In the previous blog post I've told you everything you need to know about dopamine. The current blog post gives you 50+ strategies to both increase and decrease dopamine.
But let's quickly recap what makes dopamine so important:
Again, if you're interested in learning more about what makes dopamine so special then read my previous blog post on the topic. Let's now consider how you can boost your dopamine levels naturally and through other means:
This blog post divides strategies to increase dopamine in several categories:
Want my quick and easy top-10 laws for managing dopamine instead - including strategies not listed in this blog post?
In this section, I'll give you several means to increase your dopamine levels naturally. I hope you're already implementing most of these strategies.
For the best results, implementing more of the strategies listed below is better. Keep in mind that many of these strategies overlap with having a healthy lifestyle. So if you're pursuing a healthy lifestyle you're likely to have higher dopamine levels as well.
Without further ado:
By exiting the jungle, your human ancestors dramatically increased their daily sunlight exposure. The loss of hair on their skin exacerbated that process.
Sunlight, in part, drove that dopaminergic development of human beings.
Sure: higher levels of sunlight exposure are associated with greater dopamine D2 and D3 receptor availability. Increased receptor availability entails that dopamine pathways can be more easily recruited in your brain.
In animal studies, light exposure also increases "TH brain cells". These cells are responsible for increasing dopamine levels in the striatum. Recall that the striatum is located below the cerebral cortex, and responsible for goal-directed behavior and motivation.
How does sunlight achieve that effect?
Easy: ultraviolet light.
Let me explain:
You may know that ultraviolet light is one of the sunlight types that reach the earth's surface. Ultraviolet light gives you sunburns if you stay in the sun or under a tanning bed for too long.
Through skin exposure that ultraviolet light exposure releases several feel-good chemicals, but also affects dopamine levels.
In fact, dopamine is the mechanism by which some people get addicted to sunlight in the first place. Nature has thus programmed your body to get addicted that way, as long as you'll sensibly use the sun to feel good.[65; 66]
That specific dopaminergic mechanism also makes people flock outside once the sun is out in the spring and summertime.
Even disease risk, specifically disorders with excessive dopamine levels, are linked to sunlight exposure. Higher levels of mania occur in the summertime--as opposed to the depressive phase of the winter months.[452; 453]
Vitamin D also protects dopamine in the brain - and you traditionally needed sunlight for creating higher quantities of vitamin D in the past.[455; 456; 457] High-quality animal foods are reasonable vitamin D options too.
Avoid wearing sunglasses or sunscreen when exposing yourself, but also avoid getting sunburned also. Cover up once you've had enough sun. And read my blog on sunlight exposure for the full perspective.
Red light therapy is a great supplement if you haven't got enough sunlight in your life. Red light therapy is proven to increase dopamine levels in the brain.
Beware that nothing replaces the sun though. Red light therapy thus remains a "sunlight supplement" - never a replacement. It's always best to restructure your life over time so that you can get sunlight, as it's that important for health.
Let's now meet the second strategy:
The circadian rhythm is the ~24-hour day and night cycle found in all human beings. The light in your environment is key to regulating that rhythm.
Animal studies suggest that an inability to expose yourself to sufficient light in your environment lowers overall dopamine levels. Insufficient light exposure also throws off the circadian rhythm.
Break your rhythm and you'll break dopamine formation as well.
Dopamine itself, on the contrary, also influences that rhythm.[69; 73] The "central clock" in your body, the suprachiasmatic nucleus, is directly affected by dopamine. Boost your dopamine during the day and you'll thus tell your body it's daytime.
Light exposure through the eye is also central to programming that clock. The light signal entering your eye eventually affects the suprachiasmatic nucleus, telling your body it's daytime. Light exposure - specifically ultraviolet light - builds dopamine in the eye. If you don't build that dopamine with bright light, your circadian rhythm will be off.[69; 70]
Lenses and eyeglasses can give problems in that regard, so ditch them if you're standing in the morning sun.
Let's now consider the other part of the equation:
For the circadian rhythm to work properly, you additionally need darkness at night.
At nighttime, your melatonin levels need to be high. You need melatonin to sleep quickly, deeply, and to stay asleep. Melatonin is normally only produced after several hours of darkness. If you're exposed to artificial light at night, you're lowering your melatonin levels and cannot get the best quality sleep.
For the full perspective, read my guide on artificial light at night the blue-blocking glasses solution.
Melatonin levels also affect dopamine in animal studies.[63; 64]
The more your circadian is disrupted, the harder emotional regulation becomes.[68; 72] Several diseases are also associated with emotional dysregulation, including Parkinson's, also show problems in the dopamine system of the brain.
Thus: mind your circadian rhythm!
Over time, sleep deprivation lowers the receptor availability of dopamine in the brain - although some conflicting evidence exists.[77; 78; 79] The end result, in plain English, is lowered dopamine function.
Different receptors are influenced in different ways. Fortunately, short-term sleep deprivation is not yet detrimental. And even if you're consistently kept from the dream stage of sleep for four nights in a row, receptor function does not go down yet either.
In the long-run, however, that pattern is almost certainly reversed. Animal studies confirm that picture.[85; 86] The longer the sleep deprivation persists, the greater the risk to the dopamine system becomes.
The worse your sleep quality, the higher the risk for getting dopaminergic disorders also get. Sleep and dopamine function are thus related.
Activation of several dopamine receptors actually decreases both deep sleep and REM sleep (the period in which you're dreaming).[82; 83] Dopamine and sleepiness are thus inversely related. If you thus engage in high-dopamine activities such as thrill before bedtime, your sleep quality becomes poorer.
The flipside is that long term sleep deprivation at night destroys dopamine function during the day.
Want help improving your sleep? Read Alex' blog on deep sleep to take charge of your sleep quality tonight.
When your ancestors started living in the plains and around water instead of the jungle, they had to travel long distances. Remember that dopamine is not associated with nearby vision, but focuses on what lies further ahead instead.
Animals for hunting or scavenging could perhaps only be spotted 1,000 yards away. Looking for fruit in the tree next to you requires a different focus and visual pattern than hunting animals.
Modern goal achievement may be analogous to that process of seeking out "distant" prey. Dopamine does, in fact, regulate that function. "Reward" is the key phrase for understanding dopamine, or better yet: the "pursuit of reward".
Quick detour to explain that concept:
Three different brain processes are central to the act of achievement in the brain: "liking", "wanting", and "learning".[89; 90] Liking signifies the pleasure you gain from after completing a goal. Wanting is your drive to pursue a goal. Learning is the process by which you're more likely to pursue that goal again.
Dopamine is central to both wanting and learning.[92; 93; 94; 97]
Of course, that learning process can become erratic. You can become addicted to junk food, for example, or drugs. In such cases, the wanting and learning processes have gone haywire.
By taking addictive substances you're basically learning your brain to release dopamine to want them in the future.
The wanting and learning process, however, can also be conditioned towards productive ends. Learning to love sunlight and healthy food are examples. Through a concept called "neuroplasticity", brain cells can be created or updated to reflect your new behavior.[98; 99; 100; 101]
Achieve goals - the right goals - and your dopamine levels will increase. I'll thus get a dopamine hit when I click "publish" on this blog post, which makes me want to do it again in the future...
Risk-taking improves dopamine levels.
