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.
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:
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Hard time getting going in the morning
- Mood swings
- 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
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.
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.
- Almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds
- Apples, avocados, bananas, watermelon
- Beets, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables
- Coffee and green tea
- Wheat germ
Dopamine is a serious medicine used in emergency situations like heart attacks and shock. So while actual dopamine supplements are not available, there are manydopamine 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 (23). 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 (24, 25,26, 27, 28, 29). Lastly, you can look into taking a dopamine enhancing supplement. Here are some supplements proven to increase dopamine:
- Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean or cowhage) (30)
- Phosphatidylserine (31)
- Ginkgo biloba (32)
- L-theanine (33)
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) (34)
- Bacopa monnieri (35)
- Curcumin (36)
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 (37,38).
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” (39). Get a therapeutic massage. It can boost dopamine by over 30 percent (40). Meditation increases dopamine. So do mind-focusing hobbies like knitting, home repair, gardening, painting, photography, or woodworking (41, 42). Playing and listening to music you enjoy releases dopamine (43). 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.
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