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10 Ways You Can Increase Dopamine Levels In The Brain Without Medication

January 20, 2016 by Stephan Gardner

“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.” – Psychology Today

There are a lot of articles on the internet about dopamine and how it affects your mood, behavior, energy, and focus. What’s not commonly spoken about, however, is how dopamine is affected by your perception. Discussed more rarely still is the reason why your dopamine levels may be low. Below are 10 ways to increase your dopamine levels, courtesy of Power of Positivity, as well as my own observations regarding the underlying issues which may have led to each situation, and how to tackle them.

1. Don’t Get Addicted

“Many people get addicted to something because it gives them some kind of instant gratification – drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, shopping, and other addictive behaviors actually have the opposite effect on dopamine levels in the long-term. In essence, when we get overly addicted to something, the ‘reward circuitry’ of our brain kicks into overdrive and we crave the ‘quick hit.’ This is not a sustainable solution for dopamine production, which can and should be done naturally.”

What’s missing here is the fact that addiction is quite often a result of low dopamine, meaning addiction is more of an attempt to fix an already existing problem. In essence, “the underpinning of your addictive personality is a lack of fulfillment from within, with a resulting urge to achieve fulfillment through substances, objects, or events that relieve the inevitable pain – for a while.” (source)

“When we receive a reward of any kind, dopamine is released in our brains. Over time, this stimulus and release of dopamine can lead to learning. Researchers have recently found that how quickly and permanently we learn things relates directly to how much dopamine we have available in our brains. As we get rewarded over and over again for something, we learn that we should keep doing whatever that is very deeply, and it’s hard to unlearn those kinds of behaviours.” (source)

What this means is that low-dopamine is a response to a lifestyle which doesn’t offer much in terms of reward to the person living it. It may be a response to the environment you’re living in, the clothes you’re wearing, the tight budget you’re working within, the relationship choices you’ve made or have been made for you, or a result of trauma where there was no perceived reward. It’s very easy to understand how dopamine levels may appear low when we consider all the potentials leading to less-rewarding lifestyles and life-experiences.

What’s necessary then is less of a ‘don’t get addicted’ approach and more of an ‘increase the rewards in your life’ style of applied advice. Fact is, you’ll constantly feel less fulfilled through low dopamine when you’re not (or are unable to) fill your day with things that inspire and reward you. Meaning, the most effective protection against addiction and greatest advantage to high-dopamine levels is a defense against low-rewarding activities and an offence working towards rewarding actions, activities, and ultimately, a lifestyle of fulfillment and achievement.

Also, because addiction is most often rooted in past traumatic experiences, where emotions create a fight or flight response that becomes rooted in your core emotions, it’s vitally important to seek proper and effective help in dissolving past trauma. Doing so can only help you perceive more rewarding experiences in your life, rather than filtering experiences through a ‘traumatized’ awareness.

2. Checklist Small Tasks

“Dopamine increases when we are organized and finish tasks – regardless if the task is small or large. So, don’t allow your brain to worry about things that need to be done. Instead, write these tasks down and then check them off one at a time. It’s been shown that it’s more satisfying to the brain’s dopamine levels when we physically check something off of our to-do list. Also, write down and check stuff off regardless if you can mentally remember the tasks.”

In reading the book Principles of Self-Management, I came across a brilliantly well-researched understanding of motivation when it comes to tasks. In short, if a task is greater than 25% of a change in a person’s routine, the person will be overwhelmed with feeling incapable of achieving it. This leads them to self-defeat and self-sabotage to avoid accomplishing the task. On the other side, if a task is less than 10% different than a person’s normal routine, they don’t do it because it won’t have enough meaning for them to do so. As such, it’s wise to make sure you write down goals and tasks that are in between this 10% to 25% range of new behaviors and actions, otherwise, you just won’t do it.

However, this 10-25% range is simply a guide for tasks that are not directly linked to our highest values. In reality, if you can link a task to your highest values and see clearly how it will help you accomplish what’s truly most important to you, you’ll do it. If you can’t see how it will help fulfill your highest values, you’ll procrastinate, hesitate, and get frustrated in the attempt to do it. By linking a task to your highest values, you’ll both increase the chances of you doing it and also increase the reward you will feel when you accomplish it, a result of producing more dopamine in the brain.