When you get older, you'll generally take fewer risks. Decreasing dopamine explains that change in risky behavior.
Thrill-seeking such as gambling has the opposite effect.[176; 177] For the best results, take calculated risks that are sustainable.
Start a business. Approach the man or woman you like. Invest money wisely.
You may think: "but goal achievement comes with stress"
You need to manage stress:
Stress is prone to decrease dopamine levels, especially early in life.[108; 109; 111; 113; 114]
With childhood trauma, for example, your dopaminergic system often takes a hit. The subcortical parts (below the cerebral cortex) - the places in which dopamine is created - are hit hardest.
The best way to build dopamine is to reach for goals that are challenging but not impossible. Expand your comfort zone.
Temporary stress even increases dopamine levels.[110; 112] It's extremely likely that only short-term stress has that effect, its disease-causing "cousin" called "chronic stress" has the opposite effect.[400; 401]
Higher testosterone levels are associated (and probably causative) of higher dopamine levels, and vise versa.[104; 105; 106: 107] In fact, the two are scarily close related.
Unfortunately, most of the effect of testosterone on dopamine is currently only proven in animal studies.
Surprisingly, however, human studies do not see a decline in testosterone when dopamine is lowered. Higher testosterone is associated with increased dopaminergic behavior though.[117; 118]
A huge overlap between strategies that increase dopamine and strategies increasing testosterone exist as well. Sleeping better, getting some sunlight, achieving goals, all raise both testosterone and dopamine levels.
Additional science-backed strategies to increase testosterone are avoiding non-native electromagnetic fields (e.g. WiFi or "smart" meters) and consuming organic food. The latter instances have not been investigated in relation to dopamine yet.
(For boosting testosterone, read Alex' perfect blog on that topic!)
And let's move to a strategy almost everyone likes:
Did you know male and female sexual behavior are associated with different neurotransmitters (brain signalling substances)?
The anticipation of getting a partner and the thrusting movement of males is associated with dopamine.[120; 121]
A rat study demonstrated that testosterone levels affect dopamine's stimulation of sexual behavior in males.
Interestingly enough, dopamine is more important in sexual function and desire than the eventual reward. Erectile dysfunction in men may be a result of having an inadequate dopamine response, for example.
Skip the (internet) porn.
During the last few years, more and more evidence has emerged that watching internet porn may be addictive.[122; 123] Critics who deny that porn is harmful, on the contrary, claim that porn use simply overlaps with sex addiction.
Animal studies demonstrate that traditional female receptivity, on the other hand, is guided by "epinephrine" - that behavior is actually decreased by higher dopamine levels. This strategy may thus be less applicable to females.
Solutions for both sexes exist though:
Massages, secondly, have similar effects.
Getting a massage increases both dopamine and serotonin while lowering stress hormones.
Keep in mind that physical contact, in general, has very positive effects on health. Only get physical contact with people you like of course...
Let's consider yet another exciting strategy:
This strategy is absolutely free too.
Meditation is most exciting for me, in part because it can both increase dopamine as well as helping you deal with curbing negative hyperdopaminergic consequences.
"Hyperdopaminergic consequences" - or "effects of high dopamine levels" include always thinking about your next achievement while never being present in the moment.
Mindfulness meditation specifically trains the skill of being present, mainly through conditioning the lateral prefrontal cortex (the more logical function). That brain area is trained in its capacity to focus on the here and now.
The "insula" is another affected brain area, active in self-awareness and the "story" you and me tell ourselves all day long. Phrased differently, the insula is responsible for self-talk, regardless whether that self-talk is positive or negative.
Through mindfulness meditation, you can (temporarily) learn to deactivate that self-talk, so that you'll be present.
Of course, many of the stories you and I tell ourselves such as "getting closer to achievement X" or "make sure I do Y" are dopaminergic in nature. Stopping that story for a second helps you detach from excessive dopaminergic thinking.
Meditation doesn't necessarily lower dopamine though. Yoga Nidra meditation, which is related to mindfulness as a technique, improves dopamine levels in the brain.[125; 126]
Other studies confirm that finding for mindfulness, while also showing an increase in prefrontal cortex activity.[128; 129] Of course, you already know that the prefrontal cortex activation and dopamine levels are interrelated.
Mindfulness may actually indirectly increase dopamine levels by enhancing sleep quality. The strategy works even if you're diseased or got sleep problems.[131; 132; 133; 134; 135]
Mindfulness thus allows your brain to re-charge so that it later performs better - it's thus a break from hyperdopaminergic thinking that boosts dopamine function in the long run. The biggest benefit is that you'll increase your conscious control of how dopamine influences your mindset.
The overall health benefits of mindfulness upon your brain are considerable. Mindfulness can help with many areas of cognition, such as maintaining white matter which help connect brain cells. Aging of your brain may also be slowed down.
Check my guide on mindfulness meditation if you'd like to learn more. Free and no sign up required.
Another meditation form, Transcendental Meditation, does not show an increase in dopaminergic levels.
Music is a highly pleasurable human experience. You're probably aware of the strong emotions music can evoke, and dopamine is central to that effect. The lower parts of your brain, not the cerebral cortex, are most responsible for that outcome.
Interestingly enough, music also stimulates the same brain areas as those involved with motor control. The link between music and movement (dance) is thus not coincidental.
Another brain signaling substance called serotonin increases in availability while listening to music. Serotonin tells your brain that "all is well", allowing you to zone out and relax. Even though serotonin generally counters dopamine function, in this case it does not.
Blood flow to the brain increases with music exposure. For that reason, music becomes a highly favorable tool for increasing (cognitive) performance. Many of these brain areas affected by music are intertwined with the dopaminergic system.
For the best results, you'll probably have to listen to music that you find pleasurable. Indications also exist that rhythmic music allows you to "let go" and follow the flow. That zoning-out effect is, again, mediated by dopaminergic brain centers.
The stimulation of cravings, however, can be a side effect there. You may relate to that effect: with good music in the background, you're more prone to grab a good glass of wine to enjoy the moment.
Let's now move to a more daring subject:
Cold exposure is one of the more creative dopamine boosting methods.
Cold baths increase dopamine levels by a whopping 250%. To be rewarded with that benefit you need to stay in 15 degree Celsius water (~60F) water for an hour though. With colder temperatures, the effect will occur sooner.
Cold exposure is one of my favorite ways to boost dopamine. In fact, I've written a guide on cold thermogenesis before. You'll learn how to use cold both effectively and safely in these guides.
Always start light with cold exposure. Cold showers are a great beginning - never commence with ice baths.
The downside of cold exposure is that epinephrine (adrenaline) levels also shoot up by more than 500%. Make sure not to overdo cold: chronic stress reduces dopaminergic activity.
The right intensity of cold exposure will keep building your energy levels and dopamine over time...
Bottom line: stress should be sporadic, never chronic.
What's also interesting is that directly increasing dopamine in animal studies decreases cold tolerance. The reason is that dopamine is generally associated with lower body temperatures. In other studies, dopamine function is correlated with cold tolerance again.
Time will teach the truth I guess...
Let's look at another reason why many people have sub-optimal dopamine levels today:
Gut health has a strong effect on your body's dopamine levels. Recall that dopamine is not just found in the brain, but also throughout the human body.
