Endorphins: what they are and why they are important

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Endorphins are your body's natural pain relievers. These neurotransmitters or chemical messengers in the brain are also responsible for the sensation of pleasure that we can obtain after certain activities, such as walking or running, eating chocolate, and laughing with friends.

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Role in the body

Endorphins help your body avoid pain and increase the feeling of pleasure. A healthy brain indicates the release of endorphins during moments of shock, freezing, "fight or flight", trauma, and physical stress or pain. They can then bind to receptors in the nervous system and inhibit or slow the release of proteins involved in pain signaling.

This process also increases dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure responses.

Deficit

There are both genetic and non-genetic factors that can contribute to endorphin deficiency. Some conditions associated with endorphin deficiency:

  • Anxiety
  • Substance use disorders
  • Depression
  • Chronic migraine
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Trouble sleeping and waking up

Some drugs stimulate the release of endorphins. This is the case with alcohol and opioids. However, long-term use of these drugs can cause their levels to drop over time. As a result, there is a high probability of increased sensitivity to pain.

Watch out

Antidepressants can provide relief if you are battling endorphin deficiency. The ideal is to find a drug that acts on neurotransmitters that are desensitized, that is, that are depleted due to overstimulation or that do not work properly.

People with depression have low levels of these neurotransmitters:

  • Dopamine , which plays a role in the pleasure and reward signal.
  • Norepinephrine, which affects the body's response to stress.
  • Serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, and sexual desire.

Serotonin also modulates body temperature and plays a role in uterine contractions, respiration, blood pressure, and gastrointestinal health.

If you are taking a combination of medications or recreational drugs that affect serotonin receptors, you can develop serotonin syndrome , which can be fatal.

Advantage

More human studies are needed to confirm the benefits in humans, but this is what we know so far.

Reduction of stress and anxiety.

Healthy levels of endorphins reduce stress and anxiety. A study in male and female mice found a direct relationship between endorphin levels and anxiety behavior, suggesting that endorphins inhibit the response of mice to stressful stimuli.

Regulate other hormones

Endorphins also affect other hormones such as oxytocin , also known as the "love hormone." More human studies are needed as there are mixed results on the exact effects of oxytocin on sexuality and romance.

Lower pain

The pain-relieving effects of endorphins are not well understood, so they have been largely explained from an evolutionary perspective. In other words, your survival depends on staying away from things that can hurt and on your internal system rewarding you for everyday activities like eating, drinking, and exercising.

Increase your self esteem

When endorphins are released, we feel good and help build confidence in the present moment and in the future. It doesn't have to be related to exercise or food.

Helps with mental disorders.

Endorphins can also help with other mental disorders like schizophrenia . A study of 70 patients treated with various antipsychotics and with severe symptoms of schizophrenia showed that normalization of endorphin levels is part of antipsychotic treatment.

How To Increase Endorphins Naturally

Naturally, increasing your endorphins comes down to doing more things that make you feel better.

The exercise

A 2016 study measured endorphin levels in 30 men with mild depression who participated in an exercise program. Endorphin levels were found to increase in the medium and high intensity training groups. However, the study authors noted that the difficulty of accurately measuring endorphins limits the results.

The effect can be even better if you train with others. A small study of 15 non-smoking rowing athletes found that power output and pain tolerance increased in the group that trained together compared to those who trained alone.

Acupuncture

An observational study found that visceral or deep internal pain sensations were significantly alleviated with acupuncture treatment compared to untreated groups. This can be due to changes in the levels of endorphins and certain hormones such as the stress hormone cortisol.

Laughter

Relaxed social laughter is a form of non-verbal communication that has been observed and experimentally tested to be associated with higher feelings of well-being and higher pain thresholds. Six studies in which people watched videos or performed theatricals showed significant increases in pain threshold after laughing.

Creative activity

Doing things, whether it's music, poetry, prose, or painting, can increase endorphins and improve your sense of well-being.

Try starting with something you enjoyed as a child, if possible, or something you've always wanted to do but never thought was worth the investment (time, effort, or money). That!

Endorphins versus dopamine

Endorphins, like dopamine, make you happy. So what is the difference?

Well the two are related, but they are definitely not the same. Endorphins are polypeptides produced by the pituitary gland and central nervous system (CNS) that help control stress and regulate pain and influence feelings of pleasure. This is where dopamine confusion sometimes arises.

When endorphins bind to opioid receptors in the central nervous system, dopamine is released and pleasure is felt. Therefore, endorphins can be considered precursors of dopamine. Any problem with endorphin function can directly affect your body's dopamine release. Dopamine is synthesized or created from an amino acid in the brain.

Frequently asked questions

What are endorphins like?

Endorphins often induce feelings of pleasure, euphoria, arousal, and well-being. You may experience this as a rush of feelings or a sense of calm, depending on your endorphin level and activity.

How long do endorphins last?

It depends on many factors, and only you know when the endorphin rush will actually end. One small study found that 22 participants experienced endorphin-related euphoria after one hour of moderate intensity exercise.

How do you release endorphins with pressure points?

Acupuncture is a way to release endorphins through pressure points. A professional inserts very fine needles into pressure points to release endorphins. At home and without needles, you can also press or pinch pressure points to relieve stress. This is known as acupressure.

Summary

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make you happy. They can also ease feelings of pain, anxiety, or stress. Endorphins can help with some mental disorders like schizophrenia. There are many ways to increase endorphins naturally, including exercise, acupuncture, and creative activities.

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