Dopamine deficiency is a condition that occurs when there are low amounts of dopamine in the body. This has several effects on the body, and to understand this, it becomes important to highlight the purpose of dopamine. Dopamine functions as both a hormone and neurotransmitter. Its functions include arousal, behaviour patterns that are motivated by rewards and the control of motor functions. Additionally, dopamine has also been linked to milk production in lactating mothers.
Dopamine is does not cross the famous Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) and often circulates in small amounts in the blood. Dopamine is synthesized in the digestive system. A number of factors have been known to cause a drop in the production of dopamine. One of the key factors in this regard is stress. Stress is known to hamper dopamine nerve activities, resulting in low levels of the neurotransmitter. Other factors that lead to dopamine deficiency include alcohol withdrawal (for alcohol addicts), a sedentary lifestyle that compounds obesity and unhealthy eating as well as disorders such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease. The use of certain medication may also interfere with the normal production of dopamine.
One of the key symptoms of low dopamine levels is Dopamine Deficient Depression (abbreviated DDD). This happens because dopamine plays a key role in regulating one’s mood. This often manifests as chronic fatigue, persistent boredom, significant decrease in physical energy as well as the loss of interest in exercise/ workout routines. The symptoms in turn, lead to body chills and it is not uncommon for affected people to experience cold hands and feet.
Other symptoms of dopamine deficiency include low libido, excessive sleep, cravings for stimulants and/or sweet foods as well as sudden weight gain. Part of the reason why this happens is the fact that low dopamine levels cause body inactivity, which is why there is always the risk of adding weight. There are several natural remedies that one can use to treat dopamine deficiency, but this has to be done following an accurate diagnosis by a trained doctor.
1. Make Dietary Changes:
Since dopamine deficiency is accompanied by the craving for sweet foods and weight gain, one of the best ways to keep this in check is to make dietary changes. By opting for foods which encourage dopamine production in the body, as well as an overall balanced diet, it is possible to reverse the effects of low dopamine in the body. Below is a list of food products that will help manage the condition and speed up the process of recovery.
- Almonds – Almonds are rich in a compound known as phenylalanine (abbreviated Phe). This is important because the amino acid is one of the precursors required for the synthesis of dopamine. Since almonds are rich in Phenylalanine, they can easily be added to one’s diet to reduce the deficiency. There are several ways in which you can enjoy your almonds, but it is recommended to have them raw as processed ones tend to have a high concentration of sodium.
- Dark Chocolate is an excellent option when it comes to natural home remedies for the treatment of dopamine. Just like raw almonds, dark chocolate is rich in phenylalanine, and its intake helps raise the neurotransmitter’s concentration in the body. The reason for this is that dark chocolate contains 70% cocoa, and cocoa is known to have the highest amounts of Phe. Note that dark chocolate is recommended for this remedy; avoid sugary chocolate options which cause a ‘sugar high’ with no tangible benefits.
- Fish is recommended for the natural treatment of dopamine deficiency because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are the building blocks of the neurotransmitter. By increasing the compounds required for the synthesis of dopamine, the body is able to adjust and recover faster. Excellent sources of the omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel.
- Use ripe bananas to treat dopamine deficiency as the bananas are rich in Tyrosine. Tyrosine is yet another amino acid that plays a key role in dopamine synthesis. As one of the precursor amino acids for dopamine production, increasing the amounts of Tyrosine in the body does good to treat the deficiency.
- Cook eggs for breakfast regularly. Eggs are recommended because they are not only rich in Vitamin D, they also contain Phenylalanine which is required for dopamine synthesis in the body. The best time to take eggs is in the morning. This is because at night when one is asleep, dopamine levels tend to get lower. Enjoying eggs during breakfast is a simple way to increase dopamine levels and reduce the symptoms of dopamine deficiency over a period of time.
- It is also recommended that you take fruits which are rich in antioxidants. The purpose of the antioxidants is to destroy free radicals which cause damage to the dopamine-synthesizing cells in the body. Apples contain two types of antioxidants that are beneficial in treating dopamine deficiency: quercetin and polyphenols. Strawberries on the other hand, are rich in phenol antioxidants that are also known to increase dopamine levels in the brain.