If you're taking antibiotics, for example, dopamine creation in the gut can suffer. Your immune system may take a hit as well.
And it's not just what goes through your mouth that affects gut function. The light in your environment - such as sunlight - is enormously important too.[147; 148] That link between circadian rhythms and gut health has only been established in the last few years.
Shocker: Improving gut health can improve dopamine functioning in turn.[149; 150; 151]
Probiotic supplements have been proven to increase dopamine levels, but in general, I'm not a fan of such supplements. Supplementing with probiotics should be one of your later resorts. Many positive effects of probiotic supplements have been established in animal studies though.[152; 153]
Nonetheless, it's better to start with minding your day and night cycles as a precursor for good gut health.
If you're staying up until 2 or 4 AM at night, your gut function will always be impaired. It's thus no coincidence that so many people have gut problems today.
The next step should be fixing your diet. If you're eating at Burger King three times a week, then there's no need to buy probiotics. Fix the low hanging fruits first.
Many compounds in food can alter gut function. Butyrate, for example, improves dopamine levels.[157; 158; 159] Butyrate is found in grass-fed butter. However, your gut should also be producing butyrate naturally when your body digests fiber.
Other foods contain other compounds that influence your gut.
Once again, diet trumps supplements. The relationship between diet and gut function is highly personal though -I cannot prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach.
Are you a couch potato? If so, you'll tank your dopamine levels. Standing or moving once in a while achieves the opposite effect, although the study to draw that conclusion has poor quality.
Exercise is studied in more detail, fortunately.
A very specific benefit of exercise is that it increases "neuroplasticity". Neuroplasticity signifies the brains' ability to adapt to change. Contrary to scientific belief before the 2000s, your brain is continually restructured even well into old age.
The dopamine system, which is traditionally tied to movement as well as abstract thinking potential, is indirectly trained through exercise. Part of the fatigue you experience after a training session may be caused by dopamine depletion.[161; 164; 165]
Fortunately, dopamine receptor function is upgraded over time through exercise. Receptor function enhancement means that you'll become more susceptible to dopamine increases.
Don't spend 5 days a week, 2 hours a day in the gym though--a couple of quick weekly workouts are more than sufficient.
The wanting and learning processes I've discussed before are also activated with exercise - through dopamine. In plain language, that means that engaging in exercise fuels dopamine function in the long run, and dopamine function increases your propensity to exercise in turn.
A virtuous circle is born...
The close tie between dopamine levels and exercise is no coincidence. Parkinson's disease, which is characterized by deterioration of the dopamine system, also results in enormous problems with intentional movement (reflexes are not inhibited).
Animal studies further demonstrate that engaging in movement anyway improves your health if you've got Parkinson's.[166; 167; 168] Animal studies also show that increased exercise capacity allows your brain to better use neuroplasticity to affect the dopamine system.[169; 170; 171]
In humans, exercise can reverse some of the damage to the dopamine system in the brain occur as a result of drug use. Lots of circumstantial evidence thus exists that exercise supports dopamine function - that result is also logical from an evolutionary standpoint.
Want even higher dopamine levels? Consider this strategy:
Evidence exists that if the second trimester of pregnancy occurs during the summertime so that you'll be born during fall, your dopamine levels may be permanently higher.
Epigenetic changes - the process of how your environment activates or deactivates certain genes - is responsible for that dynamic. What environmental factor? Simple: long light cycles and more sunlight exposure during the second trimester.
During evolution, most babies were probably born in spring, due to peaking human fertility in late summer. Remember that pregnancy lasts 9 months on average.
Today women are no longer getting pregnant on the basis of seasons but do so year-round. Circumstantial evidence exists that light exposure to the eye of the mother affects dopamine levels of her offspring.
Other influences around pregnancy can also affect dopamine (negatively) levels later in life, such as drug use, a troublesome birth in with low oxygen levels on the mother's part, and (heavy) immune responses in general.
With women entering the workforce since the 1970s and entering more high-dopamine jobs that require abstract and strategic thinking, offspring's dopamine levels may also have been influenced.
Specifically: high dopamine mothers may pass on that trait to their children.
Women holding more jobs that require the development of dopaminergic pathways have cemented that trait.
Overeating has been linked with lower dopamine functionality. If you're frequently eating junk food or fast food, your brain adapts and experiences less reward from that same food.
Most junk and fast foods combine fat, sugar, protein, and artificial flavors to make them really rewarding to the human brain, driving addiction in the process.
How addictive food is depends on you as an individual.
Food restriction increases dopamine levels in the short term, which is a nice bonus.[176; 177] I do think that effect can be attributed to stress once again.
Also, make sure not to choose a crash diet with very few calories.
The vagal nerve, or nervus vagus, moves from your brain to your heart, lungs, and digestive system.
With relaxed breathing, your body can enter a more calm state. That process is mediated by the vagus nerve. Vagal tone can affect dopamine levels in turn, at least in animal studies.
You should be breathing through your nose 24-7. If you're a mouth breather then you need to correct the problem.
Additional (unmentioned) strategies may exist as well.
Electroconvulsive therapy is one example that is controversial - which entails exposing yourself to electroshocks. The therapy is used to counter depression when other options have been exhausted, for example.
The therapy may increase dopamine levels, although I don't think the risk outweighs the benefits for most people.[397; 398; 399]
So now that I've considered all lifestyle strategies, let's move on to managing your nutrient intake to control your dopamine levels even further...
Want my top-10 laws for managing dopamine - including strategies not listed in this blog post?
In this section, I'll consider natural dopamine foods--while in the next sections looks at the relationship between supplements, medication, and dopamine.
The list of compounds in foods listed below should give you a good indication of what foods are supportive of high dopamine function. You'll notice below that including foods that have high micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) content is most important.
So without further delay:
Many sources on the internet tell you to "cut out sugar" to increase dopamine levels. The opposite effect is true, in fact.
High sugar consumption is highly dopaminergic.[332; 333; 334; 335] And sure, if you cut all sugar from your diet you may actually have withdrawal symptoms.
Contrary to popular opinion (once again), withdrawals are not always bad. If you stop getting good sunlight you'll also experience withdrawal symptoms for example. That presence of withdrawal symptoms is not a sign that sunlight is bad for you.
The same is true for cutting out most of your protein.
Please keep in mind that I'm not advocating for limitless white sugar consumption. I consider white sugar a terrible food that's unhealthy almost independent of context. The same is true for soda.
The reason for my opposition is the absence of vitamins and minerals in processed sugar.
(Organic) fruits, however, contain high levels of vitamins and minerals and are the preferred choice if you're going to consume sugar. Honey is a great source too and contains many beneficial compounds for health as well.
(I'll remain agnostic whether carbohydrates are a superior fuel source to fat, or not. Even if you're following a seasonal diet, you have to consume fruits late summer and early fall)
Iodine is a mineral that's essential for the functioning of your thyroid, a gland in front of your neck. Thyroid hormone, in turn, is essential for dopamine levels.
Remember the amino acid called "tyrosine"? With insufficient thyroid hormone, that amino acid cannot be converted into L-dopa. Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) is the enzyme responsible for that conversion.
