Saturday, October 13, 2012

Anti-Stress, Growth, Healing, Well-being and Oxytocin -- Recent Research and Hypotheses

View from a walking 
path in Century Park
Shanghai, China

Hunter's Trance Link to Oxytocin?
'He [Edward O. Wilson, Harvard evolutionary biologist] called this state the “hunter’s trance”, connecting it to the anecdotal reports of many hunters and argued that the ability to enter such a trance is connected to humans’ enormous evolutionary success.  When they left the forest for a life on the savannah, hominids who entered the “hunter’s trance”  were able to learn the habits of carnivorous predators as well as the animals they hunted.  Those who didn’t have the ability were most likely to get eaten...

Enter oxytocin, a hormone best known for starting childbirth and inducing lactation.  It turns out that it does a lot more than that.  It is secreted at the base of the brain, in the hypothalamus, and the entire nervous system is sensitive to its effects.  Oxytocin production is stimulated by estrogen, but it is not a female-only hormone, because men produce it as well.

Oxytocin lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, quiets the brain’s fear centers, and suppresses the production of stress hormones.  Childbirth begins with a flood of oxytocin that contracts the uterus and stimulates milk production.  Nursing stimulates the production of more oxytocin, as does the sight or sound of the baby.  New mothers will even produce oxytocin at the mention of their baby’s name or upon seeing a photograph.  It’s oxytocin that puts new mothers in the brain-addled state that allows them to spend hours gazing at their babies, finding new and fascinating details in their faces and tiny bodies.  The equivalent of a “hunter’s trance” in the mother ensures survival for the otherwise helpless infant.'
Author /Blogger Nancy Casey

Chillout Music Love Chapter 2
Scenes of beautiful natural scenery, goddesses 
and other gorgeous creatures of Mexico

Biophilia, 'Lover of Life'

E.O. Wilson the Harvard evolutionary biologist has written and spoken about many topics in regards to our evolutionary past and misalignments with the modern age (de-forestation, insufficient exploration of our natural world, excessive wheat and grain fields replacing natural habitats, etc). One topic I like a lot is based on a term that he coined biophilia, 'lover of life' because this type philosophy sums up a lot of my current thoughts on modern pharmaceuticals and the problems with the entrenched disease-model which tries to match a  (drug, synthetic toxin) to every symptom on a growing list of symptoms modern men and women inevitably accrue with the reliance on perhaps what is an unnatural human diet and lifestyle (consistent stressors, refined grains, GMO crop products, neurotoxins, EDCs, environmental pollution).  For every little sniffle, cough or stomach ailment, a conventionally-trained practitioner will happily prescribe antibiotics without reserve.  With each new study on the gut, immunology and their connections to health, it verifies to me that antibiotics are indeed fulfilling their definition... anti-life or against-life. Antibiotics eradicate both the good and bad bacterial species, leaving the few, hardier pathogenic yeast and bacteria species to thrive in cleared out niches -- to putrify and overgrow in the small (SIBO) and large intestines.. Naturally they can  fester in the other orifices and compartments (e.g. sinus cavities, v*gina cavities, oral cavities, etc) and/or translocate to internal organs. Worse, the 'good' microbiota may never ever be restored or replaced according to some new data, despite even use either of probiotics and fecal transplants.  Pandemic food allergies, skin conditions, chronic illnesses, autism and autoimmune diseases continue to expand despite so-called advances in pharmaceutical medical care.  Probiotics, PRO-LIFE, are great and pro-biotic foods are even better (dirt-containing, traditionally prepared fermented vegetables, meat, seafood, fowl (kiviak), kopi luwak, beans, buckwheat, dairy, etc).

Root Transplant:  Ex-Pat Living in Shanghai, China

We've lived now in Shanghai for one year after moving from California and the transition was not smooth (for me; kids were only disgruntled for a few months).  Displacement was a humongous stressor and I went straight into adrenal dysfunction for 6 long weeks which I've written about earlier: ADRENALS ONE AND TWO.  When you tend to be 'rigid' I think it takes quite a bit longer to adapt and figure out the terrain... Do you how a gardener can improve success of transplanting a plant by dusting  powdered GA (gibberillic acid) on the roots prior to transferring?  Before coming here, I wish I had me some magic rooting dust...

Anyway after having the f-cking sh-t kicked out of my mojo, life turned around, this January when we came back. I actually tremendously missed our new space, friends and our adventures.  Subsequently, I became busy whilst tending to the new root system... resuming and enjoying a transformed life (China stuff... family activities, reading, expat friends, working out, cooking, yoga, tai chi, kickboxing, sprint tri's). 

Sorry for the absence on the blog! I did really miss it...

Oxytocin: You don't have any when you are depressed

In my little n=1 self experiment I can probably attribute a couple of super vital things that factored into re-establishing allostasis.  Last fall my children brought back a high maintenance kitten Angel.  She was about a few weeks old and had to be hand-fed every 2-3 hours. I believe she raised my oxytocin.   We had to give her up to a foster home eventually due to anaphylactic like allergy reactions that my daughter ('N') used to have (instant asthma, face and eye swelling). However, this past spring my children surprisingly appeared to have grown out of most of their cat dander allergies, a discovery made after fostering 'Sylvia/Seal', another kitten!  Melissa McEwen (Hunt Gather Love) told me a reassuring story once how she had overcome cat dander allergies after her gut was healed.  I believe we all enjoyed better gut health, gradually since the Paleo diet, and for 'N' it was possibly related to how 'N' lost the last of her molars which were riddled with mercury amalgam (we are all mercury-free now).  One of their classmates found a box of kittens that was left by their international school in March, and guess what? Yes. They brought them (all) home. And raised my OXYTOCIN  ;)  *haa ahaaha*  

They fostered two kittens initially from the remaining litter. After two nights of round the clock feeding, as well-intentioned as they were, they could NOT for their life wake up to syringe- and bottle-feed on schedule).  My oldest daughter found a home for one kitten after about one week and continued to provide excellent alloparenting of the second one, 'Sylvia/Seal'... See end for photoalbum...

Oxytocin is low in many chronically ill conditions according to studies (chronic pain, depression, autism, schizophrenia, surgically menopausal rodents with heart disease).  Certain factors (sometimes at certain developmental stages) inhibit oxytocin production: touch deprivation, chronic pain, alcoholism, female estrogen deficiency.  

Many factors can influence and positively affect oxytocin secretion... exercise (even in surgically menopausal rodents with heart disease; in humans any kind works but perhaps not until exhaustion), yoga, positive social contact, sex/climax, massage, having an attached pet gazing at you (see refs), you gazing at an attached pet, baby-at-your-boob, etc. 

What are the effects of oxytocin per recent evidence [cute, source:]?

11. Oxytocin promotes attachment
10. Oxytocin solidifies relationships
9.  Oxytocin eases stress
8.  Oxytocin crystallizes emotional memories
7. Oxytocin facilitates birth and breastmilk
6. Oxytocin boosts sexual arousal (may even revive dead  d*cks and v*ginas)
5. Oxytocin decreases drug abuse and cravings (alcohol, cocaine, narcotics, ecstasy, meth, cannabis, ??FOOD??!)
4. Oxytocin improves social skills
3. Oxytocin triggers protective instincts
2. Oxytocin induces sleep
1. Oxytocin fosters generosity

Animals Release Oxytocin from Everywhere

Oxytocin an ancient neuropeptide conserved across the animal kingdom. It is released and targets every important organ and site for the important processes: living, love, rest, digestion, immunity and reproduction. Emerging data that one of the target organs for oxytocin release and modulation is the gut and integrity of the intestinal lining which I think has great implications for resolving health issues and optimizing health. Any model for intestinal permeability uses a major stressor (physiological, pathological, pharmacological, psychological) on the experimental animal such as LPS (toxin from a microbial outer membrane), acid, large dose n-6 pufa, mercury, exercise stress, heat stress, physical isolation (particularly extended separation of babies from their mother). What occurs? Immediate and irrevocable micro and macroperforation (ulcers) of the gut.

Did you give and get your hugs today (including e-hugs)? Have you stroked your beloved feline or canine or children or neglected significant other? That's good...  According to prolific oxytocin researchers Peterssen and Uvnäs-Moberg, oxytocin is not only extensively interconnected to the cortisol, noradrenaline and several neurotransmitter systems to produce long-term effects but may be highly correlated to resilience to stress, growth, healing and well-being.


Nagasawa M, Kikusui T, Onaka T, Ohta M.
Horm Behav. 2009 Mar;55(3):434-41

Olausson H, Uvnäs-Moberg K, Sohlström A.
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Mar;284(3):E475-80.

Magon N, Kalra S.
Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Sep;15 Suppl 3:S156-61.

Ishak WW, Berman DS, Peters A.
J Sex Med. 2008 Apr;5(4):1022-4. 

Jonasson AF, Edwall L, Uvnäs-Moberg K.
Menopause Int. 2011 Dec;17(4):120-5.

Chicharro JL, Hoyos J, Bandrés F, Gómez Gallego F, Pérez M, Lucía A.
Horm Res. 2001;55(3):155-9.

Hew-Butler T, Noakes TD, Soldin SJ, Verbalis JG.
Eur J Endocrinol. 2008 Dec;159(6):729-37.

Oxytocin and social motivation.
Gordon I, Martin C, Feldman R, Leckman JF.
Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2011 Oct;1(4):471-93. 

Uvnas-Moberg K, Petersson M.
Z Psychosom Med Psychother. 2005;51(1):57-80. 

Photoalbum: Our Oxytocin-Inducers, the Kittens We Fostered

 'Twix' (Day 3-7?)... Alloparented (by 'N') for one week 
before finding a permanent home

Twix's sister, 'Sylvia/Seal' (Day 5-7?)
Alloparented for nearly 7 weeks

Initially, bottlefed for a few weeks. Later we
weaned her onto softened 
paleo/ancestral food (Orijens),
raw egg yolks, pork belly,
and occasional chicken liver bits

Bottle fed every 3 hours, pooped-pee'd every 3 hours, 
loved, gazed at and stroked EVERY WAKING MINUTE ;)


Seal/Sylvia (4-5 wks old) on right... 
Another feline Xiao Bai (Little White, left) rescued by
my neighbor who found him in a box at Century Park
whilst walking her dog. We get to babysit catsit Xiao Bai
when she's out of town on business.


zazendo said...

Fascinating. I missed your articles. Good to have you back on my feed. :)

Puddleg said...

Oxytocin decreases drug abuse and cravings? Oxytocin supports the hunter's trance?
Ibo used iboga to support the hunter's trance, allowing days of static stalking.
Today iboga and ibogaine are used to decrease drug abuse and cravings.

Dr. B G said...


I hope you and the lovely wife are doing well! I hope you'll forgive me for my lameness. Look out for email later...


Dr. B G said...

Very very VERY interesting George :) Thank you the discussion...

Specialized focus is good (in balance of course). I wonder if someday it will be like Star Trek and we can learn to entrain our brains and bodies to do that at young ages, like Shaolin temple students, elite yogis or meditation enthusiasts?

Have you heard of the locus coeruleus, a unit in the brain connected with intense focus? The oxytocin receptors bind NE, noradrenaline and interfaces at the LC. No doubt pharmacologically the LC can be hit but I do worry about strong agonist binding, downstream consequences, receptor regulation, negative feedback shutting it down or changing tolerance and adverse effects (?hallucinations, irreversible adverse brain changes).

To me it is curious that many conditions are associated with dysregulation of the LC (adult hyperfocused ADHD, insomnia/sleep-arousal disorders, affective disorder). In schizophrenics, oxytocin is significantly low and several studies show funky differences in the locus coeruleus (low volume, increased neuromelanin, increased bilateral uptake on 18F-FDG-PET).

In one study, oxytocin TRIPLED after a few months of routine guided yoga practice. Also it was observed improved schizophrenia markers such as (1) negative symptom scores and (2) social dysfunction scores. Related? Dunno...

Iboga and ibogaine are interesting because they can induce hallucinations (??? @high dose). That may not be incomparable to the auditory or visual hallucinations observed in schizophrenia and hitting similar neurotransmitter systems.

Puddleg said...

"The primary function of the locus coeruleus is to regulate the amount of noradrenaline in the forebrain."

On hallucinations, I have a friend who gave up a very long-term, high-dose methadone habit as a result of an overlong psilocybin trip.
And I myself forgot I was addicted to opioids (back when I was) while staying awake (and fasting) on benzedrine. Many days had passed and my only withdrawal symptom was a vague sense that I had forgotten to carry out some regular act. If I hadn't picked up my next prescription I might have suffered nothing worse than mild depression from the benzedrine comedown.

What both these experiences have in common, apart from the obvious, is the fasting, fat-burning state.
Which correlates well with how I eventually quit methadone:

Exceptionally Brash said...

Loving the cat bag but hoping it is not a relative.
The first thing I do after a big move is hiking and being outside. That seems to work the best for me. Hmmm, maybe that is the hunter's trance...

Dr. B G said...


Thanks for the intersection of your psychedelic thoughts and drugs, my favorite topic, and your link!! Congratulations on your health successes. Very curious about the bennie and psilocybin stories... Replace one high with another does work. Many previously morbidly obese contemporaries (like me) replaced excessive neolithic-eating/gluten-casein-exophorphins with another addiction (working out, endorphins, yoga +/- coffee).

I'm living in China home of prior opium trading with the UK, as well as two subsequent Opium Wars (1839, 1856). (Apparently Britain is growing their own again, but on home soil) Maybe opioid peptides are so intrinsic to our DNA and expression because its function underlies many if not ALL of our most human behaviours, besides being a substance/resource worth nations to fight over.

Your phrase 'fat-burning and fasting'... They definitely supercharged big brained carnivorous hominids (erectus, sapien, neanderthal)...and they made us dependent on endogenously produced opioids.

[It's actually more obvious in hibernating animals like bears. The enkaphalins are amazing life-sustaining substances that are even being studied for suspending organs for more successful transplant..]

The locus coeruleus has an inherent role again... 'The locus coeruleus, along with the other bodily systems, help regulate stress (40), and mediate CRF through the action of OPIOIDS. '

Anorexia is subconscious and involuntary starvation, much like that induced by bennies or other drug trips (e.g. 'being in love', honeymoon phases *haa aha*), right? Actually anorexia maybe autoimmune just like everything else... anti-ghrelin auto-antibodies apparently track well with the disease and remisison. Anorexics also have high cortisol and high CRH. Beta-endorphin appears dysregulated both high or low, but may normalize as patients recover.

Cortisol/CRH (stress hormones) and involvement of the HPA axis naturally and evolutionarily serve the foundation of regulating the three phases of starvation. It probably happened with great frequency over the last few ice ages... Cortisol/CRH are ANCIENT like insulin. To maintain blood glucose (BG) in adequate concentrations for the brain and liver (even with steadystate ketosis), the liver needs cortisol for GNG. This is why so many kick into adrenal dysfunction doing so many of the things we love in paleo land, which can sometimes then spiral into intestinal impermeability, infections (candida often), poor immunity, FODMAP intolerance, and blah blah blah.
--intermittent fasting
--chronic fasting
--ketosis diets
--inadequate magnesium/zinc to support all the above (or they take vitamin D without bone broth or magnesium/zinc -- functional mag and/or zinc deficiency occurs)

From the anorexia paper 'Opioid peptides are responsible for adaptation and regulation of energy intake and utilization through reward-mediated behavior (81).'


Dr. B G said...


No worries...fake as can be ;) It's funny all our cats love bags and the crunchiness of plastic bags (we cut the handles sometimes so they wouldnt choke).

You always make me laugh! That is a great strategy!!! A hunter does need to assess new terrain and ecological niches... Seeing green is so soothing, no?

I did endeavor (for 10min) to go out and get morning and afternoon sun on eyeballs and to gaze at some scenery but when I first arrived it was heaping humid and HOOOOOOTTTT. The coolest shade was at Hagen Daaz unfortunately. This is apparently where all depressed expats hang out the first year...*ha aha*


Puddleg said...

I know people who have the pattern of quitting drugs or alcohol when they start a new relationship, only to fall back into old ways once the "high" wears off.

Very interesting 1992 endorphin paper.
Question; need exorphins reach the brain to be addictive?
There are endorphins in semen which surely do not reach the brain (receptors are in the vas deferens), but are associated with an addition nonetheless...

Dr. B G said...

Thank you for your thoughts! It's funny how there are these animal studies (oxytocin) where if the mommy rodent failed to provide attentive care to the pups, dysfunctional neurotransmitter pathways grew. Sometimes behavior could be 'rescued' (e.g. omega-3 fish oil, IV oxytocin, etc) but sometimes not. We have many reward/behavior pathways in place that maybe inherent, but I'm an optimist that love (or self-love) conquers much...

lightcan said...

Hi G,
great to have you back!
I was just thinking along these lines these days. In a very simple way though.
Does poor attachment after the 'honey moon' period mean lack of oxytocin? And addiction to that high, to the drug trip you talked about, problems with dopamin receptors? Dr. Sara Gottfried mentioned in passing the fact that there could be a genetic component in some people. (I don't have a link to a study)

Dr. B G said...

lightcan-WOMAN ;)

Good to hear from you! Yes Gottfried is GREAT. I don't know why poor attachment after the honeymoon period occurs sometimes... (body odor? men are from mars? men think with their 'other head'? *ha ahaa* LOL) but you are probably correct the receptor density and distribution make big differences...