Here’s a different twist on Valentine’s Day! Your attraction to your sexy mate may have less to do with the clothes he/she wears, the sweet nothings he/she whispers and the chocolates he/she buys for you – and much more to do with his/her particular microbes!
While flourishing science is replete with the fabulous abilities of microbes – everything from supporting our immune systems, balancing our digestion, and even affecting our moods, I have to say that I hadn’t considered adding “how sexy a person is” to the good bacteria’s list of accomplishments.
This information was reported last weekend in the New York Times and was offered by Susan Erdman, a microbiologist at M.I.T. She calls this microbial phenomenon the “glow of health”.
Years ago while working with mice in a study of probiotics isolated from human breast milk, she noticed that the male mice began growing very shiny and beautiful fur! Upon further testing, it was noted that their testosterone levels were elevated. They were preening and posturing noticeably. The house mouse transformed into Mick Jagger!
The female mice given this particular probiotic had an extremely fascinating response as well. Two important female substances increased. One was Interleukin 10, which decreases inflammation and helps sustain pregnancy. And the other substance, oxytocin, is chemically the hormonal place where love and cuddles combine.
Oxytocin has been called the love hormone due to the warm and close feelings that it stimulates – for both men and women. Not surprisingly, women produce it abundantly when breast feeding. It’s been observed to increase on occasion of a meaningful kiss. It even rises when close time is spent with dear friends. Important in both sexes in sexual relations, oxytocin infuses the warmth and closeness in the night! Incredible thought – microbes may be furnishing the stimulus that literally creates loving and nurturing behaviors.
Dr. Erdman submits that the possible role microbes play in love and procreation has a twofold effect. It not only results in our own species evolving, but also microbial communities are assured their continued existence too. Humans and microbes working together for the common good of all!
I like this synergistic vision of our future. Much research has been done on the negative parasites and disease causing microbes. However we now recognize that at least 80%, if not more of the residents of our microbiome, from our bellies to our skin, fall into the benevolent and helpful category. Dr. Erdman happened on some Valentine microbes!
So as you look tenderly at your love partner, sharing microbes in the glow of candles in a romantic embrace, it’s a nice thought that your bacterial communities are in your corner, approving and supporting your loving relationship. I wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!