Food sources such as shellfish or sea vegetables are best for getting your iodine needs met. Supplementation with iodine is also an option but quickly leads to overdoses. I'm not convinced that very high doses of iodine are benign. Such high doses are often advocated on the internet.
Dopamine levels do become lower with an iodine deficiency, and the body attempts to compensate by upregulating the number of dopamine receptors.[336; 337] Unfortunately most of these conclusions are based on animal studies.
The few human studies confirm that pattern though.
When it's summer thyroid are generally the highest, which is reflected in increased dopaminergic functioning. Dopamine also has a negative feedback loop with high thyroid hormone levels.[339; 340; 341; 342] That feedback loop entails that you cannot stimulate dopamine without limit by boosting thyroid hormone levels.
Thyroid levels are also higher in human beings than chimpanzees. That observation is interesting because humans have higher metabolisms. That higher metabolism is probably driven by higher thyroid hormones, which enhance dopamine levels in turn.
Higher thyroid hormones are like a furnace for fat burning and boosting dopamine. Iodine is co-responsible for that process.
Zinc frequently returns on this blog, and its role is somewhat underappreciated as a mineral.
In animal studies, optimal zinc status increases the excitability of dopaminergic brain cells. Several brain areas are affected. The end result is cognitive improvement such as enhanced memory function. Zinc also works as an antidepressant.
Moreover, zinc additionally counteracts drugs that negatively influence dopamine functioning.
A zinc deficiency forces more dopamine to be converted into adrenaline, which increases (perception of) stress. Sufficient zinc levels have the opposite effect.
Oysters are the best zinc-rich foods. Other kinds of seafood, organ meats, beef, lamb, eggs, and dairy come in second place.
I've often talked about managing your iron status. The difficulty with iron is that it's stored in your body. Both storing too much iron (an iron overload) and too little iron (an iron deficiency anemia) are dangerous to your overall health.
And it's not just food that affects how much iron you store--sunlight exposure affects your iron status as well.
Shellfish and red meats are foods richest in iron. Plant foods contain a form of iron that's less well absorbed by the human body called "non-heme iron".
With iron deficiency, the receptor sites for dopamine function less well.
What's interesting is that iron is located in many dopaminergic regions, leading to the hypothesis that iron may have been (partially) necessary for the development of increased dopamine levels in Homo sapiens.
Primates don't have much highly absorbable iron in their diets. Meat and shellfish consumption can explain the increase in available iron for humans.
With an iron deficiency, the body even compensates to increase iron stores in the brain while other parts of the body are depleted.[348; 349] Low iron levels may literally be responsible for the degeneration of dopamine-associated brain cells.[350; 351]
Well, iron is required in the process of producing dopamine.[352; 353; 357] Without sufficient iron, both your behavior and emotional regulation will be impaired.[355; 356] Recall that your brain or movement cannot function without dopamine, so low iron levels are very dangerous.
Keep in mind that too much iron is just as dangerous as low iron status though.
Caveat: Unfortunately, most (but not all) of the effects described above are only demonstrated in animal studies.
Selenium increases dopamine function.[358; 359] Selenium also protects brain areas associated with dopamine function - specifically the sub-cortical regions.
Excessive selenium intake is dangerous and causes an excess in dopamine if the mother was exposed during pregnancy. Only the right dosage has positive effects.
(These conclusions are based on animal studies, once again.)
How to get selenium?
Brazil nuts (depending on the variety) are also a great selenium source. Mushrooms, (organ) meat, cheese, and eggs are other great sources.
Shellfish are even better...
I hope you're beginning to see a pattern here: all four previous minerals can be found in high quantities in shellfish and crustaceans (e.g. lobster, crab):
Shellfish are extremely good iodine, zinc, iron, and selenium sources.
Remember I talked about shellfish in relation to human development in an earlier section? Now you know why.
Let's consider even more minerals:
As many as 80% of people in modern societies are slightly magnesium deficient, while 40-60% have a severe deficiency.
That statistic is tragic because magnesium is required for almost 1,000 processes in the human body. The cure is also cheap, adding insult to injury.
Brain cells related to dopamine function, moreover, are sensitized by magnesium. Existing dopamine will thus do a better job with adequate magnesium status.
Magnesium also counteracts losses of dopamine functioning if you've got Parkinson's - a condition associated with dopamine dysfunction.
Most people shouldn't rely on getting their magnesium through food though. Farming soils are depleted of magnesium so that many people are magnesium deficient if they're not supplementing. Read my guide on magnesium to learn more.
Same story. Calcium is a hard prerequisite for dopamine formation and its release.[366; 367] All dopamine signaling is, in fact, dependent on calcium.
Dopamine stored in the synapses can thus not even be used without the mineral. Synapses are the connections between nervous system cells.
How to get calcium then?
While milk is the best calcium source in existence, bone meal is a useful second if you're lactose intolerant. Calculate your calcium intake to make sure you're getting enough. Bones from fish are also great.
While counter-intuitive, bone broth is not a great calcium source.
Both plant and animal foods contain proteins. Proteins are built up with "amino acids". Only animal products contain high quantities of specific amino acids such as "tyrosine" and "phenylalanine", however.
Phenylalanine not only increases the amount of dopamine that's created but also allows that dopamine to stay active for longer (for nerds: by preventing re-uptake)
Studies show that without sufficient levels of these aforementioned amino acids the light in your environment (such as sunlight) cannot adequately increase your dopamine levels. The energy of the sun may thus not be usable by your body without the right foods.
Animal foods such as fish, meats, eggs, and cheese are great phenylalanine sources. Soy and seeds are plant phenylalanine sources. I do not recommend eating soy though.
Soy, beans, and seeds (such as pumpkin) are also great tyrosine sources, even though animal foods are superior in general.
And while some plant foods such as beans and seeds contain higher levels of tyrosine, their numbers are still 5-fold lower than the best animal foods such as beef.
Higher stress levels can increase tyrosine demand. Stress and low dopamine can thus enter a vicious cycle: more stress requires more tyrosine, but when unavailable dopamine is lowered, which makes you less able to cope with stress.
The end result is even more stress...
Note: tyrosine can be made from phenylalanine, but not the other way around. Phenylalanine is thus more essential to get from dietary sources.
Taurine is yet another amino acid found in animal foods, and directly increases dopamine function.[369; 370] Animal foods are (once again) the best taurine source.
Want an even greater boost?
Glycine, yet another amino acid, is only found in great quantities in bone broth, gelatin, and collagen. These foods are made from the connective tissue of animals - eating muscle meats won't confer their unique benefits upon you.
Make sure to include at least 1 tablespoon of collagen or gelatin in your diet every day, or a few cups of bone broth.
Bottom line: include animal foods in your diet. Without animal foods, you won't get the right amino acids for dopamine creation.
Three B vitamins...
Let's start with vitamin B6, or "pyridoxal phosphate".
Even during pregnancy, vitamin B6 is necessary for normal brain development, and specifically the dopamine system. The more dopamine you have, the higher your vitamin B6 requirements become.
High vitamin B6 are preconditional for creating dopamine. Why? Well, the L-dopa compound is converted into dopamine through vitamin B6.[392; 393]
Food processing depletes vitamin B6. The more you heat foods, the more vitamin B6 is lost. A combination of plant and animal foods is your best bet to get this vitamin.
