An article in The Washington Post reports that oxytocin can help those with autism make eye contact and interact better with others. Oxytocin is known as the natural hormone that creates feelings of connection, trust, love, and joy. This is also the same hormone that is triggered by touch, soothing music, and consuming foods that contain fat.
A French study early in the year found that when participants inhaled oxytocin, they improved in face recognition scores and had enhanced performance in a game that involved tossing a ball with others. The results of the study indicate this hormone could help those with autism function better.
According to Angela Sirigu, who directs the National Center for Scientific Research in France, "Administering the hormone soon after a child's autism is diagnosed might help him or her develop more normally. It's possible it can become a cure, if it's given early when the problems are detected in the little kids."
Oxytocin can be activated naturally in the body as well. A UCLA study demonstrates the connection of touch and oxytocin release. Volunteers were either massaged or asked to wait in a room for 15 minutes. Researchers measured blood oxytocin levels for each person before and after the experiment. Those who had received a massage had an increase in blood oxytocin levels with women producing more than men.
Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, explains the link between massage therapy, autism, and oxytocin production:
Research has found that these children show less autistic behavior: they are more social and attentive after receiving massage therapy. This safe, nurturing touch and regular sensory integration is beneficial in reducing inattentiveness, touch aversion and withdrawal.
Numerous research studies have proven that oxytocin is released in our bodies during, and after, receiving nurturing touch. A 2007 study reported that oxytocin helped autistic individuals retain the ability to evaluate the emotional significance of speech. The study also showed a decrease in autism spectrum repetitive behaviors.
Another study illustrates the relationship of increased oxytocin levels in the body and soothing music. A randomized controlled trial established that patients who listened to relaxing music after open heart surgery had significantly higher levels of oxytocin than those who did not.
In addition, dietary fat is beneficial to oxytocin creation. When a food is consumed that contains fat, the intestines secrete cholecystokinin (CCK). CKK travels to the brain along the vagus nerve where it triggers the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin then causes the stomach to contract creating a feeling of satiety. It is important to note that the type of fat is crucial in relation to health. Organic, nourishing fats such as hempseed and flax, red palm oil, raw cacao butter, extra-virgin coconut and olive oils are ideal.
With a variety of methods to encourage higher oxytocin levels in autistic individuals, this hormone shows promise in minimizing the devastating effects of autism spectrum disorder.
Sources for this article:
Elissar Andari, Jean-Rene Duhamel, Tiziana Zalla, Evelyn Herbrecht, Marion Leboyer, and Angela Sirigu (2010), "Promoting social behavior with oxytocin in high-functioning autism spectrum disorders." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Karolinska Institute (2008, July 23), "Hormone Oxytocin May Inhibit Social Phobia." ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 17, 2010
Kevin Lewis, "Surprising insights from the social sciences." boston.com, July 27, 2008
Ulrica Nilsson (2009), "Soothing music can increase oxytocin levels during bed rest after open-heart surgery: a randomized control trial." Journal of Clinical Nursing, Volume 18, Number 15, pp.2153-216(9)
Tina Allen, "Massage Therapy for Children with Autism." liddlekidz.com, January 2010
Hug the Monkey: How oxytocin, the hormone of love, lets us trust and mate.