Changes in diet can have a profound impact on our health, including relief from chronic pain. The less overly salted and sugared processed foods we eat, the less we may suffer from swelling and stiffness; the more fresh fruits and vegetables, the more vitamins and minerals that can speed recovery and decrease discomfort. And there’s one more weapon against pain: sex.
Though we type on fancy computers while refrigerators humm in the background full of all kinds of top-of-the-food-chain delicacies, we’re really not much different than our fur-covered primate cousins when it comes to sex. Like monkeys, especially bonobos, we are social animals and human contact is vital. These connections actually releases endorphins in the brain when we touch or are touched by another human. Called the “cuddling hormone,” oxytocin stimulates feelings of ecstasy and pleasure, which can stave off our awareness of pain.
Sex also taps into the brain’s “reward center” aka its dopamine stash. During orgasm, the dopamine levels spike even more, which adds to the high many people experience during sex. It can be profound enough that not only do people not feel pain, but they can feel like they’ve left their bodies completely. And surely you’ve experienced it—when you’re feeling good you’re less likely to notice pain, whether chronic or acute.
Prolactin is the chemical that steps in post-O and kind of calms things down so that we don’t overdose ourselves in pursuit of dopamine rushes. Prolactin makes us feel satisfied and content, plateauing our experience to a manageable level, which can for some time, also decrease pain.
The release of these juicy hormones can create a domino effect on our wellbeing. Post-sex, we sleep better and that can relax and regulate the body, helping to manage pain. So the more regular your sex life is, the better your chances for not only feeling pain free, but feeling really, really good. Life’s too short to feel otherwise, right?
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Photo: dr_vaibhavahuja courtesy of Creative Commons