- Reduce your sugar intake to help increase dopamine levels in the body. This is recommended because sugar changes the brain’s chemical reactions and disturbs the levels of dopamine in the body, resulting in what is commonly referred to as a ‘sugar rush’. Over a period of time, this results in sugar addiction in an unquestionable desire for dopamine. By restricting the amount of sugar intake, it is possible to curb the craving for a high.
2. Make Lifestyle Changes:
It is possible to treat dopamine deficiency by making simple lifestyle changes that will help the body cope with symptoms of the deficiency as well as reduce the intensity of the symptoms. Note however, that for these changes to be effective, they have to be done over a period of time before any changes are visible.
- Physical exercise is one of the best lifestyle changes you can make to address dopamine deficiency. Research shows that exercise increases the baseline levels of dopamine, which in turn prevents deficiency. This is achieved by encouraging the growth of new receptors in the brain cells. Dopamine is one of the reasons why runners experience a ‘high’ after a good run. Take note however, that the benefits of exercise are not only restricted to strenuous routines that require lots of effort. Gentle exercises such as brisk walking, light yoga as well as nature walks have a great effect on the body’s ability to produce dopamine.
- Meditation is a technique that has been shown to help increase the amounts of dopamine in the body. Meditation works because it calms the body, relaxes the brain and wards off depressive tendencies. Meditation is also a great stress-buster. As mentioned above, one of the main causes of dopamine deficiency is high stress levels. By countering stress, meditation plays a key role in improving the condition. Other benefits of meditation include improved focus, increased concentration as well as deep relaxation.
- Engage in social interactions with the people that matter to you. Scientific evidence shows that doing so naturally increases dopamine production in the body. This also has the advantage of been a great mood booster.
- Make use of the brain’s reward system to deal with low levels of dopamine in the body. To understand how this works, you need to appreciate how dopamine works in the body. The brain reward system relies solely on the body’s ability to produce dopamine when needs or goals are met. Dopamine makes us feel good, and is released when excellent opportunities avail themselves.
- There’s a catch however; the human body is not designed to have a non-stop ‘dopamine high’ as this can easily create the perfect space for addictions and greed. Instead, use the simple and healthy ways below to remedy dopamine deficiency without the need to engage in addictions for a continuous high.
- Enjoy quest-oriented activities. Whether this means hunting for a traditional recipe given by your grandmother, or looking for bargain deals in thrift shops, the aim is to get a dopamine surge with every accomplished task. There are also a number of quest-oriented activities that you can indulge in. These include bird-watching, rock climbing and archaeology among others.
- The second healthy way to get a dopamine surge is to create goals. When you accomplish a goal, dopamine is released in a series of reactions in the brain-reward system. The most important thing in doing this is to ensure that you have a balance of short-term and long-term goals. Having a long list of long-term goals only can easily frustrate you, so a mix of both is good. As a general rule, break down the long-term goals into small achievable goals set over a period of time. Remember, short term goals can be as simple as sorting mail in the mail box, making your bed or even preparing your favourite meal from scratch!
- Challenge yourself to get a dopamine boost. This works quite similarly to setting goals, but is designed to create personal dopamine rewards. Excellent ideas include learning a new language, cycling to work for 5 days instead of driving or something as simple as figuring out a new phone application.
- Create a healthy schedule for your routines and follow it through. This routine should typically include ample time for rest, physical activity and work. Sleep is very important as it gives the body time to recharge and ensures optimal functioning of the neurotransmitters.
3. Use Supplements:
This remedy is recommended in some cases for the natural treatment of dopamine deficiency largely because the use of supplements must be done in consultation with your doctor. Some of the supplements that are beneficial include L-Phenylalanine, Tyrosine and Vitamin B6 supplements. Magnesium supplements are also helpful. All of the compounds in the supplements play an important role in dopamine synthesis, and help the body recover from dopamine deficiency. Since dopamine is the body’s ‘motivation compound’, it helps to use healthy ways of increasing its production. If you have any underlying mental health conditions, it is important to consult with your doctor.