Vitamin B9 - also known as "folate"
Most people know that vitamin B9 is necessary for proper nervous system development. You may not know that several neurotransmitters are directly dependent on the vitamin for their creation.[373; 375]
An amino acid called "homocysteine", has negative health consequences when it floats around in your bloodstream. Homocysteine is a byproduct of dietary protein breakdown.
Homocysteine also damages brain cells associated with dopamine. You'll thus want to keep homocysteine levels low.
Vitamin B9 recycles homocysteine in a less damaging amino acid called "methionine".
Green vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, orange, and papaya are great vitamin B9 sources.
Organ meats are a great option too. If you're on a carnivore diet, you need to consume organ meats once in a while.
Lastly, there's vitamin B12.
Contrary to the previous B vitamins, B12 is only found in animal food sources. A vitamin B12 deficiency leads to lower dopamine levels in animal studies.
In childhood, B12 deficiency also leads to an inhibition of "myelination". Myelin is a sheet around nerves that allow for faster conductivity. Myelination is also a process that's highly evolved in human beings.
That loss of myelination negatively affects dopamine function in turn.
A deficiency in all of the aforementioned vitamins increases Parkinson's disease risk. The link between B vitamins and dopamine function is thus not coincidental.
Choline is often considered yet another B-vitamin - B8 to be exact. That choline is also responsible for the "acetylcholine" system in your brain which I've mentioned before. Acetylcholine is related to the "choline" neurotransmitter.
Very high choline levels actually inhibit dopamine synthesis, but optimal levels achieve the opposite effect.
Highly absorbable choline increases dopamine levels in the striatum, for example, an area found below the cortex.[379; 380]
Liver and eggs are the best choline sources in existence. So be inspired by one of nature's own multivitamins and multi-minerals:
In general, I don't recommend supplementing with choline, as it's easy to get the nutrient from food.
If you're not eating eggs or weekly liver, then high-quality choline supplements such as citicoline and alpha GPC can boost your intake. Huperzine A is another choline supplement proven to have the same effect.
Most people consume too few omega-3 fatty acids. The reason for that limited consumption is that most modern junk and fast foods contain lots of omega 6.
Seed and vegetable oils contain exceptionally high levels of omega 6. Those oils are often added to processed foods. Through that mechanism processed foods end up with a 1:10 to 1:20 ratio of omega 3 : omega 6.
Your ancestors consumed fats in a 1:2 to 1:4 ratio.
An unsaturated fatty acid called "DHA" - found in fish - almost certainly supports dopamine function as well.[459; 460; 461; 462] Again, the result is only supported by animal studies, although very consistent.
Excess saturated fat intake is associated with lower dopamine levels, on the contrary. That conclusion is (indirectly) countered by other studies.[383; 384]
Takeaway? Cut vegetable oils and junk food from your diet, eat whole healthy foods, and the ratio between omega 3 and 6 should automatically correct itself.
Result of this section: animal proteins, especially shellfish and organ meats are important to consume for dopamine function. Healthy fats and a wide array of plants further that outcome.
In this section I'll consider natural dopamine supplements--while in the next section I'll look at the relationship between medication and dopamine.
I only recommend using supplements to push your dopamine levels higher once you've exhausted most of the lifestyle and food strategies described in previous sections.
Why? In general, if your dopamine system doesn't work properly, there's usually a lifestyle choice causing that defect. Unfortunately, you cannot out supplement poor lifestyle choices.
Note: some of my descriptions below have also been oversimplified.
In animal studies, for example, dopamine-enhancing effects are often measured in different brain areas, such as the hypothalamus, basal ganglia, or the cortex. I've not distinguished between such brain areas in my explanations below.
So without further delay:
Coffee is the ultimate dopamine shortcut but also one of the most dangerous ones. One specific compound in coffee, caffeine, is best studied for its dopaminergic effects.
Caffeine specifically increases dopamine levels, but at the cost of also increasing your cortisol and adrenaline as well. Recall that cortisol and adrenaline are stress hormones.
Consuming calories with your coffee decreases the number of stress hormones released and often leads to much better results.
Dopamine receptors, where the neurotransmitter can bind, also become more available through caffeine.[179; 182] The available dopamine works better that way.
By consuming caffeine, moreover, you'll lower the uptake of "adenosine" in your brain.[179; 181] Adenosine is a compound that makes you tired, and preventing its reuptake thus increases your energy levels.
Adenosine nonetheless also counters dopamine function. Dopamine may thus affect wakefulness through its (negative) interaction with adenosine.
(As a side note, quercetin, a compound found in onions, can also counter adenosine levels, and therefore boost dopamine.).[393; 394]
Coffee is not a free lunch that only gives benefits though. Blood flow in the brain may be reduced with caffeine consumption. Some people also experience poor sleep with coffee.
The simple rule is that coffee is not for everyone. Some people do fantastic on coffee, even later in the day, because they metabolize the substance quickly. In that case, the drink won't affect your sleep.
Lots of people are addicted to coffee though - and the stuff is addictive. Merely expecting your next cup of coffee already induces a dopamine surge.
Additionally, I do think the quality of coffee matters a lot. While studies are less clear about the subject (unlike what Bulletproof proponents claim), low quality coffee dramatically lowers my brain's performance.
I do thus think that Bulletproof has a point in their advocacy for high-quality coffee.
Many people need to cycle their caffeine, and some need to avoid caffeine for the best health results. I fall in the latter category, although coffee remains a guilty pleasure sometimes.
The only way to know for sure how you react to coffee is to test. Skip the coffee for 6 weeks and observe how you feel and sleep. Cycle back and forth a couple of 6-week periods to know for sure.
Time-consuming? Yes. Life-changing? Possibly! Alternatively, get your genes tested and you'll know how you react to coffee.
Get some high-quality Bulletproof coffee here.
(I don't like most of Bulletproof's health recommendations but their coffee is great.)
Irresistible? I hope not...
Believe it or not: curcumin has antidepressant effects and positively affects both dopamine and serotonin.[183; 184]
In conditions in which the dopamine system is dysregulated in the brain, such as Parkinson's, curcumin is also protective.[184; 185]
Curcumin may be especially useful with aging, as increased iron stores in the brain can wreak havoc on dopamine function. Curcumin may prevent that storage. Unfortunately, that effect has only been demonstrated in animal studies (once again).
You can either include curcumin in your diet or buy a curcumin extract. I take curcumin through a spice shot in the morning, which includes a tablespoon of turmeric powder and black pepper (for enhanced absorption). I buy turmeric powder in bulk.
Finally, the king. Mucuna pruriens is also called "velvet bean".
Mucuna may be the ultimate dopamine booster. The reason is that mucuna contains the dopamine precursor L-dopa. Normally amino acids such as tyrosine and phenylalanine need to be converted before L-dopa is formed, but mucuna contains the compound naturally.
Through that mechanism, the plant has antidepressive properties. Unsurprisingly, the compound also improves male fertility and increases lust - you should know why by now.
Additionally, mucuna is useful in Parkinson's.[188; 189; 190] Even more interesting is that mucuna restores the body's own dopamine creation--although only proven in rats.
Mucuna also counters serotonin, and can thus be dangerous if you're naturally hyperdopaminergic. I still need to test this compound, but I'm pretty sure I'll get anxious, unfocused, and restless from it.
