We spend a lot of time talking about ways to balance hormones through natural health means. Food itself can be used to influence our hormone regulation, as can certain supplements. Exercise is another tool that can increase production of some and decrease others. Even sleep, whether good or bad, can affect levels of our hormones. All those methods are usually discussed when we are helping people achieve a better level of health with their endocrine systems, but it looks like we could add another to the mix that seems to have a positive influence on our stress hormones and brain chemicals: having a pet!
Ever have a bad day and then had a furry, four-legged family member come spend some time with you, and you left feeling not as bad as you did before? (Most pet owners can pretty readily relate to that I’m sure.) Well, there are actual biochemical reasons for your therapeutic attitude adjustment that come from a little quality time with a pet. Specific neurotransmitters that elevate our moods called serotonin and dopamine have been shown to increase with those social interactions! If having a rough day was enough to sour your mood, try spending some cuddle or petting time with your cat or dog and see if it doesn’t help.
Feeling stressed? More than likely your cortisol levels will be elevated as a result. While we do need this hormone to keep us functioning since it kicks in our fight or flight responses, too much can raise our blood pressure and blood sugar and suppress our immune system. Not a good combo when trying to maintain good health. Need a fix for that? Those same petting sessions I just mentioned are also good at balancing your hormones! They can activate touch receptors that stimulate areas of your brain that cause a decrease in cortisol while also increasing levels of the “love hormone” oxytocin. One study even demonstrated a 30% decrease in stroke and heart attack incidence for cat owners.
Speaking of cats, ever been lulled into a state of relaxation by their rhythmic purring? Not surprisingly, it appears that melodic vibration can have several impacts on our well-being. Just the sound itself has an impact that can decrease our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system responses and increase our “rest and digest” parasympathetic responses. Additionally, the actual purring vibrations have been shown to be in the same frequency ranges as those used to promote healing in the human body through therapeutic means. This could include swelling and pain reduction and wound healing and repair. (But just remember, animals are not to be “applied” like therapeutic tools. They may take offense to that.)
Other studies have quoted improvement in sleep quality, reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lessening of feelings of anxiety from spending time with our furry little friends. Now, feline and canine interactions may not be for everybody, but if you’re so inclined, they may actually provide some extra health benefits beyond your gym sessions, meditation and healthy eating.
And the cats and dogs will love it too!