why should I care, women at work have double the cortisol of men at work, women's cortisol climbs higher when men's cortisol normalizes, written by Dr. Sara Gottfried