Endorphins are hormones that help us deal with an intensely stimulating world. Whether your battle is getting through snarled traffic, learning a new kick-boxing move or engaging enemy fire in Afghanistan, endorphins are your body's way of helping you survive. Endorphins work by blocking pain so you can respond to stimuli faster and more effectively and can act literally like morphine and codeine, according to The Pain Center of Arizona. The pituitary gland produces and releases endorphins when you exercise and when you feel excitement, pain, laughter and love.
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Eat chocolate or chilli peppers. Both of these foods, chocolate and chilli peppers, have been shown to trigger endocrine secretion. Chocolate's great popularity as a comfort food is generally attributed to its soothing effect from the release of endorphins, while the endorphin release associated with chilli peppers has prompted its use in medical treatments and for chronic pain. Some even cite the endorphin rush after eating chilli peppers as an aphrodisiac.
Get a massage. Having a massage stimulates endorphin release and relieves pain while improving circulation. A Norwegian study showed a 16 per cent increase in beta-endorphin levels that lasted approximately one hour, after a 30-minute session of connective tissue massage.
Undergo acupuncture. The ancient Chinese healing art of acupuncture uses needles inserted in what are called the meridian points of the body to stimulate particular nerves. The effect is to release endorphins. According to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, the needles must be properly inserted in specific areas or the healing art does not work to relieve pain.
Laugh. Laughing stimulates the body's secretion of endorphins. A belly laugh reduces stress hormones while decreasing pain, boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. In 1989, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article, "Laugh If This is a Joke," affirming studies that showed laughter has an immediate lowering effect on pain and other medical symptoms, especially for those with chronic medical problems.
Exercise. You get a natural endorphin boost from working up a sweat. Exercise releases endorphins and increases blood flow to the brain. Endorphins are not just natural painkillers but also the body's own natural antidepressants. A Duke University study showed how effective exercise could be in treating depressed patients. Depressed subjects who had exercised at a moderate level experienced the greatest antidepressant effect in the study, compared to a group on an antidepressant medicine called sertraline and a control group who took a placebo, or sugar pill. Exercise, the study concluded, was just as good as medicine.
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- The Pain Center of Arizona: Can Endorphins Ease Chronic Pain?
- Florida State University and Michael W. Davidson: Molecular Expressions: Endorphins
- American Academy of Medical Acupuncture: Acupuncture and the Raison D'Etre for Alternative Medicine
- Psychology Today: Can Exercise Cure Depression?