What Is the Connection between Endorphins and Food?

Jacob Queen

Endorphins and food are connected because certain foods may have the potential to trigger endorphin release in the brain. For the most part, the body produces endorphins, which are like a natural opiate, as a response to physical activity and as a way of soothing pain from injuries. Certain foods, specifically peppers and other spicy substances along with chocolate, also have the potential to trigger a release of endorphins. Some experts think these foods can become addictive because endorphins are very much like a drug in the way the body reacts to them.

Eating certain foods can release endorphins in the brain.
Eating certain foods can release endorphins in the brain.

One of the more common foods mentioned when experts are talking about the connection between endorphins and food is the pepper. In theory, this is because peppers are painful to eat, especially very hot peppers like jalapenos. When the body perceives this pain, it may react as though an actual injury is occurring, releasing endorphins to soothe the pain and calm the mind. Other spicy foods may have the potential to trigger the same reaction, and certain individuals might become somewhat addicted to the subtle shift in mental state that occurs due to the endorphins released when eating these foods.

Spicy foods may become addictive.
Spicy foods may become addictive.

Another food that often comes up when experts are discussing the connection between endorphins and food is chocolate. Some experts have even suggested that chocolate could be seen as a kind of natural painkiller drug because of these effects, even though they are believed to be rather subtle. There are also a few other mood-oriented advantages with most foods containing chocolate because they usually also contain a lot of sugar. Many experts believe that sugar can trigger the human body to release serotonin, a chemical that has a slightly different but also powerful effect on mood, stimulating calmness and soothing away feelings of stress. Much like spicy peppers, chocolate is known to be mildly addictive for certain people.

Since endorphins are generally released in reaction to trauma, most of the things that trigger a release are related to injury or some kind of physical stress, and the connection between endorphins and food is thought to be a significant but only minor part of the overall picture. For example, exercise is generally considered a very efficient way of triggering endorphin release because the body may perceive a heavy-duty workout as a kind of traumatic injury. Some people also believe that the pain triggered through acupuncture might trigger endorphins and play a big role in the pain relief some people get when taking these treatments.

Sweets, especially those with chocolate, have been shown to release endorphins in the brain.
Sweets, especially those with chocolate, have been shown to release endorphins in the brain.

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Discussion Comments


This is a great article!

I recently had surgery and I didn't want to take my prescription pain medications because I know that they cause dependency. I've only been taking mild, over the counter pain relievers which are not enough for the pain I have. But I have been craving a lot of spicy food so I've basically been eating hot curries for the past week! I feel much better than I did last week, so I guess it's working.


Foods may increase endorphins, but like the article said, I don't think it's anything major. More endorphins are released when we exercise. So we're better off working out than eating chili peppers and chocolate.

I think people who need to improve their mood or who suffer from pain should avoid sugar. Even if sugar causes feelings of comfort through endorphins, it's not going to last long. It's a temporary effect. Sugar has more disadvantages in the long term, such as causing insulin resistance which actually ruins health and mood.

Someone who eats a balanced, healthy diet and takes a daily walk in nature when there is sunlight already has enough endorphins.


As far as I know, foods high in carbohydrates like bread and cake also increase serotonin and endorphins. This is why we reach for comfort foods when we are feeling down. Most comfort foods are carbohydrates and contain sugar.

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