Biochemistry Of Love: Meet The Hormones & Neurotransmitters That Rule Your Feelings
It is said that love is the greatest of all things. Now research is confirming what people have intuitively known for centuries. Many studies have shown that people who are in enriching, loving relationships tend to live longer, healthier lives. Being in love and being loved in return not only is good for our health, but it feels freaking amazing as well!
Have you ever wondered why?
Well, on a physical level it all comes down to hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemical messengers of your endocrine system and brain are what's behind the magical thing we call love.
Who doesn't want to keep their relationship on fire? If you just need a little kindling (or a barrel gasoline!) in your love life, let's go over the ingredients to your body's own love elixir and fun ways to ignite their power.
Primal urge hormones
Healthy testosterone and estrogen levels are needed for that initial attraction, the primal hunt for a mate. It is no wonder that for both men and women, low testosterone or imbalances of the estrogen isomers E1, E2, and E3 are common culprits in low sex drives among other health problems.
You know that feeling of being twitterpated? Your heart beats faster, your cheeks flush, and you break out in a cold sweat. You're either being chased by a bear or you're falling in love.
That feeling that typically is at its highest at the beginning of a romantic relationship is due to adrenaline and cortisol.
Being love struck activates something called the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis. Your brain-adrenal communication gets turned on, flooding your body with these hormones of intensity. Dopamine—your pleasure hormone—saying "love is a drug" isn't that far off. When you are in love your brain releases dopamine into your bloodstream triggering an intense rush of pleasure. Dopamine has the same effect on the brain as cocaine! The euphoria felt from this neurotransmitter is why relationships can be addicting and keep you coming back for more.
Unlike all the other hormones mentioned, your peaceful neurotransmitter serotonin actually gets lower when you are newly in love! This biological mechanism is what makes people get obsessive about their new love interest.
This dip in serotonin1 almost identically resembles people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)! About a year into the relationship serotonin starts to rise again (i.e., you start to notice all their annoying habits).
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling when you're in love? Thank oxytocin for that. Oxytocin, released by your brain's pituitary gland, is the powerful hormone surging during orgasm. This was one of the main biological reasons why sex is a bonding experience for couples.
Studies have even shown that the rush of this hormone actually increases monogamy in couples!
Have you ever had "butterflies in your stomach" being with your amore? That's due to our friend oxy as well. No wonder your gut is referred to as the "second brain."
How to fire up your love hormones in three steps:
1. Fire up your sex hormones
2. Give yourself some extra adaptogenic love
Another adaptogen called mucuna pruriens is rich in L-DOPA , a precursor to the love drug hormone dopamine! I sprinkle a little bit into my tea every day.
Increase oxytocin, dopamine, and adrenaline by reconnecting with your partner. As relationships mature we can take things we love for granted.
- Hold hands intentionally
- Kiss a little longer
- Be thoughtful
- Speak words of affirmation
- Show love in new, creative ways
Fascinating, isn't it? Whether you're healing from a broken heart, feeling self-love, friend-love, or romantic love, now you know what hormones you have, which ones you need, and how to nurture them.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.