Role of oxytocin in stress and digestive issues

Oxytocin is a hormone that’s also known as the love hormone and is released when people bond socially. But a new study has found that it can also have a role in regulating gastrointestinal functions. The study has not been published yet and we have got the preview, it will be published in The Journal of Physiology.

The research was done on rats in a controlled laboratory setting. Stress was introduced in different ways like making them swim in a container where they were not able to touch the base. The gastric emptying rate of the rats was tested next i.e. how fast food leaves the stomach, and their hormone levels were assessed too.

The rats were injected with a saline solution, a drug meant to trigger the release of the oxytocin hormone. This was done a half-hour before the stress tests. The tests showed that the hormone affected gastric emptying, the rats with the most stress had the slowest rate, but when the hormone was released, it resulted in muscle contractions and increased the emptying rate.

Although the study has not provided conclusive evidence, it has opened a way for further research. The scientists can now take oxytocin under consideration when they plan digestive drug development.

The role of oxytocin was considered very small in stress response and gut health, as compared to hormones like dopamine, cortisol, and serotonin. Serotonin had been a target in antidepressant medications, as its strongly related to mental health. According to Elaine Hsiao, a research assistant professor, around 90% of the hormone is triggered in the digestive tract, and the signals are sent to the brain.

The hormone, also called the cuddle hormone plays an important role in the birth process. It results in uterine contractions, shrinks the uterus after delivery, and plays a role in mother-child bonding.

Stress can have a negative impact on digestion and you might have experienced this. It can result in symptoms like bloating, nausea, and stomach aches. If you understand the role of oxytocin on digestion and stress, you might consider engaging in activities that can trigger the release of the hormone. Such activities include exercise and spending time with your family. It can not only reduce your symptoms but helps with digestion problems as well.

Good gut health is very important for emotional regulation and its value can’t be overstated. If one is affected, the other would be affected too, there is a balance because they send messages to each other. But the positive thing is if you can improve one, you will automatically improve the other as well. So if you work on improving your mental health by having a healthy diet and exercising, it will benefit your digestive health too.