Natural Ways to Boost Dopamine
What is Dopamine?
1Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical that is released by nerve cells and acts as a messenger, carrying signals between brain cells. More commonly dopamine is known as the “feel good” chemical. Dopamine mediates pleasure in the brain and is released during pleasurable situations and stimulates the seeking of pleasurable activities. It’s also held responsible for playing a huge role in addiction. Addiction is based on pleasure-seeking and reward-motivated behavior and dopamine plays a huge role in this behavior.
Sources of Dopamine
As stated previously, dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It’s a hormone produced and regulated in the brain. Dopamine levels can also be manipulated with medication. Since dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, oral dosing is ineffective. However dopamine “building blocks” can enter the central nervous system, being converted into dopamine in the brain.
2Some of the medications used to boost dopamine levels are:
- Levodopa/Carbidopa – a compound that is converted into dopamine in the brain;
- Tyrosine – an amino acid; a foundational building block of dopamine;
- Mucuna Pruriens – an herb that contains levodopa in its seeds; a homeopathic method of treating depression.
Some medications used to reduce occurrences of dopamine destruction and recycling in the brain are:
- Anti-depressants such as bupropion
- MAO inhibitors
Sometimes dopamine levels need to be lowered, such as in people who have psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Herbs that can lower dopamine levels are:
- Turkey Corn – member of the poppy family;
- Graviola – fruit of annona muricata, a small evergreen tree;
- Magnolia Bark – used traditionally in Chinese medicine for asthma, anxiety and digestive disorders;
- Moonseed – a climbing vine; the root is used to lower dopamine levels.
Natural Ways to Boost Dopamine
Low dopamine levels can cause fatigue, a lack of motivation, depression, poor concentration and memory, and mood swings. Unless you are dealing with the previously mentioned psychotic/emotional issues, having your dopamine levels boosted is a positive goal. And this goal can be met through natural means. 3Let’s look at some of these ways.
Set Challenges for Yourself – Then Meet Them!
This goes back to the reward-seeking motivation. Each time you achieve something, meeting a goal, experiencing success, your dopamine levels are stimulated. Working towards goals with positive expectations will boost this chemical in the brain.
4According to Dr. Loretta Breuning, setting a new challenge and taking small steps toward it every day for just 45 days will teach our brains to stimulate dopamine. Those struggling with low dopamine may have no motivation to complete any task, but even setting a tiny goal – such as going for a 15 minute walk, or cleaning the kitchen – can stimulate the brain to release a little dopamine, which will encourage you to set bigger goals, in anticipation of larger rewards.
Some benefits of meditation:
- Reduces stress
- Eases chronic pain
- Boosts immunity
- Raises dopamine levels.
5One study, published in the journal Cognitive Brain Research, found an increase in dopamine during meditation, which helped to improve both the focus and concentration of participants.
Eat Your Dopamine!
Consider a diet that includes:
- Complex Carbs
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Brightly Colored Fruits and Vegetables
Decrease your intake of:
- Simple Carbs
- White Rice
Drink Your Greens!
People often turn to coffee to get them going, boost their energy, improve their mood. But the caffeine that people think boosts their mood is not the best choice for raising dopamine levels. Caffeine actually depletes long-term dopamine levels. 6Green tea does contain caffeine but less than coffee, and it also contains l-theanine, an amino acid that studies have shown to raise levels of dopamine, GABA and serotonin. Some studies have shown that green tea also has anti-depressant properties, can help lessen anxiety, and is associated with decreased levels of psychological stress.
Take Your Tumeric
Tumeric is a spice with curcumin, an active compound that can boost dopamine levels along serotonin and BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor). Tumeric should be taken with black pepper. Black pepper contains piperine, and this compound increases curcumin bioavailability by 2000%! Nope, not a typo – levels of curcumin are increased by piperine by two thousand percent!
Skin-to-skin contact increases dopamine levels, boosts mood and boosts neurotransmitter levels. Physical contact has been shown to increase happiness levels and strengthen the immune system. This is why hugs make us feel better.
We’ve all heard of the “runner’s high”… this is actually based on fact. Working out stimulates both the release and the uptake of dopamine in the brain. We’ve also heard about the body’s natural painkiller, endorphins, as well. Endorphins and serotonin both are boosted during exercise. Exercise also lowers and helps control levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone.
We all want to feel happy, energetic, positive and capable of handling the issues life presents to us. We have job stresses, financial stresses, health concerns, family issues, etc. to contend with every day. Why not take full advantage of these natural, simple, drug-free methods of stimulating, boosting and maintaining our body’s built-in stress relievers and anti-depressants?
(See “Further Reading” below to learn more about dopamine, what it is, how it’s manufactured and utilized in our brains, its benefits and ways to stimulate it.)
How Do I Increase Dopamine Levels?
What are the Effects of Too Much Dopamine?
Drugs that Block Dopamine Receptors
1“The Dopamine Seeking-Reward Loop,” Larry D. Rosen PhD,
2“Medications to Increase Dopamine,” Travis Elliott,
3“11 Easy Ways to Boost Dopamine Without Medication,” Jayne Leonard,
4“Meet Your Happy Chemicals,” Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD, https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/59029/happy-chemicals.pdf
5“Increased dopamine tone during medical-induced change of consciousness,” TW Kjaer, C Bertelsen, P Piccini, D Brooks, J Alving, HC Lou, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11958969
6“The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent,” Nathan PJ, Lu K., Gray M., Oliver C., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17182482
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