3. Create Something

“For us writers, painters, sculptors, poets, singers, dancers, and other artists, we can identify with this. When we’re in creative mode, we can become hyper-focused. As a result, we can enter a state called flow. Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows us to achieve this state. The lesson is this: take up a hobby or activity in which you actually create something tangible. Try something like arts, crafts, auto repair, drawing, photography, or something else that sounds interesting.”

Sparking your creative drive is an effective way to increase your potential for feeling great, achieving goals and inspiring yourself through your accomplishments. However, it can also be a distraction from a feel-bad lifestyle, if it’s not maintained with a purpose in mind. Whenever you’re working on a project, creative or not, that truly inspires you, you’ll activate your ‘flow state,’ where time and space seem to stand still. So how to you determine what it is that truly inspires you?

The most important goal in revealing your most authentic creative energy is to remove the creative energies of other people from your life. So many of us look up to the creations of others, whether works of art or music, and their works or talents take up time and space in our own minds. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can influence your own beliefs about what you can create. If you compare yourself to others and minimize yourself, you’ll repress your own creative ability. This can affect your dopamine levels, because if you can’t see your own creations as rewarding to you, as much as someone else’s, you’ll feel inferior and incapable.

One very effective way of neutralizing the influence other people have on your mind is to literally look at the negatives or downsides of their accomplishment. This isn’t to practice being a critic, but it can enable you to de-infatuate with their creative powers, helping you to stop minimizing your own. Once you recognize that your creative endeavors can exist on the level of those you admire, through practice (just like they did), you’ll increase your ability to see your own creations as meaningful and rewarding.

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 4. Exercise

“Same ‘ole, same ‘ole, we know. We’ve discussed repeatedly the importance and benefits of physical exercise, and we’re just going to add to this list again. So, not only does exercise help us relieve stress, achieve better physical health and make us more productive; it boosts our dopamine levels. More specifically, exercise increases multiple neurotransmitters – serotonin and endorphins, besides dopamine, receive a boost. Here’s something else cool: the exercise needn’t not be arduous. Simply taking a stroll or climbing some stairs will achieve a good dopamine jolt.”

Exercise is important, but it can also become a crutch or an addiction if it’s not something being integrated into your daily life. Many people go to the gym to work out, yet don’t live a life that requires the body they’re building. Another thing is actually placing a value on exercise itself. Many people buy the gym memberships, yet never use them. So what’s the easiest way to make exercise a part of your life?

There’s a branch of exercise called ‘functional training’ in which exercises are tailored to help you with your daily tasks. This is much more helpful than just ‘workouts,’ because if you can train your body into a state where your daily tasks are not taxing on your energy, you’ll breeze through the day and have more energy at the end of it. Staying in a high energy state instead of being brought down by your daily tasks will help you be more inspired during your day and innately feel more inspired to exercise.

5. Get a Streak Going

“As with creating a checklist, getting a streak going is a great way to increase dopamine levels. For the purpose of this article, a streak is a visual reminder of how many days in a row you’ve achieved something.

Get a calendar specifically for this purpose: write down whatever goal you have and the days of the week or month when they are scheduled. For example, if you work out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, mark these days on the calendar for the month. As you finish a workout, mark it off on the calendar. Keep a streak going, and you’ll keep the dopamine coming.”

While the ‘streak’ is a useful tool for celebrating accomplishments, it unfortunately has a downside—routine. Doing something enough times becomes a routine, especially if the action isn’t continuously fulfilling to your highest values. To counter this, try adapting the ‘goal’ or ‘action’ in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. By continuously finding ways to improve the performance of the behavior, over time, you can look back at how many times you’ve done it, but also how much better you’ve become at it. This way, your performance becomes a competition with yourself, which increases your potential for feeling rewarded as you master a skill.

6. Increase Tyrosine

“Of the chemicals that make up dopamine, none are more important than tyrosine. In fact, tyrosine is considered the building block of dopamine. Therefore, it is important that you get enough of this protein. There’s a large list of foods that increase Tyrosine, including: Almonds, Avocados, Bananas, Beef, Chicken, Chocolate, Coffee, Eggs, Green Tea, Watermelon, Yogurt.”

