Dopamine to your mind and body is like a ray of sunshine on a growing tree. The neurotransmitter dopamine is vital for life and the more you know about your dopamine levels, the more empowered you will be. In this blog we will tackle the following questions:
Now let’s get started!
Dopamine is the quintessential “feel good” neurotransmitter. It drives motivation, formation of memories, goal directed behavior, it curbs impulsive behavior, promotes learning and impacts mental performance. Additionally, dopamine is a key fitness neurotransmitter as it controls your hormones and influences muscle building.
Dopamine affects your hormones via several different mechanisms. Dopamine opposes a hormone called prolactin. Prolactin in turn has an inverse relationship with testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. When prolactin is high, these other hormones may be low, and visa versa. Therefore, if dopamine is elevated, prolactin goes down, and then your testosterone, estrogen and progesterone may rise. If dopamine is low, prolactin may rise and your other hormones may correspondingly drop. Of course, there are other variables that contribute to the rise and fall of hormone levels and a more individualized examination of your unique body may reveal even greater depth of understanding.
In addition to supporting mood and balancing hormones, dopamine is a key neurotransmitter for fitness experts. The right amount of dopamine will improve your body’s responsiveness to weight bearing exercise by promoting muscle growth and it will impact your performance by motivating you and keeping you persevering.
What’s the deal with dopamine, anyway?
As we discussed, dopamine has a complex relationship with your hormones. We also know that your gut plays a key role in dopamine levels. In fact, it is believed that the neurons in your gut makes just as much dopamine as the neurons in your brain (central nervous system). Dopamine production in the gut is regulated by the enteric nervous system (ENS) which is a complex mesh of neurons that communicates between your gut and your central nervous system. If the ENS of your gut is out of balance, either due to candida overgrowth, dysbiosis, the presence of parasites or other pathogens, the way your gut produces and regulates dopamine may change. This will impact the way you feel in your mind and body.
What are signs of low dopamine?
The best way to accurately test dopamine levels is through what is called dopamine markers. My favorite way to examine this is by looking at Homovanillic (HVA) marker specifically. While this is not a perfect test, in conjunction with your symptoms, we can get a pretty good understanding what might be going on with your dopamine levels.
Do I have low dopamine? If you answered yes to two or more of the following, consider talking to your Naturopathic Doctor about whether or not your dopamine may be out of balance.
Do I have high dopamine? If you answered yes to two or more of the following, consider talking to your Naturopathic Doctor about whether or not your dopamine may be out of balance.
What can I do if my dopamine is out of balance?
If you suspect your might benefit from a deeper look into your dopamine levels, you’re in the right place. Learning more about your health and feeling empowered is the first step towards achieving your goals.
In addition to working with your personal Naturopathic Physician on addressing your individual needs, making changes to your diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference in helping you feel like yourself again. For example, if you have low dopamine, you might consider asking your doctor about the Dopamine Diet. Contrastingly if you suspect high dopamine, be sure to avoid the foods listed on the dopamine diet.
The Dopamine Diet: Foods that increase dopamine
Foods that are high in tyrosine will increase dopamine in the brain. Examples of foods that are high in tyrosine include:
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