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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Oxytocin and the Relaxation Response: Dr. Kimberly Landino discusses how this important neurotransmitter impacts our health

Feb 01, 2013 03:57PM ● By Kimberly Landino, ND

When we are petting a cuddly puppy, nursing a baby, enjoying a massage or experiencing deep relaxation after yoga or meditation, we are feeling the high levels of the production of the neurotransmitter oxytocin, a hormone secreted by the brains of mammals that does some wondrous things for health.

Oxytocin is released by the pituitary, or “master” gland, which has two parts: the anterior lobe and the posterior lobe. One set of neurotransmitters is released from the anterior lobe, while the posterior lobe only releases two neurotransmitters: oxytocin and vasopressin.

Vasopressin helps keep the water levels of the body in check. Oxytocin is released, for instance, upon the suckling action of a nursing baby. Oxytocin also helps the walls of the blood vessels to relax so that blood pressure can be normalized. It also helps to keep inflammation levels down. Oxytocin is released when we are in positive social interactions, promoting feelings of contentment, reducing anxiety and fear and helping us to feel safe.

When the body is worked on, such as in massage, reflexology, Reiki, polarity and acupuncture, or through yoga and guided meditation, then there is a physical response to the release of oxytocin in the body. People receive and give love in different ways; some in the form of physical contact, such as hugs, holding hands and giving massages. For these people, bodywork therapy can be a great way to reach to the next level of health.

People that feel stuck in their lives can also benefit from some sort of bodywork. Getting the body moving in yoga is a great way to get the mind moving and opening up all of the chakra energy centers, so that the energy is moving in the body. Having a pet and cuddling and petting the dear animal will help to release oxytocin and feel relaxed.

Receiving and doing bodywork can help the body let go of memory storage, release tension in muscles, get blood flow moving, stretch the muscles, improve the immune system, aid heart health and generally overall improve health.

Dr. Kimberly Landino is a naturopathic physician in private practice in Tempe. For more information, call 480-921-9530 or visit

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