DOPAMINE: NATURAL WAYS TO INCREASE DOPAMINE LEVELS
Dopamine is our main “focus” neurotransmitter that also regulates our pleasure/reward circuits, memory, and motor control (physical movement and coordination). It acts as either an excitatory or inhibitory neurotransmitter, depending on the dopamine receptor it binds to. Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine and is the basic building block for other brain chemicals such as norepinephrine and epinephrine, which as a group are called catecholamines. Like norepinephrine and epinephrine, dopamine is stored in vesicles in the axon terminal of the nerve cell.
Adequate dopamine levels are needed to allow us to focus our attention in the moment and attend to matters at hand (remember that attention deficit is at least in part due to low
dopamine). Dopamine is the main player in regulating our reward circuitry and pleasure centers (hence dopamine’s role in addictions). This all important brain chemical is also critical for memory and motor skills.
Problems can ensue if dopamine is too high or too low. For example, dramatically elevated levels, the so-called “dopamine storm,” can be associated with hallucinations, delusions, agitation, mania, and frank psychosis. Such a state, fortunately rare, is clinically obvious and constitutes a medical emergency. Low dopamine states, on the other hand are quite common and sometimes go years without being identified let alone treated.
SYMPTOMS OF DOPAMINE DEFICIENCY
Low dopamine levels can cause depression, loss of motor control, loss of satisfaction, addictions, cravings, compulsions, low sex drive, poor attention and focus. When dopamine levels are elevated symptoms may manifest in the form of anxiety, paranoia, or hyperactivity.
- Do you often feel depressed, flat, bored, and apathetic?
- Are you low on physical or mental energy? Do you feel tired a lot; have to push yourself to exercise?
- Is your drive, enthusiasm, and motivation on the low side?
- Do you have difficulty focusing or concentrating?
- Are you easily chilled? Do you have cold hands or feet?
- Do you tend to put on weight too easily?
- Do you feel the need to get more alert and motivated by consuming a lot of coffee or other “uppers” like sugar, diet soda, ephedra, or cocaine?
If you answered yes to any of the above you could have low dopamine levels.
Test dopamine levels with the NeuroAdrenal Profile test. A simple urine test can determine your dopamine levels.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT DOPAMINE PRODUCT OR TEST
For our office based patients, we usually recommend the NeuroAdrenal Profile
test. See below for details.
- NeuroAdrenal Profile – This is a more comprehensive assessment of neurotransmitter balance as well as adrenal function. We use this panel if your clinical picture (profound fatigue and foggy thinking) or personal history (trauma, chronic stress, pain, fibromyalgia, PTSD, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammation) suggests a component of adrenal fatigue or exhaustion.
- DOPA Maxx 120 caps Dopamine Supplement – This supplement is designed to help increase your body’s ability to make dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine levels by providing their basic amino acid building block – L-tyrosine. We use this product for slow-steady rebuilding of depleted dopamine and norepinephrine reserves and for maintaining healthy levels of these crucial neurotransmitters, especially in individuals who have significant anxiousness (the so called “wired and tired” profile) associated with their clinical picture.
- DOPA Maxx ES – Extra Strength Dopamime Supplement – We are very proud of this formula. It provides maximum support of dopamine and other activating neurotransmitters and is designed to improve energy, alertness, pleasure and satisfaction, libido, emotional well-being, and physical mobility. It is too strong, initially at least, for those who have prominent anxiousness as part of their clinical picture (in which case regular Dopa Maxx is a better choice).
WHAT CAUSES LOW DOPAMINE LEVELS?
Dopamine levels are depleted by stress, certain antidepressants, drug use, poor nutrition, and poor sleep. Alcohol, caffeine, and sugar all seem to decrease dopamine activity in the brain.
FOODS THAT INCREASE DOPAMINE LEVELS
Food sources of dopamine increasing tyrosine include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
Dopamine is easily oxidized. Foods that are rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables may help protect dopamine-using neurons from free radical damage. Many healthcare professionals recommend supplementing with vitamin C, vitamin E, and other antioxidants.
Foods such as sugar, trans fats, cholesterol, and refined foods interfere with proper brain function and can cause low dopamine. Consumption of trans fats and cholesterol should also be reduced because they can clog the arteries to the brain, heart, and other organs.
Caffeine must also be avoided by persons with depression. Caffeine is a stimulant which initially speeds up neurotransmission, raises the amount of serotonin, and temporarily elevates mood.
INCREASE DOPAMINE PRODUCTION THROUGH THE USE OF DOPAMINE PRECURSORS.
Dopamine precursors are specific amino acids that our brains utilize to manufacture dopamine. Neurotransmitters are frequently not supplied in great enough levels by our modern diet or in the way our brain best utilizes them. As stress further depletes supplies, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the brain to restore necessary amounts to proper levels. Dopamine supplements may then be required to increase dopamine and other neurotransmitter supplies. Dopamine supplements increase dopamine naturally
with little to no side effects.