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September 19, 2012

Try These Natural Dopamine Boosters

natural dopamine boostersAre you experiencing fatigue and lack of energy? How about a lack of focus, decrease libido, or depression? These are signs of low dopamine signaling that you may benefit from these natural dopamine boosters.

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter called a catecholamine.  Catecholamines are excitatory neurotransmitters.  Low levels of dopamine are associated with fatigue, apathy, lack of focus, decreased libido, and depression.  Optimal levels of dopamine are associated with increased energy, focus and concentration, and sense of well-being.

Symptoms of Low Dopamine

Here’s a more complete list of low dopamine symptoms.

  • Little interest in life
  • Low motivation
  • Procrastination
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling hopeless or guilty
  • Decreased memory and inability to focus
  • Impulsive or self-destructive behaviors
  • Addictions to caffeine or other stimulants
  • Weight gain

Dopamine is a pleasure neurotransmitter, and is released during activities that are pleasurable like eating, sex, social interactions, and so on.  It is also produced in response to stress.  Many addictive substances stimulate dopamine production. Some drugs like cocaine and amphetamines can jack dopamine levels 1,400 percent.  Foods containing sugar, chocolate, and caffeine also stimulate dopamine production. That’s why consuming those foods seems to make us feel better by giving us an energy boost.

Dopamine suppresses appetite, and can aid in weight loss.  That’s why smokers trying to quit have food cravings.  Nicotine in tobacco stimulates dopamine production.  When one tries to quit smoking, their dopamine levels decline leading to food cravings.

Dopamine and Weight Loss

Dopamine suppresses appetite.  Antidepressant medications like Wellbutrin and Zyban act on dopamine receptors in the brain suppressing appetite.  One problem with calorie restriction is despite the initial weight loss, there could be a tendency to eat more to restore depressed dopamine levels that can result from dietary restriction. Protein is needed for the body to produce dopamine and too often with calorie restriction protein intake is inadequate.

Natural Dopamine Boosters

Phenylalanine, an essential amino acid, and tyrosine are precursors of dopamine.  In fact, phenylalanine gets converted into tyrosine, which then gets converted into dopamine.  Essential amino acids are those that we can only obtain from foods.  Tyrosine is considered an essential amino acid in infants and growing children.

Since amino acids are the foundational units of protein, we can obtain phenylalanine and tyrosine from foods that contain protein.  Phenylalanine and tyrosine also come in supplement forms including protein powders. Next to water, protein is the next abundant compound in the body. Certain other nutritional co-factors are also necessary to aid in the conversion of phenylalanine and tyrosine to dopamine.  Boost your dopamine levels with the following natural dopamine boosters.

Try These Natural Dopamine BoostersDopamine Making Foods

High quality protein can be obtained from eating fish, poultry, eggs, and red meat.  Phenylalanine is also found in lentils, peanuts, almonds, chickpeas, and flaxseed.  Tyrosine can be obtained from those same foods, and is also high in dairy products, avocados, bananas, lima beans, and pumpkin and sesame seeds.

Nutritional Supplement Dopamine Boosters

Tyrosine and phenylalanine supplement are available. Try 500 mg of one or the other or a combination of both to boost your dopamine levels. Protein powders are a convenient way to obtain the amino acids necessary for neurotransmitter production and can be used as an in between meal snack, or used post exercise.

Are there herbal natural dopamine boosters?  You bet. Rhodiola, or Golden Root, may stimulate dopamine and serotonin activity.  And, chastberry increases dopamine and progesterone levels.  Important co-factors in catecholamine production include N-acetyl-L-carnitine, pyridoxal-5’-phosphate, folic acid, and methylcobalamin.  These nutrients are available in supplement form.

Fish oil, which contains the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA can boost dopamine production by 40 percent. Keep in mind the brain where neurotransmitters are made is 60% fat (think twice about low-fat diets). Vitamin D facilitates the conversion of tyrosine to dopamine and other catecholamines. SAM-e in doses of 800 mg to 1,600 mg a day can help for those resistant to measure already mentioned.

Going back to the need for fats. It certainly seems like depression has increased along with heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic disease since we have been encouraged to eat more carbohydrates and less fat.

Boosting Dopamine Levels While Having Fun

Why not have some fun while boosting your dopamine levels? Exercise and sex boost dopamine levels, and massage has been reported to increase dopamine levels, too – more examples of natural dopamine boosters.  So make time regularly to participate in these and other pleasurable activities. See “Just Say ‘Yes’ To Sex (and Reap Its Health Benefits)”.

See related articles.

Natural Serotonin Boosters

“Supplement for Memory”

“Memory Enhancer”

“How to Increase Energy Levels”




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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

  1. I completely lost my sex drive and interest in sex and life. I used SSRI medicines for 10 years.Is there any hope that i can recover

    1. I assume you are no longer on an SSRI, is that correct? If no longer on then other causes should be considered – mainly low sex hormones. Also stress is libido killer. Other meds can cause sexual dysfunction too like statin drugs and beta blockers. If still on an SSRI you could be switched to another one. Some of the newer SSRIS like Fetzima and Trintellix are supposed to be sexual function neutral.

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