Love Hormone (and Heart Rate Variability)

Have you heard about the love hormone? It’s called oxytocin, and research correlates high levels with being in-love, mother-infant bonding, trust, and empathy. Most research focuses on your brain as the production site of this hormone, but your heart actually produces and stores a significant amount of it. Your heart also produces other critical hormones, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and Atrial Naturietic Peptide. The old idea that the heart is just a “pump”, has not served us well.

The heart has a direct connection to the brain via the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which some people refer to as the “Rest and Digest” state of the body. In fact, there are more nerves carrying heart signals to the brain than vice versa. What kinds of signals do you think it’s sending, and how much are these affecting your health? Your behavior? Your thoughts?

Heart Rate Variability Scores


In medicine, we have an objective measurement called Heart Rate Variability (HRV) that reflects this heart-brain-nervous system interaction. By monitoring the frequency and amplitude of heart beats, we gain insight into an incredible number of health conditions, including anxiety, depression, asthma, and heart disease. Poor HRV numbers are associated with almost all chronic disease, such as heart disease and dementia. Higher HRV numbers are associated with reduced risk of these conditions and something we call emotional resilience. This was one of the motivating factors behind my purchase of an HRV technology (HeartMathTM) for use with my patients.

There are many ways to improve your Heart Rate Variability score. Not surprisingly, many of these techniques inherently reduce stress or blunt its impact on the body. Meditation, breathing techniques, exercise, and healthy diets for example, are all associated with better HRV scores. What I’m most excited about though, is the impact that emotions have on HRV scores. Feeling gratitude, or feeling anger by recalling a stressful experience, produces very different HRV scores. In other words, feeling gratitude changes physiology and biochemistry and is associated with improved quality and longevity of life. And you can see it, right there on the screen!


Your Heart Responds to Your Environment


Some researchers, and certainly many older medicines, consider the heart to be an organ of perception. Similar to how eyes receive light waves and ears receive sound waves, the heart receives electromagnetic waves. And whereas the brain translates light waves and sound waves to colour and sound respectively, the waves received by the heart are translated into emotion. It’s the physiological basis of why one can “have a broken heart” or “wear your heart on your sleeve”.

If this peaks your curiosity, please let me know during our next consultation and we’ll take a baseline HRV assessment. It involves about 5 minutes with a little clip on your ear that senses your pulse, and a subsequent graphic representation of your heart rate variability that we can print for you to take home. We can experiment with techniques that increase or decrease your score, with the ultimate goal of improving stress-induced physical symptoms, emotional resiliency, and happiness.


Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Certified HeartMath Practitioner.

Heart disease, HeartMath, Mental health, Naturopathic medicine, stress

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Kingston Integrated Healthcare Inc. She has been practicing in the Kingston area since 2007. Dr. Sonya maintains a family practice, with a clinical focus on complex chronic disease, including Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia.


Sign-up for our monthly newsletter for updates, unique health information, and workshops worth sharing!

* indicates required

We respectfully acknowledge that Kingston Integrated Healthcare is situated on ancestral Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. Since time immemorial they have cared for these lands and waters, and we are grateful. We recognize that a healthy environment is essential to the wellbeing of all people and all life.

© Kingston Integrated Healthcare. All rights reserved.