First, let’s start with what dopamine is and why it’s so important. Dopamine comes from a specific amino acid known as Tyrosine. Dopamine is an extremely vital neurotransmitter that has a host of different role’s it plays in the body, most of which is helping to support brain function. Memory, mental focus, concentration, emotional states, movement and sleeping are just a few of those vital roles. It has a very important role in supporting both our physical and mental health.
Dopamine comes from an area in the brain called the substantia nigra. The substantia nigra is a group of neurons that produce dopamine for the central nervous system (CNS). The way that the brain works is a highly complicated process of signals and nerve transmissions. Neurons in the brain actually release chemical messengers (known as neurotransmitters) through their synapses (nerve endings) that travel to the other synapses and produce specific signals. Neurotransmitter’s are constantly being released into the synapses and reabsorbed. This is how the brain is able to communicate so quickly and efficiently.
Dopamine’s process in the brain is highly complex, but I’ll try and break it down to a level where most people can understand it. When dopamine is released, it needs a place to go. The place where it travels are known as receptors. The dopamine molecule fits together like a lock and key with the receptor, creating an action for that neuron. The message that the dopamine molecule was carrying is then continued with the neuron that it reaches and it continues until it spreads throughout the entire nervous system. After all of the receptors are filled up with the dopamine molecules, the body needs to reuse the dopamine that wasn’t utilized. This is known as reuptake in medical terms. Re-uptake is a process that allows the dopamine levels (and all other neurotransmitter levels) to stay steady. There is also a process called the negative feedback loop that prevents too much of a neurotransmitter from being produced. The problem with most people is that their dopamine receptors become inactive or destroyed, as well as the precursors to doopamine.
Having the proper levels of dopamine in the brain and nervous system will ensure the following:
- Reduced cravings
- Reduced addictions
- High level of motivation
- Reduced levels of depression.
- Reduced anxiety
- High level of clarity and focus
- Satisfaction in personal life
- Healthy sex life
Low dopamine levels present in a variety of ways in a variety of people. The most common side effects experience are depression and laziness. Individuals will lack the energy and motivation to perform daily activities that they never had problems performing before. Making decisions and focusing on activities also becomes a problem when dopamine levels are inadequate. may have trouble focusing or making decisions. Becoming very cold and the inability to lose weight are some of the other common side effects of low dopamine levels.
Low dopamine levels can be created by a variety of reasons. Some of the known causes to contribute to low dopamine levles are:
- High intake of caffeinated foods and beverages
- Saturated fats. (fast food, low quality meat, etc.)
- Refined foods such as white sugar, white flour and white breads.
- High levels of stress in the work place and at home.
- Lack of sleep.
- Poor dietary habits
- Prescription medications (consult your doctor for a list of which ones)
- Illegal drug use (marijuana, cocaine, etc.)
I’m going to go into detail a little more on drugs and how they influence dopamine on a physiological level. There are countless drugs that have both positive and negative effects on dopamine. There are also specific enzymes that assist in the break down of dopamine. These enzymes are known as monamine oxidase’s (most commonly referred to as MAO.) The molecules that bind to dopamine receptors and stimulate dopamine are called agonists. On the opposite side of the coin, molecules that bind to the receptors and don’t stimulate dopamine release are known as antagonists. In short, agonists elevate levels and antagonists prevent dopamine from being released.
As mentioned above, illicit drugs negatively impact dopamine levels in the brain and nervous system. Some drugs, such as amphetamine (also known as speed) and cocaine get their desired physical effect by affecting the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. Most people think they reduce the levels of dopamine, while in fact, they increase the levels of dopamine. Physiologically, what they do is prevent dopamine re-uptake after it has been released by destroying receptors, thus preventing the negative feedback loop. Long term drug use results in a concept called sensitization, which is where the body continues to produce more dopamine and more receptors due to the fact that they’re becoming destroyed and the negative feedback loop becomes distorted. Long story short, avoid illicit drugs to ensure adequate neurotransmitter balances in the brain.
Now you’re probably wondering how you can elevate your dopamine levels, right? Well, if you have low levels of dopamine, you can consume foods containing tyrosine to correct the imbalance. Almonds, sesame seeds, dairy products, bananas, and avocados are all good dietary sources of tyrosine.
Nutritional dopamine supplements can be one of the most effective ways to increase your dopamine level and relieve a majority of the symptoms listed above. There are quite a few products on the market to date that will help with dopamine levels. The dopamine supplement that we recommend most to our patient’s and customers is Balance-D. It is a clinically proven supplement to elevate dopamine levels. The side effects of NeuroScience’s Balance-D are very few and far between with little to no side effects in compared to many drugs.
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