Dopamine is the compound that fuels our drive and motivation. It increases attention, improves cognitive function, and stimulates our creativity. It makes us more social and extroverted and helps us form romantic and parental bonds. However, dopamine, when too high, can also have its drawbacks. Read on to discover 54 ways to increase dopamine and 12 factors that decrease it.
- A Summary of What Dopamine Does
- How to Increase Dopamine
- The Dopamine Diet: An Ideal Diet to Increase Dopamine
- Lifestyle to Increase Dopamine
- Food to Increase Dopamine
- Supplements That Increase Dopamine
- 10) Tyrosine
- 11) Green Tea
- 12) Caffeine
- 13) Pregnenolone
- 14) Magnesium
- 15) St. John’s wort
- 16) Gingko
- 17) Curcumin
- 18) Butyrate
- 19) Folate
- 20) Huperzine A
- 21) SAM-e
- 22) Shilajit
- 23) Uridine
- 24) Fish Oil
- 25) Ginseng
- 26) Danshen
- 27) Resveratrol
- 28) Oregano
- 29) Carvacrol
- 30) Clary sage
- 31) Bacopa
- 32) Mucuna pruriens
- 33) Catuaba
- 34) Rosemary
- 35) Kava
- 36) Lactobacillus plantarum
- 35) Fresh Cut Grass/Essential Oils
- 36-41) Flowering Quince, Psoralea coryfolia, Mycoleptodonoides aitchisonii, Blue trumpet vine, Prickly nightshade, Gardenia jasminoides
- Hormones that Increase Dopamine:
- Dopamine Drugs/Agonists
- Decreasing Dopamine
A Summary of What Dopamine Does
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells (R).
Many areas of the brain produce dopamine. It is produced in the ventral tegmental area (VTA in the image above) of the midbrain, the substantia nigra pars compacta, and the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (R).
The most important dopamine pathway in the brain controls reward-motivated behavior (R).
Most types of rewards, such as new experiences or accomplishment, can increase dopamine levels in the brain. In addition, most addictive drugs and behavioral addictions can increase dopamine (R).
How to Increase Dopamine
The Dopamine Diet: An Ideal Diet to Increase Dopamine
The following diet will be optimal for increasing dopamine:
- Protein-rich diet for tyrosine and phenylalanine
- Seafood for DHA
- Lots of Vegetables for magnesium, soluble fiber, and folate
- Olive oil and avocados – for monounsatured fats
- Green tea for theanine and caffeine
- Animal foods or Cholesterol-rich foods for pregnenolone and also iron
- Spices such as turmeric and oregano
- Low sugar diet
- Chicken and Turkey
- Pumpkin and Sesame seeds
- Dairy: Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Cottage cheese
- Legumes: Soy, Lima beans, Peanuts
Lifestyle to Increase Dopamine
1) Sun/Being outside/Bright Light
Bright light can improve our mood. This may partially be due to dopamine.
Light also stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this is beneficial for maintaining good vision (R).
However, the effects seem to be transient unless meditation is done regularly.
A study shows that long-term meditation practice is needed to induce stable changes in baseline dopamine (striatum) (R).
The study revealed that yogic practices might help in the prevention of age-related degeneration….in healthy males.
Pleasurable physical contact can increase dopamine.
In rats, it was shown that stroking increases dopamine release (nucleus accumbens) (R).
Tickling, as a form of play behavior in adolescent rats, also increases dopamine release (nucleus accumbens) (R).
In early life, stimulation from touching improves spatial working memory in rats, possibly by improving dopamine function (R).
6) Massage therapy
Massage therapy increases dopamine, with a 31% increase of urinary dopamine in people (R).
Not just listening, but creating and performing music also produce dopamine (R).
Food to Increase Dopamine
8) Tyrosine- and phenylalanine-rich food
Our bodies produce dopamine from the amino-acid tyrosine. In turn, tyrosine can be produced from phenylalanine (R). Both tyrosine and phenylalanine are found in protein-rich foods (R): chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and soy.
