Most likely you have already heard of the “love hormone” oxytocin because of its role in female birthing and breastfeeding processes.
This hormone also has some pretty important neurological and hormonal properties.
Oxytocin is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus area of the brain and is secreted by the pineal gland.
It consists of nine amino acids, so its biological classification is a ‘neuropeptide’, being that it is found in the brain.
It has the capabilities of acting as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter.
Neuropeptides are very vital to neuronal signaling because they are utilized by the neurons in the brain to communicate with one another.
In addition, oxytocin receptors have been found in the gastrointestinal tract.
This is what makes oxytocin so important because of its gut/brain connection and communication.
What exactly does oxytocin do?
- Stimulates receptors in the region of the brain that involve areas of emotional, cognitive and social behaviors
- Increases relaxation, trust and psychological stability
- Lowers cortisol levels in the body which decreases stress responses and anxiety.
- Controls gut motility
- Decreases intestinal inflammation
Many children with autism spectrum disorders have used oxytocin therapeutically in the form of a nasal spray, sublingual drops and homeopathic pellets.
Currently, scientists are still in the process of examining and testing the behavioral effects of oxytocin on human emotions.
It seems that some children with autism show progress recognizing emotions and showing empathy while using oxytocin therapeutically.
Other areas of improvement for these children that are also quite remarkable are:
- Anger management
- Obsessive and repetitive behaviors
- Social fears and phobias
Secretin is a polypeptide made up of 27 amino acids and a digestive hormone secreted by the wall of the upper part of the small intestine called the duodenum.
It is involved in the regulation of bicarbonate levels in the stomach if the levels of acidity are too high.
Secretin receptors, on the other hand, are found to have communication abilities between the gastrointestinal tract (gut) and the brain.
Because of these polypeptide properties, secretin is also involved in the production and utilization of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Between 80-90% of serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Serotonin has a profound impact on maintaining mood balance, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep and memory.
Secretin received an enormous amount of publicity in the late 1990s when autism mom, Victoria Beck, told her story to Dateline News.
She requested an upper gastrointestinal procedure called endoscopy to establish the cause of her son’s severe diarrhea and constant gut pain.
The procedure required an infusion of secretin and immediately after her son, who had not spoken in months, began speaking coherently.
He also made improvements in social and emotional behavior, attention span, and cognitive functioning.
This story initiated a secretin “hunt” by many parents of children with autism.
Not long after, the lab that produced secretin had shut down because the demand for the original natural secretin was so great.
After this happened, the FDA approved a transdermal secretin in the form of a drug that never did work the same and did not have the same benefits as the original.
Today, a homeopathic secretin is available which, some parents report, has shown to have some of the same benefits as the original secretin.
The combination of using both oxytocin and secretin together may be very effective in resolving both chronic gastrointestinal and social-emotional issues in children on the autism spectrum.