How to increase dopamine levels

In my post Obesity and Dopamine Deficiency, I touched a bit about how these 2 are connected. Dopamine deficiency is also common in people dealing with ADHD.

In this article, I’d like to point out a few steps and changes in your diet that you can make to boost your dopamine levels naturally.

Aim for a high protein, low carb diet

I’ve personally noticed that a high carb diet (despite all from healthy sources) has had a negative effect on my ADD. Some ADHD sufferers have found relief in a ketogenic, zero-carb, or carnivore diet but I personally believe that you don’t need to go that far in terms of restriction to boost your dopamine levels. If everything in this article does not work for you after a few months of strict adherence, then you may try one of the above-mentioned diets and see how you feel.

A good macronutrient ratio to try is to keep your carbs at 10-20% tops, your protein at 30-35%, and the rest of your daily food intake from healthy fats.

Focus on meeting your micronutrient needs

These are the micronutrients that are used to make neurotransmitters and / or help with increase in dopamine production:

  • Zinc (regulates dopamine and makes methylphenidate more effective in improving the brain’s response to dopamine)
  • magnesium (used to make neurotransmitters responsible for attention and concentration, and it has a calming effect on the brain)
  • iron (necessary for producing dopamine)
  • vitamin B6 (improves alertness by increasing dopamine levels in the brain)
  • curcumin (increases dopamine production)
  • amino acid L-theanine (increases dopamine production)
  • amino acid L-tyrosine (helps alleviate depression, boosts memory levels and increases dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine production)
  • omega 3 fatty acids (positively affect the release of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress)
  • vitamin D (helps boost dopamine levels)

Here’s how to get them through your diet (the organic, grass fed (meats) or wild caught (fish) will be more nutrient dense and thus preferred):

  • Lean meat
  • Poultry (chicken, eggs etc)
  • turmeric
  • full fat dairy
  • cod liver oil
  • fatty fish and seafood
  • nuts and seeds
  • extra virgin olive oil and olives
  • legumes (beans, lentils etc)
  • soybeans
  • green tea (mildly brewed)
  • 100% dark chocolate (in small amounts, like 10-20g a day)
  • leafy vegetables
  • fruits (especially bananas)
  • sun exposure (for the vitamin D)

Avoid foods that suppress dopamine production

These foods suppress dopamine production, so it’s important to avoid them at all costs:

  • processed sugar
  • excess caffeine
  • alcohol
  • artificial sweeteners
  • sugar alcohols
  • refined / processed carbohydrates
  • excess carbohydrates

The best way is to cut most of these cold-turkey. You will of course go through some withdrawal symptoms, but you should feel fine in a couple of days, or up to 2 weeks.

Focus on a healthy and diverse gut microbiome

Harmful gut bacteria and pathogens decrease dopamine production, so it’s important to have a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, by consuming prebiotic foods (fiber-rich and digestive enzyme-rich foods such as fruits and legumes), and probiotic foods (fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto, kefir and yogurt).

Dopamine-boosting habits

  • Exercise - yoga and meditation especially help immensely in boosting dopamine levels. One study suggests up to 64% increase in dopamine production after meditating for one hour. Walking outside on a sunny day will help with vitamin D production in the body.
  • Goals and tasks lists - Have the big picture by writing down your life’s goals, and break these goals down to small tasks or habits that you can check off daily or weekly. I will explain how to do that and what tools you can use in an upcoming post on my other blog - Traveler Techie.
  • Avoid video games and social media. Having an electronic device in our pockets that we can have everywhere at all times is more of a curse than a gift. Hours spent on social media news feeds or playing addictive games on your phone, computer or game console, give a short-term overflow of dopamine, which will make your brain decrease the production of this neurotransmitter.

What to do instead:

  • gamify” your life’s goals, tasks and productive habits (more on than on an upcoming post in Traveler Techie)
  • keep in touch with your online friends and distant (location-wise) family with emails instead of scrolling endlessly on newsfeeds with useless memes and information you can live without.

Emails are a stress-free way to have deep and meaningful conversations with the ones you care about, while sharing only to those who matter, not publicly for the entire Instagram world to see, and you don’t need to waste countless hours liking and commenting on every single post on Facebook.

You can read and reply to email correspondence with friends once a week or even once a month. This leaves plenty of time in your life for things that matter, while still bonding and connecting on a much deeper level with your online friends.

“Social” media news feeds ironically do the exact opposite, they disconnect us from each other.

To conclude

Dopamine deficiency can wreak havoc on both our mental and physical health, and the industrialized food products in combination with our modern way of living are not helping either. We have to go against the current and fight even against our own mind to get out of the rut. I know perfectly well that it's easier said than done, but once you break out of the bad habits and get into the routine of a healthy lifestyle, you will eventually find yourself thriving in life. And trust me, it's something worth fighting for.

I am NOT a doctor, personal trainer, registered dietician, nutritionist, athlete, influencer, nor at the end of my fitness journey. The content of this blog is based on what worked for me and is for informational purposes only, not a replacement for medical advice from a professional. Furthermore, we and our bodies are unique, so everybody is different. My results may not reflect your own. Any action you take upon the information provided by ZenGainz is strictly at your own risk.