Food is a reward, not a chore. This is the difference between living to eat and eating to live. While it’s important to utilize foods to your advantage, it’s just as important to recognize that the brain is its own best pharmacy. Few foods actually make it past the blood-brain barrier and this actually includes Tyrosine.

“Tyrosine is one of the 22 key amino acids that are used for building proteins around the body. In addition to this, however, it also raises the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, namely dopamine and norepinephrine. These are famous for being ‘feel good’ chemicals that can help boost mood and elevate concentration, making tyrosine a popular nootropic. However, tyrosine is completely incapable of passing the BBB. This way, no matter how much of it you were to take, you’d feel almost no effects.” (source)

The truth is, tyrosine must be bonded with another molecule to make it past the blood-brain barrier, so tyrosine in itself isn’t capable of making significant impacts on the brain. However, through natural digestion and regulating healthy bodily function, it can assist the brain in having to work less on fixing an unhealthy system, which in turn can help increase the potential for dopamine and dopamine related good feelings.

7. Listen to Music

“Do you ever wonder why music makes you happy? I mean, we can be in the dumps one moment but once we put on our favorite jam, we’re swaying and shaking away…feeling pretty good about ourselves too! The reason for this is that listening to music increases dopamine levels. In fact, scientists say that listening to music has the same effect as eating our favorite foods or watching our favorite T.V. show. So, when you’re feeling down, throw on some of your favorite tunes and jam out!”

Listening to music can increase dopamine levels temporarily, but what we’re really looking for is a lasting fulfillment feeling so you can make your daily life enjoyable and productive for your goals. Also, popular music these days is often manufactured in such a way as to prey on your brain’s chemical dependency, making much of music a form of substance addiction.

However, music has been a part of human history since as far as we can see, so its influence on our brain is greatly appreciated. In fact, one of the greatest cultural appreciations throughout history has been music. So, listen to music, but just make sure it’s not the only source of dopamine in your life.

 8. Meditate

“As with exercise, we are discovering more and more benefits to meditation. We are again adding to the list. As we discussed, the human brain is susceptible to a variety of addictions. One other addictive habit that we have is overthinking. In fact, some Buddhists have a phrase for this addiction: ‘monkey mind.’

Overthinking is not merely a distracting habit, it’s also a genuine compulsion that leaves us in a perplexing state, while also having a negative effect on our spiritual development. However, scientists are finally catching up to what Buddhists have known for thousands of years: meditation and mindfulness are essential to a healthy mind.”

Meditation can be a highly effective form of dopamine increase if done properly, as it can weed out the mental influences which may be causing your chemistry to be less than desired. With the intent of reaching a state of self-fulfillment, meditation clears out the mental clutter and replaces it with presence and fulfillment for just being alive. This is a state available to every human and can help assist our daily lives by increasing our awareness of what feels good for us and what we don’t resonate with.

9. Take Supplements

“While there are some great ways to increase dopamine levels, sometimes we’re facing a time crunch. Fortunately, there are natural supplements on the market that have been shown to increase dopamine levels. Here are a few:

  • Acetyl-l-tyrosine: Another building block of dopamine. A healthy dose of this makes it easier for the brain to produce dopamine.
  • Curcumin: An active ingredient that’s also common in curry spices and turmeric.
  • Ginkgo Biloba: A tremendously popular wonder supplement that’s also believed to boost dopamine levels and keep it circulating in the brain longer.
  • L-theanine: Increases multiple neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. Green tea is a terrific source for this.” (source)

While supplements can impact our dopamine response, they should by no means replace your own inner potential for fulfillment. That responsibility lies with you and you alone. However, with respect to inner wisdom, without knowing what feeling amazing actually feels like, it’s difficult to strive for it as a goal. Supplements can help us get there so we can have a reference point for what our potential can be. The trick is to facilitate change in our lives, enough so that the need for supplementation to feel good is lower than the feel goods we actually experience in our life.

10. Toxic Cleansing

“As miraculous as our bodies are, we do accumulate toxins and bacteria that is bad for us. Endotoxins are the kind that can cause our immune systems to get out of whack, and it also constrains the production of dopamine. Here are a couple tips for helping cleanse the gut of endotoxins: eat fermented food, get enough sleep, and resist the urge to indulge in fatty or sugary foods.”