9) Unsaturated fat
Supplements That Increase Dopamine
A study shows that tyrosine supplementation effectively enhances cognitive performance, particularly in short-term stressful and/or cognitively demanding situations when dopamine is temporarily depleted (R, R).
11) Green Tea
15) St. John’s wort
Gingko biloba increases dopamine and dopamine neuron activity (PVN, VTA, Nucleus Accumbens) (R, R, R). This increase in dopamine may partially explain the improvement of cognitive function observed with Gingko supplementation.
Folate is found in leafy greens/vegetables and is needed for the production/synthesis of dopamine (and serotonin). When your body is low in folate, it cannot produce dopamine and other neurotransmitters (monoamines) efficiently, which may result in depression (R, R).
20) Huperzine A
This substance may help with treating drug addiction (R).
S-Adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM-e) is an over-the-counter dietary supplement commonly used to treat depression. SAMe helps in the production of dopamine and other monoamines, causing elevations in dopamine levels (R).
24) Fish Oil
Seafood/Fish Oil/DHA can increase dopamine levels in the brain in rats (striatum). Dopamine levels were also 40% greater in the frontal cortex of rats fed fish oil. DHA treatment led to a 89% rise in tyrosine-hydroxylase terminals within the striatum in lesioned animals (R, R, R).
Ginseng components can increase levels of dopamine in the brain and have beneficial effects on attention, cognitive processing, sensorimotor function and auditory reaction time in healthy subjects (R).
30) Clary sage
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) oil increases dopamine activity in rats, which contribute to its anti-depressant effects (R).
32) Mucuna pruriens
The herbal product containing this plant, catuama, has similar effects (R).
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) increases brain dopamine levels (R).
However, in a couple of cases, blocked dopamine function has also been observed (R).
36) Lactobacillus plantarum
35) Fresh Cut Grass/Essential Oils
Hexanal is a “green” odor compound found in plants that may increase dopamine in rats (striatum) (R, R). Increasing dopamine is a potential mechanism in which green odors, such as fresh cut grass and plant essential oils, may improve mood and attention.
The edible mushroom Mycoleptodonoides aitchisonii increases dopamine (R).
Prickly nightshade (Solanum torvum) increases dopamine and shows antidepressant activity (R).
Hormones that Increase Dopamine:
In rats, estrogen-induced improvements in recognition memory were shown to be due, in part, to increased dopamine (R).
However, dopamine’s relationship to cognitive performance is not linear—dopamine function follows an ‘inverted U-shaped’ curve, where optimal dopamine results in maximal function and both insufficient or excessive levels lead to dysfunction (R). That is why too much estrogen is not beneficial.
Previous research has shown that some people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may have too many dopamine transporters, which results in low levels of dopamine in the brain.
The drug seems to raise levels of dopamine by blocking the activity of dopamine transporters, which remove dopamine once it has been released (R).
Drugs and Supplements that Decrease Dopamine
Liriodenine inhibits dopamine production and decreases dopamine levels (R).
6) Salvinorin A
Derived from the plant Salvia divinorum, Salvinorin A decreases dopamine (R).
Serotonin shares the same conversion and breakdown enzymes with dopamine.
Conditions that decrease dopamine
9) Maternal Depravation
Maternal deprivation of rat pups leads lower dopamine levels. However, these pups reared in isolation have higher dopamine increase in response to stress (R).
10) Diet High in Saturated fats
11) Chronic Sugar Intake
Sugar acutely increases dopamine, which, over time, leads to a reduced number of dopamine (D2) receptors and possibly a reduction in dopamine itself, leading to desensitization. These effects would not be due to the acute effects of sugar, but rather would occur over weeks to months with chronically elevated and intermittent sugar ingestion (R).
12) Iron Deficiency
Weaning rats fed an iron deficient diet showed decreased physical activity and increased anxiety-like behavior with a reduction of brain dopamine receptors (R).
However, some studies indicate iron deficiency has the exact opposite effect (R).