Oxytocin is yet another hormone that declines with age. In fact it’s even become one of the hormones typically replaced during bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) for many of those making plans for healthy ageing. (The best form of ‘health insurance’ you can get!)
Just last month Nutrition & Healing reviewed many of the uses for oxytocin replacement. Oxytocin’s presently known functions (in addition to its long-known functions in childbirth, nursing, and maternal-child bonding) include a reduction in anxiety and a lessening of the effects of stress. Oxytocin can also help lessen perceived pain in chronic pain syndromes, as well as help to improve human sociability, trust, attachment and intimacy. Oxytocin may influence mood and reduce feelings of depression. This powerful hormone may even be useful in the treatment of autism.
But the most-publicised ‘new’ use for replacement oxytocin is, of course, for the improvement of the experience of sexual intimacy. This use was pioneered by Dr. Jorge Flechas who has also been a pioneer in clinical uses of oxytocin for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Dr. Flechas has been giving doctors, and other healthcare practitioners, presentations concerning oxytocin use for years. Since learning this from Dr. Flechas, I’ve prescribed oxytocin for many couples who want to give it a try. (Fortunately, it’s very safe to do so.) Approximately 50% of the couples reported it made enough difference that they wanted to continue using it, while the other 50% weren’t particularly impressed.
One key to keeping youthfuland spry is locked inside thisimportant hormone
Now a new research report, published in June 2014, has revealed another exciting use for natural oxytocin replacement in both men and women. The title of this report1 – “Oxytocin is an age-specific circulating hormone that is necessary for muscle maintenance and regeneration” – describes this use very well.
The abstract of their report makes several good points, so let’s follow along with what they’ve written: “The regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle declines with age.” We’ve all noticed this effect watching the decline of feeble grannies (and less often, feeble grandpas). By Nature, women’s testosterone levels are lower, and generally decline sooner than men’s, sometimes dropping to nearly zero when women become elderly. So testosterone, which is critical for muscle maintenance, should also be part of BHRT for both women and men.
But the researcher’s next sentence goes somewhere unexpected: “Previous studies suggest that this process can be reversed by exposure to young circulation; however, systemic age-specific factors responsible for this phenomenon are largely unknown.” Young circulation? Well yes, blood from younger animals and people contains more testosterone than the blood of older animals, but apparently that’s far from all that younger blood contains. Other elements in the blood can apparently directly affect muscle and other organs in those with naturally older blood.
Hold on to your youthfulmuscles with natural oxytocin
Next, the researchers write: “… we report that oxytocin… is required for proper muscle tissue regeneration and homeostasis, and that plasma levels of oxytocin decline with age.” Notice the absence of the popular academic ‘maybe’ statements such as ‘more study required’ or ‘further research is in order.’ They go on to explain why it is they can be so definite: ’Inhibition of oxytocin signalling in young animals reduces muscle regeneration…’ When oxytocin’s signals are blocked the hormone can’t do its jobs, including the job of regenerating muscle!
However, when those signals are restored it’s a different story: “… whereas systemic administration of oxytocin rapidly improves muscle regeneration by enhancing aged muscle stem cell activation/proliferation through activation of the MAPK/ERK signalling pathway.” (Sorry about the MAPK/ERK stuff, but I left it in to show that this team has really got it figured out.) In other words, oxytocin improves muscle stem cell activation, more of the older muscle stem cells turn into muscle cells, and they even know the exact biochemical pathway that enables it!
“We further show that the genetic lack of oxytocin does not cause a developmental defect in muscle but instead leads to premature sarcopenia.” So oxytocin isn’t required for the original development of muscle, but the absence of oxytocin causes premature loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia).
So there’s another excellent second reason to consider adding oxytocin to your own BHRT programme: to stay strong no matter your age! And as oxytocin helps relieve stress by slowing down (but not stopping) the signalling hormone (ACTH) that stimulates production of cortisol, using it just before bedtime seems to be the best choice.
Track your oxytocin levels withthe best testing available
Oxytocin is available online as a nasal spray. Alternatively, oxytocin nasal sprays and rapidly melting sublingual tablets are available on prescription in the UK. If you’re wondering if your oxytocin level may be declining, the most accurate test for oxytocin is done using a 24-hour urine collection, rather than a blood test which only captures your levels at a moment in time.
Like many other hormones, there are peaks and valleys in oxytocin production throughout the day, so a blood test may or may not reflect overall production of this hormone.
Of course, discuss this and related topics with a doctor skilled and knowledgeable in natural medicine as well as comprehensive bio-identical hormone replacement, to decide whether oxytocin may be useful for you, either as a regular part of your BHRT programme, or perhaps as an episodic addition on occasion.Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 8, Issue 9 – September 2014
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.