Whenever you’re not fulfilled in your life, you run the risk of over-indulging in sugary and sweet foods in an attempt to temporarily fulfill yourself. However, if you find fulfillment through the challenge and support of your day, you’re more likely to eat for the tasks you’re doing instead of eating just to feel good.

How you eat and how fulfilled you are, are directly correlated. If you’re actively enjoying the challenges of your life, you’re more likely to consume foods that serve your highest interests and health, because you see a reason to eat well. Controlling how you eat is less important than finding fulfillment in what you do.

So the next time you find yourself craving that candy bar, ask yourself if there isn’t something else you could eat that could help you find fulfillment. Also, notice what you are doing at the time you’re craving sugar and ask yourself if it’s really something you need to do, or can you delegate it to someone else so you can get back to things that inspire you. By focusing on what inspires and fulfills you, you’ll find yourself actively seeking to better your health without having to really focus on it.


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How to Increase Dopamine, the Motivation Molecule

By Deane Alban      Contributing Writer for Wake Up World      7th March 2015

Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter for motivation, focus and productivity. Learn the symptoms of dopamine deficiency and natural ways to increase dopamine levels …

There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain — about as many stars as there are in the Milky Way. These cells communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for providing motivation, drive, and focus. It plays a role in many mental disorders including depression, addictions, ADHD, and schizophrenia.

Let’s take a closer look at dopamine — what it does, symptoms of deficiency, and how to increase it naturally.

Dopamine: The Motivation Molecule

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. 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 dopamine deficiency symptoms are similar to those of depression:

  • lack of motivation
  • fatigue
  • apathy
  • procrastination
  • inability to feel pleasure
  • low libido
  • sleep problems
  • mood swings
  • hopelessness
  • memory loss
  • inability to concentrate

Dopamine-deficient lab mice become so apathetic and lethargic they lack motivation to eat and starve to death.  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.

Foods That Increase Dopamine

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.

Here’s a list of tyrosine-rich foods:

  • all animal products
  • almonds
  • apples
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • beets
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • fava beans
  • green leafy vegetables
  • green tea
  • lima beans
  • oatmeal
  • sea vegetables
  • sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • turmeric
  • watermelon
  • 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.

Sugar has been found to boost dopamine but this is a temporary boost, more drug-like than food-like.

Dopamine Supplements

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.

Curcumin has been found to help alleviate obsessive actions and improve associated memory loss by increasing dopamine.

Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor concentration, forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety.

One of the mechanisms by which ginkgo works is by raising dopamine.

L-theanine is a component found in green tea. It increases levels of dopamine along with other neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA.  L-theanine improves recall, learning, and positive mood. You can get your dopamine boost by either taking theanine supplements or by drinking 3 cups of green tea per day.

L-tyrosine — the precursor to dopamine — is available as a supplement.

We recommend taking acetyl-l-tyrosine — a more absorbable form that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.

Phosphatidylserine acts as your brain’s “gatekeeper,” regulating nutrients and waste in and out of your brain. It can increase dopamine levels and improve memory, concentration, learning, and ADHD.

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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.

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.  But you don’t need to exercise strenuously to enhance your brain. Taking walks, or doing gentle, no-impact exercises like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong all provide powerful mind-body benefits.

Increase Dopamine with Meditation

The benefits of meditation have been proven in over 1,000 studies.  Regular meditators experience enhanced ability to learn, increased creativity, and deep relaxation. It’s been shown that meditation increases dopamine, improving focus and concentration.

Crafting hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, and home repair — focus the brain similarly to meditation. These activities increase dopamine, ward off depression, and protect against brain aging.

Listening to music can cause of release of dopamine. Oddly, you don’t even have to hear music to get this neurotransmitter flowing — just the anticipation of listening can do that.

Using Your Brain’s Reward System to Balance Dopamine

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. But according to Dr. Loretta Graziano Breuning, author of Meet Your Happy Chemicals: Dopamine, Endorphin, Oxytocin, Serotonin, we are not designed to experience a non-stop dopamine buzz. The constant hunt for dopamine boosts can turn you into a “Wolf on Wall Street” — driven by addictions, greed, and lust.

