What is the Importance of Endorphins in Our Body?

Endorphins are natural compounds that act as the body’s built-in pain relievers and mood enhancers. They are generated when you engage in enjoyable activities like working out, being intimate, or sharing a good laugh. Interestingly, your body also releases endorphins in response to unpleasant events, like when you accidentally twist your ankle.

Many of us have experienced the “endorphin rush” after a fun activity, but you might be curious about what endorphins are and how they can improve your health. This article delves into the world of endorphins, explaining their importance and providing advice on how to boost them naturally.

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What are endorphins, and what is their function?

Endorphins, or natural opioids, are protein chains known as peptides. They are primarily controlled and released by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland (12).

These substances are a kind of neurotransmitter; sometimes, they are also considered hormones. They interact with opiate receptors in our body to reduce pain and create feelings of pleasure (12).

The name “endorphin” is interesting because it comes from the words “endogenous,” which means originating from within the body, and “morphine,” an opiate pain relief medication.

Beta-endorphins have been studied the most among various forms of endorphins and are well-known for their pain-relieving properties (12).

While we don’t fully grasp their workings, they are believed to play a role in how we perceive pain and pleasure (2).

For instance, endorphins are released during painful experiences, like when you injure your ankle, to alleviate pain and discomfort temporarily. They are also released during enjoyable moments such as eating chocolate, engaging in sexual activity, or exercising (2).

What advantages do endorphins offer?

Ongoing research shows that endorphins offer various advantages, which include (2):

  • Pain and discomfort reduction.
  • Increased pleasure.
  • Lessened stress, depression, and anxiety.
  • Easing inflammation.
  • Improved mood.
  • Enhanced self-esteem.
  • Potential support for a healthy immune system.
  • Possible enhancement of memory and cognitive function.

Hence, focusing on increasing your endorphin levels can be a beneficial approach to promote your overall well-being.

What occurs in the body when there’s a deficiency of endorphins?

Insufficient production of endorphins by your body could lead to an elevated risk of experiencing various health issues or symptoms. These may include:

  • Increased aches and pains
  • Higher susceptibility to depression and anxiety
  • Frequent mood swings
  • There is a greater likelihood of developing addictions
  • Difficulty in sleeping

Research has indicated that individuals suffering from migraines tend to have lower levels of beta-endorphins in their blood.

However, it’s important to note that there is limited research on endorphin deficiency, underscoring the need for further investigation in this area.

Here are five ways to increase your endorphin levels.

1. Exercise

Engaging in physical activity is known to improve your mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. This includes moderate-intensity exercises like brisk walking or gentle biking and vigorous-intensity exercises like indoor cycling or sports. Just 20–30 minutes of exercise daily can help boost your mood.

2. Laughter

Laughter truly is a natural mood booster. When you laugh, your body releases endorphins, “feel-good” hormones. This enhances mood, reduces stress and pain, and lowers blood pressure. So, if you want to feel better, watch a funny show or spend time with friends who make you laugh.

3. Listen to Music

Music is more than just entertainment; it can positively impact your well-being. Studies have shown that listening to music can increase your pain threshold by releasing endorphins. It’s used as therapy in many hospitals. Additionally, music can make exercise more comfortable and put you in a better mood by releasing endorphins and dopamine. So, consider adding your favorite tunes to your daily routine.

4. Get Acupuncture

Acupuncture, a part of traditional Chinese medicine, has gained recognition in Western medicine for its effectiveness in pain relief and treating various disorders. Though we don’t fully understand how it works, it involves inserting tiny needles into the skin to stimulate the central nervous system, releasing endorphins. Many studies have shown that acupuncture is a valuable pain treatment, but it might not suit everyone.

5. Eat Dark Chocolate

There’s some evidence that consuming dark chocolate can boost endorphins and other “feel-good” chemicals like dopamine. Dark chocolate is rich in polyphenolic compounds called flavonoids, which trigger the release of endorphins in the brain. It also contains moderate amounts of caffeine, which can improve your mood. To benefit, choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content and enjoy a few small squares per serving.

Comparing Endorphins and Dopamine

Endorphins, dopamine, and endocannabinoids are often confused with each other, but they are distinct.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and hormone associated with pleasure, released by the brain’s reward center when we experience enjoyable activities like sex, eating tasty food, or watching a funny show.

Endorphins are also part of the brain’s reward system but are quickly released when we engage in specific activities like exercise. They are responsible for reducing pain and stress. In contrast, dopamine is released more gradually, creating the uplifting feeling we experience after engaging in pleasurable activities.

Is it possible to develop an addiction to endorphins?

Although there’s limited research available on this subject, some individuals can develop an addiction to the pleasurable sensation caused by certain activities.

For instance, individuals seeking thrills may engage in risky activities to experience adrenaline and endorphins.

A noteworthy 2016 study examined eight mountain climbers and found that they displayed withdrawal symptoms like detachment, strong urges to go climbing, mood swings, and irritability when they refrained from climbing for a period (3).

Another example is self-harm, which can trigger a release of endorphins when someone inflicts pain on themselves, helping them temporarily alleviate emotional distress. An individual might become addicted to this endorphin rush and persist in self-harming to experience emotional relief.

Nevertheless, further research is necessary to understand endorphin addiction better.


Takeaway

Endorphins are like the body’s built-in painkillers and make you feel good. Your body makes them when you exercise, have sex, laugh, dance, or listen to music.

Having enough endorphins has some sound effects on your health. It can make you feel less depressed and anxious, improve your mood, lessen pain and discomfort, and boost your self-esteem.

However, endorphins don’t work the same for everyone. If you’re struggling to control your mood or deal with pain, talking to your healthcare provider is a good idea. They might suggest other treatments and therapies.

Nevertheless, it’s worth knowing that there are simple ways to increase your endorphins naturally, and this can be a straightforward and effective way to improve your health and overall well-being.

Disclaimer:

Dr. Berner does not diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical diseases or conditions; instead, he analyzes and corrects the structure of his patients with Foundational Correction to improve their overall quality of life. He works with their physicians, who regulate their medications. This blog post is not designed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any other individual. The information provided in this post or through linkages to other sites is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation, or the advice of your physician or another healthcare provider. Foundation Chiropractic and Dr. Brett Berner are not liable or responsible for any advice, the course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through this article or others.

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