Our bodies produce thousands of chemicals that control impulses necessary for everyday function and sensory navigation. Endorphins, a multi-functional chemical, are emitted to counteract and deal with sensations by transmitting electrical impulses through the body to the nervous system. One of their duties is to help combat pain, much in the same way as morphine or codeine does. Endorphins are also responsible for producing the euphoric feeling one usually experiences after sex, or after an intense work out (often referred to as “runners-high”). Rigorous work outs not only keep us in shape, but also decrease our stress level due to the endorphins released into the body during the exercise. Other ways to trigger the release of these hormones is through the practice of meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy.
Food and Endorphins
Certain foods have a direct effect on one’s mood. Like exercise and meditation, food such as cookies, cake, chocolate, candy (known as pleasure foods) can bring a person out of the worst mood. This occurrence is not simply due to the delightful sensation of dessert on the tongue together with the awakening of our taste buds. It is largely due to the chemical reaction that occurs in our brain when we eat sugar. The signal causes the body to release endorphins and dopamine giving the consumer a sense of exhilaration, otherwise known as a “sugar rush”. The addiction felt by those who eat these types of foods regularly is the result of the body craving not only the sugar, but also the wonderful euphoric feeling that is brought on by the brain’s reaction to the sugar being consumed.
Low endorphin levels make us crave fatty foods and or sweet foods.
High concentrations of endorphins in the brain produce a sense of euphoria, enhance pleasure, and suppress pain, both emotionally and physically. When endorphins are low, people feel anxious; they are also more aware of pain. They have an appetite for fat and fatty foods, such as fries, cheese, creamy sauces, margarine, butter, fried chicken, potato chips, and chocolate, to name some of the most popular examples. Upon eating some fat, they will notice a change in mood, feeling more pleasure. This feeling is related to a higher concentration of endorphin. Exercise, by releasing fat from within the body, raises endorphins and causes the same mood changes.
When we have cravings for potato chips and chocolate, it may mean that we need an endorphin pill rather than all the empty calories from chips. Well, there's a problem. We don't have an endorphin pill. But we have something even better; knowledge of how to deal with these specific types of cravings.
Low serotonin levels make us crave sugar
Similarly, another hormone, serotonin and sometimes Dopamine makes us feel calm, poised, confident, and relaxed. When our serotonin/dopamine levels are low, we feel nervous, irritable and stressed. We don't crave fat, now we crave sugar.
When we have cravings for sugar, we can use frozen yogurt or popcorn may help raise serotonin/dopamine levels with far less calories.
Low dopamine make us feel foggy. Mentally "foggy" at times? This just may be caused by low dopamine levels. When we don't get adequate protein, dopamine levels drop and this makes us mentally sluggish. When we feel mentally sluggish, we crave sugar and fat.
The best way to raise dopamine levels, get plenty of lean protein in you diet, with moderate fat and carbohydrates
It's a mistake to think that exercising without adequate carbs in your system will help you lose body fat.
Many people mistakenly believe that if they limit their carbohydrate intake, and then exercise, their body fat will be broken down. What happens, in fact, is that they are lowering their capacity to burn fat, and will lower their metabolism. The reason for this is that the body will break down muscle to form carbohydrate. In addition, the muscle breakdown raises stress hormone levels and causes carbohydrate cravings.
Dr. George Grant, Ph.D., I.M.D. Specialist in Integrative Medicine & Biofeedback www.academyofwellness.com