Endorphins

The word endorphin derives its name from two expressions 'endogenous' denoting 'within' and 'morphine', which is a potent pain killer. Therefore, endorphins are basically chemical substances found in the human brain and they work as natural palliatives. Thus far, as many as 20 different types of endorphins have been displayed in the humans, which are found in the pituitary gland, other regions of the brain or scattered all over the nervous system. The intensity of endorphins in the brain is likely to be altered owing to taking several drugs, such as anabolic steroids, heroin, and other forms of opiates as well as alcohol. It is possible to fuel endorphins using binaural sound and electro-acupuncture (a type of acupuncture wherein a weak electric current is passed through each needle).

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It may be mentioned that endorphins are members of a class of bio-chemical substances that are generally denoted as neuro-hormones (any hormone produced and released by neurons) that work by altering the manner in which the nerve cells react to transmitters. There is a very strange and fascinating history associated with the discovery of this class of bio-chemicals. In effect, biomedical researchers examining the reasons and impacts of opium addiction in the 1960s had identified what they believed to be 'opiate receptors' in the brain tissue. As it appeared that it was very improbable for the humans, or for that matter any other vertebrates, would possess a precise receptor intended for a chemical substance obtained from the poppy (opium) plant, the scientists dedicated their concentration on bio-chemicals that may possibly be created within the brain itself.

In the early 1970s, scientists had isolated a number of small peptides that seemed to have natural analgesic or pain killing attributes. Collectively, they named these small peptides as enkephalins and endorphins. These bio-chemicals had the aptitude to alter neural transmissions and currently this seems to be accountable for the numbness to pain which happens when people are affected by intense shock or nervous tension. In effect, the usefulness of palliative derivates from opium, for instance morphine and heroin, is an inadvertent spin-off that is derived from the aptitude of these substances to unite with neuro-hormone receptors, notwithstanding the vast dissimilarity in their respective structures.

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It may be said that endorphins are probably the best and also the most lawful manner to get a natural high, since they are produced naturally by the human body. Speaking from the chemical perspective, endorphins are actually polypeptides that have the ability to attach themselves to the neuro-receptors in the brain and alleviate pain. In effect, it is owing to the presence of endorphins that even the wounded soldiers are able to continue fighting in the battle field and have sufficient strength that enables them to save others. In addition, the purported high of a runner is also attributed to endorphins. It is also because of the presence of endorphins in the brain that some people are attracted to hazardous actions, such as sky diving, car racing and bungee jumping.

As aforementioned, endorphins are basically polypeptides that enclose 30 units of amino acid. In fact, opiods are also regarded as stress hormones similar to cortisol, corticotrophin and catecholamines (including noradrenaline and adrenaline) that are produced by the body with the intention to diminish stress as well as provide relief from pain. As endorphins are generally produced at times when the stress becomes too intense to bear, they naturally obstruct the pain signals generated by the nervous system.

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Currently researchers worldwide are examining the various health benefits and uses of a minimum of 20 dissimilar endorphins produced by the human body. While exercising, it is the beta-endorphin that seems to have the maximum as well as most potent influence on the brain and the body. In effect, beta-endorphin is one particular kind of peptide hormone, which is created primarily by an amino acid known as tyrosine. The structure of the molecules of this specific peptide hormone or beta-endorphin is incredibly analogous to that of morphine, except that it possesses dissimilar chemical characteristics.

Although very few people are aware of the fact, it is interesting to note that the heavenly feelings an individual experiences following a sexual intercourse may possibly be related to endorphin. Nevertheless, most people are familiar with the fact that the body naturally produces endorphins when we undertake an assortment of activities, including deep breathing, meditation, eating spicy food, coarse laughter, receiving acupuncture treatments or chiropractic adjustments (the mode of treatment typically being given to correct the segments of the spinal column). In fact, even lesser number of people are aware of the fact that endorphins are generally beneficial for health and have the ability to assist drug as well as alcohol abusers to come out of their addiction. Below we shall discuss the underlying forces of endorphins and the manner in which they influence our routine lives.

