That chemical is called dopamine. And the good news is, there are natural ways to enhance dopamine for improved cognition and health.
What is Dopamine?
One of the most well-known effects of dopamine is for improving mood. Dopamine’s effects on a person’s mood are so significant that it is often called the “feel good hormone”.
When you do or experience something pleasant, dopamine levels rise. This also heightens your experience, making it more enjoyable.
Aside from this, dopamine also plays other vital roles in the following:
This special neurotransmitter takes on what is called the mesolimbic pathway to increase motivation. Dopamine accumulates in the nucleus acumbens of this mesolimbic pathway. This accumulation stimulates the brain, sending signals that something is about to happen.
This likely event may be good or bad. The accumulation of dopamine will push the brain and the body to think about this possible event and do something about it. In other words, it cues you to take action!
- Concentration & Focus
Dopamine influences how well you can concentrate on tasks. Your focus is also influenced by how much dopamine is in your system. The amount of dopamine in your brain’s prefrontal cortex affects your focus and concentration. If you have a high degree of focus, you have more dopamine in this area, along with other important neurotransmitters and hormones.
If your concentration wanes, such as when doing repetitive and boring tasks, you have less dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. Nicotine in tobacco is a very popular drug because it also affects these areas in the brain and increases dopamine, hence makes boring tasks more interesting.
Just think about this, you are more focused when doing things you find enjoyable and vice versa. It’s because of your dopamine levels. High levels mean you are enjoying an experience. You also get heightened focus and greater motivation to continue doing the task or staying in that experience.
What are the effects of having low dopamine levels?
Some of the common effects of having low dopamine are:
- Poor focus
- Low motivation
- Difficulty learning
- Difficulty retaining or recalling memories
- Increased procrastination
- Inability to feel pleasure or enjoy moments or events
- Decreased desire for sex
- Increased risk for Parkinson’s disease
More on Parkinson’s disease:
Dopamine also plays a role in controlling urges and movements. Studies found that symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen when dopamine levels fall. This disease progressively degenerates dopamine receptors, leading to progressive deterioration of the whole dopamine transport system.
Can dopamine levels be safely increased?
Yes, there are many natural ways to enhance dopamine for improved cognition and health. They are cheaper, readily available, and much safer than any medication.
#1 - Probiotics
Healthy bacterial colonies regulate the production of polysaccharides. These are metabolites created by bad bacteria.
If bad bacteria overrun your population of good intestinal bacteria, there will be more polysaccharides created. These compounds are found to limit the amount of dopamine in the brain and a gut imbalance like this can bring on issues of low dopamine.
#2 - Tyrosine
- Animal products (milk, cheese, meat)
- Green tea
- Dark leafy vegetables
- Almond nuts
Eating more of these foods helps boost your dopamine levels. In doing so, you feed your body the tyrosine it needs to create more dopamine.
How does tyrosine help boost dopamine?
Tyrosine is converted by the body into a compound called L-dopa. This will then directly increase the amount of dopamine available for the body to use.
Aside from these foods, you can also take supplements containing natural L-dopa. One example is mucuna pruriens.
#3 - Mucuna Pruriens
Aside from acting as a direct precursor of dopamine, L-dopa is also involved in the production of other catecholamines, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine.
L-dopa also boosts growth hormone releasing hormones (GHRH). GHRH is released by the hypothalamus, stimulating growth hormone production.
Studies also found that long-term L-dopa treatment promotes release of more LH (luteinizing hormone). This is an important hormone that stimulates the production and release of more testosterone.
Hence, by taking mucuna pruriens, you are effectively boosting both dopamine, growth hormone and testosterone levels as well. All in all, Mucuna is an amazing natural supplement!
What is the relationship of dopamine, growth hormone and testosterone?
A summary of this relationship is as follows:
More dopamine = more stimulation of the hypothalamus = more growth hormone releasing hormone = more growth hormone = more growth; more stimulation to testes = more testosterone production = increased libido, more muscle mass and other testosterone effects!
#4 - Less Porn
Well, porn can be an enjoyable experience. However, does it also mean that it can increase dopamine levels and in turn, increase testosterone?
NO. In fact, porn is the greatest buzz killer.
Porn reduces brain plasticity and dopamine receptor sensitivity. Simply put, the more you watch porn, the less sensitive your brain and the rest of the body is to dopamine.
That means you will soon find yourself no longer able to enjoy the things that make sex enjoyable in the first place.
#5 - Cold Showers
Studies showed that short-term exposure to cold temperature stimulates the mesocorticolimbic nigrostriatal pathways. These are brain pathways that play a role in dopaminergic transmission.
In simple words, exposure to cold activates more dopamine pathways. This means more pathways are open for dopamine to travel through which enhances the positive impact of dopamine in your brain.
#6 - Coffee
Caffeine boosts production of dopamine, along with norepinephrine and other catecholamines which further increases brain activity. This results in increased energy levels, focus, and drive.
Matcha or green tea is a better source of caffeine than coffee. Matcha contains an amino acid called L-theanine that is synergistic with caffeine. A cup of matcha will produce greater boosts on dopamine than a cup of coffee.
What can the theanine + coffee combination do for dopamine levels?
The combination of l-theanine and caffeine can be found in many nootropic supplements, and this combination improves cognitive functioning, concentration and memory abilities without any of the side effects usually associated with caffeine.
You do not have to resort to taking expensive medication to boost dopamine. There are many natural ways to enhance dopamine for improved cognition and health!
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About the Author
Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research backed advice for optimal male hormonal health.
Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals. Check out his guide on The Ultimate Guide to Manly Cooking or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.