Here are some healthy ways to balance your dopamine by working with your brain’s built-in reward system.

Enjoy the Quest

Our ancestors were on a constant quest to survive. They got a dopamine surge every time they spotted a new patch of berries or a better fishing hole because this meant they’d live to seek another day. While you can still pick berries and fish, there are endless other healthy ways you can enjoy the quest in modern life.

You can forage for new music to download, specialty ingredients to cook with, a travel package bargain, a hard-to-find collector’s item, or that perfect gift for a loved one. You can engage in specifically quest-oriented hobbies like geocaching, bird watching, rockhounding, amateur archaeology, and collecting of all kinds.

The act of seeking and finding activates your reward circuits — with no regrets later.

Create Both Long and Short Term Goals

Dopamine is released when we achieve a goal. Having only long term goals gets frustrating, so set both short term and long term goals. Short term goals don’t have to be anything major. They can be as simple as trying a new recipe, getting caught up on emails, cleaning a closet, or finally learning how to use a new app for your phone.

Break up long term goals into small short term goals to give yourself dopamine boosts along the way.

Take on a New Challenge

Getting a promotion is a great dopamine boost, but this doesn’t happen very often! But you can create your own dopamine rewards by setting a goal, then take small steps toward it every day. This can be starting a new exercise program, learning French, or challenging yourself to drive home from work a different way every day, preferably without the use of your GPS.

According to Dr. Graziano Breuning, working on a goal without fail for 45 days will train your brain to stimulate dopamine production in a new way.

Dopamine and Mental Conditions

Dopamine plays such an important role in how we live our lives, it’s no surprise that when the dopamine system is out of balance it can contribute to many mental conditions.

Some of the most common conditions that have a dopamine connection:

Dopamine and ADHD

The underlying cause of ADHD is still unknown. Until recently it was widely accepted that the root cause of ADHD was probably an abnormality in dopamine function. This seems logical since dopamine is critical for maintaining focus. Most ADHD medications are based on this “dopamine deficiency” theory. Prescription medications used to treat ADHD are believed to work by increasing the release of dopamine and norepinephrine while slowing down their rate of reabsorption.

However, the latest research suggests that the main cause of ADHD lies in a structural difference in the grey matter in the brain and not dopamine.

Dopamine and Depression

Serotonin is the brain chemical most associated with depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro are prescribed for depression and work by increasing brain levels of serotonin. But this only works in about 40% of patients who use them.

What about the other 60%?

There’s a growing body of evidence that shows low dopamine and not low serotonin is the cause of depression for many. Bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin) has proven effective for patients who haven’t been helped by SSRIs by addressing dopamine deficiency.

How to determine if your depression is more likely from serotonin versus dopamine deficiency? Serotonin-based depression is accompanied by anxiety and irritability, while dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life.


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Dopamine Deficiency And Your Mental Health

by Deane Alban    ON JULY 11, 2015

If you wake up every morning and feel like “the thrill is gone,” you may have a dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is the main brain chemical responsible for making us feel motivated. Low levels of dopamine can manifest in some very disruptive ways. It can leave you feeling fatigued, apathetic, moody and unable to concentrate. Just as importantly, it plays a role in many mental disorders including depression, addiction of all kinds, Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Understanding how dopamine affects your life is a key to taking control of this neurotransmitter — instead of letting it take control of you.

What Is Dopamine?

Dopamine is considered one of the “feel good” neurotransmitters, along with serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. It has several distinct major functions. It’s been called the “motivation molecule” for providing the drive and focus you need to be productive. It’s also been called the “reward chemical” since it’s in charge of your brain’s pleasure-reward system. Dopamine plays a role in numerous brain functions involving mood, sleep, learning, the ability to focus and concentrate, motor control, and working memory.

What Does Dopamine Do?

Understanding dopamine’s functions is a work in progress. Over 110,000 research papers have been written about it, yet scientists are still trying to determine exactly what it does. Here are some of the known functions of dopamine: Dopamine is crucial to the feeling of motivation you need to work towards both long-term and short-term goals. It delivers a feeling of satisfaction when you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Dopamine is released when your needs are about to be met .

