When we exercise, our body releases endorphins or what could be called “feel good” chemicals. Endorphins are commonly related to “runner’s high,” wherein runners reach a state of euphoria or bliss after undergoing extreme physical exertion. Runners will notice their pain tolerance is greater during this state and that’s because endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. You can now probably understand how your most athletic friends manage to be so happy!
Another neurotransmitter is serotonin, which also affects mood and energy levels and is popularly called the “happy hormone.” Low serotonin is linked to depression, which can lead to poor sleep, memory, appetite, digestion and other physical and mental issues. Naturally and regularly releasing endorphins and serotonin is a great way to improve one’s mood and overall well-being. We can, however, also increase endorphins in our body through other ways, other than working out.
Aside from physical exercise, the body releases these neurotransmitters during meditation, childbirth, acupuncture, massage therapy, ultraviolet light (like sunshine!), and even laughter. Certain foods can also trigger endorphins and what better way to boost one’s mood than through food.
The reason why peppers are so spicy is because of capsaicin. This compound is an irritant and causes a burning sensation, so the body releases endorphins to counteract the effects. Some extreme fans of spicy foods find that the endorphin-related euphoria to be worth the pain of eating the spiciest of peppers.
There’s a reason why chocolate is one of the most popular comfort foods. Chocolate, particularly the dark variety with more cocoa, has phenylethylamine. This compound sends our bodies buzzing and triggers the body to release endorphins.
One sunflower seed alone is packed with wonderful nutrients like folic acid, soluble fibre, vitamin E and omega 3 and 6 fats. This powerful combination triggers the production of serotonin in the brain.
Vitamin D is essential in producing serotonin and egg yolks are rich in vitamin D, along with protein, omega 3 and 6 fats and selenium. If you’re the type who isn’t getting enough sun, your body can absorb much needed vitamin D by eating egg yolks instead. Egg yolks also contain tryptophan, which aids the production of serotonin.
As if avocado fans need another reason to eat their favourite fruit. Avocados can increase serotonin production as they have tryptophan along with B vitamins, vitamin E, and folic acid. Folic acid is an excellent aid for irritability, apathy, fatigue, and anxiety.
People low on serotonin usually crave carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, or sugary foods. They can offer relief, but only temporary, as they both rapidly increase and decrease serotonin production. If the carb craving can’t be helped, reach for brown bread instead. Wholegrain bread has proteins and amino acids great for producing serotonin.
Light to moderate consumption of alcohol does indeed cause endorphins to be released in areas of the brain that produce feelings of pleasure and reward. This can explain how alcohol is addictive. Although, heavy drinking doesn’t stimulate endorphins, so it’s important to keep an eye on your consumption.