11 Easy Ways To Increase Your Dopamine Naturally

Medically reviewed by June 24, 2024| Written by

11 Easy Ways To Increase Your Dopamine Naturally

You feel excited about the arrival of your order of a perfectly cooked steak while sitting in your favorite steakhouse. Have you ever thought about what triggers that excitement in your body? 

It’s because your brain produces a “happy hormone” called dopamine. And, here we’ll discuss 11 Easy ways to increase your dopamine naturally. But first, let’s deal with:

What is Dopamine and How Does it Work?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates thereward center and is also responsible for mood, motivation, emotions, memory, focus, and various other functions. It also acts as a hormone that prepares the body for the fight-or-flight response - a natural response to fear or threat.

Your brain releases dopamine in response to a feeling of pleasure or excitement. By acting as a reward center, it reinforces the sense of pleasure. This in turn makes you strive more for that feeling, whether it's related to food, sex, money, or addictive drugs.

Dopamine has plenty of beneficial roles in the body only if it is present in a balanced proportion.

Low dopamine levels lead to a lack of motivation, lethargy, and other related symptoms. Higher than normal dopamine can make you anxious and unable to control your impulses.

What Are the Signs of Low Dopamine?

The warning signs of low dopamine include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Tiredness
  • Mood swings
  • Anxious
  • Poor coordination
  • Low-sex drive

Not every individual with dopamine deficiency experiences all these symptoms. The symptoms may vary depending on the individual’s condition and the underlying cause of low dopamine levels.

What decreases dopamine?

Studies show that many factors can decrease dopamine levels or make the body resistant to dopamine surges. Decreased dopamine receptors may make your body resistant to dopamine. Some common factors include:

Neurological Conditions:As the neurons in the brain produce dopamine, neurological conditions directly influence dopamine levels.Studies show that Parkinson’s disease causes a significant drop in dopamine levels in specific areas of the brain.

Parkinson’s disease is a degeneration of neurons in certain areas of the brain — thebasal ganglia andsubstancia niagra. These neurons are responsible for dopamine production and release. Thus, degenerative changes in these neurons can lead to a decrease in dopamine.

Medications:People with higher than normal dopamine levels often takedopamine antagonists — medications that block the action of dopamine. The chronic use of these medications can reduce dopamine production over time and facilitate the development of dopamine resistance. 

Poor Nutrition:A diet high in saturated fats initially promotes dopamine release, but in the long term, it canincrease inflammation and inhibit dopamine release.

A lack of nutrients such as magnesium and tyrosine in the diet can also decrease dopamine production. It’s because these nutrients are thebuilding blocks for dopamine production

Stress:Prolonged stress can cause the body's dopamine availability to drop. Astudy on the relationship between stress and dopamine levels in the body shows an inverse relation. An increase in stress was found to dampen dopamine production.

How to Increase Your Dopamine Levels?

If you are diagnosed with dopamine deficiency, it is possible to manage the condition and increase your dopamine levels. In this case, treatment involves takingdopamine agonists - drugs that work similarly to dopamine. 

However, one must opt for ways to increase dopamine levels naturally. So, I present here some practices that can help you improve your dopamine levels:

1. Eat Protein-Rich Diet

Proteins are made up of amino acids, and tyrosine is one of them. This amino acid is involved in the production of dopamine in the brain. And so, eating a diet rich in proteins, especially those with tyrosine, canincrease dopamine availability

Some tyrosine-rich foods are dairy products, eggs, chicken, beef, and legumes. 

Another amino acid called phenylalanine can also help in the production of dopamine. It is because your body can convertphenylalanine into tyrosine - the building block for dopamine production. Some phenylalanine-rich foods include meat, seafood, and nuts.

2. Avoid Unhealthy Foods

Unhealthy foods here refer to the foods that can decrease dopamine levels, and avoiding them can help manage dopamine deficiency. Astudy shows that a diet high in saturated fats reduces dopamine release and uptake compared to unsaturated fats. 

Saturated fats and processed sugar are among the obesogenic diets.Research shows an association between obesogenic diet and impairments in dopamine synthesis, release, and receptor function.

Replacing saturated fats and processed sugar diets with protein-rich foods can significantly reduce the symptoms of dopamine deficiency. It improves not only dopamine availability but also cognitive functioning.

3. Improve Gut Health

Gut microbiota facilitate the digestive process and have a role in brain functioning.Studies show that altered gut microbiota levels can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 

The mechanism for this association between gut microbiota and brain functioning is the influence of gut microbiota on neurotransmitters.Research shows that gut microbiota has a major role in the availability of dopamine in the enteric and central nervous systems. Anotherstudy reveals that the enteric nervous system produces 50% of dopamine.

You can improve gut health by promoting the growth of good gut microbiota. Increaseprobiotic foods in your diet as they promote gut health. Some common probiotic foods are yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and certain types of cheese.

4. Eat Fiber-rich Diet

The properties of dietary fiber can help you increase dopamine levels by several mechanisms. Gut microbiota processes the fiber from your diet and makes short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate. 

Studies show that butyrate reduces inflammation in the neurons and has a neuroprotective function, influencing dopamine levels. Anotherstudy shows that short-chain fatty acids promote the synthesis of tyrosine, increasing dopamine levels. 

Fiber alsoimproves gut health by facilitating the growth of good gut microbiota. As discussed earlier, gut health is a major factor in determining the availability of dopamine.

Plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables are rich sources of dietary fiber. You can always getpowdered fiber to increase your fiber uptake.

5. Exercise

Physical activity and exercise improve mood and can relieve anxiety and depression, providing relief against the symptoms of dopamine deficiency. The big reason for these effects of exercise is theendorphin release — a feel-good hormone.

Besides helping against dopamine deficiency symptoms, exercise can also directly increase dopamine levels. Astudy on the beneficial effects of exercise on brain function shows that exercise can upregulate dopamine concentration in the brain.

Anotherstudy on animals shows that exercise increases serum calcium, which is then transported to the brain. The brain uses this calcium for the synthesis of dopamine, causing increased dopamine levels.

6. Improve Sleep

A night of good sleep is as necessary for mental health as it is for physical health.Studies show that sleep improves mental performance, and lack of it can cause mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and risk-taking behavior. Thus, poor sleeping habits can worsen the symptoms of dopamine deficiency.

Sleep deprivation can influence dopamine availability by altering dopamine receptors. Astudy shows that sleep deprivation is associated with the downregulation of dopamine receptors in healthy individuals. 

Experts suggest that adults must sleep 7 to 9 hours a day to get the health benefits of sleep. You can improve your sleep by following thetips for better sleep.

7. Benefit From Sunlight

When exposed to sunlight, your body makes vitamin D. Astudy shows that vitamin D increases dopamine levels by promoting the development of dopamine-producing neurons. The same study also reveals that a lack of vitamin D can result in abnormal dopamine signaling in the brain.

Astudy on the association between sunshine exposure and dopamine receptor availability shows that dopamine receptor availability is significantly higher in individuals exposed to sunshine.

Experts suggest taking sunlight for5 to 30 minutes several times a week for its beneficial effects on the body. The time varies according to the sensitivity of your skin.

8. Meditation

Meditation is a set of physical and mental practices that people perform to relax their minds, reduce stress, and achieve focus. Astudy shows that meditation is helpful against the symptoms of dopamine deficiency, includingstress and anxiety.

Thisstudy also reveals that meditation increases dopamine levels, creating a feeling of pleasure and well-being.Research shows that people who meditate can experience up to 65% increase in their dopamine levels. 

You must learn about meditation techniques and integrate them into your daily life to increase dopamine levels.

9. Set Goals

We all feel good when we accomplish something and the brain’s neurotransmitters promote this feeling. In other words, dopamine regulatesreward-related behavior and your brain releases it when you achieve or are about to achieve a goal. 

Set goals in your daily life and strive to achieve them. This will trigger the release of dopamine and create a sense of achievement. This can help you fight against the symptoms of dopamine deficiency associated with mood by making you feel satisfied and motivated.

10. Listen to Pleasurable Music

You may have had days when you felt low, and listening to music boosted your mood. Feeling good from listening to pleasurable music is associated with the reward-related function of dopamine.

Astudy shows that music triggers pleasure and feel-good by making physiological changes in the nervous system. This study shows that music increases dopamine release in the striatal region, a component of the reward system in the brain.

11. Stress Management

Exposure to stress can worsen the condition if you have dopamine deficiency. Stress affectsmental health and can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, and lack of motivation.

Research shows that long-term stress leads to a decrease in striatal dopamine synthesis and release. Anotherstudy shows that the cortisol — a hormone your body releases in response to stress — is directly associated with decreased dopamine levels.

Managing stress will help you retain dopamine levels and improve mental abilities. Followstress management techniques or seek help from your healthcare provider to manage the stress.

Conclusion

Dopamine regulates the reward system in your brain and controls your mood and behavior. Your body can have depleted dopamine levels resulting from health conditions or from poor diet and lifestyle. 

Fortunately, you can increase dopamine levels by taking dopamine supplements or opting for natural ways to increase dopamine levels. There are several scientifically proven ways to increase dopamine naturally; diet and lifestyle changes are the most effective options. If you see no improvement in your symptoms, seek help from a medical professional.