The Feel-Good Hormones

The Feel-Good Hormones

Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through our bloodstream. You can describe them as signaling molecules that work to set things in motion. The name comes from a Greek word meaning “setting in motion.” Hormones are produced in various areas of our bodies and are sent through the bloodstream to signal some action or response. Good health requires a balance of hormones, and proper diet, exercise, and rest help to keep them in balance. The feel-good hormones are four classes of hormones that, as you might guess, do things that make us feel good.

ENDORPHINS- Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, synthesizes and stores them. Endorphins help to mask pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. When we push through a painful task or strenuous exercise, endorphins are there to help us. 

DOPAMINE- Two areas of the brain produce dopamine, and you can think of this hormone as the brain’s reward system. Exercise, eating a food we like, or accomplishing a task can cause the brain to release dopamine, giving us a pleasurable feeling. The use of some drugs and alcohol can release a flood of dopamine, giving us a sense of euphoria, a “high.” But coming down from that high can lead to depression and a desire for more of the drugs. Normal activities or exercise stimulate dopamine more slowly, and the effect of the hormone remains longer. Good stewardship of our bodies and health calls for avoiding harmful drugs and alcohol.

OXYTOCIN- Some people call this feel-good hormone the love hormone. Touching, hugging, or sexual activity can trigger the release of oxytocin. The brain’s hypothalamus produces it, and the pituitary gland releases it into the bloodstream. Oxytocin can help improve social interactions and give us a desire to develop stronger connections with others.

SEROTONIN- Serotonin is a natural mood booster, and depression can result from a low level of this hormone. Serotonin performs many functions and is produced by the central nervous system in various areas of the body. Serotonin improves memory and learning and promotes relaxation. Exercise, as well as exposure to sunshine and the outdoors, can increase the production of serotonin. Meditation and quietness in prayer can also reward us with this mood-boosting hormone.

The feel-good hormones are part of good health, and a healthy lifestyle boosts them. However, too much of a good thing too quickly is not healthy. Alcohol and drugs can give us a high but only lead to a letdown. A healthy lifestyle involves proper diet, exercise, rest, prayer, meditation, thankfulness, and balanced relationships with others. Incorporating those things into our lives is the best way to enjoy the blessings God has for us.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Fetal Microchimerism and Pregnancy

Fetal Microchimerism and Pregnancy

Smithsonian Magazine published an article on scientific research showing that becoming pregnant literally shapes a mother’s heart and mind. The scientific name for this is “fetal microchimerism.” The study shows amazing changes in a woman’s body and mind when she becomes pregnant. These include:

1) The mother regrows heart cells in the same way a salamander grows a new tail.
2) The DNA in new heart cells does not match the mother’s DNA.
3) The new heart cells travel to any damaged part of the mother’s heart.
4) Fetal stem cells transform into blood-vessel-like tubes and heart muscle cells in the mother.
5) Fetal cells not used in the mother’s heart show up in the mother’s lungs, spleen, kidneys, thyroid, skin, and bone marrow.
6) Fetal cells stay with the mother for life. Scientists find fetal cells in the corpses of older women with grown children.
7) Women with three or more kids have a 12% lower risk of dementia.
8) During the first month of motherhood, a woman is 23 times more likely to have her first hospitalization for bipolar disorder than at any other time in her life.
9) New mothers show significantly greater activity in the brain’s thalamus, which regulates consciousness, sleep, and alertness.
10) When observing distressed babies, mothers show unusual electrical brain activity.
11) Mothers have an oxytocin rush into the bloodstream during labor and delivery, facilitating uterine contractions and milk letdown. There is evidence that oxytocin is also a neurotransmitter stimulating a mother’s concern for infants.

When God designed women to give birth to babies, He didn’t just set up a chamber where the baby could grow. He also built into the conception process a system that benefits the mother and the child. Fetal microchimerism means that fetal cells from the baby remain in the mother’s body and affect her in various ways. Can you imagine what an abortion does to this system?

Science is just beginning to understand the complexities of this design. The process of abortion has long-term effects on the mother. The more we learn, the more obvious it becomes that abortion is not only the murder of an innocent baby, but it has collateral damage to the mother.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Smithsonian Magazine (May 2021, pages 50-57)

Why We Need Tears

Why We Need Tears

The human body is amazing. Things we take for granted or try to explain in simple ways turn out to be incredibly complex when we fully understand how they work. Tears are a classic example. Most of us don’t realize why we need tears and that we have three different kinds.

Basal tears lubricate our eyes. They are generated in the lacrimal gland, which sits just above the eye and just under the eyebrow. The word “lacrimal” comes from the Latin word for tear, which is “lacrima.”

Reflex tears form in response to irritants. You are most familiar with them when you cut an onion or are exposed to smoke or dirt. These tears have a complex mix of saltwater mixed with antibodies, oils, and enzymes that are not present in basal tears.

Emotional tears carry protein-based hormones, including leucine-enkephalin, which is a natural pain killer released when the body is under stress. Crying causes the release of oxytocin and endorphins, which are chemicals that help us feel better. Crying also may generate social support, depending on the situation.

Interestingly, babies don’t produce tears until they are seven or eight months old. The average human produces 15 to 30 gallons of tears a year. It is incredible that such a simple thing as tears has such a complex design and serves so many different purposes. It is easy to see why we need tears.

The more I learn about God’s design of my body, the more I appreciate the statement of David: “I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Reader’s Digest, February 2020, page 34-36.