Understanding how to raise your dopamine levels helps to treat depression, one of the core contributors to addiction. Controlling the release of dopamine is and making those dopamine receptors happy is important to maintain a healthy balance in one’s life.
Treating a dopamine deficiency can provide you with more energy and greater happiness. In fact, one of the leading symptoms of depression is a low dopamine level. Depression can result from many things, if you understand how to raise your dopamine levels, you’ll be able to mitigate the influence of this factor.
Many people don’t realize that depression is a disease. In some instances, it’s caused by very real physiologic changes in your brain. For that reason, when you feel depressed, you shouldn’t thing of it as some sort of flaw in your personality, but rather an actual illness.
There are some early warning signs including a lack of energy during the day, difficulty finishing things you’ve started, problems with your attention span or trouble concentrating.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is one of the over 100 neurotransmitters that live inside your brain. Some like to call it the “motivation molecule.” Whatever you call it, dopamine provides the motivation and focus most people need to be productive. It is directly associated with attention span, focus, follow-through, motivation, and most importantly, the ability to experience pleasure. As you might have guessed, people who succumb to addiction often do it to seek pleasure in the absence of a natural way to obtain it.
Dopamine-dominant people are usually focused go-getters and a little intense. However, a lack of dopamine is associated with:
- Lack of focus
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sugar cravings
- Lower motivation
How to Raise Your Dopamine Levels
Unfortunately, many of the things that people use to increase their focus and energy are harmful. Nicotine, caffeine, and sugar-laden, fat-filled treats are all very effective at increasing dopamine levels. However, while these things might provide a quick boost, all they’re really doing is disrupting the natural dopamine production process. The side effect is decreased dopamine production in the long-term.
Fortunately, there are natural dopamine-boosting tactics you can take to increase dopamine. Of course, like any other regimen, you’ll want to first ask your doctor how to raise your dopamine levels naturally. Most doctors will recommend a path that includes these suggestions:
1. Cut down on your sugar intake. Energy drinks might give you a quick boost, but the negative health effects can be serious. While their high concentrations of sugar alter brain chemistry by disrupting dopamine levels, the“sugar high” is short lived and is typically followed by a crash. Just as alcohol and drugs can deplete dopamine levels, sugar does the same. In fact, sugar stimulates the exact same euphoric pathway targeted by alcohol and drug use–that is, the decreased dopamine levels lead to actual sugar addictions. You have to train your brain to produce dopamine naturally, and high sugar intake impedes this process.
Whether initiated by alcohol, cocaine, or sugar, the compulsive behavior addiction is the same—an undeniable desire for dopamine. Limiting sugar intake will help fight this addictive dopamine depletion-sugar craving cycle. If you struggle with a sweet tooth, you can take chromium picolinate supplements to help decrease your sugar cravings.
2. Supplement with tyrosine. When your brain cells need to “manufacture” neurotransmitters for proper mood regulation, they use amino acids as the essential raw material. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; there are 20 different amino acids that make up the protein our body needs.
The brain uses the amino acid l-phenylalanine as the source (precursor) for the production of dopamine. Phenylalanine is one of the “essential” amino acids; that is, the body cannot make it on its own so we have to get it from the foods we eat or from supplements. Once the body receives phenylalanine, it can convert it to tyrosine, which in turn is used to synthesize dopamine. So the way to increase central nervous system neurotransmitter levels is to provide proper amounts of the amino acid precursor.
Bananas, especially the ripe ones, are considered to be exceptional at regulating dopamine because they have a high concentration of tyrosine. Other foods that increase dopamine through the conversion of phenylalanine to tyrosine include almonds, apples, watermelons, cherries, yogurt, beans, eggs and meats.
It is important to note that dopamine foods alone generally do not have the therapeutic amino acid levels necessary to boost dopamine levels for someone experiencing major depressive disorder. To boost your levels of dopamine, dopamine rich foods may not be adequate. Tyrosine supplementation may help.
