Looking for a boost? Feeling kind of blue or bored? Time for a dose of endorphins.
Endorphins are your body’s personal stash of narcotic like substances. They improve your mood, take an edge off, reduce pain, no prescription needed. And…they are not “addictive”.
Endorphins are produced primarily in your brain and spinal cord and act upon the part of your brain responsible for mood, memory, and secreting certain hormones.
Endorphins play a role in feeling of satisfaction and pleasure. The amount of endorphins vary from person to person. In fact, there is some research that suggests people who suffer from depression or fibromyalgia have lower production of endorphins.
Endorphins are produced during times of stress and intense pain. Perhaps you’ve noticed if you are stressed out, you have an altered sense of pain or that the passage of time seems to go very slow or very fast. Or, if you’ve been through a long painful ordeal like childbirth, your sense of time seems strange – suddenly hours have gone by. And pain, which may be very intense seems altered. In fact, many people say women have more than one child because they don’t remember how intense labor was the first time.
But there are also more pleasant ways to bolster endorphins. You don’t have to have a baby or get super stressed out.
Intense aerobic exercise can trigger endorphins. You runners are probably aware of the “runner’s High”. Endorphins are responsible for that feeling.
Body work, acupuncture, massage and meditation can increase endorphin release. It is responsible for that sweet, tired, kind of spaced out feeling you experience when you are done. Sometimes, after an acupuncture appointment at my clinic, a person will have to sit a while until they feel like they can drive.
That feeling of bliss that often follows sexual intimacy is from endorphins and also another delicious hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin triggers milk let down and bonding in nursing mothers and feelings of intimacy between two people.
Chile peppers and cayenne stimulate endorphin release. So does small amounts of alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking does not.
For people who have been on long term opiates like Norco or morphine, their body’s natural endorphin production is decreased and its response to endorphins (and the medication) is blunted. In other words, long term use of narcotics actually increases a person’s sensitivity to pain. Sadly, opiate drugs are addictive and can lead to a lot of health issues including death.
On a happy note, your body’s endorphins are not addictive nor dangerous.
So what do you say? Wanna get High? Take a run, get a massage, eat a spicy dinner, maybe have a glass of wine and see what other delights the evening might bring.
By Jennifer Means, ND, LAc