Bone loss can have a very real impact on your body. It can leave your bones weak and susceptible to fracture. But the bone loss itself is an invisible process. You cannot see it, hear it or even feel it. If it were painful, it might be easier to know it’s happening, but in fact it doesn’t hurt at all. However, that doesn’t mean that bone loss cannot lead to pain.
While the slowing of your production of new bone might not be painful, the results of weakened bones certainly can be. Bone fractures occur for many reasons, including poor bone quality. In fact, before bone loss was mislabeled as a disease, fractures were the diagnostic bar for osteoporosis.
Some types of breaks, like fractured ribs, are particularly painful, as they involve parts of the body that are difficult to avoid using. Crushed vertebrae are another painful problem related to low bone density. But even for experienced Savers with excellent bone quality, there are many physical injuries and ailments that cause pain.
Today I’m going to talk about your body’s natural pain relieving systems and how you can activate them without the use of bone-damaging, dangerous and habit forming drugs.
Your Brain And Opioids
Opioids are substances that connect with receptors in your brain, to influence your experience of stress or pain and to regulate motivation, emotion, attachment, hunger and satiety.1 Your brain has four major opioid receptors. They are:
- mu-opioid (MOR)
- delta-opioid (DOR)
- kappa-opioid (KOR)
- nociceptin (NOR)
These receptors receive different opioids and have different effects. Your body naturally produces opioids that pair with these receptors, creating useful positive effects. One well-known example is endorphins, a group of hormones that pair with mu-opioid receptors. You have probably heard endorphins mentioned in relation to their mood enhancing feel-good effects.
Natural Vs. Unnatural Opioids
Endorphins are an endogenous opioid, meaning they are synthesized in your body. You probably noticed that “endo” is included in the word endorphins. There are also exogenous opioids, which are not a product of your body, but which have been created to artificially connect with opioid receptors. The most notable of these is the drug morphine.
Opioid drugs like morphine are incredibly powerful, and while they may be valuable for reducing severe pain in extraordinary situations, as a means of ongoing pain management they are highly addictive, dangerous and often deadly. Opioid overdoses killed more than 28,000 people in 2014.2
An Epidemic Of Drug Abuse In America
About half of those deaths resulted from prescription opioids like methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). The remaining deaths were from illegal street drugs such as heroin. Heroine is created, bought and used illegally. Drugs like OxyContin, Kadian or Percocet are legally produced and prescribed by doctors, but they are both opioids, and both are part of an epidemic in this country.
Like so many drugs, pharmaceutical opioids attempt to replicate something natural that your body already makes. But unlike the opioids that your body naturally produces, these drugs have terrible side-effects, are highly addictive and present the risk of overdose.
Here are just some of the side-effects of opioid drugs.2 Bear in mind that these are the possible side effects even as you take these supposedly “safe” drugs exactly according to directions.
- Tolerance (you might have to start taking more of the drug to get the same pain relief)
- Physical dependence (meaning you have withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug)
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth
- Sleepiness and dizziness
- Low levels of testosterone that can result in lower sex drive, energy, and strength
- Itching and sweating
Fortunately, Savers are well versed in a holistic health approach, which includes avoiding drugs that cause side effects, especially when those side effects are as bad as (or sometimes worse than) the problem they are attempting to solve.
Do It Naturally
The good news is that you don’t need to take drugs to activate those opioid receptors in your brain. There are lots of natural methods for increasing them and the production of hormones and natural opioids that unlock their pain reducing, mood-improving effects. And here are no less than 15 ways to do just that.
1. Get Some Sun
You probably already know about the mechanism by which your body uses the sun’s UVB rays to create Vitamin D. That’s deeply important for bone health, as Vitamin D unlocks your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Sunlight also increases your skin’s ability to produce endorphins, which trigger your opioid receptors.3
About a half hour of direct sunlight, unimpeded by windows or UVB blocking sunscreen, is enough to create the endorphins that can lessen your body’s pain response. So open a window and bask in the sun, go for a walk, or find a bench to sit and read while the sun makes you feel good in more ways than one.
2. Take A Cold Shower
Immersion in cold water has been shown to create a reduction in pain.4 The acute physical stress of intermittent cold swims triggers a pain reducing physical mechanism that is controlled by your body’s opioid system.
