From the gate, pain impulses travel on to the midbrain. At work in both locations are two types of opiatelike brain chemicals, the smaller, shorter-acting enkephalins, and the longer-lasting endorphins. Acting like morphine, these substances can deactivate Substance P, stalling and blocking pain impulses.

These painkilling chemicals are also controlled by the delicate balance of norepinephrine and serotonin. A sufficiency of serotonin enhances the ability of endorphins to lock into anti-pain morphine receptors in the brain, thus effectively blocking pain impulses.

While norepinephrine and serotonin are released by the adrenal glands in response to stress, they are also produced in the brain. One way to ensure having sufficient serotonin is to eat enough foods containing tryptophan, serotonin’s precursor.

In this way, enkephalins and endorphins effectively control an individual’s pain threshold. In chronic headache victims, endorphin levels are invariably low. This is because repeated stress totally consumes the endorphin supply, leaving one defenseless against pain. Abnormally low endorphin levels have also been found in other painful disorders known to develop from chronic stress.

Scientists have thus discovered the mechanism through which negative emotions such as anger, hostility, bitterness, or hopelessness, deplete the body’s store of endorphins, seriously reducing a person’s ability to tolerate pain.

The good news is that two natural therapies can swiftly replenish the endorphin supply. They are rhythmic exercise and thinking positively, so mat we experience only positive emotions. Endorphin supplies can be boosted significantly by an hour of brisk exercise. As soon as it is released in the brain, endorphin begins to block pain receptors, creating a delicious pain-free high with upbeat feelings of sharpness and alertness. Positive thinking creates a similar upbeat state of pain-free consciousness.


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