You are probably wondering what dopamine is before considering why and how you need to increase it. For this reason, let us by answering the question in your mind. But first; do you know how your brain works to communicate with the rest of your body?
Communication within the brain happens through specialized cells known as neurons. The messengers that carry signals between the neurons are chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These chemicals help to transmit signals from one neuron to the other and through the rest of the nervous system to where action is required.
What is dopamine?
Different types of transmitters are produced within the brain to carry different types of signals. Dopamine is one of the most important transmitters. It is involved in the control of the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. It is also called the ‘feel good hormone’ because of its effects on your mood.
Dopamine roles include:
- Regulation of movement
- Regulation of emotional responses
- Helps to visualize rewards
- Provides motivation and focus to follow your goals
- Equips you with capacity to plan and follow through with your plans
- Helps you feel fulfilled by your achievements
Adequate dopamine boosts energy so that you are energized, confident and raring to work towards realizing your goals.
Dopamine connection with testosterone
Dopamine has a close connection with testosterone. Research shows that when you have healthy dopamine levels, you will have healthy testosterone levels. Additionally, the combination of dopamine and testosterone has the benefit of lowering levels of prolactin hormone. Prolactin has a negative effect on androgenic hormones such as testosterone.
Signs of poor dopamine responsiveness
Because dopamine affects some of the most important activities in your life, its deficiency can have serious effects. Some of the symptoms of dopamine deficiency include:
- Poor motivation
- Poor sleep patterns
- Low libido
- Restless legs
- Disinterest in life
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Feeling hopeless or guilty
- Poor memory
- Poor focus / concentration
- Self-destructive behavior
- Addiction to stimulants such as caffeine
Extreme dopamine deficiency can lead to depression or even Parkinson’s disease which causes degeneration of motor skills, tremors and muscle rigidity.
What “Increase Dopamine” really mean?
The term ‘increase dopamine’ does not always mean that the dopamine level rises. In some instances, without change in dopamine levels, positive results may be realized due to more efficient use of the neurotransmitter or decrease in its breakdown.
For this reason, ‘increase dopamine’ can mean any one or a combination of the following:
- Production of more dopamine
- Increased recirculation of dopamine
- Decreased breakdown of dopamine
- Increased dopamine receptors
- Increased efficiency of dopamine receptors
Note therefore, that the term ‘increase dopamine’ is used to mean that more dopamine is available for utilization irrespective of whether there is a real rise or not.
15 ways to increase dopamine
There are many ways to increase dopamine. And while some are unhealthy or even dangerous like addiction and gambling, many others are healthy. These include dietary and lifestyle changes, exercise, supplements and healthy sex. Following are the best 15 ways to increase dopamine:
1. Decrease sugar intake
While sugar gives a temporary dopamine high, it causes dopamine depletion in the longer-term. Sugar acts in a similar way to stimulants and addictive products and behavior. Studies indicate that the action of sugar follows the same pathways as compulsive behavior, alcohol and cocaine. And similar to them, it leads to a short-term high and a long-term drop in dopamine.
This causes a continuing need to take more sugar in order to try to maintain the high. This is similar to what happens after using an addictive drug and explains why use of sweet treats leads to a craving form more. If you are hooked to use of excess sugar, you can help yourself by taking chromium picolate supplements to get over the problem.
2. Reduce caffeine intake
Similar to sugar, coffee gives you a temporary dopamine high. However, this soon wears off and you end up with a drop in dopamine level. Therefore, for similar reasons, you will do well for your dopamine levels by reducing your coffee and caffeine intake. You can do this by reducing the amount of coffee that you drink or opt for decaffeinated coffee.
3. Exercise regularly
Are you wondering if this isn’t the umpteenth time you have come across the benefits of exercise? I hope you are not disappointed to learn that it won’t be the last. Besides helping improve your muscle tone, reduce stress, and improve your overall health, regular exercise can help increase your dopamine levels. Exercises like brisk walking, tai chi and basic yoga can have great impact on your brain and body.
Regular exercise helps boost other neurotransmitters including endorphins and serotonin. The overall effects of an increase in these neurotransmitters include better sleep at night so that you wake up better refreshed in the morning. With less stress and better sleep, your body will also produce more testosterone.
Dopamine deficiency can be the result of magnesium deficiency. In fact it is estimated that about half of the American population is magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency can result from habitually eating junk and processed food. Its symptoms include cravings for carbs and salt, fatigue, constipation, headaches, muscle aches, hypertension, heart palpitations, mood swings, irritability and anxiety. A lab test can help you find out if you have a magnesium deficiency. To address dopamine deficiency arising from magnesium deficiency, and to protect yourself from magnesium deficiency, avoid junk and processed foods. Instead, eat foods rich in magnesium such as spinach, artichoke, almonds, hazelnut, buckwheat and whole wheat flour.
