Low dopamine levels can lead to lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behavior, mood swings and memory loss. Learn how to increase dopamine naturally.
There are about 86 billion neurons in the human brain. They communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s a key contributor to motivation, productivity, and focus.
Let’s take a closer look at dopamine — what it does, the symptoms of deficiency, and how to increase it naturally.
What Does Dopamine Do?
Dopamine has been called our “motivation molecule.”
It boosts our drive, focus, and concentration.
It enables us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals.
It gives us that “I did it!” lift when we accomplish what we set out to do.
It makes us competitive and provides the thrill of the chase in all aspects of life — business, sports, and love.
Dopamine is in charge of our pleasure-reward system. (1)
It allows us to have feelings of enjoyment, bliss, and even euphoria.
But too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and even depressed.
Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms
People low in dopamine lack a zest for life.
They exhibit low energy and motivation, and often rely on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants to get through the day.
Many common symptoms of dopamine deficiency are similar to those of depression:
- lack of motivation
- inability to feel pleasure
- low libido
- sleep problems
- mood swings
- memory loss
- inability to concentrate
Dopamine-deficient lab mice become so apathetic and lethargic they lack motivation to eat and starve to death. (2) Conversely, some people who are low in dopamine compensate with self-destructive behaviors to get their dopamine boost. This can include use and abuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, shopping, video games, sex, power, or gambling.
How to Increase Dopamine Naturally
There are plenty of unhealthy ways to raise dopamine. But you don’t have to resort to “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” to boost your dopamine levels. Here are some healthy, proven ways to increase dopamine levels naturally.
Dopamine Boosting Foods
Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine. Eating a diet high in tyrosine will ensure you’ve got the basic building blocks needed for dopamine production.
- all animal products
- fava beans
- green leafy vegetables
- green tea
- lima beans
- sea vegetables
- sesame and pumpkin seeds
- wheat germ
Foods high in natural probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut can also increase natural dopamine production. Oddly, the health of your intestinal flora impacts your production of neurotransmitters. An overabundance of bad bacteria leaves toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which lower levels of dopamine. (7)
Sugar has been found to boost dopamine but this is a temporary boost, more drug-like than food-like. (8)
There are supplements that can raise dopamine levels naturally. Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It’s available in an isolated form as a supplement. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and can boost levels of dopamine. (9, 10, 11) Curcumin has been found to help alleviate obsessive actions and improve associated memory loss by increasing dopamine. (12, 13)
Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor concentration, forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety. (14) One of the mechanisms by which ginkgo works is by raising dopamine. (15, 16)
L-theanine is a component found in green tea. It increases levels of dopamine along with other neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA. (17, 18) L-theanine improves recall, learning, and positive mood. (19, 20) You can get a dopamine boost by either taking theanine supplements or by drinking 3 cups of green tea per day. (21)
Phosphatidylserine acts as your brain’s “gatekeeper,” regulating nutrients and waste in and out of your brain.
Boost Dopamine with Exercise
Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. It boosts production of new brain cells, slows down brain cell aging, and improves the flow of nutrients to the brain. It can also increase your levels of dopamine and the other “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. (26)
Dr. John Ratey, renowned psychiatrist and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, has extensively studied the effects of physical exercise on the brain.
He found that exercise raises baseline levels of dopamine by promoting the growth of new brain cell receptors. Dopamine is responsible in part for the high serious runners experience. (27) But you don’t need to exercise strenuously to enhance your brain.
Use Your Brain’s Reward System to Balance Dopamine Levels
Dopamine functions as a survival mechanism by releasing energy when a great opportunity is in front of you. Dopamine rewards us when our needs are met. We love dopamine surges because of the way they make us feel.
How to Increase Dopamine: The Bottom Line
Dopamine is our “motivation molecule.” It’s also in charge of our pleasure-reward system. There are both healthy ways and unhealthy ways to increase dopamine. Unhealthy ways to increase dopamine can be gateways to self-destruction and addictions.
Healthy ways include eating the right foods, taking dopamine boosting supplements, physical exercise, and meditation. Learn how to harness your reward system for a healthy stream of dopamine. Enjoy the quest, set both long term and short term goals, and take on new challenges.
You’ll feel more alive, focused, productive, and motivated.
Article originally published on bebrainfit.com republished with permission