Sweaty palms, racing heart, awkward nose bumps: kisses can be sweet, sexy, exhilarating and sometimes a little stressful. But did you know it can also be good for your health? There’s a good reason a solid make out session can leave you feeling a little high on life: kisses set off a cascade of hormones and physiological changes that can boost your mood, strengthen your relationship and even burn some calories (between 5 and 26 per minute, according to experts). Believe it or not, there are even more great reasons to keep puckering up – check out these three scientifically backed benefits of kissing:
1. It Lowers Your Stress Levels
If your partner is driving you crazy, schedule some regular make outs to take the edge off. According to researchers from Arizona State University, couples who kicked up the frequency of their kissing a notch for six weeks had less perceived stress, improved relationship satisfaction and lower total serum cholesterol.
The stress-lowering effects of kissing can be attributed to a number of reasons, but according to psychologist Wendy L. Hill and researchers at Lafayette College, it’s all about hormones. Hill and her colleagues compared the levels of two important hormones in 15 college couples before and after kissing and before and after holding hands during a conversation. The hormones they monitored were oxytocin, which is important for social bonding, and cortisol, a key stress hormone. While oxytocin only increased in the male participants (leading researchers to theorize that perhaps females require more romantic stimulation than a kiss in a sterile laboratory setting to feel bonded), cortisol declined in both sexes after kissing and holding hands. As author Sheril Kirshenbaum puts it in her book, The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, “a good kiss brings the sense of relaxation, as well as positive feelings of reward and security, thus reinforcing the behavior and leading to further kisses.”
2. It May Help With Allergies
Believe it or not, puckering up has actually been shown to alleviate allergy symptoms. Japanese researcher Hajime Kimata studied 24 patients with eczema and 24 patients with hay fever who were allergic to house dust mites and cedar pollen. According to Kimata, the subjects were “Japanese, and they do not kiss habitually.”
He instructed the participants to kiss freely for 30 minutes with their significant others while listening to ballads like Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Before and after the make outs, Kimata performed a series of skin prick tests to measure the amount of allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that trigger symptoms like sneezing and sniffling. It seems kissing led to lower levels of these antibodies, and lest you think it was the sweet sounds of the Titanic soundtrack that led to differences, Kimata also instructed a control group to embrace without kissing for 30 minutes while listening to the same music. Only the kissers had significantly lower IgE levels, leading Kimata to believe the benefit was solely due to smooching.
3. It Can Boost Your Immunity
According to a study published in the journal Microbiome, kissing is a prime way to spread germs–but that’s actually a good thing. For every 10 seconds of kissing, you pass along 80 million bacteria that may help your partner fight off future infections, and vice versa. Mixing your unique individual blends of living bacteria will also apparently enable you both to cope with similar infections. The researchers say the immune-boosting results were most pronounced “in couples with relatively high intimate kiss frequency,” so if you haven’t already, take that as an incentive to find a make-out partner you really want to keep around.
And if you’ve already found that special someone, pucker up often.