Oxytocin – time to look closer.

Introducing Oxytocin

 by Bradford S. Weeks, M.D.

 

Tell me, do you enjoy a gentle and intimate back rub? A nice meal? A loving hug? A comforting smile or a reassuring heart-to-heart talk? Do you enjoy intimate sexual relations including, on occasion the experience of a thrilling orgasm?  If so, you are a junkie!…  for a naturally occurring neurotransmitter/hormone called Oxytocin.  If those experiences listed above are not high on your list of life events, then you are most likely deficient in this life-enhancing substance. In either case, read on!

What is oxytocin? Oxytocin is a substance synthesized in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus and secreted from another part called the posterior pituitary. This hormone has been made into a drug which all doctors learned about during our rotation in the obstetrics and gynecology clinics because it aids the delivery process. Oxytocin can be injected into laboring mothers to be in order to increase their uterine contractions and encourage progression of a prolonged labor to the point where the baby is squeezed out into the arms of  the satisfied doctor / midwife or, increasingly, the tremulous hands of an astonished father. Thus, oxytocin (also known as Pitocin) is a life-saver by serving as a life initiator!

Genius takes many forms among which, one of the most delightful, is the ability to see things everyone else sees but be able to think things no one else has thought.  Did you catch that in the last paragraph “uterine contractions”?  Hmmm.  When else does the uterus contract?  That’s right…. During orgasm!  So oxytocin makes muscles contract. does it make the make prostate contract during orgasm?  Yes. Well, does oxytocin intensify orgasms and ejaculations?  Yes.   OK – enough about sex. I admit to wanting to get your attention with the above facts but now we need to get on with the more important health aspects of this hormone – that’s right, oxytocin’s ability to enhance a person’s capacity for intimacy, compassion, empathy, engagement and patience – in short, to enhance one’s capacity for a loving relationship – the pinnacle of human accomplishment.

Increasingly, oxytocin is prescribed to alleviate many aspects of human suffering in addition to prolonged labor.  This list of clinical indications is growing daily and is supported by a vast scientific literature which endorses its use.  Autism – currently considered an intoxication resulting in isolation is treated with oxytocin. Schizophrenia, an equally dehumanizing and isolating illness is also treated with oxytocin.  Patients suffering from Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),  Depression  are all    grateful for the opportunity to replenish their deficiencies in this important hormone. Other psychiatric illnesses such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) where the primary relationship with oneself;  Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) where relationship capacity is so compromised that no one can be trusted;   Sleep disorders are aided by oxytocin.  And, no surprise, sexual disorders including erectile dysfunction (ED),  female orgasm dysfunction (FOD), inability to achieve orgasm (anorgasmia) as well as helping with intimacy issues.  But all of these benefits are …. “off label”  so your doctor may be reluctant to prescribe this naturally occurring hormone despite your suffering.

Enough of abstractions, let me share some remarkable stories for your edification.

1) Mr. and Mrs. XX  had been in a loving and mutually respectful marriage for over 40 years and had settled for low frequency and low intensity relationships – both sexual and conversational – and had found nothing to help to the degree that they had given up on passion. However, after we discussed the pros and cons of a trial of Oxytocin, everything changed. (I’d tell you more but I am blushing!)

2) Mrs. YY wouldn’t accept that she is getting old  (older, maybe but not “old”)  despite her date of birth betraying the face that she turned 88 this year. After discussing options for her fibromyalgia and insomnia, she settled on a corrective protocol involving, among other naturally occurring nutrients  (rehydration, magnesium, niacin  etc.) a trial of oxytocin.  A month later, she returned to the clinic glowing and introduced me to her new gentleman friend. At 88 she described what she termed  “the best sex of my life.”

