Endorphins are natural substances that your brain manufactures to control pain and stress levels. A variety of foods contain certain building blocks from which endorphins and compounds that promote the production of endorphins are made. Consult your doctor before making changes to your diet or lifestyle to treat a medical condition.
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Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain and nervous system. The amino acid L-phenylalanine contributes to the production of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, and may contribute to increased endorphin levels, according to Frank Murray, author of the book "100 Super Supplements for a Longer Life." L-phenylalanine blocks enzymes that degrade endorphins, keeping them in circulation longer. Chronic pain and pain from recent injuries may respond well to supplementation with L-phenylalanine. This amino acid has also been used to increase alertness, control addictive behaviors and suppress appetites. Phenylalanine should not be used by anyone with phenylketonuria.
Estrogen may increase endorphin levels, according to Peter Selvaratnam, author of the book "Headache, Orofacial Pain and Bruxism." Estrogen replacement therapy and supplements with estrogenic properties, such as soy, wild yam and the antioxidant resveratrol may assist with replenishing low endorphin levels in women in menopause or with low estrogen levels for other reasons. Menstrual or menopausal headaches may also respond well to endorphin-boosting supplements. Other plants that contain phytoestrogens include alfalfa, legumes such as peanuts and peas, fennel, coconut, licorice, parsley, sage and flaxseed.
St. John's Wort
St. John's wort, an herb widely used as a natural anti-depressant, has been shown to inhibit pain by affecting the brain's endorphin system, according to a study published in the September 2010 issue of the journal "Planta Medica." In the study on laboratory animals, between 30 milligrams and 180 milligrams per kg body weight of St. John's wort resulted in significant pain reduction without any toxic effects. The use of naloxone abolished the pain-relieving effects, implying that St. John's wort works by increasing endorphin levels.
The best supplement for increasing your endorphin levels may not be a supplement at all. Abstaining from your favorite foods may be an effective and inexpensive way to increase your brain's endorphin levels, according to Dallas Cloouatre, Ph.D., author of the book "User’s Guide to Weight-Loss Supplements." In some people, food cravings alter the brain's chemistry in such a way as to raise endorphin levels, providing further evidence of the complex nature of hunger and satiety. It has been found that in people who show increased levels of endorphins during food cravings the drug naloxone, which is used in the treatment of opium withdrawal, can reduce the cravings.