Dopamine is a major neurotransmitter that plays a leading role in our motivation, productivity levels and focus. It’s that little something that makes everything else spark. However, on the other side of the spectrum, there’s low dopamine levels which can lead to a lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behaviours, mood swings and memory loss. Of course, those aren’t things that we want to experience and therefore, I’ll give you some advice so that you can discover how to enhance your dopamine levels…naturally.
You will learn the importance of dopamine, the effect that it has on your brain and the symptoms of a lack thereof and, the healthy & unhealthy ways to boost it!
What is Dopamine and What does it Do?
The human brain contains about 86 billion neurons communicating with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Dopamine is one of the most studied neurotransmitters because of its links to key human behaviours: motivation, pleasure and addictions. Moreover, it plays a role on other important aspects of our “make-up”, including attention, memory, learning, mood, sleep, movement and pleasure.
Regrettably, dopamine dysfunction can cause illnesses, notably Parkinson’s disease which is the result of the death of dopamine producing cells. Furthermore, there aren’t many neurons that produce dopamine and the areas in the brain producing them are limited.
Dopamine is also used by other parts of the body, our kidneys, pancreas and immune cells rely on it. However, the production of dopamine happens in the brain since it can move past the brain’s blood barrier. Surprisingly, this neurotransmitter is not a human characteristic, it can also be found in the animal kingdom and even, some plants!
How does it impact your daily life?
It’s the neurotransmitter that boosts YOU – your drive, focus and concentration. It allows you to plan ahead and resist impulses in order to achieve your goals. In addition, it’s also the one, that makes you go: “Yeah, I did it!”
Dopamine plays a part in competitive and thrilling aspects of life in business, sports and/or love! In the same way, it controls your pleasure/reward system and allows you the wonderful experiences of joy, bliss and euphoria…
Let’s now discover how to enhance dopamine levels…
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How to Enhance Dopamine Levels Naturally
Low dopamine levels will leave the sufferer unfocused, lethargic, unmotivated and sometimes, depressed.
If you would like to know if you suffer from a dopamine deficiency, those are the most common symptoms:
- A lack of motivation
- Higher levels of procrastination
- Low levels of productivity
- Inability to complete tasks
- Memory loss
- Generalized apathy (or episodes)
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Mood swings
- Sleeping issues
- Hopelessness and feelings of depression
- Low or non-existent libido
- Risky behaviours (like addictions or excess)
Unfortunately, dopamine deficiency can manifest with mental illness including depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder and many addictions. (1)
Unhealthy Ways to Increase Dopamine
Some ways to increase dopamine levels can eventually become quite detrimental to us. For example, any action that help to endure our survival, such as eating, drinking, making money or having sex will release dopamine. Ultimately, this ensures that we’ll continue to do those things to survive.
Some of the most addictive and commonly used substances can raise dopamine phenomenally. For instance, nicotine will boost your levels by 200%, cocaine by 400% and amphetamines by…1000%! Sadly, those people generally don’t realize that this dopamine boost is highly addictive and can easily lead to self-destructive behaviours.
Similarly, the abuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, sex, pornography, video games, power, gambling is effective but those are temporary dopamine enhancers. Fortunately, there are healthy alternatives. You don’t need to go all Rock’n’roll to boost your dopamine levels!
Healthy Ways to Increase Dopamine or Dopamine Usage
Your diet can play a big part on your dopamine levels, certain foods actually contain a little dopamine or its precursors. Nevertheless, to actually boost your levels, you’ll need to use a precursor because dopamine won’t cross the blood-brain barrier. Luckily, an amino acid can help you, the sweet l-tyrosine. L-tyrosine is usually found in foods rich in protein. By eating a diet high in l-tyrosine, you will get the basics for dopamine synthesis.
It’s time to prepare your grocery list, here are the foods, drinks and spices that will increase your dopamine levels:
- Dairy products
- Fish (be careful when overeating fish, it could lower your testosterone levels)
- Chocolate (the darker the better)
- Fava beans
- Green Tea
- Green vegetables
- Olive oil (extra virgin)
- Sesame and pumpkin seeds
- Soy foods
- Wheat germs
There’s a special mention for fava beans: they contain a direct precursor of dopamine, l-dopa. Additionally, foods rich in probiotics will also increase dopamine production, stock up on: kefir, yogurt and sauerkraut! (2)
To optimize your dopamine levels you can do the following: reduce drastically your consumption of saturated fat (fast food, cured meats, ready made meals, etc.), sugar is a temporary boost that shouldn’t be relied upon and artificial sweeteners, too. Otherwise, if you really need a sugary fix, you can use a little stevia instead. In conclusion, it’s safe to say that the quality of your diet plays a major factor on your dopamine levels. Consequently, keeping your diet and lifestyle on check will promote a healthy dopamine production.
(1) The role of dopamine in reward and pleasure behaviour–review of data from preclinical research. Bressan RA, Crippa JA. Acta Psychiatr Scand Suppl. 2005. (2) Simultaneous Determination of Levodopa and Carbidopa from Fava Bean, Green Peas and Green Beans by High Performance Liquid Gas Chromatography. Mohseni Mehran S.M. and Golshani B. J Clin Diagn Res. 2013.