Dopamine helped our ancestors survive by giving them an energy boost when presented with a great opportunity, such as locating a new source of food. You wouldn’t think we’d need to be motivated to find food, yet alarmingly, lab mice with dopamine deficiency are so unmotivated they starve to death — even when food is readily available. Our modern lifestyle doesn’t provide the same opportunities for dopamine boosts that our ancestors experienced, like hunting down dinner. But we still seek dopamine because of the way it makes us feel — alive and excited.

There are both healthy and unhealthy ways to get a dopamine lift. You can boost your dopamine watching or playing sports, learning something new, finishing a project, or landing a new account at work. Any form of accomplishment that gives you that “Yes, I did it!” feeling will increase dopamine. The unhealthy way to stimulate dopamine production is with addictive substances of all kinds.

Low Dopamine Symptoms

Dopamine deficiency sucks the zest out of life. It can leave you feeling apathetic, hopeless, and joyless. It makes it hard to start things and even harder to finish them. Common low dopamine symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Insomnia
  • Hard time getting going in the morning
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Inability to connect with others
  • Low libido
  • Sugar cravings
  • Caffeine cravings
  • Inability to handle stress
  • Inability to lose weight

 

Dopamine Deficiency Related Disorders

When dopamine levels are out of balance, they can be an important factor in many mental health and other systemic disorders. Here are some of the most common conditions that have a dopamine deficiency connection.

Low Dopamine And Depression

Depression is usually thought of as due to a lack of serotonin, another “feel good” brain chemical. But there’s a growing body of evidence that dopamine deficiency is the underlying cause of depression for many people instead. This explains why selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — depression medications that work by increasing serotonin — work for only 40 percent of those who use them. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is an antidepressant that works by addressing low dopamine for those who have not been helped by SSRIs. There’s a difference in the symptoms of depression experienced by those with serotonin versus dopamine deficiency. Dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life, while serotonin-based depression tends to be accompanied by anxiety.

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The Dopamine Addiction Connection

People low in dopamine are more prone to addictions of all kinds. People with dopamine addictions often rely on caffeine, sugar, smoking, or other stimulants to boost their energy, focus, and drive. What they are really doing is self-medicating to increase their dopamine levels. Using self-destructive behaviors to overcome dopamine deficiency can lead to addictions of all kinds — video games, shopping, gambling, sex, money, power, alcohol, and drugs.

Dopamine And Parkinson’s Disease

When dopamine-generating brain cells in one specific part of the brain die, it leads to Parkinson’s, a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Parkinson’s usually starts with a slight tremor in one hand. Patients gradually lose their ability to regulate their movements and emotions. There is no cure but so far the most effective treatment is levodopa, a natural compound that converts into dopamine.

ADHD And Dopamine

The underlying cause of ADHD is still unknown. But it is widely accepted that the root cause of ADHD is probably an abnormality in dopamine function. This seems logical since dopamine is critical for maintaining focus. Most ADHD medications are based on the “dopamine deficiency” theory. Prescription medications used to treat ADHD are believed to work by increasing the release of dopamine and norepinephrine while slowing down their rate of reabsorption.

Schizophrenia And Dopamine

The cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role. One prevailing theory is that it’s caused by an overactive dopamine system . Supporting evidence for this theory is that the best drugs to treat schizophrenia symptoms resemble dopamine and block dopamine receptors. However, these medications can take days to work, which indicates that the exact mechanism is not yet fully understood.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms In Fibromyalgia And Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Both fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are associated with low dopamine levels. Low dopamine symptoms experienced by FMS and CFS patients include brain fog, achy muscles, poor concentration, tremors, poor balance and coordination, and walking abnormalities.

How To Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

If you experience signs of low dopamine, you don’t have to live with it. There are several lifestyle changes that can increase dopamine naturally.

Dopamine Foods

The amino acid tyrosine is a precursor of dopamine. Tyrosine-rich foods provide the basic building blocks for dopamine production. Phenylalanine is an amino acid that converts into tyrosine.

Virtually all animal products are good sources of both tyrosine and phenylalanine. Here are some other foods known to increase dopamine:

  • Legumes
  • Almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • Apples, avocados, bananas, watermelon
  • Beets, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee and green tea
  • Oatmeal
  • Turmeric
  • Wheat germ

Dopamine Supplements

Dopamine is a serious medicine used in emergency situations like heart attacks and shock. So while actual dopamine supplements are not available, there are many dopamine boosting supplements you can try. The most obvious dopamine supplement to consider is l-tyrosine. Without it, you can’t make dopamine. Even if you think you get plenty of l-tyrosine in your diet, you may not be converting it effectively.

