2009-02-13 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Kiss Your Way To Health
Commentary By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES Kissing is not only pleasurable, it is good for your health. At last, a treatment I can really wrap my lips around! At first blush (pardon the pun), the thought of pleasurable kissing sounds so, well, juvenile. So … teenage! Thoughts reminiscent of high school, dating games, first loves and the lover's lanes of my day, flood my consciousness as I recollect images of pleasurable kissing. With conscious recall I experience the sensation of the kiss. It does, indeed, evoke a pleasurable response. Science now tells us that this response is a biochemical one. A hormonal surge that tells our brain that this feels good. At last, a hormone surge that I can relate to positively!

In fact, kissing may be, not only pleasurable, but the newest breakthrough in hormone therapy. "Wendy Hill, professor of psychology at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, conducted research to find out why the mundane activity of rubbing lips can elicit such a gratifying emotional response. Her team tested the levels of two hormones, cortisol and oxytocin, in 15 couples before and after holding hands and kissing." (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sci enceandtechnology/scien ce/4558541.)

Interestingly, kissing reduced the stress hormone cortisol in the women only. In the men, kissing boosted oxytocin levels, a hormone linked to social bonding.

Cortisol in women, particularly menopausal women, is responsible for laying down that layer of fat in the belly region to store estrogen. It also is a player in decreasing bone density when levels are too high. Would I be too bold if I postulated that kissing is good for trimming the fat and decreasing risk of osteoporosis?

Men who kiss passionately may become stimulated to be more connected to the family. Of course, these are my extrapolations and not, in any way, scientific. Simply musings of the mind as relates to the pleasures of kissing. It delights my fancy to think that kissing can be healing. Often, we think only of diseases related to exchange of saliva between partners, as in the infamous kissing disease, mononucleosis. This condition is known to occur more frequently in the college age population who are perpetually run down and is related more to a general lowered immunity from excesses of all kinds, lack of sleep and mental overexertion, than to the presence of pathogens in the saliva. In fact, some scientists believe that the saliva is the place where the exchange of pheromones triggers the chemical reactions that release the hormones of pleasure. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, New Jersey, believes that this interaction may have health benefits. "If you share your germs with somebody, you're boosting your internal defense system." (www.telegraph.co.uk).

This is the kind of science that I love! And speaking of love … it's in the kiss. It is clear that brain and heart activity are sparked by passionate kissing. What is even more interesting is that chocolate produces brain and heart activity even more strongly than kissing.

It is no coincidence that by the time you read this, St. Valentine's Day will be upon us. My health plan for the weekend is to find a suitable partner, start the pheromones flowing with some aromatherapy in the form of scented candles or perfume, create a sensual space with low lights and soothing music, place some delicious chocolate confections on an appealing plate, and the mood is set for some passionate, pleasurable kissing!

As we say in France, A votre sante. To your health!

May The Blessings Be!

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