Endorphins Are Released In The Body During Pleasurable Activities And Painful Experiences. They Have Various Benefits, And There Are Ways To Increase Them.
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers and can also boost mood. The body produces these substances naturally during pleasurable activities (such as exercise, sex, and laughter) and painful experiences such as spraining an ankle. Although most people are familiar with the increase in endorphin levels after fun activities, you may wonder what endorphins are and how they benefit your health.
What is endorphin, and what are its functions?
Endorphins, also known as endogenous opioids, are a group of protein chains called peptides. They are a neurotransmitter that acts on opioid receptors to relieve pain and increase feelings of pleasure—the hypothalamus and pituitary gland mainly control and release endorphins.
Although endorphins are not fully understood, they are thought to play a role in how we perceive pain and pleasure. For example, endorphins are released during painful experiences, such as when you sprain your ankle, to relieve pain and discomfort temporarily. Also, they are released during pleasurable moments like eating chocolate, having sex or exercising. While there are many different endorphins, beta-endorphins have been studied the most and are known for their pain-relieving effects.
What are the benefits of endorphins?
Endorphins have many advantages:
- Reduce pain and discomfort
- increased pleasure
- Reducing stress, depression, and anxiety
- Reduce inflammation
- Mood improvement
- Increase self-esteem
- Contribute to the health of the immune system
- Supporting memory and cognitive function
What are the effects of a lack of endorphins in the body?
If the body does not produce enough endorphins, the risk of developing certain diseases or symptoms may increase, such as the following:
- increased pain
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety
- bad temper
- sleep problem
Studies have shown that people with migraines have lower blood levels of beta-endorphin.
Eight natural ways to increase endorphins
There are ways to increase endorphins. Naturally, we have mentioned eight examples below.
Exercise is known for its mood-boosting effects and its role in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise and strength training can increase endorphins and other feel-good chemicals such as endocannabinoids, dopamine, and serotonin.
Moderate-intensity exercise includes brisk walking, leisurely cycling, or gardening. High-intensity practice includes indoor cycling, playing soccer, running, or skiing. Even 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily can increase your endorphin levels.
The saying is true that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter releases endorphins and other feel-good hormones (such as dopamine and serotonin), suppress stress hormones (such as cortisol), improves mood, reduces pain and stress, lowers blood pressure, and strengthens the immune system. So, if you’re looking to boost your mood, watch funny shows or hang out with friends who make you laugh.
Listen to music
Music is more than entertainment; it can also help your health. Several studies have shown that music can have mild pain-reducing effects by releasing endorphins that raise the pain threshold. Music therapy is becoming a common and effective intervention in many hospital settings.
Interestingly, music may help you exercise longer by relieving some pain or discomfort associated with exercise. In addition, happy music can promote a positive mood by releasing endorphins and dopamine. So, try adding your favorite music to your day to improve your health and mood.
Although acupuncture has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, it has only recently become the focus of Western medicine as an effective treatment for pain and other disorders. Although the mechanisms of acupuncture are not fully understood, the procedure involves inserting tiny needles into the skin to stimulate the central nervous system.
This leads to the release of various chemicals, including endorphins. Numerous studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective pain treatment, Although it may not be suitable for everyone.
Eating dark chocolate
There is evidence that eating dark chocolate may increase endorphins and other feel-good chemicals such as dopamine. Dark chocolate is rich in polyphenol compounds such as flavonoids, which cause the brain to release endorphins.
Also, dark chocolate is a moderate source of caffeine, which can improve mood. Ideally, choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa and eat a few small pieces at once.
Having sex increases the release of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that creates a sense of belonging and trust. Sex also increases your heart rate and stamina, which can help improve your health and mood.
Dancing can be fun and good for your health. Dancing is a form of cardiorespiratory exercise that increases the heart rate and releases endorphins, improving your mood and reducing pain.
