Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Physiology of Tears

This may help you in your search. William H. Frey published a book in 1985 called Crying: The Mystery of Tears which denotes his research on the toxcicity of emotional tears...

Mothering, Winter, 1996 by Ellie Becker

WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE CHOP AN onion - we cry. These tears are called reflex, or irritant, tears, produced when the surface of the eye is irritated. Dust, smoke, or a grain of sand will bring forth these tears to eliminate or reduce the harmful effects of the irritant. Both humans and animals also constantly produce a fluid called "basol" or "continual," tears, which keeps the surface of the eye moist and helps prevent infection. Some scientists speculate that basal tears are a type of irritant tear, generated by irritation produced by the movement of the eyelid and the gentle passage of air across the surface of the eye.
However, when biochemist William H. Frey II set out to study crying, he wondered about emotional tears. He knew that nature phases out biological functions that are no longer necessary for survival. He therefore theorized that the ability to shed emotional tears must have a specific physiological purpose. When a two-year search for scientific data yielded no satisfactory answers to his questions, Frey decided to conduct his own research. His formal stud of crying, commencing in 1979 and resulting in the 1985 publication of his book Crying: The Mystery of Tears, began with the premise that emotional tears carry away harmful chemicals produced in response to stress, and thereby play a central role in restoring the chemical balance of the body.
Frey set out to measure and compare the chemical composition of irritant and emotional tears. Aware that specific proteins in tears function as detoxifiers while controlling infectious agents and regulating rates of chemical reactions, he wanted to determine if emotional and irritant tears differed in protein concentration. He found that the protein concentration of emotional tears is 21 percent higher than that of irritant tears. He also discovered that human tears contain the endorphin leucine-enkephalin as well as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and the hormone prolactin. Leucine-enkephalin is thought to affect pain sensation and to modulate stress-induced changes in the immune system, while ACTH is released from the pituitary gland and is an indicator of stress.

Perhaps most intriguing is Frey's discovery of prolactin in the lacrimol gland, the gland that produces tears. Prolactin stimulates lactation in the mammory gland, and he speculated that it also stimulates tear production in the lacrimal gland. Frey knew that prolactin levels are 50 to 60 percent higher in women than in men, and he theorized that higher levels of prolactin may lower the threshold of cryin - which might explain in part why women cry more than men. Frey also postulated anotomical differences between the tear glands of men and women, a hypothesis that research has since confirmed.[1]

Frey is quick to point out that while hormonal and anatomical differences may contribute to the dissimilarities between male and female crying, social conditioning plays a major role in defining male crying behavior. He has received letters from men who have not cried since childhood and who have seeking to regain this capacity. Frey himself realized in his 20s that he had not shed a tear since age 12. He then made a conscious effort to express his feelings and was eventually able to cry when moved or upset.

Frey hopes that other scientists will focus their research on the biological aspects of crying. He believes that the study of tears will shed light on the biochemical basis of emotion. "Crying it out" may be more than a figurative expression; it may be a literal description of what occurs as the body rids itself of stress-induced chemicals. Holding back tears, on the other hand, may impede the body's return to equilibrium after stress. As Frey says, "When we teach children to suppress their feelings and not to cry, we do them a great disservice by robbing them of one of nature's adaptive responses to emotional stress."[2]


1. Ann Cornell-Bell, David Sullivan, and Mathea Allansmith, "Gender-Related Differences in the Morphology of the Locrimal Gland" investigative Ophtholmology ond Visual Science 26 (Aug 1985): 1170-1175. 2. Willliam H. Frey II, Crying: The Mystery of Tears (New York: Harper S, Row, 1985), 103.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Mothering Magazine
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Hmmm... I wish I could get my hands on the original research article...


No Man is worth a woman's tears. The only one who's worth her tears is the one who knows he could but would never, ever make her cry."

Interesting piece of information

"There was a study done where a control group of 100 people were
divided into two.

50 people watched a very funny, tears-of laughter type movie.
50 watched a very sad and tears of compassion type movie.

At the end of the sessions researchers collected the "happy tears" and
the sad tears" with eye droppers.

They found that "happy tears" are made up of brine...salt water and not
a great deal else

However the "sad tears" were found to contain the very same chemicals
and enzymes that are found in tumors, ulcers and other such lumps and bumps
and sicknesses through out the body.

This test concluded that the body, when crying in sadness etc is
literally flushing out all of the toxic-chemicals that
accumulate and are a part of the sadness /heartache experience.

Therefore if one holds back those tears, those toxic-waters will find
somewhere else to deposit themselves... .

and prolonged lack-of-crying-release will guarantee that the body will

accumulate a huge amount of internal pollution and toxicity that should
have been released through the tears........ is it any wonder that the eyes
sting so much when we hold back our tears?"




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...