3) Mr. ZZ was the oldest of 13 children in a poor family who were hungry all the time and who didn’t starve thanks to the family doc who would drop off a bag of groceries every Thursday night after work – rain or shine, sleet or snow.  This generosity infected Mr. ZZ to the point that he transitioned from being caretaker of his younger siblings to being the caretaker of his platoon in Vietnam. What form did that take? He walked point every day. No one else in his platoon needed to walk in front and be, on patrol the obvious first target of enemy sniper fire.  It was terrifying for Mr. ZZ to the point of being depersonalizing and thusly he served the duration of his tour of duty somewhat out of body. Upon returning to America, the post-traumatic disorder was so intense that he managed to disappear from wife, son and daughter in to workaholism and alcoholism. He became a giant of industry and an innovator beyond compare in his field but was alone in proportion to his financial success.  Three weeks after consulting and selecting a corrective protocol including oxytocin, Mr. ZZ reported “I am talking with my wife and both my children for the first time I can remember. I feel like I have a family, like I belong.”

Corrective care involves replenishing what one is deficient in and detoxifying what one carries in excess. It is a simple and elegant approach. Is conforms to the primary tenant of civilized and compassionate medicine “ Primum, Non  Nocere” or “First, Do not Harm”. While some agents, like the little known and sparsely appreciated “exotic” hormone/neurotransmitter Oxytocin have stunning effects, it is important to remember that just as there is no “most important” instrument in the orchestra nor “most important” member of an integrated team, also all naturally occurring nutrients and hormones are essential.  Get an inventory done with your local doctor and correct the imbalances.  Live with passion!

BSW   April  2011

 

References

Oxytocin & Sexual Problems Disorders

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1987 Jan;64(1):27-31.

Plasma oxytocin increases in the human sexual response.

Carmichael MS, Humbert R, Dixen J, Palmisano G, Greenleaf W, Davidson JM.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether plasma oxytocin (OT) levels change during human sexual responses and, if so, to demonstrate the temporal pattern of change. Plasma OT levels were measured by RIA before, during, and after private self-stimulation to orgasm in normal men (n = 9) and women (n = 13). Blood samples were collected continuously through indwelling venous catheters. The subjects pressed a signal to indicate the start and finish of orgasm/ejaculation. Objective assessment of sexual arousal and orgasm was obtained by measuring blood-pulse amplitude and electromyographic activity, recorded continuously throughout testing from an anal device containing a photoplethysmograph and electromyograph electrodes connected to a polygraph located in an adjacent room. These measures allowed collection of data from men and women of changes in blood flow and muscle activity in the lower pelvic/pubic area. Plasma OT levels increased during sexual arousal in both women and men and were significantly higher during orgasm/ejaculation than during prior baseline testing. We suggest that the temporal pattern of secretion could be related to smooth muscle contractions of the reproductive system during orgasm.

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Gynecol Obstet Invest. 1999;47(2):125-6.

The role of oxytocin in relation to female sexual arousal.

Blaicher W, Gruber D, Bieglmayer C, Blaicher AM, Knogler W, Huber JC. Dept of Gynecology Obstetrics, Div of Gynecological Endocrinology Reproduction Medicine, Univ of Vienna, Austria.

Oxytocin is clearly involved in human reproduction and serves an important role in sexual arousal. Oxytocin serum levels were measured before and after sexual stimulation in 12 healthy women. Values of oxytocin 1 min after orgasm were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than baseline levels. This finding supports the hypothesis that oxytocin plays a major part in human sexual response both in neuroendocrine function and postcoital behavior.

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Zhonghua Nan Ke Xue. 2011 Jun;17(6):558-61.

Oxytocin and male sexual function.

Teng RB, Zhang XH. Institute of Urology and Nephrology, Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, Guangxi 530021, China.