3. Cut down on caffeine. Even though coffee gives you the energy boost you need, just like sugar, it only offers temporary relief and may actually be doing more harm than good. After experiencing the initial kick caffeine offers, dopamine levels in the body decrease. So, go for a cup of decaf or at least minimize consumption of coffee to counter dopamine deficiency.
In short, avoid those sugary drinks at Starbucks.
4. Set a routine schedule. One easy way to boost dopamine is to get in a healthy routine and stick to it. Your routine should include adequate time for work and rest. Ideally, your 24-hour day should include seven to eight hours of sleep per night in combination with periods of physical activity.
Under-sleeping and/or over-sleeping combined with lack of regular exercise can drain the brain of dopamine. Why? Proper sleep gives the brain time to recuperate from the day and recharge its stores of neurotransmitters.
5. Exercise. Everyone has at least one activity they enjoy, Whatever it is, find it, do it and do it often. Regular physical activity increases blood circulation to influence the presence of many different hormones within the brain, affecting dopamine levels. Get off the couch and get the blood pumping. Take it slow at first if you have to, but do it. Take up a new hobby if necessary. One of the great things about The District is that we already know this. This is why we offer adventure therapy that includes fun physical activities. Our residents love it.
6. Cut down on that stress. High stress can cause a dopamine deficiency. Stress can be caused by two sources: poor adrenal function and chronic daily life stressors. While we can’t always control our circumstances, there are “stress safeguards” you can utilize to help you deal with them.
Stress can be a killer, literally and figuratively so find a way to deal with it if you hope to be healthy. Establish a way to deal with stress effectively and if necessary, talk to a therapist for ways to manage stress.
7. Address your magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency can cause decreased levels of dopamine, and natural health experts estimate over half of the US population to be deficient in this relaxation mineral. If you’ve been eating a diet heavy in junk foods or processed foods, you probably have a magnesium deficiency! Common symptoms include food cravings (salt or carbs), constipation, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, muscle pains and spasms, fatigue, headaches, and depression symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety and irritability.
There are blood and urine tests that your doctor can perform to see if you have a magnesium deficiency. However, these tests may not always be accurate since most of the body’s magnesium stays in the cells, rather than in the bloodstream or the urine.
There is one lab test called a sublingual epithelial test that is more effective because it checks for magnesium in the cells, where most of it is present. To perform this test, your doctor will scrape under your tongue with a tongue depressor to obtain epithelial cells, which are then sent to a lab for analysis. Schedule this test with your doctor or start increasing your intake of magnesium.
8. Pump up on vitamins. Since dopamine is easily oxidized, the antioxidants contained in vitamins (such as vitamins C and E) protect the health of brain neurons that use dopamine. For this reason, many integrative physicians recommend daily multi-vitamins to their patients to help protect neurons from free-radical damage. Some believe that taking vitamins is a good way to make sure you’re getting an ample daily supply of the key nutrients you need to be healthy both physically and mentally.
9. Get a massage. Since a massage is a great stress reliever, it’s probably no surprise that.getting massages will not only reduce stress, it’ll help with dopamine levels. To counter the effects of stress, research has demonstrated that massage therapy increases dopamine levels by nearly 30% while decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.
10. Sleep. To ensure that your brain increases dopamine naturally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep has been shown to reduce concentrations of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and their receptors.
11. Listen to music. It is no surprise that listening to music can increase pleasurable feelings, improve mood, boost energy, and help with focus and concentration. Research has demonstrated that much of this is achieved due to an increase in dopamine levels.
All of these things are good ways to naturally raise you dopamine levels. If you know how to raise your dopamine levels, you can reduce the stress in your life and potentially avoid looking to other substances for energy. The goal is train the brain to embrace natural ways to provide pleasure and happiness.
In addicts, these things are often overlooked and as such, they turn to substances to help fill a need not being satisfied by their body’s own chemistry. Substances are dangerous alternatives with catastrophic consequences.
While a doctor can show you how to raise your dopamine levels with a customized plan that might include specific vitamin supplements or tests, all of these recommendations can help you get started now.