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Hormones Can Help You De-stress

A lot of dads-to-be are, unfortunately, not very involved in their wife’s pregnancies because they just don’t feel all that connected to the baby. Physiologically, this is unsurprising, given that dad’s hormone levels (especially those that govern feelings of attachement) stay pretty constant when dad is NOT pregnant. Indeed, many women also feel somewhat disconnected to their uterine stowaways, seeing just the unfortunate side effects of their gestation; morning sickness, weight gain, a teacup-sized bladder and a sore everything, while riding a hold-on-for-dear-life hormone roller coaster.

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For nearly all woman and the vast majority of men, this changes as soon as the baby is born. During those first few hours after-birth, both mum and dad experience a flood of the hormone oxytocin, which creates a myriad of reactions in the brain.

Oxytocin is normally produced in the hypothalamus and stored in the posterior pituitary gland. It plays a role in intimacy, sexual reproduction, and in bonding during and after childbirth, where oxytocin causes the uterus to contract after birth. In lactating mothers, oxytocin acts to promote milk production. It can even speed wound healing by modulating certain inflammatory cytokines.

Various studies have looked at oxytocin’s role in establishing trust, feeling contented, reducing anxiety, increasing calm and trust, and even certain cognitive functions. Oxytocin in an extremely powerful and beneficial mood-and-mind-altering hormone.

So how do increase our body’s production of oxytocin? The healing power of touch.

Emerging research suggests that touch therapy works: In one landmark study, 16 happily married women were subjected to the threat of a mild electric shock; touching their husbands’ hands brought immediate relief from the resulting anxiety. Even a stranger’s touch was somewhat calming. “We know that anxiety decreases immune function and makes you get sick more often,” says study author Jim Coan, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia. “If touch can help you be less anxious, you’re more likely to stay well.” (http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/heal-touch)

Therapeutic massage is one of the best ways to promote the release of oxytocin and serotonin into the bloodstream, promoting healing and relaxation, reducing stress and making you feel great. According to the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, massage therapy may even increase your alertness and lessen the symptoms of depression such as fatigue and irritability, along with reducing headache and muscle pain.

If you’ve never been for a therapeutic massage, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Give yourself a de-stress break in the middle of a busy day, or after a gruelling 8 hours at the office. Massage is a totally natural, drug-free way to harness the power of your own body’s physiology.

To book a massage treatment by one of BodyMend’s registered massage therapists, email info@bodymend.ca and let us help mend you back to better health.

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