The month of February is famous for being the “Month of Love”, I found it fitting to discuss the effect of love on our health as well as our well-being.
In my own opinion, the word “love” is the second most popular word after “Hello, hi” regardless of language, culture or ethnicity. According to Oxford English Dictionary, “love” is defined as, ‘a strong feeling of affection’, or, ‘a great interest and pleasure in something’.
Some individuals claim that, “love”, is a choice rather than an emotion, one chooses to love someone or something and it is not spontaneous but to some, it is both impulsive and a choice. To this, I will say, “to each his own”, and I will prefer to look at it from a medical point of view.
It is important for us to remember that, ‘our body is like a machine made up of different operating systems but one major “boss”, the brain’. The centre for hormone production lies in the brain and is called the hypothalamus. It is here that the three neurochemicals responsible for the sensation of love are secreted. These three are:
Dopamine (also known as the ‘feel good hormone’.)
Other minor contributors are:
Now, let’s get a bit acquainted with these;
This is a natural chemical found in our body and is commonly referred to as the ‘love drug’. Some chocolate lovers might already know this chemical as it is responsible for making cocoa so appealing. Phenylethylamine is a dopamine-boosting supplement and is considerably a powerful focus and promoter of concentration, thus able to counteract signs of depression and anxiety. lt is also said to cause an increase in productivity and mental drive, motivating an individual to a better mental performance. This ‘love drug’ works by stimulating the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, promoting a positive mood and well-being, curbing appetite and supporting weight loss.
Have you ever noticed how you might get extremely nervous before a date or when you think of something; sweaty palms, heart races and there is a spontaneous surge of adrenaline throughout your body, well, this is because signals are being sent by the brain to the adrenal gland (located on top of the kidneys) to pump out chemicals (adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) giving you a rush of excitement. Like dopamine, norepinephrine makes us ‘feel good’ BUT it also makes us feel infatuated and obsessed. This is our brain telling us to: …keep going…. and suddenly, at all times, you want to be around this thing you are hooked to. Basically, the brain has decided ‘ love is essential’ and it wants ‘ more’ of it, this is the limbic reward system.
A well-known American anthropologist, Helen Fisher, asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and it was discovered that they had very high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure, hence also being known as the ‘feel good hormone’. This indirectly has an effect on the heart as the intense rush of pleasure causes a rapid increase in the heart rate, thereby increasing the rate at which blood flows throughout the body. In some cases, there is an excessive increase in heart rate such that the number of heart beats per minutes go above 120 beats/min and this is known as tachycardia. This rapid increase in heartbeat is likely why the heart is known as the ‘organ of love’.
As I mentioned above, love can also be objective,this means that it is not only confined to people or animals but can be associated with colours, machines, clothes, buildings, foods etc. When you see something, you are fond of, the neurons in your brain release the dopamine and a feeling of euphoria is felt. Because your brain wants you to keep pursing this feeling, more dopamine is fired off every time you either think of or see the thing you are fond of. Secretion of this dopamine can cause, relief of ; stress, headache, tension, depression, sadness and, in some cases, triggers a sense of belonging, responsibility, wanted-ness, which in turn causes a boost in one’s ,mood, self-worth and an increase in confidence levels. It enhances concentration and has a pro-social effect; it helps with the excretion of sodium; is capable of reducing levels of insulin; protects the gastrointestinal tract, and, improves the overall immune function.
Testosterone and Oestrogen
These two are most probably the most popular hormones simply because they are sex hormones, present in both males and females. Both of these contribute to our emotional stability.
Oxytocin and Vasopressin:
The more time we spend with our ‘muse’; object of affection, oxytocin duped ‘the love hormone’ starts to get released. This is produced in the hypothalamus and released during times of intimacy e.g. when mothers breastfeed. Research has shown that oxytocin is responsible for fostering trust and commitment. Compared to the impulsive effect of dopamine, oxytocin is subtle and is present for longer leading to a feeling of deeper attachment.
Over time when deep companionship develops, there is increased activity in the ventral pallidum (structure within the basal ganglia of the brain). Here, oxytocin and vasopressin are in high concentrations and are associated with lifting up people’s spirits. At this stage brain scans show that the limbic reward system (of dopamine) remains active meaning the initial rush of feelings of acquaintance are combined with those of deep attachment.
Now that we know what causes us to love, let’s lighten the mood up by taking a look at Love & Health fun facts;
DID YOU KNOW?
Cuddling releases natural painkillers,it transmits some feelings of
affection (cuddle more and save money on painkillers)
Being surrounded by love is a form of a pain killer, even looking at pictures of a loved one relieves the pain, (this might explain why people always look through photo albums when they are in emotional pain)
People who are in love have chemical similarities with people with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
Thinking of love influences creativity, and concrete thinking (maybe I should start thinking of love before decision making)
Holding a loved one’s hand relieves pain and stress.
Expressing gratitude towards people you love cause an immediate spike in happiness, (who doesn’t like being happy?)
Butterflies in the stomach are real and are actually caused by adrenaline.
A kiss stimulates 29 muscles and chemicals, causing relaxation.
Some individuals who claim never to have felt romantic love suffer from hypopituitarism, a rare disease that doesn’t allow a person to feel the rapture of love.
Your nerve cells work better during the first years of love, (after this I’m guessing they to get tired)
Romantic love and the love between a mother and child share a similar chemical connection, (no love like a mother’s love)
Love can literally make you crazy, (literally crazy in-love)
We can sense and are attracted to a person with a different immune system, (opposites attract)
Love is so important that the greatest commandment of all is:
“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”
From all of us at Stellar Care UK to all of you, WE LOVE YOU!,,,,, мы любим тебя, nous t’aimons, te amamos.
Please don’t forget to register with us, either as clients or to join our Stellar family…