Endorphin Deficiency - How to Increase Endorphins Naturally

The endorphins are a group of brain chemicals that are responsible for feelings of joy and pleasure. They are also our brain's natural painkillers.

Endorphin Deficiency Symptoms

Symptoms of low endorphin levels can include:

  • excessive sadness
  • crying easily, even over small things like TV commercials
  • being overly sensitive to pain, physically or emotionally
  • finding it hard to get over losses
  • craving chocolate, wine, marijuana, opiate drugs or other treats for pleasure and comfort

What Causes Low Endorphin Levels?

Endorphin levels can be low for a number of reasons, including:

  • genetics - some people have a gene that causes problems with endorphin production
  • too much stress - endorphins are used up quickly when you are under stress and levels can become depleted.
  • too much emotional or physical pain - as our body's natural painkillers, endorphins are used up whenever we experience emotional or physical pain. Prolonged pain or emotional distress can deplete our reserves of endorphins.
  • not enough protein in the diet - our bodies require 15 different amino acids to produce endorphins. Amino acids are found in protein foods, and many people just don't get enough protein in their diets.
  • gender - men typically have higher levels of endorphins than women.

Diagnosis of Endorphin Deficiency Syndrome

Blood tests and urine tests can be used to detect low endorphin levels, but many physicians are not familiar with their use. Some practitioners say the tests are unreliable and a questionnaire will give a better indication of amino acid levels. If you want to get the testing done, try Googling 'Amino Acid Testing', contact one of the labs that does the testing and ask them to suggest a practitioner in your area who is familiar with the tests. If you can't find a practitioner, some labs let you order the test yourself online.

How to Increase Endorphin Levels Naturally

An amino acid formula called DLPA (containing D-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanine) can be used to boost endorphin levels very quickly and works wonders for endorphin deficiency depression. D-phenylalanine neutralizes the enzymes that destroy endorphins in the brain. These enzymes protect us against excesses of endorphins, but if you are low in endorphins, neutralizing the enzymes can allow the brain to naturally build up its endorphin levels. L-phenylalanine is one of a number of amino acids needed to produce endorphins.

In  The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today, Julia Ross recommends taking 500 mg - 1000 mg of DLPA before breakfast, 500 mg - 1000 mg mid morning and 500 mg - 1000 mg mid afternoon. Start with one capsule before breakfast and if you don't notice much improvement after thirty minutes, try a second capsule. If you find DLPA too stimulating, you may do better with just the D form of phenylalanine (DPA).

At least 15 different amino acids are used in the production of endorphins in the brain. Amino acids are found in protein containing foods, and a consistent supply of protein is essential for endorphin production. The Mood Cure  recommends eating 20-30 grams of protein at each meal - about the amount found in 3 to 4 ounces (around 100 grams) of chicken, fish, red meat or pork (about 6.5 to 8 grams of protein per ounce), 3 eggs (20 grams of protein), 1 cup of cottage cheese (28 grams of protein), or 3/4 cup of almonds (24 grams of protein). A supplement containing the nine essential amino acids (histadine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine, the ones the body can't produce from other amino acids) can be very helpful.

Plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains are essential to provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs to convert the amino acids into endorphins. A good multi-vitamin and mineral is also important. The B vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, magnesium, calcium and zinc all promote endorphin production and/or help reduce pain.

Healthy fats also promote endorphin production. A good quality fish oil supplement can have a twofold effect, promoting endorphin production and reducing inflammatory pain, which uses up endorphins in the brain.

Where to Find More Information

The Mood CureThe Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today This book has by far the clearest and most detailed information we have found on neurotrasmitter and amino acid deficiencies. It has an excellent chapter on endorphin deficiency and depression with a comprehensive section on how to increase endorphins naturally.

Other Causes of Depression

Take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have any of the other common causes of depression.