Ever smell something that reminds you of your grandmother, and instantly you feel bathed in love? This is because the nerves in your nose connect straight to the Limbic System, the emotional center of your brain. A connection to the Limbic system can release endorphins, the feel-good hormone.
Candace Pert was the discoverer of the opiate receptor in the late ‘70’s, as a young graduate student at Johns Hopkins. At that time, the only receptor site that had been discovered was that of insulin. This sparked the flood of research into drugs for diabetes. The pharmaceutical industry now wanted the opiate receptor for creation of “feel better” drugs. Worldwide, the hunt was on for the elusive endorphin receptor.
Candace took a different approach. You see, she had been told to give up by her lab director, that it could not be found. But she stalled, and when he left town on a speaking junket, she put her plan into place. The day he returned, she had the irrefutable proof of the opiate receptor. Also known as the endorphin receptor.
She went on to locate from where in the brain these endorphins were released, as well as to locate the receptors for these endorphins.
Chronicled in her first book, Molecules of Emotion,(1), Dr. Pert found that the highest density of endorphin receptors was in the nervous system, with the second highest number of receptors was on the white blood cells.
White blood cells???
Yes, she found that the white blood cells were most efficiently instructed directly from our nervous system.
THIS is the Mind-Body Connection
THIS is the Mind-Body Connection
- The Limbic system, the emotional center of the brain, directly secretes endorphins into the fluid bathing the brain and spinal cord.
- This fluid bathes the nerves as they leave the spine and head out into the body, thus carrying the communication to the white cells, wherever they are.
- As nerve signals return to the spine, they can be increased in signal strength, or down regulated by the spinal fluid endorphin levels.
- And as the fluid then returns, flowing over the brain surface, it affects your mood and thoughts.
By the endorphin levels, our brain tells the immune system:
- To mount an attack on an invading virus, or instead attack normal tissue.
- Whether to destroy random DNA mutations, or ignore them.
- Whether to heal an injury, or continue the inflammation, creating scarring.
As well as
- Whether to increase perception of pain by the brain, or decrease it
How does this work? By the level of endorphins.
All cells get some endorphin receptors, but the brain and white cells have many more receptors per cell. The number of endorphins attaching to these cells influence the subtleties of brain and white blood cell behavior.
Stress suppresses endorphin release.
Decreases Immune Function, causing:
- Increased susceptibility to infections
- Autoimmune disorders
- Increased risk of chronic inflammation
And chronic inflammation is linked to the most common issues today:
- Heart disease
- Metabolic Syndrome (abdominal weight gain with a constellation of other problems)
Now, stress is a function of today’s society.
So, what can you do to correct the endorphin suppression?
Well, narcotics stimulate endorphin release, but then turn off the flow of natural endorphins. Many are synthetic endorphins which block production of natural ones. That is the cause of narcotic withdrawal symptoms, and rebound pain as pain meds wear off. Narcotics result in complete loss of natural endorphins in the bloodstream.
Chocolate is a natural endorphin, and does not suppress therelease of the body's natural endorphins.
This is good for an occasional endorphin burst, but Chocolate cannot supply the amount and consistency of endorphin release needed.
So what can you do to promote release of endorphins, and counter the disease constellation caused by stress?
Review the Benefits of Spring Fever blog--everything there is Endorphin Building!
Magnesium is needed to create and facilitate the endorphins, and mitigate the stress response. The Magnesium blog is another post to check as well.
(1) You may also like to check out Candace Pert's Molecules of Emotion, The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. It is cheap on Amazon, Used. Candace started as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, innocent of the fact that the most experienced scientists in the world were failing miserably in their attempts to discover the opiate receptor. And she did it. The book is a highly entertaining romp through the world of labs at Johns Hopkins and NIH, during which you will accidentally learn amazing science. Candace Pert definitely thought outside of the box, and mentored others generously. By reading her works, she mentored me out of the injury-filled box in which I had become trapped. My Endorphin Chart, and the Gratitude Journal were created during this journey.