Common in many cultures around the world, the kiss is a gesture that is generally related to affection, bonding and intimacy. For many it is a very meaningful experience, full of emotions and feelings.
From an early age, the mouth is one of our main communication organs, even before the development of speech. Generally, we learn from a very young age to show affection when we give or send a kiss. Thus, the gesture is not limited to romantic relationships, but also involves the exchange of affection between family and friends.
Research shows, however, that the act of kissing or receiving a kiss goes far beyond the emotional aspects, with positive effects and impacts also on physical well-being and, consequently, on health —including the heart, which wins in this story!
the kiss on the mouth
When practiced with love, complicity and respect, kissing can generate many benefits and trigger different physiological responses in the body, a series of chemical reactions that stir and interfere with the functioning of the organism, especially when the lips touch.
This is because the mouth has thin skin, full of nerve endings, which when activated transmit a wide variety of information and sensations to the brain.
A storm of hormones
A passionate kiss between a couple is thus capable of causing the brain to release a cocktail of chemical substances, activating our pleasure centers that generate beneficial side effects to the body.
Among these hormones are serotonin and dopamine, responsible, for example, for causing euphoria and stimulating feelings of affection and union.
We can also quote:
- phenylethylamine (“hormone of passion”, awakens the feeling of fullness and happiness)
- Testosterone (substance linked to excitement, sexual desire and continuity of the species)
- endorphins (which add feelings of pleasure, good mood and well-being)
When endorphin production is at very low levels, it causes irritability, sleepiness, sadness, impulsiveness and a series of emotional difficulties. That is, a good kiss helps balance the release of these neurotransmitters.
This list also includes oxytocin, popularly known as the “hormone of love”. Chemical substance associated with union, connection and strengthening bonds, it plays a crucial role in building healthy relationships and bonds and even in our ability to empathize. Kissing can thus heighten satisfaction and be especially important in long-term relationships.
But what about the heart?
It is these same hormones that, during a kiss, cause several changes that interfere with the functioning of the heart. The effects are related, for example, to increased heart rate, vasodilation, blood circulation and activation of the nervous system, in addition to reducing stress.
Increased heartbeat: the kiss—and the excitement it provokes—stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in an increased heart rate.
As said, this occurs in particular due to the release of hormones. Dopamine is one of them: it increases blood pressure and speeds up the pulse, which gives us a spike of energy and sharpens the senses. As well as adrenaline and noradrenaline, which prepare the body to respond to the gesture (even though it’s something positive, the kiss can activate our “fight or flight” mode, which leaves us always ready for any potentially risky situation).
At this point, it is worth mentioning, however, that after the excitement and increase in frequency caused by the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic system comes into action, promoting a decrease in heart rate, a feeling of fullness, calm, well-being and relaxation.
Vasodilation and improved blood circulation: the excitement that happens during a kiss causes vasodilation throughout the body. When the vessels dilate (increase in caliber), they allow for greater blood flow, including to the heart.
Circulation improves and blood pressure is reduced. The scenario also helps to relieve cramps and even alleviates body aches, such as migraines and headaches.
Stress reduction: kissing also causes a decrease in cortisol levels, a hormone released in cases of anxiety and acute stress situations.
Like kissing, other forms of affectionate communication, such as hugging and saying “I love you”, interfere with these physiological processes related to stress control and management, promoting, for example, muscle relaxation and vasodilation, manifestations that help prevent cardiovascular diseases.
The exchange of saliva during a kiss on the mouth still interferes with immunity. If on the one hand it exposes us to microorganisms, on the other hand it can strengthen the immune system.
Although a kiss between two people promotes the exchange of millions of oral bacteria, this can be good: a healthy mouth needs a balanced microbial environment. So kissing can actually be an important way to maintain this diversity and protect the body from a number of possible diseases.
Kissing is also pointed out as a good exercise for the face —and even the neck—, helping to move the facial muscles and fight sagging: it is estimated that the gesture can involve around 2 to 34 muscles, which vary according to the type of kiss and intensity. It is important to emphasize that these physiological responses change according to the context and the people involved.
Improvements in cardiovascular health
The fact is that kissing is not limited to the contact between the lips, but, as we have seen, it is a trigger for different bodily sensations.
And even though the gesture is a momentary experience, the emotional connection and affection between frequent kissing partners has long-term positive effects on heart health.
Research has even linked healthy relationships and love to a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes.