By Elizabeth Hopper
It’s hardly surprising that we enjoy kissing – your lips have 200 times the sensitivity of your finger tips.But do you know what happens when you kiss? A horde of hormones, bacteria and pheromones make smooching the experience that it is.
Before you even start kissing, you subconsciously register the smell of the pheromones your partner is emitting. These are chemicals that are secreted by sweat glands. Pheromones influence how much you enjoy the kiss, and more importantly, whether it will happen again. They’re also a major factor in who finds you attractive, and lifestyle choices (such as being on the contraceptive pill), can affect these to the extent that it will alter who finds you attractive.
More than this, they tell you whether your partner is a suitable mate and how similar your immune systems are. As you kiss, you and your partner exchange microorganisms; for every 10 seconds of mouth-to-mouth contact you both swap nine millilitres of saliva, containing up to 80 million bacteria. Don’t worry too much – 95 per cent of that is ‘good bacteria’, which help to regulate the body’s processes and act as a form of immunisation.
If you continue kissing the same partner over a long time period, you will eventually have overlapping bacterial communities on your tongues (how romantic…).
“Interestingly, the current explanations for the function of intimate kissing in humans include an important role for the microbiota present in the oral cavity,” says Remco Kort, a Professor from The Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research Microbiology and Systems Biology Department.
“It turns out, the more a couple kiss, the more similar they are” with regards to their communities of microbiota.
That’s not all that’s passed on in your saliva. Males give the hormone testosterone to their partners during a kiss, increasing the female sex drive. Both parties also experience the release of a variety of other hormones. As you start to kiss, your adrenal system secretes adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and blood flow to your, erm, nether regions. The adrenaline triggers the release of a team of other hormones: Dopamine and Serotonin for pleasure, Oxytocin for pair bonding and Phenylethylamine for aphrodisiac effects. Alongside these, Endorphins are also released, which shut down negative feelings and reduce levels of the stress hormone, leaving you feeling relaxed, happy and possibly ready for more.
It’s not all chemical though. When you kiss 24 facial muscles are activated and 100 more in the body, burning up to six calories every minute. It might not be quite as energetic as hitting the gym, but it’s certainly a start.
It would seem that spending a long time kissing someone may be a good idea. The act of ‘a good snog’ causes beneficial chemical and physical reactions in your body and allows for the exchange of helpful bacteria.
Having a kiss is a good thing. Go forth: enjoy.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons