Endorphins are a type of “feel-good” brain chemical. They act as natural pain and stress relievers. The body releases them during pleasurable activities, such as sex and exercise.
The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are the primary producers of endorphins, though endorphins may come from other parts of the body as well.
A person may want to increase their endorphin levels for several reasons — most notably because endorphins can be helpful when a person is hurt, feels stressed or anxious, or needs a self-esteem boost.
Endorphins may also promote memory and cognitive health and support a healthy immune system.
This article looks at how endorphin levels can both help and hurt the body and provides tips for naturally boosting endorphin levels.
Endorphins are neuropeptides, or chemical signals in the brain, that block the perception of pain.
The body makes endorphins. Endorphins are
Opioids, which are a class of drugs, function similarly to endorphins.
Opioids have profound
Common opioid drugs include:
Some illegal drugs, such as heroin, are also opioids.
Both legal and illegal opioid medications have potential for addiction, which may lead to overdose or death.
While endorphins may not have as large of an effect as opioids, they can produce a “high” that is both healthy and safe.
Chemically synthesized opioids work more quickly than endorphins. This may help explain why using opioid drugs can lead to severe substance use disorders.
Increasing the body’s natural endorphin levels may be an effective way for a person to improve their overall health.
- reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression
- improve moods
- boost self-esteem
- support cognitive function
- promote immune system health
- reduce inflammation
- regulate appetite
Endorphin levels and the stimuli that help increase them may vary from person to person. So far, research seems to emphasize that physical activity, certain foods, and various enjoyable activities boost endorphin levels.
People have long associated exercise with endorphins, whether or not they are aware of the science behind it.
There is science, however.
For example, a
Other physical activities, including
Because of this evidence, it is not uncommon for doctors to prescribe exercise alongside therapy or medication for treating depressive symptoms.
While health professionals generally accept that eating palatable foods can boost people’s endorphin levels, some research has focused on more specific categories.
Additionally, research has shown a link between eating spicy foods and a spike in endorphin levels. The theory behind this is that the body produces endorphins to counteract the pain of the food’s burning sensation.
Plenty of research has looked into the perceived health benefits of laughter. Laughing can increase endorphin levels and have other positive effects on the body.
For example, a
A person can bring more laughter and humor into their life in many ways, such as by spending time with friends or family.
When a person’s body does not produce enough endorphins, they may be at an increased risk of:
- unintentional weight loss
- body aches and pains
- depression and anxiety
- trouble sleeping
Research on the link between certain health conditions and endorphins is ongoing. For example, one study found that increases in the body’s endorphins were correlated with pain relief in people with fibromyalgia.
Endorphins are a type of brain chemical that helps people cope with pain and stress.
Healthy levels of endorphins can help people deal with physical pain, moodiness, and symptoms of anxiety or depression. Low endorphin levels may increase a person’s risk of body aches and pains, sleep difficulties, and addiction.
Scientists’ understanding of human endorphin levels is still evolving. Researchers believe that people can increase levels of this feel-good chemical through activities such as exercising, eating endorphin-releasing foods like dark chocolate, and tapping into their sense of humor.