We all like things that make us "high on life" — that feel-good rush after exercising, a good belly laugh, playful activities with friends, meditation, a good massage, or a loved one’s touch. These are examples of things that release endorphins, the body’s chemicals that give us a natural high. But endorphins do more than make us feel good; endorphins are necessary for proper immune function. In fact, some studies suggest people with chronic illness suffer from low endorphins. If you have an autoimmune disease, chronic pain, or chronic illness, boosting your endorphins could help you better manage your health.
We are an endorphin-deprived society, with our emphasis on being busy. Not only does this result in less happiness, but it also predisposes the immune system to malfunction so that one is more apt to develop chronic pain or illness.
Most immune cells have receptors for endorphins and need endorphins to function properly. Studies suggest low endorphins play a role in autoimmunity, when the immune system erroneously attacks and destroys tissue in the body, such as the thyroid gland (Hashimoto’s), the pancreas (Type 1 diabetes), or the nervous system (multiple sclerosis).
Although many factors are linked with autoimmunity, including environmental toxins and poor diet, endorphins are not to be overlooked. Some research shows people with chronic illness have low endorphins. Low endorphin production has been linked with fetal alcohol exposure, alcoholism, drug abuse, anxiety, depression, and chronic psychological stress, factors that can tip the immune system out of balance.
One way to help manage your autoimmune condition, chronic illness, or chronic pain is to work to boost the production of endorphins. Here are some endorphin-boosting tips:
• Strenuous exercise (the intensity varies from person to person; be careful not to over-exercise)
• Acupuncture or massage therapy
• Healthy socialization
• Low-dose naltrexone therapy (this is a therapy using low doses of the opiate-blocking drug naltrexone to stimulate the body’s own production of endorphins)
Endorphins are but one factor to consider when managing autoimmune disease or another chronic condition. Other things to consider include gluten sensitivity, food intolerances, chemical intolerances, quality of diet, leaky gut, inflammation, nutritional status, brain health, and more.
For more information about managing your autoimmune or chronic condition, call Dr. Olivieri at (609) 886-8585 to make an appointment.