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What Are Endorphins?

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Updated May 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: Endorphins are often called the body's natural pain relievers. Endorphins are biochemical substances made by the body that reduce pain and bring about a feeling of euphoria and well-being.

Endorphins are classified as "endogenous opioid polypeptides" and they are thought to be produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus during strenuous exercise, and in response to pain, excitement and other stress stimulus. Once produced, endorphins are distributed throughout the nervous system where they interact with the opiate receptors to reduce our perception of pain. These natural pain relievers not only reduce the perception of pain, but they are also linked with an increased sense of euphoria and well-being.

Also see: The Runner's High

Source

Boecker, H., Sprenger, T., Spilker, M.E., Henriksen, G., Koppenhoefer, M., Wagner, K.J., Valet, M., Berthele, A., Tolle, T.R. (2008). The Runner's High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain. Cerebral Cortex DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhn013

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