Endorphins are chemicals produced naturally by the nervous system to cope with pain or stress. They are often called “feel-good” chemicals because they can act as a pain reliever and happiness booster.
Endorphins are primarily made in the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, though they may come from other parts of the body as well. The well-known “runner’s high” that is felt after lengthy, vigorous exercise is due to an increase in endorphin levels.
The level of endorphins in the human body varies from person to person. People who have lower levels may be more likely to have depression or fibromyalgia, but more research is needed in this area.
What are endorphins?
Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. They work similarly to a class of drugs called opioids.
Opioids relieve pain and can produce a feeling of euphoria. They are sometimes prescribed for short-term use after surgery or for pain-relief.
In the 1980s, scientists were studying how and why opioids worked. They found that the body has special receptors that bind to opioids to block pain signals.
The scientists then realized that some chemicals in the body acted similarly to natural opioid medications, binding to these same receptors. These chemicals were endorphins.
The name endorphin comes from the words “endogenous,” which means “from the body,” and “morphine,” which is an opioid pain reliever.
Some of the more common opioid drugs include: