Dopamine deficiency can cause physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Restoring dopamine levels can significantly improve the quality of life. A healthy diet and lifestyle are of crucial importance to maintaining dopamine levels. Here we discuss a few quick ways to restore dopamine.
Low levels of dopamine can lead to cognitive and motor symptoms.
Dopamine levels can be restored with a healthy diet containing meat, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Regular exercise, meditation, and adequate sleep can help in increasing dopamine levels.
Consult your doctor to rule out any pathological conditions that may cause dopamine deficiency.
Dopamine, a chemical secreted in the brain, is sometimes referred to as a “feel-good” hormone. Adrenal glands also secrete dopamine, which helps in generating a fight-or-flight response. Dopamine is a signaling molecule that participates in important body functions such as movement, mood, and reward circuitry. Low levels of dopamine can lead to several physical and mental symptoms.
Persons with low levels of dopamine experience symptoms such as lack of motivation, forgetfulness, lack of pleasure from previously pleasurable activities, constipation, tremors, muscle cramps, and disturbed sleep. Your doctor may advise blood tests, brain scans, and clinical evaluation to diagnose low levels of dopamine.
5 scientifically researched ways to restore dopamine levels
If you are diagnosed with low dopamine levels, there are five different ways to restore them.
1. Healthy diet – essential in dopamine synthesis
Eating a healthy diet provides the building blocks necessary for synthesizing dopamine in the body. Dopamine is made from tyrosine (or L-tyrosine), a non-essential amino acid that is used to make various proteins. L-tyrosine is synthesized from another dietary amino acid called phenylalanine. Foods that are rich in phenylalanine help in increasing dopamine levels.
Fish, meats (e.g., pork, chicken, turkey), eggs, and dairy products are good sources of phenylalanine.
For those looking for vegetarian or vegan options:
- Soy milk, soybeans
- Legumes such as kidney beans, Lima beans
In animal studies, dopamine was increased by magnesium supplements. Although scientific evidence in humans is slim, when the diet is deficient in magnesium, then magnesium supplements may become necessary.
Foods rich in magnesium include:
- Nuts (e.g., almonds, cashew nuts, and peanuts)
- Seeds (pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc.)
- Brown rice
2. Massage – reduces cortisol and increases dopamine
Massage is a manual therapy usually recommended for the soft tissues of the body. A massage therapist may use hands or instruments such as stones, percussion/vibration massage devices, and plastic hooks/tools. Research has shown that massage reduces stress, depression, and pain. A clinical study examining the impact of massage by conducting urine assays revealed an average increase of the neurotransmitters dopamine by 31% and serotonin by 28%. Massage therapy also decreased cortisol levels by 31%.
For massage therapy, you can find a licensed massage therapist in your local area. Alternatively, talk to your doctor or care team to get more information about options such as a massage chair.
3. Exercise – stimulates the reward circuitry of the brain
Regular exercise has a positive impact on physical and mental health. Exercise helps in stimulating the reward circuitry of the brain. The reward circuitry is associated with feelings of motivation and pleasure. Epidemiological research has highlighted vigorous activities, including exercise, stimulate the dopaminergic system and thereby protect it from Parkinson’s disease. In patients with mild Parkinson’s disease, six months of aerobic exercise improved movement and executive function.
Start with low-impact exercises such as walking or jogging for 30 minutes three to five times per week. After consulting your doctor and fitness trainer, you can add strength training and stretching exercises.
4. Meditation – helps with dopamine release
Meditation includes a set of activities that increase awareness and develop an open attitude. Meditation postures may include sleeping, sitting, standing, walking, or even dancing. Research has shown that after meditative practices such as yoga nidra, the endogenous dopamine release from the brain improves by 65%.
An easy way to develop a meditation practice is to join a local group of meditation practitioners. A trained, knowledgeable teacher can provide detailed instruction to practice. When you learn the technique that works for you (e.g., mindfulness, Yoga Nidra, chanting, etc.) you can develop a practice schedule that works for you. If local groups are not an option, then talk to your care team professionals. They can suggest online resources such as YouTube videos or social media groups that might work for you.
5. Quality sleep – maintains adequate levels of tyrosine and dopamine
Tyrosine helps us maintain cognitive abilities when we don’t sleep enough, and thus helps in coping with sleep deprivation. When sleep-deprived individuals are given tyrosine supplements, their performance on psychomotor tasks improves. To maintain high levels of dopamine, adequate levels of tyrosine, and therefore sleep, are essential. Sleep hygiene or healthy habits to sleep well are important to get good sleep. Maintaining a daily sleep routine such as showering, contemplative practice (prayer), or music helps in getting adequate sleep. If you are experiencing insomnia or any other sleep disorder, then seek expert advice.
Low levels of dopamine are associated with a wide range of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, restless leg syndrome, Huntington’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Low dopamine levels are also associated with neuropsychiatric illnesses, such as depression and addiction. Consult your doctor to rule out these diseases before you make any lifestyle changes to increase dopamine. Dopamine levels affect mood and movement, which ultimately determines the overall quality of your life.
Maintaining optimal levels of dopamine is possible with dietary and behavioral changes. In some cases, tyrosine supplements along with vitamins may be necessary. If you are experiencing any symptoms related to dopamine deficiency, then talk to your doctor.
- HealthDirect. What happens if I have too much or too little dopamine?
- Aviation, space, and environmental medicine. The effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during extended wakefulness.
- Brain Research. Cognitive Brain Research. Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness.
- Brain Science. Exercise benefits brain function: The monoamine connection.
- The international journal of neuroscience. Cortisol decreases and serotonin & dopamine increase following massage therapy.