5. Eat foods high in natural probiotics
Studies show that the presence of more harmful bacteria than beneficial bacteria in the gut has a harmful effect on the brain cells within which dopamine is synthesized. By contrast, probiotic foods including kefir, natural yogurt and raw, fermented vegetables, supports the health of dopamine producing brain cells. It is, therefore necessary to eat foods high in natural probiotics to increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria compared to harmful bacteria. This leads to healthy dopamine levels.
6. Try L-tyrosine supplements
Tyrosine is the most important chemical in the synthesis of dopamine. The amino acid is a precursor of dopamine and is considered as a main building block of the neurotransmitter. It is, therefore important that you supplement your L-tyrosine intake to increase dopamine. You can do this by taking L-tyrosine supplements such as n-acetyl-l-tyrosine, which readily gets into the brain for the synthesis of dopamine.
You can also improve your dopamine levels and maintain it at healthy levels by regularly eating some foods, including the following:
- green tea
You can take mucuna pruriens to increase your dopamine levels. Mucuna pruriens is a legume with tropical origin. It is a rich source of l-dopa, a precursor for dopamine. Studies have found that when used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, mucuna pruriens works even better than the medication known as levodopa. It is worth noting that Parkinson’s disease is one of the conditions that can occur as a result of dopamine deficiency.
Many studies have shown that meditation has many health benefits. When done regularly, meditation helps to improve relaxation, creativity and learning. Studies have also shown that meditation leads to increased dopamine levels. It also improves concentration and focus. There are many ways to get into a meditative state including activities like photography, knitting, drawing, woodwork and home improvement.
9. Get a healthy amount of sleep
Studies suggest that lack of sleep and disturbed sleep can lead to a reduction in the amount of dopamine receptacles. Research has also found that dopamine is necessary for healthy sleep because it has a role in the production of the sleep and relaxation hormone known as melatonin. For these reasons, adequate sleep and dopamine levels have a relationship. It follows that getting one leads to achieving the other. Therefore, you can help your brain get increased dopamine by ensuring that you regularly get a healthy amount of sleep.
10. Lose that excess weight
Studies show that obesity is linked to dopamine dysfunction, and that obese people normally have lower amounts of dopamine receptors than normal. Some studies have also found that brains of obese people operate in a similar manner to those of drug addicts. For these reasons, and because dopamine acts on the pleasure centers in the brain, an obese person is less likely to enjoy life, and to receive pleasure, including getting satisfied with the food that they eat. This causes them to overeat. It therefore makes sense to work on losing any excess weight. This will help you to increase your dopamine levels and improve your overall life.
11. Have a cold shower
According to some studies, a cold shower, at a temperature of around 57oF (14oC) can increase dopamine levels by as much as 250 percent. This is borne out by some proponents who say that a cold shower helps improve productivity and mood. It therefore makes sense to try a cold shower or at least finish with a blast of cold water after your warm shower.
12. Try ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba is used traditionally to treat mental problems like anxiety, depression, confusion, poor memory and poor concentration. According to some studies, ginkgo biloba works by increasing dopamine levels. You can, therefore help yourself by taking ginkgo biloba supplements to increase dopamine in your brain.
13. Listen to music
Listening to music is an easy way to increase your dopamine levels. Research shows that listening to music has a similar effect in the brain, as other pleasant activities like making love, eating your favorite food or taking drugs. In fact, according to some reports, music is so powerful that even anticipation of it has a similar effect on the brain. After studying brain scans of subjects either listening to music or anticipating to listen to it, scientists found that it increased dopamine levels in the brain. Therefore, go on and listen to music more to boost your dopamine level. In addition to listening to music, dancing also helps increase dopamine.
14. Have more sex
While addiction to sex can lead to dopamine deficiency, healthy, regular sex is a good way to increase dopamine. According to this study more sex increases dopamine levels in rats. And although this has not been shown to be true in humans, it is thought that regular sex may have a similar effect in humans.
15. Avoid having addictions
Although addicts are not aware of it, they get into addiction to increase their dopamine levels. However, increased dopamine achieved through addiction is only temporary. This means that, in order to maintain the dopamine increase, an addict needs to keep engaging in his addiction. If you are an addict, you would then have to maintain this harmful habit. The result is low dopamine levels unless you engage in your addiction. You can get addicted to sugar, alcohol, cocaine, and activities like gambling, sex, power, shopping, porn and video games.
Because dopamine is an important neurotransmitter that is critical for a healthy, happy life, it makes sense to avoid foods, chemicals and activities that lead to dopamine deficiency. It is also necessary to eat foods and supplements, and to engage in activities that increase your dopamine levels. By following these 15 best ways to increase dopamine, you can achieve healthy dopamine levels necessary for you to enjoy a satisfying life. Increased dopamine also boosts your energy, helps you set and work towards goals, as well as engaging in fulfilling activities. Increased dopamine will also lead to increase in testosterone levels. This comes with many benefits including bigger muscles, better health and a healthy libido.