Dopamine is a major chemical messenger that has many functions in the brain.
It includes reward, motivation, memory, concentration, and even body movement control.
This produces feelings of pleasure and gratification when dopamine is released in large amounts, which motivates you to replicate a specific behavior.
By comparison, higher dopamine levels are associated with lower excitement and reduced enthusiasm for activities that would excite most people.
Normally, dopamine levels are well regulated in the nervous system, but there are some things you can do to raise levels naturally.
Here are the top 10 ways to increase dopamine levels naturally.
1. Eat lots of protein
protein is made up of smaller amino acid building blocks.
There are 23 different amino acids you need to get from food, some of which your body can synthesize and others.
An amino acid called tyrosine plays a critical role in dopamine production.
Enzymes within your body can turn tyrosine into dopamine, so it is important to have adequate levels of tyrosine in the production of dopamine.
Tyrosine may also be produced from phenylalanine, another amino acid.
Naturally, both tyrosine and phenylalanine are present in protein-rich foods such as turkey, beef, eggs, milk, soy and legumes.
Studies show that increasing the amount of tyrosine and phenylalanine in the diet will increase the level of dopamine in the brain, thereby encouraging deep thinking and improving memory.
In comparison, when the diet reduces phenylalanine and tyrosine, dopamine levels may be reduced.
While these studies show that extremely high or extremely low intakes of these amino acids can influence levels of dopamine, it is unclear if normal protein intake differences would have a significant impact.
2. Eat Less Saturated Fat
Some animal research has found that saturated fats, such as those found in animal fat, butter, full-fat dairy, palm oil and coconut oil, can interfere with dopamine signaling in the brain when consumed in very large amounts.
So far, only rats have conducted these studies, but the results are fascinating.
One study found that rats who ingested 50% of their calories from saturated fat had decreased dopamine signals in their brain’s reward areas compared to animals who obtained the same amount of calories from unsaturated fat.
Interestingly, even without differences in weight, body fat, hormones, or blood sugar levels, these changes occurred.
Some researchers assume that high-saturated fat diets can increase inflammation in the body, leading to changes in the dopamine system, but more research is needed.
A correlation between high saturated fat intake and poor memory and cognitive functioning in humans has been identified in several observational studies, but it is unclear whether these effects are linked to dopamine levels.
3. Consume Probiotics
Scientists have discovered in recent years that the gut and brain are closely connected.
In fact, the gut is sometimes referred to as the “second brain,” as it contains a large number of nerve cells that produce many molecules that signal neurotransmitters, including dopamine.
It is now clear that certain species of bacteria that live in your gut are also able to produce dopamine, which can have an effect on mood and behavior.
4. Eat Velvet Beans
Velvet beans, also known as Mucuna pruriens, contain L-dopa, the precursor molecule to dopamine, naturally high levels.
Studies show that eating these beans can naturally help raise dopamine levels, especially in people with Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder caused by low levels of dopamine.
A small study in those with Parkinson’s disease showed that eating 250 grams of cooked velvet beans significantly increased dopamine levels and one to two hours after meal decreased Parkinson’s symptoms.
Similarly, several studies on Mucuna pruriens supplements have found that they can be even more effective and longer-lasting than traditional Parkinson’s drugs and have fewer side effects.
Keep in mind that high quantities of velvet beans are toxic. Make sure to follow the product label dose instructions.
Although these foods are natural sources of L-dopa, it is necessary to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or routine for supplements.
Exercise is to increase endorphin levels and improve mood, exercise is often recommended.
Improvements in attitude can be seen after just 10 minutes of aerobic activity, but after at least 20 minutes appear to be the maximum.
While these results may not be entirely due to changes in dopamine levels, animal research indicates that exercise may raise levels of dopamine in the brain.
Among rats, running a treadmill increases dopamine release and upregulates the amount of dopamine receptors among brain reward areas.
These results in humans, however, have not been consistently replicated.
Exercise can improve mood and if performed regularly can raise dopamine levels. In order to identify specific recommendations for increasing dopamine levels, further research is needed.
6. Get Enough Sleep
It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness when dopamine is released into the brain.
Animal studies show that in the morning when it’s time to wake up, dopamine is released in large amounts and that levels naturally drop in the evening when it’s time to go to bed.
Lack of sleep, however, seems to interfere with these natural rhythms.
The availability of dopamine receptors in the brain will be dramatically reduced by the next morning (36Trusted Source) when people are forced to stay awake through the night.
Since dopamine promotes wakefulness, reducing receptor sensitivity will make it easier to fall asleep, particularly after a night of sleeplessness.
Lack of sleep can reduce the sensitivity to dopamine in the brain, leading to excessive sleepiness. Getting a good night’s rest can help regulate the natural rhythms of dopamine in your body.
7. Hearing music
Listening to music can be a fun way to stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain.
Several studies of brain imaging have found that listening to music increases activity in the reward and enjoyable areas of the brain that are rich with dopamine receptors.
A small study investigating the effects of music on dopamine found that brain dopamine levels increased by 9 percent when people listened to instrumental songs that gave them chills.
Even listening to music has been shown to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve they are fine motor control, as music can boost dopamine levels.
Meditate is the practice of clearing your mind, concentrating your thoughts inwardly and letting them float without judgment or attachment.
It can be performed while standing, sitting or even walking, and daily exercise is related to better physical and mental health.
New research has found these benefits to be due to higher levels of dopamine in the brain.
One research with eight professional meditation teachers found an increase of 64 percent in the development of dopamine after one hour of meditation compared to quiet resting.
9. Get Enough Sunlight
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a condition in which people feel sad or depressed when they are not exposed to enough sunlight during the winter season.
It is well known that periods of low exposure to sunshine may result in lower levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and may increase exposure to sunlight.
One research in 68 healthy adults showed that those who had the greatest exposure to sunlight in the past 30 days had the highest density of dopamine receptors in their brain’s reward and movement regions.
10. Consider supplements
To create dopamine, your body needs several vitamins and minerals. These include iron, niacin, folate and vitamin B6.
If one or more of these nutrients are lacking in your body, you may have trouble making enough dopamine to meet the needs of your body (60Trusted Source).
If you are deficient in any of these nutrients can be determined by blood work. If so, you can add up to your rates as appropriate.
In addition to proper nutrition, several other supplements have been associated with increased levels of dopamine, but research has so far been limited to animal studies.
These additives include magnesium, vitamin D, curcumin, extract of oregano and green tea. For humans, however, further research is needed.
It is important for the production of dopamine to have adequate levels of iron, niacin, folate and vitamin B6. Preliminary animal studies suggest that some supplements may also help increase the levels of dopamine, but more human research is needed.
The Bottom Line
Dopamine is an important chemical in the brain that affects your mood and reward and encouragement feelings. It also helps regulate the movements of the body.
In general, levels are well regulated by the body, but there are a few changes in diet and lifestyle that you can make to naturally boost your levels.
A balanced diet with adequate protein, vitamins and minerals, probiotics, and a moderate amount of saturated fat can help your body make the dopamine it needs.