Here’s a question I’ve been contemplating in light of our oxytocin-boosting experience: Was the experience of love and affection different, more intense, in previous times compared to the present? And can you recreate that former intensity in your life?
Our experience in increasing our levels of oxytocin is yielding fascinating insights but also raises many unanswered questions. Recall that we restore the microbe, Lactobacillus reuteri, lost by 96% of Americans presumably due to exposure to antibiotics, glyphosate, other herbicides and pesticides, stomach acid-blocking drugs, etc., i.e., all the factors that kill off bacterial species in our intestinal microbiomes and allow unhealthy stool microbes like E. coli and Klebsiella to take their place. In contrast, L reuteri is ubiquitous in indigenous hunter-gatherer populations unexposed to such factors and in mammals such as raccoons, squirrels, and pigs, suggesting that it plays an essential role in mammalian health and may have provided important effects that we have lost.
We restore L reuteri that colonizes the entire length of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that then sends a signal to the brain via the vagus nerve, causing the hypothalamus to release oxytocin. In my preliminary experience assessing salivary levels of oxytocin, there appears to be wild variation in baseline oxytocin levels with some of us starting with little to no oxytocin, while others do indeed express oxytocin. And, in this preliminary experience, those of us who begin with little to no oxytocin experience extravagant benefits with the L. reuteri yogurt while those with higher starting levels achieve more modest benefits.
In addition to the physical effects I’ve discussed, such as increased dermal collagen and smoother skin, reduced appetite, increased muscle mass and strength, deeper sleep, etc. there are emotional and social effects due to the boost in oxytocin. These effects include:
- Increased empathy for other people
- Increased ability to understand another person’s point of view
- Increased desire for social interaction
- Reduced social anxiety
- Increased feelings of love and affection
Conversely, emerging evidence suggests that people who attempt suicide have 50% lower blood oxytocin levels compared to healthy controls.
By restoring L reuteri and boosting oxytocin, the intensity of love and affection is greater. People report experiencing greater intensity of affection and understanding of their spouses, family, friends, and coworkers. These are not behaviors typically studied in clinical trials, but it would make sense since, after all, oxytocin is the hormone of love and affection.
I had a recent unique experience that burned this question into my brain. I made yogurt with a new high-potency strain of L reuteri that was given to me by a probiotic manufacturer. One night, after a deep sleep (which I experience with L reuteri, a welcome solution to my chronic insomnia), I had a dream in which I met a woman who introduced herself to me, telling me her full name (which I have never experienced before). I could see her in vivid detail: hair, eyes, skin, clothes, and felt an intimate emotional connection. I had a flood of feelings of love for this woman that, upon awakening, persisted for several hours. It was intoxicating, especially since I have not felt this way for anyone in many years. The feelings dissipated over several hours and, oddly, by again consuming high-doses (trillions) of L reuteri, I have not experienced these feelings again. But the one experience was so vivid and palpable that it got me thinking about how the experience of love and affection might have been when higher levels of oxytocin were the rule.
Of course, the meaning of love, affection, marriage, extra-marital affairs, etc. have differed greatly through the ages. For most of human history, for instance, marriage was more of a social contract, an arranged association that allowed families or clans to craft alliances, provided a woman and her children with protection, a male with the stability and comforts of a home life, but had little to do with our modern notion of love. In many societies such as Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, extramarital affairs in the name of love and attraction were commonplace and regarded as separate from marriage. So defining or quantifying love from the perspective of marriage, as we often do in modern times, is excessively narrow in the context of human history.
But I know of no way to compare the intensity of love and attraction of, say, Mesopotamia or the European Middle Ages or the Brazilian rainforest to our modern experience. It does raise some disturbing questions, however: Are the modern phenomena of rampant divorce, transient superficial entanglements that derive via dating apps, and the widespread abandonment of personal responsibility all products of lost oxytocin? Does restoration of the lost L reuteri microbe and its attendant oxytocin boost restore the intensity of love and affection that may have prevailed, marriage or otherwise, in previous times?
And is intense love and affection a survival mechanism? If you are deeply devoted to your children and family, will you do whatever is necessary for their safety and survival? Is the current record rate of suicide, having increased 35% in the U.S. from 2005 to 2018, a reflection of our lost microbe and oxytocin? I have designed clinical studies to answer such questions, but it will be at least 3 years before I can begin to provide some confident answers. So stay tuned.
These benefits are effects that derive from replacing just this one microbe. In the meantime, I encourage you to pre-order my new Super Gut book in which I show you how to replace other lost microbes beyond L reuteri and obtain benefits such as reduced waist size (even after you have engaged in my Wheat Belly or Undoctored programs), reduced arthritis pain, increase the immune response, boost mood, reduce anxiety and others. Pre-order through this Wheat Belly Blog post (soon to become DrDavisInfiniteHealth.com) and join the live private discussion on Super Gut issues coming in near-future.