A balanced dopamine level is important for drive and motivation and is therefore crucial for a good quality of life. In cooperation with serotonin, dopamine forms the so-called happiness hormones. If the dopamine level is too low due to constant stress, an acute infection or a bad and unhealthy diet, this can have negative consequences for your body. In addition, existing addictions such as nicotine, alcohol and drugs can also negatively affect dopamine levels.
In order to increase their dopamine levels, you need to change your lifestyle and diet. In this article you will learn how to increase your dopamine levels to get back to normal. You will also learn more about what you should know about the happy hormone dopamine.
the essentials in brief
- Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain. It conveys drive and motivation-enhancing effects.
- Consequences of a too low dopamine level are manic and parkinsonian-like symptoms.
- Dopamine levels can be increased with a good lifestyle in the form of a good diet, plenty of exercise, and not addicting to nicotine, alcohol, or drugs.
Definition: What is dopamine?
Dopamine occurs naturally in the body - as an important messenger substance in the brain (neurotransmitter). It conveys motivational and drive-enhancing effects. If the level of the messenger substance is too low or too high, manic or Parkinson's-like symptoms can occur. In addition, the active substance dopamine belongs to the group of catecholamines and is used therapeutically in states of shock (1).
Background: What you should know about increasing dopamine
Increasing dopamine brings up a few questions, so you should get some background on increasing dopamine.
We want to answer these frequently asked questions for you in the following paragraphs.
Which organ produces dopamine?
Dopamine is formed in (postganglionic sympathetic) nerve endings and in the adrenal medulla as a precursor to norepinephrine.
How does dopamine work in the body?
Dopamine effects in the central nervous system
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is used in the brain for communication between nerve cells. In certain "circuits" it conveys positive emotional experiences ("reward effect"), which is why it, like serotonin, is considered a happiness hormone. However, dopamine causes a longer-term increase in motivation and drive promotion than serotonin.
In Parkinson's disease, there is a lack of dopamine in the central nervous system. Muscle rigidity (rigor), trembling (tremor) and slowing down of movements to the point of immobility (akinesia) are among the typical symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Because dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, it cannot be supplied directly to compensate for the deficiency in the brain. Instead, analogues (dopamine agonists) of the messenger substance and precursors (L-DOPA) are administered, which can reach the site of action in the brain.
In schizophrenic or other psychotic patients, the dopamine concentration is usually increased in certain areas of the brain. Inhibitors of the messenger substance (dopamine antagonists) are used for this. They are classified as neuroleptics or antipsychotics.
There is an increased dopamine effect after the consumption of certain drugs such as cocaine, as these prevent the neurotransmitter from being reabsorbed into the nerve cells (dopamine reuptake inhibitors). Because the brain connects drug use with a reward effect, which also primarily explains the addictive effect of cocaine and other drugs. Clinical symptoms of a psychosis often appear after excessive drug use (1).
Dopamine effects in other body regions
In addition, dopamine can increase blood flow to certain areas of the body (such as the kidneys). Therefore, it is used for low blood pressure, kidney failure and shock.
However, its use is declining, as active ingredients in norepinephrine and adrenaline have minor side effects (1).
When is dopamine released?
In the short term, dopamine is released in the event of unexpected subjectively positive results and provides a reward effect.
Dopamine is released, for example, when long-awaited goals are achieved and a desire or the immediate prospect of a reward motivates you to take action.
For example, one study tested how food intake is controlled in the body. The study participants were offered milkshakes and the release of dopamine in the brain was measured at the same time.
The results showed that as soon as the participants taste the shake in their mouth, the brain releases the first dopamine molecules. And once the drink reaches the stomach, dopamine is released again (3).
When is dopamine determined and what are dopamine reference values?
If doctors suspect a tumor that is producing catecholamines uncontrollably, the levels of adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the urine are measured. However, the dopamine value varies from person to person and therefore the measurement is not part of the standard examination. An elevated value merely indicates a tumor (5).
|age||normal dopamine value|
|up to 1 year||≤ 85.0 µg/d|
|1 to 2 years||≤ 140.0 µg/d|
|2 to 4 years||≤ 260.0 µg/d|
|4 to 18 years||≤ 450.0 µg/d|
How Can You Increase Your Dopamine Levels Naturally?
The body regulates dopamine levels, but there are some dietary and lifestyle parameters that can help our body naturally increase dopamine levels.
Eating a balanced diet with adequate vitamins, protein, probiotics, minerals, and a moderate amount of saturated fat can help produce the dopamine you need.
