Oxytocin Injection: a Personal Experience

Oxytocin bowtie Sprechter

The latest news about oxytocin is that it helped regenerate muscle tissue in old mice. This is not so surprising; while most of the excitement about oxytocin is around its influence as a neurochemical on our emotions and thoughts, it's also a hormone that travels through the bloodstream and helps regulate many bodily functions.

A study led by Irini Conboy at UC Berkeley found that circulating oxytocin can help repair muscles, reducing the muscle wasting, or sarcopenia, that comes with aging. Daily subcutaneous injections of oxytocin allowed the older mice to repair muscle injuries as fast as the younger ones did.

The study was published June 10 in Nature.

I have an acquaintance who's struggled with fibromyalgia for most of his life. He's working with a naturopath who is able to prescribe drugs and is willing to help him experiment with treatments. He recently tried oxytocin injections. I asked him to write me about his experience, and here's what he says:

I injected 1 ml (10 units) of oxytocin subcutaneously, for a couple of months, as an experiment. I found that it raised my mood and gave me energy, which jibes with the article's conclusions. I stopped using it because oxytocin is only manufactured in small vials suitable for one-time use. For daily use, a bigger vial that can use a vial adapter would be required.

Oxytocin is quite expensive, and, unlike drugs like insulin which are packaged to be drawn out with a sterile needle over and over, the vials my friend got from the pharmacy were more than he needed for a single injection, but they could not be resealed.

People frequently ask me how to get oxytocin, and I always tell them to find a healthcare professional who will work with them, so my friend's experience is a good example of how the relationship with a medical provider can work. Unfortunately, it also points up a big issue with using oxytocin off-label.

PHOTO: Speicher Tie Co.

Why Vitamin D Could Prevent Autism

Researchers have noticed a link between Vitamin D and ASD for years. A new study explains how a lack of the vitamin could lead to problems in fetal and neonatal brain development, creating the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.
Rhonda Patrick and Bruce Ames of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute showed that vitamin D is essential for the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. They also show that it may be important for the making the precursor to oxytocin, as well as for the formation of the oxytocin receptor and vasopressin receptors. All three of these chemicals, which are both neurotransmitters and hormones that regulate body functions, are crucial for social behavior.
What Patrick's and Ames's study adds is an explanation for just how the lack of Vitamin D "turns off" serotonin production:
Vitamin D activates the gene that makes an enzyme that converts tryptophan into serotonin in the fetal brain.
Serotonin in the fetal and neonatal brain influences the structure and wiring of the brain.
Serotonin also acts as a neurotransmitter.
In the post-natal brain, serotonin affects social behavior.
In other words, Patrick says, "In order to make the hormone, you have to make this protein first." And it's vitamin D that allows the body to make the proteins that in turn create oxytocin, vasopressin and serotonin.
Patrick thinks the lack of enough serotonin in the fetal and neonatal brain could cause it to form in a way that causes the symptoms of ASD. She says, "During early fetal development, serotonin is a brain morphogen -- it's a growth factor for the brain. It guides the structure and some of the way that the neuronal connections are made."
Even before the fetal brain begins making its own serotonin, she adds, serotonin from the mother's body enters the fetus through the placenta and guides some brain development. Therefore, a vitamin D deficiency in the mother could also cause ASD.
In 2009, Swedish researchers studying the rise in autism spectrum disorder among Somali immigrants posited that it was because the dark-skinned immigrants weren't producing enough Vitamin D when exposed to the weak northern sun. (In fact, the Somali Swedes called autism "the Swedish disease.")