Supplements containing some mucuna, such as Qualia (Mind) (use code FERGUS for a discount) have that effect on me (even without the caffeine).
If you're naturally carefree and laid back, mucuna can be great to get yourself into action though.
Excessively boosting your dopamine levels can also bring on the side effects I've discussed earlier.
Tea is a very complex and interesting compound.
First of all, tea contains far less caffeine than coffee. Additionally, that caffeine is buffered by a compound called "theanine". I'll focus on theanine in this subsection.
Theanine increases levels of a brain signaling substance called "GABA", which improves relaxation.
GABA thus counters the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline which can be increased through coffee consumption. What's even more interesting is that theanine counteracts the decrease in brain blood flow that results because of caffeine.
All by itself, theanine also increases dopamine levels in the brain.[193; 194; 196; 197] Dopamine receptors may also be influenced, although that effect is only demonstrated in mice.
Theanine is an amazing compound because its beneficial effects are not caused by increasing but by inhibiting stress. Cold exposure, for example, increases dopamine levels through stress, while theanine has the opposite effect.
Get theanine pills for convenience, or buy bulk powder to save money. I recommend the latter option as it's much cheaper.
Tip: lemon and ginger make your tea more potent
Another compound that starts with "thea"?
Surprise, surprise: theacrine is tea-related.
Theacrine is structurally very similar to caffeine. Animal studies show theacrine counteracts adenosine, just as caffeine does - increasing your wakefulness.
Contrary to caffeine, theacrine has little if any addictive potential. Dopamine levels are also positively affected by theacrine.
Try theacrine, especially if caffeine overstimulates you.
One of my favorite plants.
Dirt cheap and highly effective.
In animal studies, Rhodiola Rosea increases dopamine levels. Low dosages seem to work better. Unfortunately, very few studies have been carried out on the compound right now.
My perception of Rhodiola is very good though. I get really relaxed while taking an extract of this plant, perhaps in part because it also increases serotonin.
Rhodiola also lowers overall stress levels, just like theanine. You can get Rhodiola inexpensively online as Rhodiola capsules or as a bulk powder.
Evidence, once again, runs thin in these instances.
Sage, or Salvia sclarea, may increase dopamine levels as established in animal studies. Oregano, or Origanum vulgare, is similar.[203; 204; 205] Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, likewise.[206; 207; 208]
Just add some herbs to your food. Herbs and spices are not just for taste, as they contain more concentrated nutrient levels than vegetables.
You 'll even make your meals taste better.
Shilajit is truly unique. This black compound is found in the Himalayan mountains, and helpful to combat fatigue, improve your immune system, aiding heart health, decreasing inflammation, and...
Boosting dopamine levels--but proven in just one animal study.
Shilajit contains a compound called "fulvic acid", which is responsible for most of its claimed health benefits. Shijalit capsules are your easiest option.
I've not tried this compound, but many people are raving about it.
Finally, a compound that's very well studied: "acetyl-l-carnitine". The downside is that mostly animal studies exist (once again).
"Carnitine" sounds like "carnivore", and that similarity is no coincidence. Unsurprisingly, meat contains the highest carnitine levels.
To make a long story short: acetyl-l-carnitine helps protect dopaminergic brain cells, and also increases the neurotransmitter's levels.[215; 225]
Due to the neuroprotective effects, the compound may be especially useful in aging. Alzheimer's disease (a degenerative disease of the brain) and depression may also be countered by acetyl-l-carnitine.
Unfortunately, adrenaline and serotonin levels may also be increased with carnitine consumption. If boosting dopamine is your goal, testing carnitine and observing how you react is your best bet.
If you eat meat, especially raw, you don't need carnitine. Beware: raw meat is not recommended for everyone - do your research first.
Yet another herb...
Hypericum perforatum, or St. John's Wort.
You'd almost assume that you're reading Harry Potter, and in part, you'd be correct: you need high dopamine levels for such a strong imagination.
But instead of just affecting dopamine, serotonin and epinephrine (adrenaline) levels may also be increased the brain through this compound.[226; 228; 229; 231] St. John's Wort thus non-selectively increases all neurotransmitter levels.
Long term treatment gives the best results.
I don't recommend using St. John's Wort before trying many of the other options in this section.
Sam-e, or more complexly written "S-adenosyl-L-methionine", is a natural compound that is found and used in the liver.
The compound is also available as a supplement or prescription drug (Europe). Sam-e works as an antidepressant, especially in males.[232; 233; 234]
Sam-e boosts dopamine levels, but should not be your first choice.
The following two "supplements" are actually steroid hormones - pregnenolone and DHEA. DHEA is even placed on most doping lists. Always consult your physician before trying them.
Pregnenolone is a precursor hormone that is used to form other hormones. Pregnenolone is created out of cholesterol and can be turned into cortisol or testosterone for example.
The compound is extremely exciting and very well studied since the Second World War. Pregnenolone lowers stress, enhances brain function, and boosts well being,[235; 236; 237; 240]
Of course, the compound also boosts dopamine, otherwise, it would not be included in this list.[241; 242; 243] That effect has only been demonstrated in animal studies. Pregnenolone supplementation is most applicable if you're getting older.
Moving on to the second hormone:
DHEA is a precursor to many neurotransmitters, just as the aforementioned pregnenolone. Your body thus produces hormones such as testosterone and cortisol from DHEA.
DHEA is an abbreviation for "dehydro-epi-androsterone". Unsurprisingly, DHEA increases dopamine levels.[245; 246]
DHEA levels generally go down once you age, and maybe one explanatory reason why dopamine levels also drop over time as well.
I do not recommend supplementing with DHEA unless you've done a lot of research. The upside of DHEA is that it's a great supplement for if you're getting older, helping you return your youthful vibe.
Moving on to less risky adventures:
Uridine is produced by the human body - you thus technically don't need to supplement with it.
The compound is found in most plant foods, such as broccoli, tomatoes, and nuts.[248; 249] Organ meats also contain uridine, as well as beer.
Uridine increases synapse formation. Synapses are connections between brain cells. Uridine can be bought as a supplement, and also increases dopamine.[250; 251] The substance also works as an antidepressant.
Uridine should not be your first option when trying to increase dopamine. Evidence does exist that taking supplements works better than getting uridine through food.
Many people are aware of the existence of Ginko Biloba nowadays - I've even heard commercials about it.
Ginko Biloba is a tree that has hundreds of millions of years old history. Ginko is dopaminergic and has many associated effects of dopamine, such as increased erectile function.[252; 253; 254; 256]
(I do feel sorry for the researchers who had to study erections in rats.)
Prefrontal cortex function also increases through Ginko. Well-being and cognitive performance are also boosted.[257; 258]
Ginko is one of the safer supplements you could take for supporting dopamine function. Longtime supplementation is best. Get ginko biloba in capsule form or in bulk powder.
Forskolin is often used for enhancing brain function nowadays. The substance can be found in many brain supplements - called "nootropics" - for example.
The dopamine receptors are specifically sensitized through forskolin consumption.[259; 260; 261] More dopamine is also created because the aforementioned "tyrosine" amino acid is increasingly used so that you'll end up with higher levels of the neurotransmitter.
