How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

Low dopamine levels can lead to lack of motivation, fatigue, addictive behavior, mood swings and memory loss. Learn how to increase dopamine naturally.

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There are about 86 billion neurons in the human brain.

They communicate with each other via brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s a key contributor to motivation, productivity, and focus.

Let’s take a closer look at dopamine — what it does, the symptoms of deficiency, and how to increase it naturally.

What Does Dopamine Do?

Dopamine has been called our “motivation molecule.”

It boosts our drive, focus, and concentration.

It enables us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals.

It gives us that “I did it!” lift when we accomplish what we set out to do.

It makes us competitive and provides the thrill of the chase in all aspects of life — business, sports, and love.

Dopamine is in charge of our pleasure-reward system. (1)

It allows us to have feelings of enjoyment, bliss, and even euphoria.

But too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and even depressed.

Dopamine Deficiency Symptoms

People low in dopamine lack a zest for life.

They exhibit low energy and motivation, and often rely on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants to get through the day.

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Many common symptoms of dopamine deficiency are similar to those of depression:

  • lack of motivation
  • fatigue
  • apathy
  • procrastination
  • inability to feel pleasure
  • low libido
  • sleep problems
  • mood swings
  • hopelessness
  • memory loss
  • inability to concentrate

Dopamine-deficient lab mice become so apathetic and lethargic they lack motivation to eat and starve to death. (2)

Conversely, some people who are low in dopamine compensate with self-destructive behaviors to get their dopamine boost.

This can include use and abuse of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, drugs, shopping, sex, video games, online porn, power, gambling, or excessive internet use.

How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

There are plenty of unhealthy ways to raise dopamine.

But you don’t have to resort to “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” to boost your dopamine levels.

Here are some healthy, proven ways to increase dopamine levels naturally.

Dopamine Boosting Foods

Dopamine is made from the amino acid tyrosine.

Eating a diet high in tyrosine will ensure you’ve got the basic building blocks needed for dopamine production.

Here’s a list of foods that increase dopamine: (3456)

  • all animal products
  • almonds
  • apples
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • beets
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • fava beans
  • green leafy vegetables
  • green tea
  • lima beans
  • oatmeal
  • sea vegetables
  • sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • turmeric
  • watermelon
  • wheat germ

Foods high in natural probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and raw sauerkraut can also increase natural dopamine production.

Oddly, the health of your intestinal flora impacts your production of neurotransmitters.

An overabundance of bad bacteria leaves toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which lower levels of dopamine. (7)

Sugar has been found to boost dopamine but this is a temporary boost, more drug-like than food-like. (8)

Dopamine Supplements

There are supplements that can raise dopamine levels naturally.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric.

It’s available in an isolated form as a supplement.

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It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and can boost levels of dopamine. (91011)

Curcumin has been found to help alleviate obsessive actions and improve associated memory loss by increasing dopamine. (1213)

Ginkgo biloba is traditionally used for a variety of brain-related problems — poor concentration,forgetfulness, headaches, fatigue, mental confusion, depression, and anxiety. (14)

One of the mechanisms by which ginkgo works is by raising dopamine. (15, 16)

L-theanine is a component found in green tea.

It increases levels of dopamine along with other neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA. (1718)

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L-theanine improves recall, learning, and positive mood. (1920)

You can get a dopamine boost by either taking theanine supplements or by drinking 3 cups of green tea per day. (21)

L-tyrosine — the precursor to dopamine — is available as a supplement.

We recommend taking acetyl-l-tyrosine — a more absorbable form that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. (22)

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Phosphatidylserine acts as your brain’s “gatekeeper,” regulating nutrients and waste in and out of your brain.

It can increase dopamine levels and improve memory, concentration, learning, and symptoms of ADHD. (23, 2425)

Read our article on dopamine supplements for more details on these and other nutrients.

Boost Dopamine with Exercise

Physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain.

It boosts production of new brain cells, slows down brain cell aging, and improves the flow of nutrients to the brain.

It can also increase your levels of dopamine and the other “feel good” neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. (26)

woman stretchingDr. John Ratey, renowned psychiatrist and author ofSpark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, has extensively studied the effects of physical exercise on the brain.

He found that exercise raises baseline levels of dopamine by promoting the growth of new brain cell receptors.

Along with natural pain-killing endorphins, dopamine is responsible in part for “runner’s high”. (27)

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But you don’t need to exercise strenuously to enhance your brain.

Taking walks, or doing gentle, no-impact exercises like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong all provide powerful mind-body benefits. (282930)

Increase Dopamine with Meditation

The benefits of meditation have been proven in over 1,000 studies. (31)

Regular meditators experience enhanced ability to learn, increased creativity, and deep relaxation.

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And there are numerous simple ways for beginners to learn meditation.

It’s been shown that meditation increases dopamine, improving focus and concentration. (32)

Creative hobbies of all kinds — knitting, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography, woodworking, and home repair — bring the brain into a meditative state.

These activities increase dopamine, ward off depression, and protect against brain aging. (33)

Listening to music can cause of release of dopamine.

Oddly, you don’t even have to hear music to get this neurotransmitter flowing — just theanticipation of listening can do that. (34)