KEY POINTS

  • Stress is the leading cause of several health issues
  • It can disrupt gastrointestinal function and lead to bloating, nausea and diarrhea
  • A new study pointed out that the love hormone can help reverse this
     

Stress can negatively impact your digestive health in several ways. While short-term stress can affect your appetite and decelerate your digestion, prolonged stress could trigger gastrointestinal issues including indigestion, constipation, and an upset stomach. New research found that the love hormone, oxytocin, can reverse the effects of stress’ disruption of digestion.

Stress can disrupt gastrointestinal functions and might delay gastric emptying and lead to symptoms like bloating, nausea and sometimes diarrhea.

Oxytocin — also known as the love hormone or cuddle hormone is an anti-stress hormone and is released from the hypothalamus region in the brain. The love hormone gets released during childbirth, breastfeeding, and is also linked to empathy, sexual activity, trust and relationship-building.

Until now, the actions of this hormone were believed to occur due to its release into the bloodstream with only minor effects on the nerves within the brain that is responsible for the regulation for gastrointestinal functions.

But the experts at the Pennsylvania State University - College of Medicine used cutting-edge tools and several novel ways to manipulate the neurons that the hormone released from the hypothalamus and measured the effects on stress-induced gastric emptying.

Their findings published in The Journal of Physiology revealed that oxytocin played a crucial role in the response of the stomach to stress. The researchers found that activation of oxytocin circuits reversed the delay in stress-induced gastric emptying by increasing muscle contractions of the stomach.

The findings of this study have made it evident that oxytocin directly influences the neural pathways involved in the stress response and plays a key role in the gastric response to stressors.

To identify targets for more effective treatments of stress-induced gastric responses, it is very important to understand how stress normally affects the functions of the digestive system. This new study provided information pertaining to the role of oxytocin in controlling the nerves and circuits during stress and might help identify novel targets for potential drug development.

"Women are more vulnerable to stress and stress-related pathologies, such as anxiety and depression, and report a higher prevalence in gastrointestinal disorders. Our previous studies showed that vagal neural circuits are organized differently in males versus females," the study’s co-author Dr. R. Alberto Travagli of Penn State College of Medicine told Medical Dialogues

"We are now finalizing a series of studies that investigate the role and the mechanisms through which oxytocin modulates gastric functions in stressed females. This will help to develop targeted therapies to provide relief for women with gastrointestinal disorders," Travagli added.

affection-1299580_1280 Love hormone reverses stress-induced GI problems, finds new study Photo: OpenClipart-Vectors, Pixabay