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3 Easy Ways to Increase Dopamine Naturally

Introduction

Have you been feeling a little unmotivated lately; perhaps a little down? If so, you’re not alone and I am going to give you 3 easy ways to increase dopamine naturally and boost your mood and motivation at the same time!

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What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is a “feel good” neurotransmitter. Dopamine levels can affect us both physically and mentally, but the focus of this post is on mental wellness, which includes memory, cognition, mood, motivation and experiencing pleasure.

Where is Dopamine Made?

Approximately 70% of the body’s dopamine is produced in the gut. Dopamine is derived from the amino acid, tyrosine. Tyrosine is found in foods such as cheese, beef, lamb, soy, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, dairy, beans and whole grains.

What Causes Low Dopamine Levels?

Causes of Low Dopamine Levels

 

Causes of Low Dopamine Levels

Causes of low dopamine levels may include, but are not limited to:

  • Aging
  • Poor diet
  • Chronic illness
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Chronic stress or Trauma
  • Addiction
  • Certain prescription medications

How Does Dopamine Work?

Dopamine is released in the body in response to sugar, alcohol and other addictive substances and behaviors, such as shopping or gambling. This further reinforces dopamine’s role in the brains reward and motivation centers. 

Can you recall the rush you feel when you finally have a glass of wine after a long day at work? Or perhaps when you finally bite into a piece of chocolate cake you have been craving? You can thank dopamine for that.

When a craving meets the substance or action being craved, dopamine is released. The release of dopamine signals to the body that this action created pleasure, therefore your body seeks the same dopamine release again in order to obtain further pleasure.

What are Neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers used by the nervous system to communicate messages to other parts of the body, specifically from the gut to the brain.

Dopamine is one of many neurotransmitters and is involved specifically with motor control, reward centers, and motivation.  Other neurotransmitters you may be familiar with include serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.

Symptoms of Low Dopamine Levels

Symptoms of Low Dopamine Levels

 

Symptoms of Low Dopamine Levels

Common symptoms of low dopamine levels may include, but are not limited to:

  • Low motivation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling moody or sad
  • Brain fog
  • Poor memory

Gut Health and Dopamine

The gut is often described as our “2nd brain”, because it truly is the conductor of many processes that occur in our body. A healthy gut provides an environment for neurotransmitters to thrive, meaning those (dopamine) neurotransmitters will be communicating more successfully and sending more messages to our brain about how motivated and happy we feel, or vice versa.

The opposite is true when our gut is in a state of imbalance. Recent studies show the close connection between what happens in our brain (1st brain), gut (2nd brain) and heart (3rd brain) and how the signals of communication between the three determine our mood, motivation, energy levels and overall mental wellness, says Dr. Shawn Talbott.

This post represents a simplistic explanation of this process. For readers that desire a more in-depth dive into the gut brain connection, this podcast, by Dr. Andrew Huberman, gives a fascinating and thorough review.

*Items marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. If you purchase through this link, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you*

3 Easy Ways to Increase Dopamine Naturally

Let’s look at 3 easy ways you can increase dopamine naturally.

Nutrition

The typical Western diet lacks nutrient density. A diet high in processed, sugary and fatty foods and lower in healthy, nutrient and fiber dense foods is associated with poor mental health. These foods are pro-inflammatory, increasing the risk of mood related disorders. 

When looking at the link between food and mood, several key nutrients stand out, such as fiber, omega 3 and B vitamins. These three are especially important for central nervous system function and therefore mood state.

Fiber rich foods enhance gut microbe diversity and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Therefore, prebiotic fiber plays an important role in the regulation of mental wellness through the gut-brain-axis. This relationship affects brain function, immune function and emotional behavior.

An extensive evidence base exists for *Omega 3 supplementation as an adjunctive treatment for mood disorders, including bipolar depression. Cognitive related symptoms of a B vitamin deficiency can range from memory problems, impaired thinking or reasoning and dementia to depression, mania and psychosis.

This post goes into more details about brain healthy foods that boost your mood.

Probiotics

A healthy gut provides the right environment for the “feel good” neurotransmitters to thrive and send stronger signals to our brain. Therefore, functional food ingredients, like probiotics, prebiotics and phytobiotics optimize gut health and in turn improve mental wellness markers.

Several research-validated bacterial strains of probiotics show improvement in symptoms such a depression, anxiety and stress. These strains are Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, Bifidobacterium longum R0175, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus R0011.

Clinically proven prebiotic fibers and select nutrients with demonstrated mental wellness functional benefits, combined with the probiotic strains specified above have resulted in improved psychological mood states, such as decreased tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion, and improved vigor.  See the study *here.

Exercise / Yoga

Exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health and has rejuvenating effects on brain development when it comes to mood, behavior, stress, anxiety, cognition, learning and memory.

Yoga, in particular, has substantial antidepressant effects and a direct role in improving mood, serotonin and dopamine. One study showed incremental improvements in levels of serotonin and dopamine following 3 months of yoga practice.

Ways to Increase Dopamine Naturally

 

Ways to Increase Dopamine Naturally

Conclusion

Dopamine is a very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to mental health, as it affects our mood, motivation, sleep, cognition and reward centers, to name a few. There are many ways to increase dopamine naturally that may lead to overall improved feelings of mental wellness. This is especially true for individuals that are struggling with symptoms consistent with low dopamine levels. I encourage you to try these 3 easy ways to increase dopamine naturally for overall improvements in the way you feel and function on a daily basis.

The purpose of this information is to inform and empower the reader to make positive lifestyle changes. The intent is not to replace medical advice or instructions given by your doctor or healthcare provider.

*Items marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. If you purchase through this link, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you*

Amare Fundamentals Pack

 

*Gut Brain Axis System

References

Admon R, Kaiser RH, Dillon DG, Beltzer M, Goer F, Olson DP, Vitaliano G, Pizzagalli DA. Dopaminergic Enhancement of Striatal Response to Reward in Major Depression. Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Apr 1;174(4):378-386. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16010111. Epub 2016 Oct 24. PMID: 27771973; PMCID: PMC5378658.

Blum K, Febo M, Thanos PK, Baron D, Fratantonio J, Gold M. Clinically Combating Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) with Dopamine Agonist Therapy as a Paradigm Shift: Dopamine for Dinner? Mol Neurobiol. 2015 Dec;52(3):1862-1869. doi: 10.1007/s12035-015-9110-9. Epub 2015 Mar 10. PMID: 25750061; PMCID: PMC4586005.

Kim CS, Byeon S, Shin DM. Sources of Dietary Fiber Are Differently Associated with Prevalence of Depression. Nutrients. 2020 Sep 14;12(9):2813. doi: 10.3390/nu12092813. PMID: 32937844; PMCID: PMC7551178.

Pal R, Singh SN, Chatterjee A, Saha M. Age-related changes in cardiovascular system, autonomic functions, and levels of BDNF of healthy active males: role of yogic practice. Age (Dordr). 2014;36(4):9683. doi: 10.1007/s11357-014-9683-7. Epub 2014 Jul 11. PMID: 25012275; PMCID: PMC4150910.

Talbott, Shawn M., et al. “Effect of Coordinated Probiotic/Prebiotic/Phytobiotic

Supplementation on Microbiome Balance and Psychological Mood State in Healthy Stressed

Adults.” Functional Foods in Health and Disease, vol. 9, no. 4, 2019, p. 265.,

doi:10.31989/ffhd.v9i4.599.

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