Happiness is in our hearts, our heads and ultimately… in our control. It is driven by chemicals in our body. One of them is Dopamine …so that is where we will start.
Outside the CNS (Central Nervous System) dopamine acts as a chemical messenger. It is a vasodilator in blood vessels, reduces insulin production in the pancreas and in the kidneys, it helps to increase excretion of sodium in the urine.
Dopamine, in the brain, is a neurotransmitter. The brain contains several specific dopamine pathways, one of which plays a huge part in reward-motivated behaviour and pleasure – happiness.
Most types of rewards cause an increase in dopamine levels – new experiences, and accomplishments for example. Dopamine plays many other important roles in the body and brain, including movement, memory, sleep and mood. It increases attention, cognition, stimulates our creativity and makes us more social and can even help us to form parental or romantic bonds. Many types of pleasurable experiences, such as sex, enjoying food, or playing video games, increase dopamine release.
We all want/crave these things, and unfortunately, when people seek out artificial sources, it can lead to addictions. Opiate drugs (morphine, heroine) increase dopamine concentrations directly or indirectly, also creating the pleasurable liking/wanting expressions, and consequently addiction.
Dopamine deficiency effects people in many ways. Can you relate to anything in the following list? Do you…
- feel depressed, bored, apathetic?
- have a decrease in physical and mental energy?
- find yourself tired a lot? Do you have to push yourself?
- have decreased motivation or drive?
- have difficulty focusing or concentrating?
- a decreased sex-drive?
- put on weight easily?
- find yourself easily chilled? Have cold hands/feet?
All is not lost. You don’t have to resort to addictions, friends! There are a number of natural ways you can increase your dopamine production by modifying, changing or increasing things in your diet and lifestyle.
Make the most of today – you can do something new and exciting! Firsts are always exhilarating. We’ve all seen inspirational quotes like:
Live each day like it’s your last; If you want something you’ve never had, do something you’ve never done; Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
You see where I’m going with this. Do it.
Increase your exercise – it decreases your stress. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Climb some stairs, walk the dog …just move.
Write down your small tasks – break down the large jobs you need to tackle into smaller ones for more frequent dopamine ‘hits’. Not going to lie, I will sometimes write something on my to do list that I have already done just so I can cross it off and feel better! It’s satisfying …tell me I’m not alone.
Listen to Music – You know when you are feeling down, or tired and your favorite songs come on… you all of a sudden have the energy to sing along or dance; that’s the increased dopamine in action! Browse the internet for music you love – but limit the time you spend there. Research has proven that the internet can be addicting and that’s not how we want to do this.
Diet + Supplements
There are certain Amino Acids (precursors), enzymes, and (micronutrients) vitamins and minerals required for successful production of Dopamine. Increasing these will mean increasing the ability to create the neurotransmitter.
Tyrosine, Phenylalanine and DOPA (dihydroxiphenylalanine) are amino acids involved in the production of Dopamine. Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, meaning it can not be produces within our bodies and needs to come from your diet or as a supplement. Phenylalanine is converted to Tyrosine in our bodies. Tyrosine is non-essential, which is a bit of a misnomer because it fills an essential role, but can be synthesized in your body. It is also found in certain foods and supplements. Tyrosine is converted to L-Dopa. DOPA is biosynthesized in the liver from Tyrosine during the production of epinephrine and melanin. Its L isomer then travels across the blood brain barrier to be converted into dopamine inside the brain. L-Dopa or levadopa can be manufactured in laboratories and is commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease and other conditions associated with low dopamine.
Foods loaded with Phenylalanine include:
- Soy and Soy products
- Cheese – especially parmesan
- Nuts and Seeds – especially pumpkin
- Lean Beef
- Chicken and Turkey
- Lean Pork
- Fish and Seafood
- Eggs and Dairy
- Beans and Lentils
- Whole Grains
Foods loaded with Tyrosine include:
- Green Tea
Dopamine enhancing supplements. These help with production, retention and reuptake.
- Acetyl-l-tyrosine is a production-ready version of Tyrosine which will make it easier for your brain to create dopamine;
- L-Curcumin – an ingredient in turmeric, helps increase levels of dopamine;
- Ginkgo Biloba is a popular wonder drug may help increase dopamine levels by making it stay in your brain longer;
- L-Dopa – as mentioned above, it is converted from Tyrosine, but it can be found in concentrated amounts in the Velvet Bean, but also in smaller amounts in broad beans and fava beans.
- L-theanine increases neurotransmitter production in your brain, one of which is dopamine. This one is found in Green Tea!
Alcohol, excess caffeine and sugar as well as stress will decrease available dopamine. So, along with doing things to increase your dopamine levels, you will want to limit other things, as well, to regain balance… and happiness.
I am able to help with supplements and diet advice. If you feel that increasing dopamine is essential for you to find your healthy place, leave a comment or Say Hello!