“It was the year they fell into devastating love. Neither one could do anything except think about the other, dream about the other, and wait for letters with the same impatience they felt when they answered them. Never in that delirious spring, or in the following year, did they have the opportunity to speak to each other. Moreover, from the moment they saw each other for the first time until he reiterated his determination a half century later, they never had the opportunity to be alone or to talk of their love. But during the first three months not one day went by that they did not write to each other and for a time they wrote twice a day, until Aunt Escolastica became frightened by the intensity of the blaze that she herself had helped to ignite.”

If you have read the book, Love In the Time of Cholera by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, that chronicles the love between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza that spans across decades, you likely recognized that such an enduring and unbreakable love seems quaint and outdated to our modern twenty-first century eyes. It’s fiction, of course, but was this intensity of love possible? It surely must have happened sometime, somewhere.

In our age of electronic hookups, Tinder, and marriages that are largely short-lived, such an intense love relationship seems foreign, perhaps impossible. Or at least rare. I’ve searched my own memory for such a relationship among friends, family, acquaintances, etc., and could not recall any that contained the intensity of love described in this story, one that endures overwhelming obstacles with an intensity as strong after decades as it was at the start. Google “famous love stories” and you will, incredibly, see that nearly all results describe love stories from movies and almost no real life love stories. Not Romeo and Juliet, another fictitious love story, but real stories of real people in current times. If nearly all search results yield love stories from movies, does this mean that intense love is something we now experience vicariously, not personally?

I consider this question because of what I and others are experiencing with the boost in oxytocin caused by consumption of Lactobacillus reuteri yogurt. Recall that, by using my method of extended fermentation in the presence of added prebiotic fiber, we obtain around 300 billion counts of microbes per 1/2-cup serving. If we believe the animal evidence (we are struggling to recreate this phenomenon in humans, due to difficulty with the oxytocin ELISA assay), L. reuteri consumption provokes the release of hypothalamic oxytocin via the vagus nerve, a marvelous example of the so-called “gut-brain axis.” Oxytocin is, of course, the hormone of love, empathy, attachment of a mother with her child. It is also the hormone of social behavior, generosity, desire for human connection, of accepting the opinions of others whether or not you agree. And, if you have been following my conversations (here, in my Defiant Health podcasts, and my Super Gut book), it is also responsible for an astounding array of physical effects on muscle, bone, joints, testicular Leydig cells, vagina, and skin. I speculate that the deeper sleep with extended REM periods (measured via actigraphic devices such as Apple Watch, Whoop, Oura Ring, etc.), i.e., the restorative phase of sleep responsible for maintaining mental health, also plays a role. Better sleep and extended REM = greater tolerance, less irritability, greater adaptability, heightened creativity. And what about the rise in testosterone due to increased Leydig cell volume in males? (300% increase in testosterone in male mice, 50% in our experience in male humans.) Or the increase in libido and vaginal moisture provoked by oxytocin in females? Can this mean that, not only are love and affection increased in intensity, but sexual desire and performance are increased, important ingredients in any love relationship? I am convinced that this is all true.

In short, I believe that those of us restoring this microbe lost by nearly all modern people, L. reuteri, that increases the level of oxytocin, are experiencing an increase in the potential for increased love and affection and other effects. Please ignore the silly conversations that talk about how petting your dog or hugging your spouse increases oxytocin. Those effects are momentary and insufficient to generate effects such as increased REM sleep or increased libido. Instead, we are re-implanting a microbe that takes up residence in the gastrointestinal tract and thereby provokes marked increases in oxytocin around-the-clock.

I’d like to know if you have knowledge of a real love story of an intensity that rivals that between Florentino and Fermina. It would make a great addition to this discussion.