Meditation is an exercise that includes the training of awareness and mindfulness, and presence. Meditation improves health by activating the parasympathetic system, or the digestive and rest system, and calms the body’s stress response system, called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Additionally, meditation is thought to increase the release of endorphins; Because people who do it regularly have been shown to have a higher pain threshold, although the mechanism is not fully understood. It is unclear whether endorphins raise the pain threshold in these individuals or whether this has more to do with acceptance or anticipation of pain.
The difference between endorphin and dopamine
While often confused, endorphins are different from dopamine or endocannabinoids. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone that the brain’s reward center releases during times of pleasure, such as when having sex, eating tasty food, or watching a comedy show.
Although both are part of the brain’s reward system, endorphins are released quickly during a specific activity, such as exercise, to help reduce pain and stress. On the other hand, dopamine is released slowly and improves mood after exercise.
The difference between endorphins and endocannabinoids
Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters produced by the body’s endocannabinoid system. They have many bodily roles, such as pain relief, anxiety reduction, mood regulation, appetite digestion management, and sleep improvement.
Although endocannabinoids are similar to cannabinoids (the main chemicals in horseradish, such as THC), the body produces these substances naturally. Both endocannabinoids and cannabinoids act on cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body. Interestingly, endocannabinoids are the leading cause of the “runner’s high” that people experience during exercise, which was previously attributed to endorphins.
Although recent research shows that endocannabinoids lead to euphoria, unlike endorphins, they can easily cross the blood-brain barrier; most of the time, the body releases many neurotransmitters and hormones simultaneously during pain and pleasure; For this reason, endorphins, endocannabinoids, and dopamine are closely related.
Is it possible to become addicted to endorphins?
While limited research has been done, some people may become addicted to the endorphin rush from certain activities. For example, thrill-seekers may engage in risky activities to achieve a surge of adrenaline (epinephrine) and endorphins. Interestingly, a study published in 2016 involving eight climbers showed withdrawal symptoms shortly after abstinence from climbing (e.g., distancing, a strong desire to climb, mood swings, and irritability).
Another example is self-mutilation, which leads to an increase in endorphin levels caused by self-injury to feel relief from emotional pain. A person may become addicted to the euphoria of endorphins and continue self-harming to achieve a sense of emotional release.
What is the difference between endorphins and opioids?
Endorphins and opioids act on the same receptors known as opioid receptors, But they have significant differences. Opioid drugs (such as morphine and fentanyl) act on opioid receptors to release dopamine, the feel-good chemical produced by the brain. The effects of these drugs are temporary and wear off very quickly, which usually makes the person want to repeat the feeling.
After long-term use of opioids, the body becomes accustomed to higher dopamine levels and requires more to achieve the same benefits. This cycle repeats itself and leads to a constant search to achieve the same euphoria. Finally, opioids can be highly addictive and reduce the ability to enjoy other rewarding activities such as eating, socializing, and having sex.
Withdrawal from opioids can lead to serious side effects, sometimes resembling a person in mourning, with symptoms such as anxiety, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and mood swings. Conversely, endorphins act similarly to help manage pain, But their response is less intense. The body produces them naturally and does not reach saturation levels where more activity is required to achieve the same level of pleasure.
Endorphins are neurotransmitters that the brain releases to relieve pain and increase pleasure. Reducing pain and discomfort, improving mood, increasing self-esteem, and increasing happiness are some of the benefits of endorphins. A lack of endorphins may put you at greater risk for health problems such as pain, depression, mood swings, and addiction. If you want to increase your endorphin levels, try exercise, sex, dark chocolate, meditation, or any activity that makes you laugh and happy.
Endorphins, dopamine, and endocannabinoids are not the same and have different effects on the body. Opioids bind to opioid receptors in the brain and increase feelings of pleasure and reduce pain. Endorphins also act on opioid receptors, But they don’t have the same addictive properties, and the body makes them naturally. While endorphins can work for some people, they may not work for everyone. If you notice that you are having trouble regulating your mood or managing pain, talk to your doctor. He may recommend additional treatments.