If you want a forskolin-based supplement, try CILTEP - which has been geared towards cognitive performance. The CILTEP formulation contains compounds that make more efficient use of forskolin.
Tri-methylglicine is commonly found in beetroot, and abbreviated by "TMG". TMG is a form of "betaine", a compound in beetroot that's used for performance enhancement nowadays.
The benefit of TMG is mainly the protection of brain cells. When a medicine called L-dopa is administered, for example, TMG is neuroprotective. TMG also works as an antidepressant, which is unsurprising if it affects dopamine function.
You can also eat beetroot to ingest TMG.
While I'm not going to discuss whether drinking alcohol for health is favorable or not, small amounts of alcohol do boost dopamine function.
Nobody should be advocating for continuous or large-dose alcohol consumption, as those behaviors will end up in negative health effects.
The dopaminergic mechanism is largely responsible for the addictive properties of the drug.[266; 267] The boost in dopamine does not become smaller but bigger with each subsequent use.[265; 269; 270]
Routine binge drinking thus quickly improves your dopamine levels--but only in the short run. With chronic alcohol consumption, dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex go down over time.[268; 270]
Remember that the prefrontal cortex is the brain part that deals with abstraction and imagination, but also impulse inhibition. Alcoholism thus inhibits high-level thinking and self-regulation.
The best way to drink?
Booze in the sun during the day.
That way your body has plenty of time to recover. Avoid drinking at night which inhibits sleep quality. Yes, society has it completely wrong once again.
Let's now consider an underappreciated substance:
Almost done. Let's end with some of the best options - creatine - which is also somewhat underestimated.
The effectiveness of creatine has only been demonstrated in animal studies. Creatine specifically protects the brain cells that are responsible for dopamine production.
Creatine is normally found in large quantities in raw meat and raw fatty fish. If you cook fish or meat, the creatine content dramatically declines.
So if you're not eating raw animal foods regularly, I'd highly recommend increasing your creatine intake.
Unfortunately, dopamine supplementation alone has not demonstrated to prevent dopaminergic disorders such as Parkinson's disease. Creatine is protective of nerve cells associated with the dopaminergic system, nonetheless.[272; 274; 277]
Creatine also has antidepressant effects. The compound is thus not only great for physical performance, but also brain function.
Another upside? Creatine is dirt-cheap. Read Alex' guide on creatine as well for misinformation on this amazing compound!
Ginseng is yet another adaptogen, a compound that normalizes stress levels.
The aforementioned Rhodiola is similar. But contrary to Rhodiola, however, ginseng lowers excessively high dopamine levels.[211; 212; 213; 215]
Ginseng contains compounds called "saponins", which are responsible for the effect. Ginseng also protects nerve cells associated with dopamine. Dopamine is additionally conserved so that you won't get a "down" that you may get after drinking too much coffee.
If you're experiencing withdrawal symptoms from cocaine or amphetamine, ginseng can help. Cocaine and amphetamine are dopaminergic drugs I'll get to in a second. And if you're "high" on excessive dopamine, lastly, ginseng may be an easy solution:
You can buy high-quality ginseng inexpensively in bulk
Hordenine is a compound found in beer but also prevents dopamine re-uptake. In plain English, that means that dopamine sticks around longer, allowing nerve signaling to be influenced.[394; 395]
The isolated compound can be used as a "nootropic", also known as a cognitive performance enhancer.
Hordenine should not be your first choice when trying to affect your dopamine levels though.
And... that's it for this section.
Section summary: at least 20 different natural dopamine agonists exists. If you're using most of my lifestyle suggestions and still want to boost dopamine, pick 2-6 supplements listed above and cycle them.
Supplements do not and will never replace making the lifestyle changes. Let's now take a peek at medication:
In this section I'll consider eight different dopamine medications. Never use these medications without consulting your physician.
These medications are more likely to have adverse side effects than the plant compounds in the previous section.
Without further ado:
According to the research, cyproheptadine or "cypro" is by far your safest bet in this category.
Many of the substances in the medication category are often unhealthy long-term, such as modafinil or Adderall - I'll consider these in a sec.
Cyproheptadine is a different ballpark though. The reason is that cyproheptadine lowers your overall stress levels, contrary to modafinil or Adderall or even coffee, which often increase it.[281; 282; 283]
The drug is tested in human participants, and may be used as an antidepressant, for example. Animal studies confirm that effect.[279; 280]
I consider the pro-dopaminergic cyproheptadine a superior choice compared to many other antidepressants that are commonly prescribed. Due to boosting serotonin antidepressants such as SSRIs can make you complacent and unmotivated.
Of course, context is key there.
Cyproheptadine lowers serotonin levels. Through inhibiting serotonin - commonly misunderstood as the "happiness" brain signaling substance - dopamine levels are raised.
If you're already a hard-pushing individual, higher dopamine levels may be detrimental though. Cypro is not for everyone, but may be a great replacement if coffee overstimulates you...
Update: I no longer think cypro is pro dopamine because it seems to lower levels in some studies, either directly or indirectly.
L-dopa is commonly used as medication for diseases such as Parkinson's. That condition the brain no longer produces adequate amounts of dopamine, leading to movement disorders and depression, among others.
The full name of L-dopa is " L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine" - a name you can immediately forget.
As expected, L-dopa administration increases your dopamine levels, in part because the compound is a precursor to the neurotransmitter.[288; 290; 291] Serotonin levels are prone to come down though.
I would not recommend using L-dopa without a condition being present. Why? Well, if you take L-dopa as a healthy person, your own body's dopamine production can come down.[285; 286]
L-dopa may also have other long-term side effects:
Nerve cells associated with the production of both dopamine and serotonin may be damaged, for instance.
L-dopa is thus only a last resort, and should never be considered without consulting your physician.
Two even more dangerous substances, that are used mostly as a (party) drug (or to improve performance).
Cocaine prevents re-uptake of dopamine, which means that the neurotransmitter keeps affecting synapses. In other words, dopamine stays in your system longer and therefore has more of an effect.
Working 16 hour days in the confinement of an office? If you take some cocaine you'll be able to go on forever.
Cocaine also gives you the typical dopaminergic "internal locus of control". You'll feel you can accomplish everything, even if in reality such events are outside your control.
A resounding "no"...
In fact, chronically using cocaine lowers your brain's ability to make dopamine.[292; 297] Tolerance also builds up, meaning you need more and more cocaine to get the job done. That tolerance remains high even if you've abstained for a long period of time.
One problem with cocaine is also that it's taken up very quickly by the brain, meaning that you get a very strong high. That high leads to upregulation of the "wanting" and "learning" processes I've talked about before. You'll thus start to crave cocaine with more frequent exposure.
Cocaine is made from the coca plant, and isolated so that a very strong stimulatory compound is created.
Amphetamines are another category of drugs affecting your dopamine levels.
Different amphetamines exist.
Methamphetamine is an example thereof - another drug you should steer clear from. Many amphetamines affect your brain's dopamine levels but have long-term negative side effects.
You'll also build tolerance with amphetamines and become addicted.
Ritalin is the brand name of what commonly is called "methylphenidate".
Ritalin is often taken orally in pill form and used as a medication against ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Lisdexamfetamine is another example of such a drug.
