Dopamine

In Blog, Health by Wendy Christien

Dopamine influences the power of an individual’s body and mind. There are multiple pathways in the brain that require dopamine. 

Like with any other neurotransmitter an imbalance in dopamine is not without effect. Too much dopamine can cause an individual to be overly intense, driven, and impulsive. Violent or reckless behaviour can also be due to an excess of dopamine.

Dopamine is involved in motivation, reward and reinforcement and motor control. Without enough dopamine we lose power, our minds slow down and we feel unmotivated and dull.   

When dopamine levels are too low, individuals can battle to focus and concentrate and concentrate, they can be mentally sluggish and can struggle to complete tasks. They may also feel unmotivated and have less energy than usual. Very often they reach for stimulants such as coffee or energy drinks to keep themselves going.

Procrastination is a big thing with a dopamine deficiency and many people can find themselves easily distracted. Things that used to be fun and exciting start to lose their appeal and these people lose interest in activities that used to provide much enjoyment. 

Some individuals might engage in thrill seeking activities to try and raise their levels of dopamine. Studies have shown that excessive gaming can disrupt dopamine levels. Gaming, as with any other thrill-seeking behaviour, can have the same impact on the dopamine receptors as cocaine. 

The adrenal glands are closely linked to this neurotransmitter and the body will increase its production of cortisol to try and alleviate a dopamine imbalance. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands that regulates blood pressure, cardiovascular function, and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. If cortisol is raised for longer than necessary, a person’s blood pressure can start to rise, their blood sugar balance will be affected, and they may feel anxious. 

Rapid weight gain can be one of the signs of a dopamine deficiency because of the effect on our metabolism.

The two main amino acids responsible for the production of dopamine are l-tyrosine and phenylalanine. Both are provided in our diets when we eat protein-rich foods such as meat, cottage cheese, wheatgerm, chicken, and duck. Caffeine intake reduces the production of phenylalanine, so it is wise to avoid it if you suspect a dopamine deficiency. Avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates is also essential.

 

Phenylalanine, which is more easily absorbed, is converted to tyrosine in the body which helps for stress resistance, and it acts as a natural pain killer. Tyrosine is required to produce dopamine, and it also helps to increase energy by making certain adrenal hormones.

Apart from a healthy diet, our bodies also need enough folic acid, iron, Vitamin B3 (niacin), copper, and Vitamin C to metabolize and convert these amino acids effectively.

It is always best to get our nutrients from a balanced diet, but supplementation is available if necessary or if symptoms are more severe.

Deep breathing can be helpful to balance dopamine as can relaxation exercises, and weight training. Avoid over exercising as this can also increase cortisol levels which puts more stress on the body.

Referenced from Dr Eric Braverman’s Book The Edge Effect.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 17 February 2022 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am