What is the chemical for love
These hormones make us love
Some swear by roses, candlelight and heart-shaped chocolates, others are annoyed by all the exuberantly happy couples, for many it's just a day like any other. But being in love is a wonderful thing, with or without kitsch and cuddly bears. With die-hard romantics as well as hardened rationalists and Valentine's Day grouches, the chemistry has to be right in love. When it sparks, the body pours out a cocktail of hormones that has it all.
When serotonin, phenylethylamine, dopamine and oxytocin take over, no one can defend themselves against the butterflies in their stomach. How this works in detail is not yet scientifically clear. Because most of these hormonal messenger substances are formed in the brain. "You can't measure it there by taking blood," regrets the Bochum researcher Helmut Schatz from the German Society for Endocrinology. Instead, one can only determine the effects of the hormone mix. This works with tomographs, which at least record the activities in individual areas of the brain.
Nevertheless, researchers already know a lot about lovers' chemical cocktails. Which phases they go through and which hormones accompany them can be really exciting!
Phase 1: "I'm so in love!"
Palpitations and butterflies in the stomach - behind this are dopamine and the "infatuation hormone" phenylethylamine. It ensures that erotic attraction arises between people. In addition, dopamine makes us open to others. So also towards the future great love.
Phase 2: "We kissed!"
Want to smooch? Let's go! Kissing is not only beautiful, but also healthy. The pulse rate increases and the metabolism improves. This could make those who kiss a lot less prone to high blood pressure and depression. The exchanged saliva is good for the immune system and teeth because antimicrobial enzymes prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease. And avid kissers also need to worry less about deep wrinkles. You train all 34 facial muscles at once, tightening your skin.
Phase 3: "I'm only happy around you"
The happiness hormone serotonin makes people more relaxed and balanced. And it helps with depression. Only with lovers is everything different again. Their serotonin levels drop in spite of the tingling thrills of happiness. Researchers explain it this way: Lovers lose their rational view and place their partner fully in the center of their attention. If the loved one is not around for a long time (or even for five minutes), withdrawal symptoms occur, similar to those found in drug addicts. But the time to be blindly in love is finite, because the body does not overdose on the hormone forever.
Phase 4: "You and I forever and ever"
In recent years, one hormone has been in the spotlight: the "cuddle hormone" oxytocin. It not only promotes the bond between mother and child, but also between partners. In addition, it creates trust in social relationships. However, it also has its downsides: It causes people to marginalize others. As a rule, however, those in love do not do this with malicious intent - if at all.
Phase 5: Time for two with testosterone and estrogen
Sex is only indirectly related to the classic infatuation hormones. The sex hormones testosterone and estrogen in particular have an effect on sexuality. Good to know: Sex also has pleasant side effects for your health. Men are less prone to prostate cancer, and both men and women burn up to a few hundred kilocalories each, explains endocrinologist Schatz. In addition, the opium-like substances released by the body could even act as pain relievers. "But knee or vertebral pain in older men does not go away," reveals hormone researcher Helmut Schatz.
Can love stay forever
Whether love lasts depends on much more than hormones. "You shouldn't look at the hormones in isolation," emphasizes Schatz. "Being in love depends heavily on the psyche. And also on the nervous system." The hormones are only part of a network of components that are responsible for the feeling of "love".
Which part the psyche and which part the hormones take over in detail in making love last or end can hardly be separated. The endocrinologist advises, however, to go roller coaster more often when in doubt: Dangerous situations weld couples together. The release of serotonin, in turn, can be increased by chocolate, says Schatz. So maybe you should give away a few chocolates for Valentine's Day after all?
Bremen brain researcher Gerhard Roth has another tip: make compliments more often. He told the press agency epd that honest and kind words can trigger the increased release of neuronal agents such as oxytocin and dopamine. Exactly the stuff that lovers need.
with material from dpa and epd
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