Taken in the right context, if you've got a condition, the effect is calming instead of stimulatory. That outcome should demonstrate how complex the dopaminergic system of the human body is - no universal prescriptions for "hacking your dopamine" exist.
I am worried about long-term side effects of such drugs, however. Transporters of dopamine in the brain may be negatively affected, as well as dopamine-associated brain cells.[298; 299]
Ritalin increases both dopamine and adrenaline levels.[300; 301; 302; 303] Dopamine is mostly affected in the sub-cortical system - the brain areas below your cortex.
Students also use Ritalin for increasing brain performance. That approach is dangerous because the dopaminergic system can decrease in potential long-term.
"Dextroamphetamine" is sold under the name "Adderall". Adderall is essentially a legalized form of amphetamine sale. The effect of Adderall is generally perceived to be stronger than the aforementioned Ritalin.
Long term use of Adderall is still not conclusively established as safe. The biological effects of Adderall are similar to those of amphetamines.
When I was in college, some students I knew used Ritalin or Adderall to improve their cognitive performance. The choice for these drugs is a little bit crazy, to be honest, especially when you regularly rely on them.
Prescriptions for these drugs have increased many-fold in the last decades, and hence, it's relatively easy to receive some of these drugs from friends or family.
I'd be sitting in my cold tub and using sunlight for improving my cognitive performance, and other students would sit inside all day and use Adderall for the same effect.
Of course, I've used smart drugs to improve cognitive performance myself. But Adderall is a crude means to accomplish that goal.
Slowed growth in children and psychosis and heart problems in adults are possible side effects.[306; 307]
Steer clear. And try a safer alternative:
You may think: "So I'll have to smoke cigarettes?"
Not at all. In fact, never use cigarettes as a nicotine delivery method. Far safer methods are available, such as nicotine gum or drops.
Contrary to popular expectation, nicotine alone is not as harmful as expected. Medical ethical commissions regularly often allow research with nicotine to be carried out on human participants--a choice that would be impossible to justify if the compound was additive all by itself.
In fact, the many compounds that are added to cigarettes explain the addictive nature of smoking--not nicotine alone.
If you use nicotine irregularly, the compound can have amazing effects for your ability to be motivated, think outside the box, and focus.[308; 309] Using the compound more regularly will build up a tolerance and is ill-advised.[310; 311]
Nicotine is a great dopamine booster if you're intolerant to coffee. Why? Well, nicotine stays in your system for a much shorter period of time.
Grab a nicotine skin patch or nicotine gum to increase dopamine. Start with a low dose: wear the patch for a few hours, or use a quarter of nicotine gum.
Don't use nicotine if you're prone to substance addictions.
Another sign of a hyperdopaminergic society?
Another dangerous compound that should only be used very strategically. Phenibut affects both the GABA (relaxation) and dopamine neurotransmitters.
Phenibut makes you really calm and relaxed, while motivated at the same time. For that reason, phenibut is often used for peak performance moments, such as an important presentation.
Just like cyproheptadine, phenibut thus lowers stress. The substance also works extremely long, having an effect up to 24 hours. Never take this substance more than once per two weeks.
Beware: overuse of phenibut is extremely dangerous, as the withdrawal symptoms are potentially lethal.
One danger is that phenibut is freely sold over the internet. While I'm not in favor of banning substances you don't like, you should be aware that unregulated drugs like phenibut can have negative consequences on your life.
Lithium is often used as a supplement to counter depression and with good reason. While some conflicting evidence exists, most of it demonstrates an increase in dopamine levels.[324; 325; 328]
Lithium also affects your propensity of depression and may lower its risk.[327; 328] Surprisingly, the compound achieves that effect by increasing serotonin function as well.
You can buy lithium orotate online. Lithium is much safer than many of the previous options I've described.
Last but not least: modafinil.
Modafinil is traditionally sold as a wakefulness-promoting drug, developed for if you have a condition called "narcolepsy". With narcolepsy, you'll fall asleep during the day.
Modafinil does not just keep you awake, but also increases dopamine levels.[314; 315; 316; 317; 318]
Many people use modafinil off label though, mostly for performance-enhancing effects. I've tried the substance and I don't get anything out of it--modafinil lowers my productivity because of overstimulation.
And even though the substance has less addictive potential than cocaine, that risk of abuse nevertheless exists.[314; 315]
That's it, the most common dopamine boosting medications. Moving on to lowering dopamine now:
Psychosis can be caused by excessive dopamine levels.
In fact, I think that many religious experiences are precisely created because of high dopamine activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (the imaginative part that deals with abstractions), combined with a relative inhibition of the lateral prefrontal cortex (that is more logical).
Haloperidol is a prescription medicine that counters psychotic events. In psychosis, you're having trouble distinguishing between imagination and reality (hyperdopaminergic, anyone?)
Dopamine receptors are blocked with haloperidol, and the activation of dopamine-related genes is lowered. Haloperidol is also sedative - and thus increases relaxation.
In the short term, however, this drug can increase how well dopamine is used, instead of decreasing function.[319; 323]
Recall that serotonin lowers dopamine levels. Several supplements exist that increase serotonin, such as 5-HTP.
5-HTP is a building block compound for serotonin. Using 5-HTP increases serotonin availability in the brain, leading to a decrease in dopamine.[329; 330; 331] 5-HTP is best taken by bedtime when higher serotonin levels are more beneficial.
As a comparison, a category of drugs called "SSRIs" also boosts serotonin while lowering dopamine. You can buy 5 HTP online.
By the way:
Congratulations. You've read the entire blog post. You now know all you need to know about boosting dopamine, either through lifestyle changes, supplements, and medication. Let's finally consider the 30,000-foot view.
Want my top-10 laws for managing dopamine - including strategies not listed in this blog post? Sign up below:
I get it...
You don't want to buy 15 different supplements to boost your dopamine levels. Instead, you want an easy solution, right?
Fortunately, we've reviewed many different supplements at Alexfergus.com which can be used to boost your dopamine levels through the roof.
Here are some examples:
Why Qualia Mind? Well, the supplement contains many of the dopamine-boosting ingredients I've covered above, such as:
And many more compounds that affect dopamine levels indirectly. Hence, Qualia Mind is a perfect supplement if you want to boost your dopamine levels.
You can buy Qualia Mind HERE (use code FERGUS for a discount). Also read Alex' review of Qualia Mind: Qualia Mind Review - Extraordinary Deep Sleep & Cognitive Benefits.
Just like Qualia Mind, Awaken Gold also contains several ingredients that boost dopamine function:
You can get Awaken Gold HERE (code FERGUS gives you a discount of up to 15%)
Be sure to read my review, Awaken Gold Nootropic Review: Awesome Well-Being And Quantifiable Cognitive Performance Benefits as well.
many different ways exist to increase or decrease your dopamine levels, ranging from supplements to natural lifestyle adjustments to prescription medication and supplement stacks...
Hopefully you already know that your dopamine levels are a key piece of understanding health.
Simply put, almost any area of your life can improve by optimizing your dopamine levels, ranging from cognition, your outgoingness, imagination and creativity, and much more.
Hence, optimize your dopamine levels today and you're ready to conquer the 21st century! Why? Well, abstract thinking skills are in higher demand than ever and probably continue increasing. You deserve the best and deserve to be the best version of you!
This is a post by Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MS), and is currently a health consultant.
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