In addition, sufficient exercise, high sleep quality, effective instrumental music, meditation units, warm hours of sunshine and binaural sounds help to positively influence your dopamine level.
Dopamine can be increased naturally through yoga, meditation, and exercise. (Image Source: Kaylee Garrett / unsplash)
How do you increase or decrease dopamine?
If the body's dopamine level is abnormally high or low, medication can help to compensate for the deficiency. For example, the so-called L-DOPA (levodopa) compensates for the existing dopamine deficit in Parkinson's disease in the brain of the patient as a transmitter replacement.
In addition, there are also dopamine reuptake inhibitors that give those affected a better quality of life. For example, MAO-B inhibitors (monoamine oxidase B inhibitors) block the breakdown of dopamine in the brain (10).
Research is currently being carried out into whether increased tyrosine intake from food can increase the body's own dopamine. For example, the food beetroot is said to have a lot of this amino acid and have a positive effect on diseases such as depression. However, it remains unclear how strong the interactions between diet, dopamine, and mental health are.
If your dopamine balance is thrown off balance by stress, lack of sleep or physical exertion, you can use relaxation exercises, meditation or yoga to bring your body's own dopamine levels back into balance (5).
Furthermore, by taking the right supplements, you can also increase your dopamine levels:
- L-theanine increases a variety of other neurotransmitters in your brain besides your dopamine levels (6). A good source of this amino acid is green tea. Additionally, L-theanine is a popular nootropic that can improve your mood and focus.
- Curcumin is a component of turmeric and can increase the amount of dopamine in your brain (7).
- Ginkgo biloba can also boost your dopamine levels (8).
- Acetyl-L-Tyrosine is a building block of dopamine and can therefore cause your dopamine production to increase (9).
In the following video we show you how to increase dopamine naturally.
What can you do about dopamine deficiency?
The same measures as in the previous two questions are useful if you have a dopamine deficiency.
In addition, dopamine-like substances are preferably used in younger patients. And with additional medication, the premature breakdown of the messenger substance is prevented.
After drug abuse, drug correction of the deficit is not necessary because the relative dopamine deficiency improves after withdrawal and the receptors recover (2).
What are the consequences of a lack of dopamine?
A dopamine deficiency means a reduced concentration of dopamine in the blood. Dopamine is an important messenger substance in the body (neurotransmitter) and therefore has different consequences, such as Parkinson's disease.
Dopamine is one of the most important transmitters in the brain, because the so-called dopaminergic nerve cells (neurons) are formed in it from the amino acid tyrosine and ensure targeted control of movements. Due to the lack of dopamine, the movement impulses are only passed on very slowly or not at all and the following symptoms arise:
- shaking (tremor)
- muscle stiffness (rigor)
- Slowing down of voluntary motor function (bradykinesia)
- Gait and standing instability (postural instability)
A dopamine deficiency can have further devastating consequences in the so-called reward system of the brain and in other important brain functions. It is important not only for memory but also for mental health. Drive, attention and motivation suffer when the dopamine receptors are no longer sufficiently stimulated. Similar symptoms also occur with drug abuse if the receptors have previously been flooded with dopamine and therefore react less sensitively afterwards:
- attention disorders
- Listlessness and listlessness (anhedonia)
In addition, dopamine also dilates blood vessels outside of the brain in the stomach and kidneys and promotes blood circulation. The sympathetic nervous system is also regulated and stimulated. Therefore, possible consequences of severe dopamine deficiency in these areas are:
- bladder emptying disorders
- uncontrolled sweating (2)
In the following video we give you tips and tricks on how to increase your dopamine level.
What are long-term consequences of dopamine deficiency?
In Parkinson's disease, dopaminergic neurons die off and, according to current studies, these cannot be stopped, which means that the clinical picture is becoming more severe and other symptoms are added. Initially, movement disorders occur, followed by depressive moods and dementia. Special drugs have to compensate for the dopamine deficiency in the affected patients.
In addition, it is suspected that a lack of dopamine is also responsible for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to current studies, it is still unclear to what extent the administration of artificial dopamine can help the affected patients (2).
When is dopamine used?
Dopamine is not used directly for neurological indications (such as Parkinson's) but either analogues or precursors thereof as these can cross the blood-brain barrier.
In the event of shock or impending shock, the active ingredient is used to stabilize the circulatory system. This can occur, for example, with:
- heart failure and heart attack
- severe infections
- sudden, severe drop in blood pressure (1)
What food is high in dopamine?