There are several forms of tyrosine supplements available. Dopamine used by the brain must be produced in the brain, so it’s important that any dopamine enhancing supplement you take gets into the brain. That’s why we recommend acetyl-l-tyrosine, an absorbable form that can readily cross the blood-brain barrier. Next, look into vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Deficiencies of all three are extremely common, and each can contribute to dopamine deficiency. Lastly, you can look into taking a dopamine enhancing supplement. Here are some supplements proven to increase dopamine:

  • Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean or cowhage)
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • L-theanine
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)
  • Bacopa monnieri
  • Curcumin

Some dopamine supplements contain phenylethylamine, the precursor of tyrosine, but we don’t recommend them. Phenylethylamine is pretty useless for increasing dopamine levels. Once it reaches your brain it has a half-life of only 30 seconds.

Activities That Boost Dopamine Levels

Any activity that makes you feel happy and relaxed increases dopamine. Physical exercise increases dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters and is responsible for what’s known as “runner’s high”. Get a therapeutic massage. It can boost dopamine by over 30 percent. Meditation increases dopamine. So do mind-focusing hobbies like knitting, home repair, gardening, painting, photography, or woodworking. Playing and listening to music you enjoy releases dopamine . Engage in “seeking and finding” activities. This emulates the hunt that provided our ancestors with their dopamine boosts. Take on new challenges and set small milestones. Accomplishing goals, even small ones, trains your brain to release dopamine.

For more information on increasing your levels of dopamine, read this article “How to Increase Dopamine Naturally.”

Overcoming Dopamine Deficiency: The Bottom Line

Dopamine deficiency can sap the joy from life. It also plays a role in many mental health conditions, including depression and addictive behaviors. Make appropriate lifestyle changes to increase your dopamine levels.

  • Eat a diet high in dopamine boosting foods.
  • Get plenty of physical exercise.
  • Engage in stress-reducing activities.
  • Take appropriate dopamine enhancing supplements.

Deane AlbanThis article was brought to you by Deane Alban, a health information researcher, writer and teacher for over 25 years. For more helpful articles about improving your cognitive and mental health, visit BeBrainFit.com today.


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Why High-Fat Diets May Trigger Overeating

August 15, 2013    By Health Editor  Brenda Goodman   HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) — Many people who have tried to give up fatty foods in favor of healthier choices have found themselves obsessing over cookies or chips. Choosing a salad over a cheeseburger can feel like a Herculean act of will.

Now scientists believe they’ve found an important clue about why this happens.

Working in mice, researchers say they’ve discovered how the gut talks to the reward centers of the brain, and how high-fat diets can jam this communication, potentially leading to overeating and obesity.

The study, which was published online Aug. 15 in the journal Science, also found that high-fat diets actually led mice to turn up their noses at their normal, low-fat chow.

“The implications to humans are huge,” said Paul Kenny, a professor of pharmacology at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla.

“You’re trying to lose weight. You have a bad diet and you’re trying to adjust it, [but] your body and brain in concert are saying, ‘No, I don’t want that type of food,’” said Kenny, who was not involved in the research. “The chips are stacked against you — literally, potato chips. And that’s why you’re very likely to fail.”

Eating food — especially food high in fat — triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical dopamine.

Previous studies have found that as people and mice become obese, the brain’s dopamine system stops working properly. Eating becomes less rewarding.

As food becomes less stimulating, one theory holds that people need to eat more and more to feel satisfied — creating a vicious cycle of weight gain and overeating.

But researchers have never really understood why or how this happens, or, crucially, how to stop it.

For the new study, researchers studied two groups of mice. The first group was fed a normal, low-fat diet. The second group was put on a high-fat diet. Researchers fed the mice through catheters that ran directly into their stomachs to eliminate any influence from the taste or chewing of the foods.


As expected, the mice consuming a high-fat diet made less dopamine in their brains. But surprisingly, they also made less of a lipid (fat) signal called oleoylethanolamine (OEA) in their intestines.