If you have access to a pool or other body of water to swim in, go for a few dips over the course of your day. Or just take a cold shower. It will wake up both you and your opioid receptors!
3. Get Enough Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, it prevents mu and delta opioid receptors from doing their job.5 When this happens, whatever hurts will hurt more. Be sure to get adequate sleep so you won’t be amplifying the pain.
Sometimes it seems as though sleeping actually causes pain. We’ve all woken up with aches and seemingly unexplainable tightness or stiffness. This might have to do with your sleep posture, which could be distressing parts of your body, or preventing you from getting a full night’s sleep.
4. Get A Massage
Intermittent massage-like stroking of the body causes an increase in pain-reducing mechanisms. This has to do with the “love and trust” molecule, oxytocin.6
Oxytocin engages with the opioid system and in particular your brain’s mu and kappa-receptors. So go for a professional massage, or just ask for a friendly back rub from a partner or loved one.
5. Don’t Skip That Get-Together
Social interaction has a positive effect on your natural pain reduction systems. Spending quality time with people you like actually reduces the sensation of pain. That means a good conversation is more than just a distraction from pain, it actually physically lessens it.7
The part of the human brain that is activated by drug addiction is also activated by human interaction. I guess you could say we’re all addicted to one another. Fortunately, good company is a natural high with zero danger of fatal overdose. So start a book club, go to a party, or host a weekly lunch date, and let your body do the rest.
6. Take a Warm Bath
Warm water increases the synthesis of beta-endorphins, which are shown to improve mood, while also decreasing pain response.8 This is a very different set of results from intermittent dips in cold water, which impact your opioid receptors, so while it might seem counter-intuitive that hot and cold water both decrease pain, it’s true!
So take a hot shower, or run a nice hot bath, and breathe a sigh of relief.
7. Eat Delicious Foods
Really! It’s been scientifically proven that eating foods that please the palate stimulate the mu-opioid receptors in the basal ganglia, which is part of the body’s reward circuit.9 Granted, our body’s desire for rich foods sometimes leads us into unhealthy eating choices, but there is plenty of overlap between mouth-watering dishes and bone health.
So make some easy-to-prepare bone-smart tasty treats, even a delicious no-bake cheesecake! Or simply snack on fruits. Take advantage of healthy and tasty alkaline rich foods to help reduce your body’s pain response. Women, in particular, have been shown in studies to experience less pain after eating sweet palatable foods.10
8. Acupuncture Can Reduce Pain
Acupuncture is a holistic practice that has existed for thousands of years. Now we understand more about why it is effective. Studies have revealed that acupuncture influences both the creation and release of endogenous opioids.11 Meaning your opioid receptors get activated more, creating the same effect that pharmacological opioids dangerously attempt, without the dangers.
Savers already know that magnesium is a crucial mineral for both bone and full body health. The less lauded partner of calcium, it is no less important, playing a critical role in more than 300 body functions. This includes bone formation as well as digestive processes required for the absorption of nutrients.
Magnesium also has pain reductive properties.12 As one of the Foundation Supplements, it should already be a part of your nutritional plan. The Recommended Daily Allowance for women is 320 mg and 420 mg for men.
10. Great Foods That Are Great For Reducing Pain
Chilis and cayenne pepper contain a compound called capsaicin that has been long established to reduce pain.13 So give your dishes an extra kick and help give pain the boot.
Chili peppers are also high in B Vitamins and are an alkalizing food. So seek out recipes that include them for your bone health, whether your warding off pain or not.
11. Probiotics Are Anti-Pain
The probiotic acidophilus has the incredible property of increasing the expression of mu-opioid receptors in intestinal cells, having a morphine-like effect on the gut, without the dangers of taking drugs.14
You can naturally incorporate these benefits by eating yogurt. Remember that plain and unsweetened yogurt is alkalizing, unlike the sweetened, flavored varieties.
12. Increase Your Melatonin Production
Melatonin, much like those warm baths, increases your production of beta-endorphins, triggering mood-enhancing and pain-reducing effects.15
Some turn to melatonin supplements, but it’s best to take a natural course by eating melatonin-boosting foods.16 Here’s a list to get you started:
- Sweet corn
13. Exercise Releases Endorphins
You’ve probably heard of a “runner’s high.” Well, there’s science behind the good feeling that exercise can offer.17 Intensive exercise has been shown to release endorphins that subdue pain.
Getting your body moving should be a part of your healthy lifestyle anyway. Savers know how incredibly important exercise is to creating new bone, as well as to supporting your bones by building your strength. That’s why I created the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System, to help you get the most out of exercise.
Build Younger Bones Faster And Feel Better
Many painful conditions can be addressed when you help your body to support itself more effectively by building strong muscles and bones. Combined with eating bone-healthy foods detailed in the Densercise™ Eating Guide to accelerate results, exercise is a key contributor to fighting pain and felling younger and healthier.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
You don’t have to live with pain. So now that you know what to do, get active in addressing your pain naturally and positively!
Till next time,
1 Kelley AE1, Will MJ, Steininger TL, Zhang M, Haber SN. “Restricted daily consumption of a highly palatable food (chocolate Ensure(R)) alters striatal enkephalin gene expression.” Eur J Neurosci. 2003 Nov;18(9):2592-8. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14622160
2 The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/
3 Tejeda HA1, Bonci A2. “Shedding “UV” light on endogenous opioid dependence.” Cell. 2014 Jun 19;157(7):1500-1. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.06.009. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24949960
4 Drupad Parikh, et al. “Stress-induced analgesia and endogenous opioid peptides: the importance of stress duration” Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 Jan 15; 650(2-3): 563–567. Published online 2010 Oct 31. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2010.10.050 Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3033575/
5 Fadda P1, Tortorella A, Fratta W. “Sleep deprivation decreases mu and delta opioid receptor binding in the rat limbic system.” Neurosci Lett. 1991 Aug 19;129(2):315-7.
6 Fritschy JM, Sarter M. “Repeated massage-like stimulation induces long-term effects on nociception: contribution of oxytocinergic mechanisms.” Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Feb;29(4):868. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06687.x. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19250442
7 Trezza V1, Damsteegt R, Achterberg EJ, Vanderschuren LJ. “Nucleus accumbens μ-opioid receptors mediate social reward.” J Neurosci. 2011 Apr 27;31(17):6362-70. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5492-10.2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21525276
8 Drupad Parikh, et al. “Stress-induced analgesia and endogenous opioid peptides: the importance of stress duration” Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 Jan 15; 650(2-3): 563–567. Published online 2010 Oct 31. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2010.10.050 Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3033575/
9 Gosnell BA1, Levine AS. “Reward systems and food intake: role of opioids.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Jun;33 Suppl 2:S54-8. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.73.Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19528981
10 Mercer ME1, Holder MD. “Antinociceptive effects of palatable sweet ingesta on human responsivity to pressure pain.” Physiol Behav. 1997 Feb;61(2):311-8. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9035263
11 Guoqiang Wen, et al. “Acupuncture-Induced Activation of Endogenous Opioid System” Acupuncture Therapy for Neurological Diseases pp 104-119 Web: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-642-10857-0_4
12 Volpe SL. “Magnesium and the Athlete.” Curr Sports Med Rep. 2015 Jul-Aug;14(4):279-83. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000178. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26166051
13 Szolcsányi J. “Capsaicin and nociception.” Acta Physiol Hung. 1987;69(3-4):323-32. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3661216
14 Rousseaux C et al. “Lactobacillus acidophilus modulates intestinal pain and induces opioid and cannabinoid receptors.” Nat Med. 2007 Jan;13(1):35-7. Epub 2006 Dec 10. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17159985
15 Shavali S1, Ho B, Govitrapong P, Sawlom S, Ajjimaporn A, Klongpanichapak S, Ebadi M. “Melatonin exerts its analgesic actions not by binding to opioid receptor subtypes but by increasing the release of beta-endorphin an endogenous opioid.” Brain Res Bull. 2005 Jan 30;64(6):471-9. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15639542
16 Johns NP1, Johns J, Porasuphatana S, Plaimee P, Sae-Teaw M. “Dietary intake of melatonin from tropical fruit altered urinary excretion of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in healthy volunteers.” J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Jan 30;61(4):913-9. doi: 10.1021/jf300359a. Epub 2013 Jan 17. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23252791
17 Kenneth Blum, Ph.D., et al. “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll: Hypothesizing Common Mesolimbic Activation as a Function of Reward Gene Polymorphisms” J Psychoactive Drugs. 2012 Jan-Mar; 44(1): 38–55. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2012.662112 Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040958/