Oxytocin (OT) is a female hormone with the main function of facilitating uterine contraction and milk ejection. Recent studies show that OT is involved in multiple signaling pathways in the central and peripheral nerve system and mainly regulates the physiology and activity of reproduction, including male reproduction and sexual behavior. The roles of OT in penile erection are bio-phasic with proerectile effect in the central nerve system while peripherally inhibiting erection. OT also mediates ejaculation, post-ejaculatory detumescence and the post-orgasm refractory period. OT and OT-receptor in the central nerve system will be a new target in the drug development for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, while OT intracavernous injection promises to be an effective therapy for priapism. This review focuses on the effects of OT on male sexual activities.

Oxytocin & Autism Spectrum Disorders

Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Apr 1;67(7):692-4. Epub 2009 Nov 7.

Intranasal oxytocin improves emotion recognition for youth with autism spectrum disorders.

Guastella AJ, Einfeld SL, Gray KM, Rinehart NJ, Tonge BJ, Lambert TJ, Hickie IB. Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia.

BACKGROUND: A diagnostic hallmark of autism spectrum disorders is a qualitative impairment in social communication and interaction. Deficits in the ability to recognize the emotions of others are believed to contribute to this. There is currently no effective treatment for these problems. METHODS: In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design, we administered oxytocin nasal spray (18 or 24 IU) or a placebo to 16 male youth aged 12 to 19 who were diagnosed with Autistic or Asperger’s Disorder. Participants then completed the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task, a widely used and reliable test of emotion recognition. RESULTS: In comparison with placebo, oxytocin administration improved performance on the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task. This effect was also shown when analysis was restricted to the younger participants aged 12 to 15 who received the lower dose. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides the first evidence that oxytocin nasal spray improves emotion recognition in young people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Findings suggest the potential of earlier intervention and further evaluation of oxytocin nasal spray as a treatment to improve social communication and interaction in young people with autism spectrum disorders.

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Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Feb 15;61(4):498-503. Epub 2006 Aug 14.

Oxytocin increases retention of social cognition in autism.

Hollander E, Bartz J, Chaplin W, Phillips A, Sumner J, Soorya L, Anagnostou E, Wasserman S. Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA.

BACKGROUND: Oxytocin dysfunction might contribute to the development of social deficits in autism, a core symptom domain and potential target for intervention. This study explored the effect of intravenous oxytocin administration on the retention of social information in autism. METHODS: Oxytocin and placebo challenges were administered to 15 adult subjects diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s disorder, and comprehension of affective speech (happy, indifferent, angry, and sad) in neutral content sentences was tested. RESULTS: All subjects showed improvements in affective speech comprehension from pre- to post-infusion; however, whereas those who received placebo first tended to revert to baseline after a delay, those who received oxytocin first retained the ability to accurately assign emotional significance to speech intonation on the speech comprehension task. CONCLUSIONS: These results are consistent with studies linking oxytocin to social recognition in rodents as well as studies linking oxytocin to prosocial behavior in humans and suggest that oxytocin might facilitate social information processing in those with autism. These findings also provide preliminary support for the use of oxytocin in the treatment of autism

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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2011 Oct;32(4):426-50. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

Prosocial effects of oxytocin and clinical evidence for its therapeutic potential.

Striepens N, Kendrick KM, Maier W, Hurlemann R. Department of Psychiatry, University of Bonn, 53105 Bonn, Germany.

There has been unprecedented interest in the prosocial effects of the neuropeptide oxytocin in humans over the last decade. A range of studies has demonstrated correlations between basal oxytocin levels and the strength of social and bonding behaviors both in healthy individuals and in those suffering from psychiatric disorders. Mounting evidence suggests associations between polymorphisms in the oxytocin receptor gene and prosocial behaviors and there may also be important epigenetic effects. Many studies have now reported a plethora of prosocial effects of intranasal application of oxytocin, including the domains of trust, generosity, socially reinforced learning, and emotional empathy. The main focus of this review will be to summarize human preclinical work and particularly the rapidly growing number of clinical studies which have identified important links between oxytocin and a wide range of psychiatric disorders, and have now started to directly assess its therapeutic potential.

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