5 Tips for Boosting Dopamine Naturally
By Jessica Wilhelm, CN, July 18, 2019
Dopamine, our focus neurotransmitters, is one of the excitatory or stimulating neurotransmitters in the central nervous system and is converted into the catecholamines norepinephrine (noradrenalin) and epinephrine (adrenalin). If dopamine had a personality it would be focused, motivated, and joyful. Dopamine stimulates the pleasure center or reward system in the brain creating a feeling of happiness, wellbeing and excitement. These feelings occur when nerve cells (neurons) release neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that bind to receptor sites where they either increase or decrease the action of other neurons. In the pleasure center, the neurotransmitter dopamine promotes these feelings.
When dopamine is either elevated or low, we can have focus issues, such as not remembering where we put our keys, forgetting what a paragraph said when we just finished reading it or simply daydreaming and not being able to stay on task. Depleted levels can lead to a feeling that life is colorless, foggy thinking, poor memory, a lack of motivation for life, or seeking out extreme behaviors (addictive disorders) for stimulation. Stimulants such as medications for ADD, or drugs such as marijuana and cocaine can cause elevated excretion values of dopamine. Unfortunately, stimulating dopamine consistently can cause a depletion of dopamine over time.
Here are some tips to naturally optimize dopamine.
1. Get Moving- Studies show that regular physical exercise stimulates the body’s natural production of dopamine. Strive to exercise at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Some great ways to get your body moving and to optimize dopamine levels include a family walk, run or jog, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), swimming, jumping on a trampoline, or go for a bike ride. If you can’t get in 30 minutes all at once, break it up throughout the day. The most important thing is that you are moving your body.
2. Take a Technology Detox- The blue-light emitted from computers, TV’s, tablets, and cell phones, but also playing video games, stimulates the reward center of the brain to release dopamine. There is an increasing body of research that shows that the use of technology negatively impacts dopamine through the repeated stimulation of the reward pathway. Over time it is harder to put down the phone or stop playing video games which in turn creates issues with focus, attention and concentration. It can also make it harder to fall asleep at night, because the increase in dopamine inhibits the release of melatonin, our sleep hormone, that tells the body it is time to rest. Some ways to reduce your overall screen time and limit blue-light exposure include:
-Decrease the amount of time spent on devices when not working.
-Make it a rule to not use any electronics while eating.
-Turn off all electronics at least 45 minutes prior to bedtime.
-Invest in blue-light reducing glasses.
3. Foods Rich in Dopamine precursors: You can’t get dopamine directly from food, but the body can convert the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine in food to dopamine. Foods that contain high amounts of these amino acids to boost dopamine include:
-Raw Pumpkin Seeds and Almonds
-Fleshy proteins: beef, chicken and turkey
-Beans & Lentils
-Dark Chocolate (85% cocoa or higher)
4. Vitamin B-6, also know as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin and cofactor required by the body to manufacture dopamine. Studies show that deficiencies in B6 can lead to a decrease in the production of dopamine. While B-6 is key to dopamine, but other neurotransmitter production it also plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and protein, red blood cell formation, immunity, as well as the proper removal of toxins from the liver.
Foods rich in B6 include tuna, turkey, chicken, beef, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach and bananas. Taking a multivitamin with the active, cell-ready form of B-6 known as pyridoxal 5’phosphate (P5P) is also beneficial due to the prevalence of a genetic defect that can slow or prevent the proper activation of the pyridoxine form of B-6 found in food and supplements. Symptoms of a B-6 deficiency include mood/focus issues, fatigue, lowered immunity, certain types of anemia, and cracks in the corners of the mouth.
5. Support for Dopamine- Outside of consuming foods rich in dopamine precursors, there are several supplements that can boost dopamine. The amino acids DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) or Tyrosine can be taken in supplement form to increase the production of dopamine. DLPA is converted in the body to tyrosine, which then produces dopamine. For those who have a tendency towards anxiety, taking the ayurvedic herb Bacopa is a great option to mildly boost dopamine and improve cognitive function. In fact, CDRI 08, a well-researched bacopa extract has been shown to improve focus and memory in clinical trials and can be used in a adults and children older than 7. It is important to ensure that the supplements you take are professional-grade, dosed appropriately for you and are not contraindicated with your medications. Dopamine has a close relationship with the neurotransmitter histamine. When histamine is elevated it can cause an alarm to sound in the form of elevated dopamine that can result in symptoms. Ensuring that histamine is in check will support healthy dopamine levels.
Want to take out the guesswork? Speak with a Wellnicity Clinician today or consider testing your neurotransmitter levels with My Brain Balance at-home test. Get the answers and the solutions with The Wellnicity Method.