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dopamine vs endorphins what releases endorphins what do endorphins do endorphins and dopamine are endorphins neurotransmitters

Endorphins vs dopamine: The best ways to boost your happy chemicals.

Published Aug 4, 2023 | Updated Feb 8, 2024
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Your brain communicates through messages being transferred between brain cells. It achieves this using brain chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters. There are well over 100 brain chemicals that perform a variety of functions [1]. A group of brain chemicals are involved in making you feel joy. These chemicals elicit positive emotions in different ways. Two of these are endorphins and dopamine. Read to find out how these differ and the best ways to boost your positive chemicals. 

What does dopamine do?

Have you had to undertake a herculean project that required dedication and effort with the sweet taste of success upon completion? You powered through the project and accomplished a congratulatory prize witnessed by all. The brain chemical that got you through this is your reward and pleasure brain chemical, dopamine. It also plays a central role in motivation.

Your brain releases it when it is expecting a reward and also when you attain the reward [2]. This adds to the loop of motivating you to continue pursuing that rewarding feeling. Great food, sex, exercise, and adventures all contribute to boosting dopamine. Your brain loves new experiences due to the anticipated reward. The joy you feel after exploring a new city is brought to you by dopamine.

To produce sufficient dopamine, you must ensure an adequate intake of its building block, tyrosine. Tyrosine is found in protein rich foods. It is also available in supplemental form to boost intake. brain feed has produced the world’s 1st natural 800mg tyrosine capsule made from fermented corn for an efficient way to increase dopamine production.

What do endorphins do

Endorphins are brain chemicals also designed to make you feel great. Are endorphins neurotransmitters? Yes, though they are chemically different to dopamine and work differently. Another difference is that dietary building blocks of endorphins are yet to be discovered. Intake of tyrosine can contribute to dopamine production, but increasing endorphin production through intake of nutrients is currently impossible. 

Endorphins are internally produced pain relievers (Endorphin comes from endogenous morphine) [3]. Broadly, they are of 3 types- with beta-endorphin being the most prevalent form [3]. Endorphins block pain to provide relief and they are also released in some circumstances. So, what releases endorphins? They are released in pleasurable activities like exercise, sex, and indulging in good food and laughter. The euphoria you feel after a good run is courtesy of endorphin release (runner’s high) [4]. Endorphins have been researched for the pleasure you feel after exercise. If you are looking to boost your endorphin release, ramp up the intensity. A brain scan study found that an hour of high intensity exercises released more endorphins than a moderate intensity exercise session [5].

How to increase your dopamine and endorphin levels?

Here are 3 ways to maximise both dopamine and endorphin for an all-rounded positive feel:

  1. Get more exercise

    Exercise benefits mental health in numerous ways, including boosting both dopamine and endorphins levels. Exercise produces nutrients that support chemical reactions involved in production of dopamine [6]. Animal studies found that exercise can boost dopamine levels by 40% and the levels stayed high for a week [8]. Dopamine is also involved in motivating you to exercise, to experience the rewarding feeling of completing a great workout [7]. Physical activity also releases endorphins. Even 15-30 mins of exercise can give you an endorphin surge [9], though it is recommended to aim for high intensity exercises.
  2. Engage in upbeat music

    Music and its associated activities like singing and dancing are synonymous with joy and fun. The happy feelings associated with listening to music is related to its association with the dopamine system. Brain scans have found that listening to pleasurable music improves blood flow to brain areas that produce dopamine [10]. In terms of endorphin levels, a study found that physical exertion involved in singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments lead to endorphin release due to increased pain threshold [11]. One way to boost your dopamine and endorphin is to indulge in singing a lively sing-along in your leisure time. 
  3. Eat your way to happy chemicals

    The edible way to increase dopamine production is to increase intake of tyrosine rich foods like tofu, beef, and cheese. If these foods are low in your diet or you are simply looking for a convenient and efficient way, try brain feed’s 800mg tyrosine. Since dietary building blocks of endorphins are yet to be discovered, there are certain foods that can help with the release of endorphins due to their desirable nature. Chocolate is often considered to be a pleasurable food. One reason might be its ability to release endorphins [12]. Sweet and palatable foods are intrinsically desired, and chocolate fits the bill perfectly, by involving the reward system of dopamine as well [12]. For a healthier twist, opt for dark chocolate. It contains a chemical that releases endorphins, thus making you feel joy [13].

Dopamine and endorphins form a part of your positive chemicals that can help improve mood and contribute to mental wellbeing. 


References

  1. Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. Chapter 6, Neurotransmitters.
  2. Treadway, M.T. et al. (2012). Dopaminergic Mechanisms of Individual Differences in Human Effort-Based Decision-Making. The Journal of Neuroscience, [online] 32(18), pp.6170–6176.
  3. Chaudhry SR, Gossman W. Biochemistry, Endorphin. [Updated 2023 Apr 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-.
  4. Boecker, H. et al. (2008). The runner’s high: opioidergic mechanisms in the human brain. Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991), [online] 18(11), pp.2523–31.
  5. Saanijoki, T. et al. (2017). Opioid Release after High-Intensity Interval Training in Healthy Human Subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(2), pp.246–254. 
  6. Lin, T. W., & Kuo, Y. M. (2013). Exercise benefits brain function: the monoamine connection. Brain sciences3(1), 39–53.
  7. Marques, A. et al. (2021). Bidirectional Association between Physical Activity and Dopamine Across Adulthood-A Systematic Review. Brain sciences11(7), 829.
  8. Bastioli, G. et al. (2022). Voluntary Exercise Boosts Striatal Dopamine Release: Evidence for the Necessary and Sufficient Role of BDNF. Journal of Neuroscience, [online] 42(23), pp.4725–4736.
  9. Goldfarb, A. H. et al. (1990). Plasma beta-endorphin concentration: response to intensity and duration of exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise.
  10. Rebecchini L. (2021). Music, mental health, and immunity. Brain, behavior, & immunity - health, 18, 100374.
  11. Dunbar, R.I.M., Kaskatis, K., MacDonald, I. and Barra, V. (2012). Performance of Music Elevates Pain Threshold and Positive Affect: Implications for the Evolutionary Function of Music. Evolutionary Psychology, 10(4), p.147470491201000.
  12. Nehlig A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British journal of clinical pharmacology75(3), 716–727.
  13. Samanta, S. et al. (2022). Dark chocolate: An overview of its biological activity, processing, and fortification approaches. Current research in food science5, 1916–1943.

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