Deficits in oxytocin and vasopressin have also been linked to ASD, and Patrick thinks that, if the genes to produce their precursor proteins have similar responses to Vitamin D, it's possible that these two neurochemicals also are part of the puzzle. But this paper focuses on serotonin and its precursor, the essential amino acid tryptophan.
Patrick says that it's easy to create a temporary deficit of tryptophan in humans, and studies in the lab have shown that people whose tryptophan is depleted begin to have trouble decoding people's facial expressions, a prime symptom of autism.
Meanwhile, preventing autism could be as simple as adequate vitamin D supplementation for pregnant and nursing women and making sure young children have adequate levels of vitamin D. The paper concludes, "Supplementation with vitamin D and tryptophan would be a practical and affordable solution to help prevent autism and possibly ameliorate some symptoms of the disorder."
While people over 60 are commonly tested by their doctors to make sure they have adequate levels of vitamin D, Patrick thinks this should also be standard for pregnant women. "I think it needs to be up there with folic acid in terms of prenatal care," she says.
For parents looking for help now, Patrick says, "I wouldn’t rush out and give a child high doses of tryptophan. I certainly would get the vitamin D levels tested; it's a very simple test to do."
CHORI is beginning clinical trials looking at the effects of micronutrients on diseases. Patrick also is working with organizations involved in ASD research and treatment to design clinical trials to see if vitamin D could reduce autism symptoms. Patrick and Ames will set up a website to act as a resource for parents of children with ASD. They also hope to do clinical trials. To find out whether Patrick and Ames will start testing of kids with ASD or clinical trials of the vitamin to ameliorate symptoms, keep an eye on BruceAmes.org.

For more details about the study, read the Science Daily article.

PHOTO: HealthGauge

Chile and Argentina Test Oxytocin for Chronic Migraine

Trigemina, a company focused on creating non-narcotic pain relief drugs, is enrolling patients in a Phase II clinical trial of inhaled oxytocin to treat chronic migraine. Trigemina's oxytocin product, known as T1-001 (no doubt to be renamed to something lyrical if it comes to market), has already shown promising results in preliminary studies, the company says.

This use makes perfect sense: Oxytocin is a general analgesic (pain reducer), and it also contributes to relaxation and healing.

It's notable that Trigemina specializes in inhalant drugs, and it has a proprietary formulation of oxytocin. Without some market angle, there's little incentive for companies to develop oxytocin-based drugs.

If and when this comes to market, I can see it being prescribed off-label for all kinds of things, including   persistent genital arousal disorder (PGAD) and fibromyalgia.


Love Everyone?

We tend to think of bonding and love as deep emotions to be shared with a few. This interview about a positive psychologist reminds us that we can get an oxytocin boost almost any time by making a quick, warm connection. From the story:

In her new book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., suggests that true love isn't just about romance, companionship, or fondness; fundamentally, it springs from something she calls "micromoments of shared positive emotion."

Men May Be Chemically Wired to Avoid Adultery with Friends' Wives

4937497680_da787d80b4_mA University of Missouri study found that the testosterone levels of men dropped when they interacted with the wife of a close friend.

What does this mean? Testosterone is the chemical of sexual desire and aggression in both men and women. Men's T-levels tend to rise when they're around a potential sex partner -- as well as when they're around the mate of their enemy. Interesting, no?

Extrapolating, the researchers think that this mechanism may have evolved to help social cooperation in villages. According to the press release, Lead researcher Mark Flinn says, "… our findings suggest that men's minds have evolved to foster a situation where the stable pair bonds of friends are respected. … Ultimately, our findings about testosterone levels illuminate how people have evolved to form alliances. Using that biological understanding of human nature, we can look for ways to solve global problems."

The study "Hormonal Mechanisms for Regulation of Aggression in Human Coalitions" was published in the journal Human Nature. Co-authors were Davide Ponzi of MU's Division of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science and Michael Muehlenbein of Indiana University.

PHOTO: Steve Roades

College Settles with Woman Denied Comfort Guinea Pig

4257331059_a2d5f0bd2b_qKendra Velzen received $40,000 from Grand Valley State University because her school refused to let her carry her pet guinea pig everywhere on campus.  The 28-year-oldVelzen suffers from depression and uses a pacemaker. Grand Valley State let her keep her pet in the dorm, but barred it from some places including the cafeteria.

I blogged about Velzen's case when she first brought it. Those of us who depend on pets for comfort tend to be on her side; other people think it's ridiculous or even offensive to have animals around.

The story was picked up by Gawker, a site dedicated to snark. So it's not surprising that it and the comments are pretty mean.

