(Stock Photo/Mark Noak) The hotter the better when it comes to chili peppers and endorphins. Bell peppers are relatively mild while habaneros will have you doing a jig! The ingredients from chili peppers are also used to treat arthritic pain when used topically.
Engage Your Endorphins
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JUNE 18, 2007
Dr. Tara Kompare

Our bodies are equipped with little wonder molecules that, when properly ignited, are capable of lifting your spirits in ways you never thought imaginable. These naturally occurring wonder drugs are called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that offer a variety of health benefits including emotional elation, stress reduction, improved immune systems, and decreased pain perception.
Both parent and child benefit from a daily dose of endorphins. Some popular endorphin energizers that will have you feeling happy and healthy in a jiffy include:
·Laughter: We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine and more and more evidence is proving this adage to be true. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that laughter increased blood flow about as much as some cholesterol-lowering medications or light exercise. Although the researchers did not recommend laughter over exercise, they did recommend a combination of both.
Laughing also triggers the release of endorphins and may improve our immune systems. Since laughing offers so many benefits, I recommend every household in existence mandate at least thirty minutes a day of good hearty laughter.
·Chocolate: I absolutely adore chocolate and, when consumed responsibly, it may even be good for you. Scientists have found that dark chocolate contains antioxidants that can help maintain cardiovascular health. Although the jury is still out on the degree of health benefits offered by chocolate, I am here to say it does wonders for my soul. It helps rev up endorphins and is associated with feelings of comfort and contentment, both of which come in mighty handy in the fast-paced world of parenthood. As with most things in life, moderation is key. Although it is quite tempting to reach for that second helping of chocolate ice cream in times of stress and chaos, just know when enough is enough!
·Chili Peppers: The hotter the better when it comes to chili peppers and endorphins. Bell peppers are relatively mild while habaneros will have you doing a jig! The ingredients from chili peppers are also used to treat arthritic pain when used topically.
*Caution: Avoid use in the very young and very old.
·Exercise: The “runner's high” experienced by athletes is a sought after feeling. Although I do not run, I can “ellipticize” my little heart out all for the purpose of achieving that awesome endorphin rush. Remember, exercise is our friend! Regular exercise not only helps our body’s look more fit and tone, it also helps us smile.
·Massage: A professional massage releases endorphins, increases circulation, and stimulates the nervous and lymphatic systems. If you can’t afford one from the pros, three-year-olds are easy to teach!
·Meditation: When our bodies are in a relaxed state, as with meditation, this triggers the outflow of endorphins. It’s easy to do and is free-of-charge. Just close your eyes and concentrate solely on your breath going in and out in a slow and rhythmic process. Meditation also increases blood flow, slows heart rate, and decreases muscle tension. Although it may be next to impossible for most little ones to try this, older kids and teens can benefit.
Since happy parents equal happy homes, it is crucial for us to utilize our bountiful endorphin banks. And, although we don’t like to take our endorphins for granted, when it comes to brightening up our days and our children’s lives, we must seize the opportunity.
P.S.S. (Parent Sanity Saver): Dark chocolate contains approximately three times the amount of caffeine as regular milk chocolate products so you may want to avoid its use too close to bedtime.

The author is a Doctor of Pharmacy, mother of two, and chocoholic. E-mail questions/comments to drk@themedicinemom.com or visit her website at www.themedicinemom.com.