Dopamine Deficiency - How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

Dopamine is a brain chemical that make us feel alert and energized. It is important for focus, concentration, motivation and enthusiasm.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms

Symptoms of low dopamine levels can include:

  • depression - the flat, apathetic kind
  • difficulty dragging yourself out of bed
  • poor focus and concentration
  • lack of energy
  • introversion
  • a tendency to use stimulants such as coffee, chocolate, No-Doz or alcohol to keep you going

Take the dopamine deficiency test to find out if you could be low in dopamine. Or, take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have one of 13 common causes of depression.

Dopamine is made in the body from tyrosine, an amino acid found in foods like beef, chicken and eggs.

What Causes Low Dopamine Levels?

Dopamine levels can be low for a number of reasons, including:

  • genetics - about 35% of Americans have a gene that causes problems with the production of dopamine
  • not enough protein in the diet - the tyrosine that we need to produce dopamine is found in protein foods, and many people just don't get enough protein in their diets. In addition, eating a lot of sugary or starchy foods causes the release of insulin, and this forces the tyrosine out of the bloodstream into the muscles, resulting in less tyrosine reaching the brain. The Mood Cure  recommends eating 20-30 grams of protein at each meal - about the amount found in 3 to 4 ounces (around 100 grams) of chicken, fish, red meat or pork (about 6.5 to 8 grams of protein per ounce), 3 eggs (20 grams of protein), 1 cup of cottage cheese (28 grams of protein), or 3/4 cup of almonds (24 grams of protein).
  • not enough vitamins and minerals in the diet - Calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and B Vitamins are all important for dopamine function, so even if you have enough tyrosine, a vitamin or mineral deficiency may mean that you end up with a deficiency of dopamine. A healthy diet with plenty of fresh, whole vegetables, fruits and grains is very important for boosting dopamine levels.
  • too many "anti-dopamine" foods - soy in particular, while high in tyrosine, tends to inhibit the conversion of tyrosine to dopamine.
  • too much stress - stress causes the adrenal glands to release catecholamines (a group of chemicals that includes dopamine, together with adrenaline and nor-adrenaline) as part of the "fight or flight response". Catecholamines speed up the heart rate, divert blood from the digestive tract and other areas to the muscles, speed up the reflexes and generally prepare the body to fight or flee from a threat. This response is exactly what we need when our physical survival is threatened, but in today's high stress world, many of us are constantly pumping out catecholamines in response to deadlines, traffic jams, stressful jobs and other, non-life threatening forms of stress. If stress is prolonged, sooner or later we will exhaust our capability to produce catecholamines.
  • low thyroid function - thyroid hormones are vital for the digestion and absorption of amino acids, including tyrosine. Take the hypothyroidism test to find out if you could be low in thyroid hormones.

Diagnosis

Blood tests and urine tests can be used to measure your amino acid levels, but many physicians are not familiar with their use. Some practitioners say the tests are unreliable and a questionnaire will give a better indication of amino acid levels. If you want to get the testing done, try Googling 'Amino Acid Testing', contact one of the labs that does the testing and ask them to suggest a practitioner in your area who is familiar with the tests. If you can't find a practitioner, some labs let you order the test yourself online.

How to Increase Dopamine Levels Naturally

Tyrosine supplements can work wonders for dopamine deficiency depression, often increasing dopamine levels and lifting depression within half an hour. Tyrosine is the raw ingredient used to make dopamine in the body.

In The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today, Julia Ross recommends taking 500 mg - 2000 mg of tyrosine before breakfast, 500 mg - 2000 mg mid morning and 500 mg - 1000 mg mid afternoon. Start with one 500 mg capsule then wait for thirty minutes. If you don't get much effect from the first capsule, try a second, and if you still haven't noticed much difference after another thirty minutes, try a third. Most people find that after a while their dopamine reserves build up and they don't need to take tyrosine anymore. If you start to feel tense, get headaches or your blood pressure rises, it's probably an indication that you don't need tyrosine anymore.

A small number of people may also need the amino acid phenylalanine, which the body can use to produce tyrosine and then convert into dopamine. If tyrosine doesn't work as well as you hoped, Julia Ross recommends taking 500 mg - 2000 mg of phenylalanine before breakfast, 500 mg - 2000 mg mid morning and 500 mg - 1500 mg mid afternoon. Again, start with one capsule and increase the dose if you need to. Most people do better on tyrosine but some do better on phenylalanine and some do better combining the two.

Omega-3 fats support dopamine production and most of us don't get enough omega-3 in our diet. Fish oil supplements can help raise dopamine levels when taken in combination with tyrosine and/or phenylalanine.

Vitamin D is also required for the conversion of tyrosine to dopamine. Your physician can check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test. 

If the dopamine supplements don't work well for you, please read the hypothyroidism section. Anyone who has low thyroid function will need thyroid treatment to support the digestion and absorption of tyrosine and/or phenylalanine.

If you are taking an MAO inhibitor such as phentermine for depression, you have manic-depression, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, migraine headaches, melanoma, high blood pressure or a serious physical illness, you should consult a physician before taking tyrosine or phenylalanine. 

Other Causes of Depression

Take our 13 depression tests to find out if you could have any of the other common causes of depression.



Where to Find More Information

The Mood CureThe Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions--Today This book has by far the clearest and most detailed information we have found on neurotrasmitter and amino acid deficiencies. Its has an excellent chapter on catecholamine (including dopamine) deficiency with a comprehensive section on how to increase dopamine naturally.


The Ultramind Solution - The Simple Way to Defeat DepressionThe UltraMind Solution: The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind