Ways To Boost Low Dopamine For Better Mental Health
Today, more than ever, people are finding themselves struggling with low levels of Dopamine. Symptoms of low Dopamine include poor memory, loss of pleasure in life, lack of motivation, and feeling hopeless and worthless. If these low dopamine symptoms sound familiar to you, todays video will detail seven ways you can naturally improve low dopamine levels.
In Today’s videoCovers
- Some of the symptoms of Low dopamine levels
- Why medications don’t fix the underlying Root cause of low dopamine in most people.
- The best way to support low dopamine levels.
- How we test for low Dopamine levels- I’ll show you some testing that helps us understand this better.
- Supplements to help with dopamine production and conversion.
- Finally, I will share with you one of the questionnaires, Neurotransmitter Assessment Form I use in practice that helps me understand more about a patient’s mental health concerns.
So, let’s unpack some of these topics today and then in future videos build on today’s video- Also if you are not a subscriber to my YouTube channel make sure you hit that subscribe button, so you know when we post new videos.
What Is Dopamine And What Happens If You Have Low Levels?
Dopamine is the primary neurotransmitter made in the brain and when levels are low or unbalanced we find it difficult to handle or manage stress, we prefer to be alone, we lose pleasure in hobbies we once enjoyed, food doesn’t taste as good as it once did, we lose our sex drive, we feel worthless, our emotions flat line and we just don’t find life interesting.
Essentially, we have lost our zest for life. What do all these symptoms have in common?
Two words- Pleasure system and problems with low dopamine are often the main culprits affecting this pleasure system.
Think about it like this, in life there are two things that have been said to motivate people- Pain and Pleasure-
If you are like most people, the things that make you feel good, are the things you want to do over and over again and the things that cause pain- we avoid- being in a loving meaningful marriage or relationship where we feel safe and secure, having a strong social network, eating good food, being with our friends, having good sex, making lots of money, receiving praise, feeling valued.
Things we drink and eat are also chemicals that can also affect our dopamine levels- things like alcohol, coffee and drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine that can increase dopamine levels but then cause low levels, once we come off the high.
For those that experience the symptoms of low dopamine, this pleasure and reward system goes terribly wrong- we don’t experience the highs and when we experience the lows, we can’t seem to get out of that rut and it just snowballs.
Heres the Good News….
If you are someone who is experiencing low dopamine or low neurotransmitters, once we know what is causing this, there are so many things that can be done to help improve and, in many cases, reverse these symptoms.
10 Causes Behind Low Dopamine
Let me give you 10 things that can be the root cause of your low dopamine levels and then I will explain in detail how they cause low dopamine.
- Low protein diets Amino that fail to provide amino acid precursors such as L-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine.
- Nutritional deficiencies that fail to provide Nutrient cofactors. Deficiencies include B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate), Vitamin C, Copper, BH4, Iron, magnesium, SAMe (Could Be caused by the birth control pill)
- Blood sugar problems caused by high carb, high sugar diets that lead to insulin resistance and Type II diabetes
- Stress from fluctuating cortisol levels and adrenal gland fatigue
- Genetic SNPS or polymorphisms in MTHFR, COMT or MAO
- Bacterial overgrowth with C.diff
- Elevated levels of prolactin
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Exposure to toxic metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium,
- Oxidative stress to dopamine producing nerve cells
Now, I want you to be asking yourself if drugs like (Wellbutrin or drugs like Requip, Abilify, Zyprexa and any other drugs) do they fix or get to the root cause of any of the problems that we just listed.
If you are taking any of these medications, perhaps you should discuss these possibilities with your Functional Medicine doctor and see if there might be better ways to improve your mental health problem.
Testing For Low Dopamine Levels:
Let’s talk a little about some of the testing that can provide insight into dopamine use and production. How can we test for Dopamine levels- If you look at this illustration- don’t be overwhelmed by it, I’ll explain and point out some of the most important things I want you to know about.
#1- you will notice that the whole process of producing Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Epinephrine starts with two very important amino acids (phenylalanine and tyrosine)-
see these in the orange box.
The Importance of Vitamins in Making Neurotransmitters….
The second thing I want you to notice is some of the vitamins in red that you see playing a part in converting one substance into the next.
For example in order to convert Tyrosine to L-dopa, you need to have adequate levels of B6 vitamin.
In order to convert Dopamine to Nor-epinephrine you need Copper and vitamin C
And in order to convert NE into epinephrine you need SAMe.
If you at time struggle with anxiety you may be having problems with epinephrine and Norepinephrine because these are your fight or flight neurotransmitters.
So, this is why diet and nutrition play such a huge role for people with depression, loss of focus and other low dopamine symptoms.
The third thing I want to point out is that epinephrine is another name for adrenaline-.
The reason I point this out is that Norepinephrine and Epinephrine both come from dopamine-often when we have problems with one Neurotransmitter, we are going to have problems in other areas as well- Here again its important to look at the entire picture. Ok-
Here’s Why Copper and Vitamin C Are So Important For Mental Health
The very next thing I want you to see is where it says Dopamine Beta Hydroxylase (Just to the left of Vitamin C)-This is the key enzyme that converts dopamine into norepinephrine and what you will notice is that in order to make this conversion, you need vitamin C and copper.
Before I move to another illustration, I Want to point out that there are a lot of players and lot of moving parts going on here-
The wrong supplementation, the wrong vitamin, too much of the wrong amino acid or not understanding some of the genes (COMT and MAO) could create a handful of very unpleasant symptoms, so work with a Certified Functional Medicine Doctor.
Please understand, the reason I show you this is to help you gain a better appreciation into things your doctor should be looking into in order to properly manage your case. Just prescribing antidepressants will not solve the underlying mechanisms of low dopamine. With that said,
Here’s A Test On One Of My Recent Patients
Let me show you a test recently ran on one of my patients who was struggling with a variety of Symptoms Related to Low Dopamine.
If you look at this test, the marker we want to pay special attention to, is the one that says Homovanillate.
You can see this is marker 23, and the value is 1.5 and it got flagged at being low. The range for Homovanillate is 1.2 to 13.9- so ideally we want to see this about 6 or 7.
Low Levels of HVA or Homovanillate often indicate we have LOW levels of Tyrosine, L-Dopa and Dopamine- Now…… we need to investigate the reason why these may be low.
When Homvanillate levels are LOW this means that we could have low levels of Tyrosine, L-dopa and Dopamine production. But we still don’t know WHY yet- So here’s where we need to do a bit of investigative work-
Earlier in the video, I listed out in the 10 things that cause low dopamine- This is what we need to further investigate-
So if we have low HVA levels- we would expect someone to have low dopamine levels and with low dopamine we see all those low dopamine symptoms we have been talking about- things like such as fatigue, depression, sleeping problems, loss of motivation, loss of focus, loss of libido, loss of enthusiasm along with all the other symptoms I mentioned earlier.
One of the tests I use to see if this is happening is the urine organic acid test. So far I’ve talked about the symptoms of low dopamine the (motivation molecule), some of the root causes of low dopamine- (those were the 10 Things I listed), I showed you some of the testing (organic acid testing) we use to learn more about dopamine metabolism, I talked about some of the reasons behind low VMA, and the last thing I want to cover for you are some things you can do today to raise your dopamine levels.
Increase your Dopamine Levels Naturally
#1- Raise Your Dopamine Levels Naturally With Diet
Eat a Higher Protein Diet- Avoid Low Carb and Low fat and Supplement with Amino Acids Specific to Dopamine Production. Beef, lamb, pork, chicken, eggs, cheese, pumpkin seeds and beans are all rich in those amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine- Remember these are amino acids that are needed to make Dopamine.
Also, keep in mind that 60% of your brain is fat- So make sure you are avoiding those Omega 6 vegetable fats (corn, cottonseed, sunflower and safflower) and you are eating fats higher in omega 3 essential fatty acids.
I also recommend that you ditch any stimulants like caffeine, Soda and nicotine that will initially raise your dopamine levels but then causes your dopamine levels to crash.
#2- Raise Your Dopamine Levels Naturally By Increasing Strong Stomach Acid!
Stomach acids is essential to break down proteins into amino acids. So here, it can be incredible helpful to supplement your diet with Betaine HCL pepsin to ensure maximum protein digestion.
A while back I put together a few videos on the importance of stomach acid one of them was 7 causes of low stomach acid video and the other was Low stomach acid symptoms– So I encourage you to watch those as well.
#3-Raise Your Dopamine Levels Naturally By Addressing Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies-
Remember many enzymes needed to make dopamine and other neurotransmitters, require various vitamins and minerals.
A deficiency in any of these and you will not be able to produce sufficient amounts of dopamine.
#4- Raise Your Dopamine Levels Naturally By Supporting your Adrenal glands–
Your adrenal glands are your stress glands also known as your fight or flight glands that I talked about earlier. How you react to stress depends on the health of your adrenal glands. This strategy is especially important if you are perimenopausal or menopausal suffering with anxiety, depression and other low dopamine symptoms.
#5 Raise Your Dopamine Levels Naturally By Supporting Your Gut-
We know that a healthy gut equals a healthy brain- I will do another video on the importance of the microbiome and mental health. But, if you already have symptoms of bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation, SIBO, Leaky gut, etc focus on correcting these problems.
Clostridial overgrowth or yeast overgrowth, gut dysbiosis are common denominators with people suffering with mental health problems.
In the 20 years I have practiced functional medicine, it’s no surprise to me that when I work with a patient who has GI problems that they report depression, anxiety, brain fog is gone or improved since working on their gut.
#6- Raise Your Dopamine Levels Naturally By Getting Your Sugar Tooth Under Control!
If you find yourself fatigued after you eat, or moody and irritable if you have skipped a meal- (even if your glucose levels are normal on bloodwork) I would almost guarantee you suffer from some kind of blood sugar dysregulation.
Your brain does not like the roller coaster of high and low levels of glucose. So, eat frequent meals and eat within 30 minutes of waking up- and Never skip meals.
#7 Raise Your Dopamine Levels Naturally With Exercise!
This isn’t about losing weight, this is about brain stimulation. The brain is stimulated by movement especially movement of the limbs. While movement is essential for everybody, its especially critical for people with depression and those looking to improve mental health. Don’t be afraid to join a local gym- so…Get your sweat on!
There you go! I hope you enjoyed todays video! Make sure you subscribe and check out the other videos I have on my YouTube channel.
If you are struggling with mental health and you want to find natural ways of improving your brain- improving focus, stabilizing your mood, etc visit my website and look for the start here button.
Whether you need help improving your diet or if you are looking to dig even deeper than diet and you want to get tested for some of the things I have talked about in today’s video- we can help you with this as well.
Need Help putting the pieces of the puzzle together?
Our office works with patients all over the world regain their health. Our approach is a combination of Metabolic rebalancing combined with lifestyle and natural medicine. If you would like to work with our office, the first step is completing our Neurotransmitter Assessment Screening. Once completed we can figure out the next best steps.