Whether you choose to read the original news article or Gawker could say something about whether you like to be kind or not. Think about it.



Online Dating and the Oxytocin Gap

3676763773_f91c2089de_mA thought-provoking and disturbing article by Dan Slater on TheAtlantic.com posits that online dating sites make it so easy to meet new people that committed relationships fade away.

Slater, author of Love in the Age of Algorithms, uses anecdotes and interviews with the heads of online dating services to make the case that people won't bother to go through the hard work of forging a deep relationship when they know that they can just log on and date someone new.

In my book, The Chemistry of Connection, I discuss the differences between romance and love. Romance, fueled by dopamine and adrenaline, is an exciting but inevitably fading state that keeps us working to win a mate. Once we win him or her and begin having sex, oxytocin kicks in, leading us into the calmer state of committed love.

This progression was crucial in prehistoric times, when sex led to babies and a man and woman had to cooperate to keep their offspring alive. Nowadays, sex has been decoupled from procreation. And, unfortunately, our culture focuses on romance and teaches us that it's more important than simple mated love.

Slater quotes Greg Blatt,  CEO of Match.com’s parent company: "Relationships have been billed as ‘hard’ because, historically, commitment has been the goal. You could say online dating is simply changing people’s ideas about whether commitment itself is a life value."

Here's Niccolò Formai, the head of social-media marketing at Badoo, a meeting-and-dating app: "It’s exhilarating to connect with new people ... Over time you’ll expect that constant flow. People always said that the need for stability would keep commitment alive. But that thinking was based on a world in which you didn’t meet that many people."

Unfortunately, people still have a wired-in need for stability, in the form of trusting relationships. That doesn't need to come from a monogamous sexual relationship. But for most people, marriage of some kind is the primary oxytocin bond, along with children.

Our oxytocin bonds are what keep us healthy and reasonably sane. I worry about generations of singles bouncing from one unfulfilling relationship to another. How will they raise children who are capable of trust and love?

A Million First Dates

Photo by he(art)geek


Oxytocin to Treat Fibromyalgia?

For a couple of friends, I wanted to track down evidence that oxytocin could be useful to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia. There are some shreds, just shreds of evidence. But a single, intravenous dose of oxytocin administered by a doctor should not have negative effects, as long as a woman wasn't pregnant. If I was suffering and had a physician who was willing to experiment, I might try it.

Here's what I found:
Plasma oxytocin levels in female fibromyalgia syndrome patients:

This 2000 study by Anderberg and Uvnas-Moberg looked at oxytocin levels in 39 women with symptoms of fibromyalgia, some of whom were depressed, comparing them to 30 controls (women without fibromyalgia). It found that depressed patients had significantly with lower levels of oxytocin in their blood, as did the small group of fibromyalgia patients who had a lot of pain, stress and depression.

The researchers concluded: "... oxytocin may, together with other neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, play a role in the integration of the stress axes, monoaminergic systems and the pain processing peptides in the pathophysiologic mechanisms responsible for the symptoms in the [fibromyalgia syndrome].

Alternative treatment of fibromyalgia using the oxytocin-hormonal-nutrient protocol to increase nitric oxide.(Clinical report)

Jorge Flechas is an MD who uses oxytocin to treat fibromyalgia. He has not published in peer-reviewed journals, but he did write this paper. (You will need to register for a free trial to read the whole thing.)

 Low-Dose Oxytocin Stops Burning Pain in Fibromyalgia

I have no idea where this came from, and it's only one person. But the paper says, "A two-week intranasal treatment with low-dose oxytocin proved effective in resolving the burning pain, but also resulted in a general improvement, including of hydration."

From Fatigued to Fantastic is a hypish-sounding book by Jacob Teitelbaum. In it, he says that one injection of 10 IU (1 cc) into a muscle may decrease pain in 30 to 60 minutes, although it doesn't always work.

It might be worth a shot.

Effects of Infant Stress May Be Lifelong

4822437519_c449a79734_qThe Natural Child Project posted an excellent article explaining how childbirth and baby care can set a baby's emotional and physiological tone.

