We hear a lot about serotonin and its roles in mood, digestion and pain perceptions and often the first line medical treatment for low mood and depression is supporting serotonin production. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter with many important roles in the body and at times low dopamine may be a contributing factor to your symptoms.
Dopamine is important for motivation, mood, memory and movement. Some potential signs indicating low levels of dopamine include:
- Addictive behaviours or tendencies
- Restless legs or muscle tremors
- Low libido and sex drive
- Low motivation
- Mental exhaustion
- Dull and boring dreams
Serotonin has roles in controlling appetite and eating, pain and mood regulation, digestive function, arousal, and sensory perceptions. In comparison the potential signs of low serotonin include:
- OCD or OCD like tendencies
- Carbohydrate cravings
- Low pain tolerance
- Frequent constipation
- Poor dream recall
- Low self esteem
Some things a naturopath may recommend to improve dopamine levels includes:
- Supplementing with the precursors for dopamine synthesis to enhance natural dopamine production – these include tyrosine, taurine, phenylalanine, selenium, B6, zinc, vitamin A, C and E.
- Including protein rich foods to support dopamine production as proteins are the precursor- lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, nuts, seeds, quinoa, brown rice
- Engaging regularly in activities you enjoy that bring you pleasure and joy
- Saffron- this herb acts to bind to GABA-A receptors and antagonises 5HT receptors to prevent dopamine reuptake in the brain. This results in enhanced levels of dopamine to support your mood and motivation.
- N-acetyl- cysteine – this amino acid supports in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress whilst modulating dopamine levels and supporting mental health.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – these support in improving brain functioning, enhancing neuronal fluidity and functioning, increasing dopamine production and reducing brain inflammation. Include these via your diet (flax seeds, flax seed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, algae) or via a supplement from a naturopath
- Ensuring you get good quality sleep each night and preventing disruptions to your circadian rhythm. Some things to improve your sleep are – amber lights at night, morning light exposure, reducing screen time, and aiming to incorporate a relaxing night time routine such as including a bath/shower, tea, reading, and yoga or stretching to help you wind down.
- Exercise, specifically endurance training (lower intensity for longer durations) can support in improving the release of dopamine