OEA plays an important role in digestion, said the expert who first identified the signal.

“It prevents the excessive eating of fat,” said Daniele Piomelli, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine.

When the researchers gave the mice on the high-fat diet an infusion of OEA, they also made more dopamine in their brains, suggesting that the signal also plays an important role in the reward value of food.

“The fact that this compound is connected with the reward centers of the brain is beautiful and makes sense because all survival mechanisms depend on reward,” said Piomelli, who was not involved in the current study.

When humans hunted and gathered their food, it would have made sense for fat to be highly rewarding to the brain.

“Fat is in such short supply in nature. Not in our refrigerators, but in nature it is,” Piomelli said. “It is very important for the body to be able to eat the small amounts it finds in the wild and to be able to absorb it completely. That’s what this compound does.”

Now that dietary fat is hard to escape, this ancient feedback loop may be working against humans.

“We do know that people who have problems making the lipid signal OEA tend to become more morbidly obese,” Piomelli said.

But the study also shows there may be hope on the horizon for frustrated dieters.

Mice on a high-fat diet given infusions of OEA lost weight and started to show more interest in low-fat food, suggesting that the compound makes the brain more sensitive to smaller amounts of calories in the gut, said researcher Ivan de Araujo, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University.

Experts say, however, that results from animal studies often don’t turn out the same in humans.

Whether medications that boost OEA might one day help cottage cheese become as rewarding to the human brain as cheesecake remains to be seen.

“We don’t know whether this can successfully be translated into humans,” he said.

source: Health.com


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Sugar Is a Drug

By Dr. Oz & Dr. Roizen     June 6th, 2013 

When a person does cocaine it creates a surge of pleasure molecules in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, or decreases their inactivation. Stay with us, here. It both creates a rush of molecules and blocks their degradation—two things that boost their effects. These cause a pleasure rush in you, at least until your brain receptors get used to it. Many get addicted to this rush and seek out the drug whenever, wherever they can. You would then seek more to overcome your brain receptors getting to use to the rush. Cocaine is not the only substance that does this. And, no, we’re not talking about other hard drugs. We’re talking about something you’ve probably put into your body already today: simple sugars and their equivalent, simple or added syrups.

Eating sugar makes you feel good by stimulating the release of serotonin and dopamine in your brain and the reduction in their degradation. But when it wears off, you crash and may go on the hunt for another sweet fix—your brain’s receptors demand more. Sound familiar? 

Not everyone has an insatiable sweet tooth, and scientists are studying animal models to determine what makes some people more susceptible to sugar addiction. They believe that a tendency toward getting hooked on the sweet stuff could help explain why obesity is on the rise worldwide. With snack cakes, candy bars, sodas and cookies constantly at our fingertips, we can all benefit from being aware of the slippery high-fructose-corn-syrup-slicked slope.


Here are three ways to monitor and control your sugar intake:

1. Avoid Processed (White) Sugars
Simple sugars, like the ones in cake, packaged foods, white bread and soda, are taken up very quickly in your body. Cue sugar high, sugar crash and cravings for more sugar. Not only do they perpetuate the cycle of gotta have it, they also do direct damage to the proteins that serve as grout between the cells lining your arteries, lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, and accelerate the wrinkling and sagging of aging skin.

2. Try Different Desserts
We’re a society programmed to end our meals with something sweet. Try to break the dessert habit by trying something other than a pie or a bowl of ice cream. Why not do what many Europeans do and have salad as the last thing you eat, or cap off dinner with an ounce of walnuts covered with blackberries? Revel in the natural sweetness of strawberries, or treat a glass of wine as your dessert.

3. Pay More Attention to Your Food
One key to cutting back on sugar is being aware of how much sugar you eat in the first place. Check the nutrition facts on foods you enjoy every day; you might be surprised how much added sugar is lurking in seemingly healthy foods, such as nonfat fruit yogurt and barbeque sauce. (We wrote about eight common culprits in a recent column. Read it here.) Never snack right out of the bag or box, because that makes it nearly impossible to track how much you’ve eaten. Portion out one serving into a small bowl, then put the package away. Not only will you eat less, you’ll also appreciate and enjoy it more.