Linda Folden Palmer, D.C, author of Baby Matters: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Caring for Your Baby, explains simply and compellingly how practices such as letting a baby cry herself to sleep or not feeding her when hungry can lead to permanently elevated cortisol and a reduced oxytocin response.

She writes,

Research on the biochemical factors influenced by child care methods demonstrates that with responsive parenting the body produces substances to help generate effective, loving, and lasting parents for an infant and infants who are strongly bonded to their parents. Over time these bonds mature into love and respect. Without a doubt these chemicals permanently organize an infant's brain toward positive behaviors and later development of strong, lasting attachments. However, the greatest lesson from these studies is that while nature has a very good plan, failure to follow it may lead to less desirable results.

photo by xopherlance

Oxytocin: Too Much of a Good Thing?

BalesThere's been plenty of research showing that when people inhale oxytocin, they tend to have more positive social behavior: trust, generosity, empathy and communication. But if taking one whiff of oxytocin can make you nicer, will taking oxytocin regularly keep you nicer? If you take a bigger dose, will it make you even nicer?

U.C. Davis researchers wanted to find out the long-term effects of taking oxytocin, so they studied prairie voles, the monogamous rodents that first demonstrated the positive effects of this brain chemical.

 The U.C. Davis research team, led by Karen L. Bales, treated a group of 89 male prairie voles with low, medium or high doses of inhaled oxytocin. The medium dose was roughly equivalent to the amount given to human subjects in lab studies.

They began giving the prairie voles one daily dose of oxytocin when they were weaned at 21 days old, and continued to give it to them through day 42, the time they reach sexual maturity.

"We were trying to approximate ages 12 to 17 in humans," Bales told me in an email. Because so many parents of children with autism spectrum disorder are turning to oxytocin products they've bought over the internet in hopes of increasing their kids' sociability, the short-lived voles offer a way to model the possible effects of long-term dosing of an adolescent.

 The study also wanted to look at possible dose-dependent differences: If one dose creates an effect, it doesn't necessarily follow that a different dose will create the same effect. In fact, she cites research showing that in schizophrenic patients, 20 IU of oxytocin increased emotion recognition, while a dose of 10 IU actually decreased it.

There was one troubling result: The male voles treated with low or medium doses of oxytocin were actually less likely to bond with a female -- and this effect lasted two weeks after treatment stopped. That could be equivalent to years in a human life.

 The female voles in the study also seemed to be less interested in mothering.

 Bales thinks that this effect could be attributable to down-regulation of the oxytocin receptors or oxytocin-producing neurons; that is, with external oxytocin flooding the receptors, they might become desensitized, while the oxytocin-producing brain cells might lower their production because it's not needed. It also could be attributable to changes in the vasopressin system, she suggests. Vasopressin is another brain chemical very similar to oxytocin that seems to be more important in male bonding.

 She says, "I originally thought that we would see the most changes with the highest dose of oxytocin, and that would be because of flooding oxytocin receptors and binding to vasopressin receptors.  But since we had the most changes at the lowest dose, that seems less likely.  Males do seem to be especially sensitive to developmental exposure to oxytocin...perhaps because they rely less on it normally?"

 Bales' work is with prairie voles, not people. But so far, what vole research taught us about oxytocin is quite applicable to humans. We think we're so different from this tiny, humble creature. But in fact, the genetic difference between Homo sapiens and other mammals is very small.

 It's not clear how applicable the results of this study might be to older humans, but certainly the body's receptors are constantly in a state of flux, responding to external changes. And it's well known that treatment with a hormone can cause the body to produce less of it.

 Bales plans to do more studies using voles of different ages, and also to look at different lengths of treatment.

 Meanwhile, if you are self-experimenting with oxytocin, it's a good idea to keep your dosing acute: once in a while with plenty of time for your body to go back to its natural state.

 Here's the ref: Bales, K.L. et al. Chronic Intranasal Oxytocin Causes Long-Term Impairments in Partner Preference Formation in Male Prairie Voles. Biological Psychiatry 2012.