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While it has been widely acknowledged that further studies on endorphins are necessary, as of now, it is thought that endorphins have four major effects on our body and mind. Endorphins augment the immune system, help to provide relief from pain, delay the aging process as well as diminish nervous anxiety. In addition, during the course of their researches, scientists have discovered that beta-endorphins, which are basically a type of polypeptides, possess the ability to set off the human NK (Natural Killer) cells that actually perk up the immune system against various ailments and also eliminates cancerous cells. Contrary to the small force workouts or exercises, such as weightlifting or sprinting, long-drawn-out and uninterrupted exercises, such as long-distance swimming, running, aerobics, cross-country skiing or cycling is believed to help in increased production and release of endorphins by the brain. This, in turn, causes a feeling of ecstasy, which has been widely denoted as the 'runner's high'.

It may be mentioned here that the two major as well as common aspects that result in the release of endorphins are nervous tension or stress and pain. In effect, endorphins work together with the opiate receptors in the brain with the intension to diminish our sensitivity to pain and, at the same time, work in a similar manner to a number of drugs, for instance morphine and codeine. However, contrary to the opiate drugs, stimulation of the opiate receptors in the brain by the endorphins released by the body does not result either in addiction to or dependence on any substance.

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Besides diminishing our sensitivity to pain, secretion of endorphin by the body results in feelings of ecstasy, release of sex hormones, alteration of appetite as well as boosting the immune response. When the intensity of endorphins are high in our body, we generally become less sensitive to pain and have lesser negative influences of stress or nervous tension. As aforementioned, endorphins have been recommended as regulators of the supposed 'runner's high', which the athletes are able to accomplish following extended workouts. It may be mentioned here that the function of endorphin and other chemical compounds as possible generators for such euphoric reaction has been extensively deliberated by doctors as well as scientists. However, what common people are least aware is the fact that our body produces and secretes endorphins in reaction to extended or long-drawn-out and unremitting workouts.

As mentioned earlier, our body produces as well as releases maximum amount of endorphins when it experiences any event that causes nervous tension or at times of intense pain. When this heavy amount of endorphins rushes into our system, it often gives rise to a feeling of nausea or nervous sensation in the stomach. Nevertheless, the quantity of endorphins released by the body differs from one individual to another in such a manner that the events that invigorate considerable neuro-hormone secretion in some individuals will not essentially be the same in other individuals. Besides stress or nervous tension and pain, endorphin secretion is likely to be set off due to consumption of specific types of foods, including chilli peppers and chocolate.

The significant enhancement in the production and release of endorphins by the body following ingestion of chocolates is considered to be one of the major reasons why people usually turn to this substance as a comfort or placating food, especially when they are passing through stressful periods in life. In addition, since the release of endorphins is also related to the consumption of chilli peppers, the latter have been used in a variety of dissimilar types of medical therapies, particularly as a part of the remedy for chronic or persistent pain. It is also not surprising as to why occasionally chilli peppers are believed to be an aphrodisiac. Moreover, in the recent years, scientists have been successful in relating certain types of activities to the secretion of endorphins by the body. For instance, receiving massage therapy or acupuncture is thought to motivate the body to release endorphin. In addition, it is also believed that endorphins (natural pain killers) may possibly be accountable for the euphoric feelings that are commonly known as the so-called 'adrenaline rush' and 'runner's high'.

As discussed above, the release of endorphins differ from one individual to another despite having the same stimulators. In other words, this denoted that though two different individuals may be undertaking the same level of exercise or suffering from the same intensity of pain, they will not essentially produce and secrete similar amounts of endorphins. In addition, there are certain foodstuffs, for instance chilli peppers and chocolates, which may possibly facilitate in increased production and secretion of endorphins by the body. In the instance of ingesting chilli peppers, the spicier the pepper is, the additional amount of endorphins would be produced and secreted by the body. On the other hand, the release of endorphins by the body following consumption of chocolates possibly explains the fact why people have a comforting sensation after having this particular food. It has also been found that several people crave for chocolates during their stressful periods. This is primarily because consumption of chocolates releases enough endorphins by the body not only making one feel relaxed, but also results in a euphoric feeling.

Here is a word of advice for people who desire that their body produce and release more amounts of endorphins. For instance, if you do not take part in arduous activities like athletics, you may also try several other activities to enhance the endorphin levels in your body. Findings of researches undertaken on massage therapy as well as acupuncture have established that these two methods are also capable of fuelling secretion of endorphins. Last, but not the least, even the practice of meditation has the ability to enhance the amount of endorphin produced and released by your body. Hence, if you are eager to increase the endorphin levels in your body, but not too willing to undertake strenuous workouts, you may well adopt any of the alternative methods mentioned above to accomplish your desires and keep fit.

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