What are endorphins?
Endorphins are chemicals (hormones) your body releases when it feels pain or stress. They’re released during pleasurable activities such as exercise, massage, eating and sex too. Endorphins help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve your sense of well-being.
Endorphins are created in your pituitary gland and hypothalamus, both located in the brain. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter, or messenger in your body. They attach to your brain’s reward centers (opioid receptors) and carry signals across your nervous system.
Endorphin comes from the words “endogenous,” which means within the body, and “morphine,” an opiate pain reliever. Put together, that means endorphins are natural pain relievers. They are “feel-good” chemicals because they can make you feel better and put you in a positive state of mind.
What are the different types of endorphins?
There are more than 20 types of endorphins in your body. Beta-endorphins are the endorphins involved in stress relief and pain management. Beta-endorphins have a stronger effect than morphine on your body.
What do endorphins do?
Endorphins are released when your body feels pain or stress. Your body releases endorphins to help you survive. When you feel pain, nerves in your body send pain signals to your brain. Your brain releases endorphins to block the nerve cells that receive the pain signals.
This essentially turns off your pain. It helps you to continue functioning, even in painful or stressful situations. Because you naturally seek to avoid pain, you’re more likely to do something if it makes you feel good.
What are the benefits of endorphins?
Endorphins have many benefits. Studies have shown they can help in the following ways:
- Easing symptoms of depression: Endorphins released during exercise have been shown to help reduce the symptoms of depression.
- Helping with stress and anxiety: As endorphin levels increase, stress and anxiety have been shown to decrease.
- Improving self-image: Studies have shown endorphins can increase levels of confidence, leading to better self-esteem.
- Contributing to weight loss: Releasing endorphins has been shown to regulate your appetite.
- Alleviating childbirth pain: Studies have shown higher levels of endorphins have helped with pain experienced during childbirth.
What releases endorphins in the body?
One of the easiest ways to release endorphins is by exercising. The more you exercise, the more endorphins your body will produce. Many people feel a “runner’s high” after a good run. But you don’t have to run to feel a runner’s high. Other forms of exercise that will help you release endorphins include:
- Power walking.
Other ways to release endorphins include:
Conditions and Disorders
What are the symptoms of having low endorphin levels?
Some people don't produce enough endorphins. Symptoms of endorphin deficiency include:
- Body aches and pains.
- Sleep issues.
- Impulsive actions.
What health conditions can low endorphin levels cause?
Endorphins boost the release of dopamine in your body. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter. The release of dopamine affects your mood. People with a lack of endorphins may show signs of depression. This is because of a lack of dopamine. Other effects of endorphin deficiency can include:
- Fibromyalgia: a condition that causes chronic pain throughout your body.
- Self-harm: People sometimes hurt themselves on purpose to deal with stress. Self-injury gives them an endorphin rush.
- Exercise addiction: People can become addicted to the feeling of a runner’s high. They exercise for hours every day.
How can I boost my endorphin levels?
Your body produces and releases endorphins in many ways. Besides exercise, you can:
- Eat a bite of dark chocolate.
- Create art.
- Play your favorite song.
- Get acupuncture.
- Get a message.
- Try aromatherapy.
- Laugh with friends.
- Watch your favorite TV show.
- Volunteer at a nonprofit organization.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between endorphins and dopamine?
Endorphins and dopamine are both chemicals in your body that make you happy, but they function in different ways. Endorphins relieve pain naturally. When they attach to your brain’s reward centers (opiate receptors), dopamine is then released.
For example, endorphins will naturally help soothe a runner’s achy muscles. Then dopamine will be released, producing a runner’s high. Dopamine motivates you to do something over and over again. So endorphins and dopamine do work together.
Is serotonin an endorphin?
No. Endorphins and serotonin are both chemicals in your body that make you happy, but they function in different ways. Serotonin helps stabilize your mood and well-being. It helps other systems in your body function as well. Endorphins are focused on pain relief and stress relief.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
If you experience the following symptoms of endorphin deficiency, you should call your healthcare provider right away:
- Exercise addiction.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Endorphins are an important chemical released by your body to help you relieve pain and reduce stress. They also help improve your mental well-being. There are many ways to boost your endorphins. Try a new sport, eat spicy food, have sex, laugh at a joke or watch a funny movie. If you’re worried about your endorphin levels, contact your healthcare provider.
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