The foods and drinks high in the serotonin precursor trytophan are:
- Nuts, seeds such as pumpkin seeds, whole grains
- Chocolate (preferably bitter varieties with a high cocoa content)
- hard cheese
- green tea
Eating a balanced and healthy diet can increase your dopamine levels. (Image source: Dan Gold / unsplash)
What Does Dopamine Fasting Bring?
Throttling your own expectations, preventing stimulation and slowing down the reward system means dopamine fasting. The psychologist Sepah from the University of Calfornia in San Francisco is the inventor of dopamine fasting and is convinced that this allows the brain to properly recover from the stimuli (4)
Can Exercise Increase Dopamine?
When we exercise, dopamine is released, and the more we exercise, the more dopamine is released.
Dopamine is released during activity and makes us more alert, focused, concentrated and drives us to perform at our best and makes sports fun.
What should be considered when using dopamine?
Dopamine is mainly used in emergency medicine. The attending physician clarifies individually whether a patient should not receive the medication for certain reasons (1).
Are there drugs that increase dopamine levels?
Yes, there are drugs that increase dopamine, but only doctors and clinics are allowed to buy dopamine. You cannot get dopamine on prescription or obtain it in any form.
However, dopmain can be absorbed through meals (such as fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, bananas, avocados and broccoli), but the effect is negligible as the active ingredient is rendered ineffective in the intestine shortly after absorption (1).
What are the side effects of dopamine?
Dopamine is used on a rather declining basis, as it has a comparatively high potential for side effects. It is injected in states of shock, and headaches, shortness of breath, cardiac arrhythmias, nausea and vomiting, a severe drop in blood pressure or an excessive increase in blood pressure often occur (in every tenth to one hundredth patient) (1).
When is dopamine elevated?
An increased release of dopamine is produced by pheochromocytomas. This leads to sweating, headaches with dizziness and high blood pressure.
These drugs include not only illegal addictive substances such as amphetamines but also nicotine and alcohol.
Psychosis and schizophrenia are also associated with an excess of dopamine. Therefore, there are drugs that block certain dopamine receptors to improve symptoms.
Drugs can prevent the reuptake of dopamine in cells and then the level also increases (5).
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is used in the brain for communication between nerve cells. It conveys motivational and drive-enhancing effects. Since dopamine causes positive emotional experiences (“reward effect”) in certain “circuits”, it is also referred to as the happiness hormone.
Eating a balanced diet with adequate vitamins, protein, probiotics, minerals, and a moderate amount of saturated fat can help produce the dopamine you need. In addition, sufficient exercise, high sleep quality, effective instrumental music, meditation units, warm hours of sunshine and binaural sounds help to positively influence your dopamine level.
A dopamine deficiency means a reduced concentration of dopamine in the blood. Dopamine is an important messenger substance in the body (neurotransmitter) and therefore has various consequences such as Parkinson's disease, shaking (tremor), muscle stiffness (rigor), slowing of voluntary motor activity (bradykinesia), unsteadiness in walking and standing (postural instability), depression, Disturbance in attention, listlessness and listlessness (anhedonia), constipation, bladder emptying disorders, swallowing disorders and uncontrolled sweating.
- Benjamin Clanner-Engelshofen, Dopamine, January 19, 2017.
- Valeria Dahm, Dopamine Deficiency, December 10, 2017.
- Max Planck Society, Brain hungers for dopamine, January 7, 2017.
- Benjamin Esche, What Dopamine Fasting Really Brings, January 31, 2020.
- Valeria Dahm, Martina Feichter, Dopamine, December 10, 2017
- Pradeep J Nathan , Kristy Lu, M Gray, C Oliver, The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent, 2006;6(2):21-30.
- SK Kulkarni and A Dhir, An Overview of Curcumin in Neurological Disorders, 2010 Mar-Apr; 72(2): 149-154.
- Kehr J, Yoshitake S, Ijiri S, Koch E, Nöldner M, Yoshitake T. Ginkgo biloba leaf extract (EGb 761®) and its specific acylated flavonol constituents increase dopamine and acetylcholine levels in the rat medial prefrontal cortex: possible implications for the cognitive enhancing properties of EGb 761®, 24 August 2012.
- Simon N. Young, L-Tyrosine to alleviate the effects of stress? May 2007.
- gesundheitsinformation.de, Drug treatment for Parkinson's disease, 19 June 2019.