Naturally Boost Your Dopamine Levels for More Energy and a Better Mood
If you think back to the last time you did something that you really love, you'll probably remember it fondly. You'll remember feeling happy, excited, exhilarated, rewarded or a heady mix of all of the above.
That's all down to a chemical called dopamine.
What is Dopamine?
Dopamine is a feel good chemical, or neurotransmitter, that is released from the 'reward and pleasure centre' of the brain. Neurotransmitters carry messages and instructions between the brain the cells of the body.
Dopamine is released when something good happens, especially when this good thing is unexpected. Such as someone buying us a gift, or if we win a competition. It's also triggered when we feel good from doing something virtuous like exercise or something thrilling like finding our favourite clothes shop has a sale.
According to scientists, how much dopamine we naturally have can influence our behaviours. It can control our cravings, our mood and how we sleep. It even has a hold over well we learn something new by controlling our attention and our memory.
If we have naturally low levels of dopamine, we might experience poor memory and concentration, weight gain and lethargy. We could also be more at risk of developing depression, anxiety and possibly even Parkinson's disease. Too much dopamine, and we can be hyperactive or manic, or become bipolar.
The Bad Side of Dopamine
Dopamine has an unhealthy relationship with addiction. Many of us recognise that dopamine hit when we eat sugar or drink alcohol.
Particularly if we're low on dopamine, we might reach for these stimulants to make us feel better, and without knowing it, artificially raise our dopamine levels. This is a temporary fix, and leads to wanting more and more caffeine, sugar, alcohol or drugs.
In fact, too many stimulants like these can lead to an even lower natural level of dopamine, as the body becomes reliant on them to create dopamine artificially. As can a poor diet, stress and too little sleep.
Boosting Dopamine Naturally
The good news is, there are many ways we can boost dopamine naturally:
• Eat more protein – particularly foods that contain the amino acid tyrosine. The body can turn tyrosine into dopamine, so fill up on lean meats, dairy products, soya products and beans.
• Eat less saturated fat – which can interfere with the dopamine signals from the brain to the rest of the body. So this means fewer fatty meats and processed foods.
• Get your five a day – fruit and veg is packed with antioxidants, substances that reduce inflammation and keep crucial dopamine receptors healthy.
• Consume probiotics – gut friendly good bacteria either in supplements or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha help support a healthy gut – which is our second brain! There is an intricate link between the gut and the brain, and the more this is looked after, the better.
• Sleep – a lack of sleep or staying up too late can alter the natural rhythms of the body, called circadian rhythms. This can lead to dopamine, which promotes wakefulness, being released at the wrong time of day, further disrupting sleep.
• Eat dopamine boosting foods – these include almonds, avocados, bananas and pumpkin and sesame seeds.• Exercise!Working out is thought to raise dopamine levels, so it's not just for physical health, exercise helps boost mental health too.
If you need help getting into an exercise routine, contact me to see how I can help you.