Dopamine is a neurotransmitter synthesized in the brain, central nervous system and in peripheral tissue. The diverse physiological actions of dopamine are mediated by at least five distinct G protein-coupled receptor sub-types. Two D1-like receptor subtypes (D1 and D5) coupled to the G protein Gs and activate adenylyl cyclase and thus stimulate cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) formation. The other receptor subtypes belong to the D2-like subfamily (D2, D3, and D4) and are prototypic of G protein-coupled receptors that inhibit adenylyl cyclase and activate K+ channels.
In the periphery, dopamine receptors are present more prominently in kidney, vasculature, and pituitary, where they mainly affect sodium homeostasis, vascular tone, and hormone secretion. In the central nervous system (CNS), dopamine is involved in the control of locomotion, cognition, and neuroendocrine secretion.
Outside the CNS, dopamine functions primarily as a local chemical messenger. In blood vessels, it inhibits norepinephrine release and acts as a vasodilator (at normal concentrations); in the kidneys, it increases sodium excretion and urine output; in the pancreas, it reduces insulin production; in the digestive system, it reduces gastrointestinal motility and protects intestinal mucosa; and in the immune system, it reduces the activity of lymphocytes. With the exception of the blood vessels, dopamine in each of these peripheral systems is synthesized locally and exerts its effects near the cells that release it.” (R)
In the brain, dopamine plays a role in executive functions, motor control, motivation, arousal, vitality, reinforcement, concentration, mental focus, metabolism and reward. The lack of dopamine leads to symptoms typical of ‘ADD’, ie the inability to concentrate and focus, with thoughts spinning, as well as restless leg syndrome. Dopamine gives you mental clarity, ability to concentrate, improves learning, memory, recall, well-being, solution seeking, creativity, etc.
The increase in cAMP also stimulated by dopamine leads to an increase in testosterone synthesis.
Dopamine also powerfully inhibits the secretion of prolactin.
Dopamine also antagonizes serotonin by inhibiting the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) that synthesizes serotonin.
An increase in dopamine promotes energy expenditure and exploration, while low dopamine favors energy conservation and exploitation. (R)
A drop in dopamine levels also causes depression due to a rise in serotonin.
However, dopamine cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, so eating dopamine-rich foods/sources, such as banana peels will not increase brain dopamine. Only dopamine precursors can be synthesized to dopamine in the brain.
Symptoms of low dopamine include:
- Lack of motivation
- No creativity
- No goal setting or ambition
- Brain fog
- Negativity (rarely happy)
- Don’t enjoy much
- Lack of content
- Low problem-solving ability
- Fearful, nervous, anxious
- Attention deficit, etc…
Here follow 56 ways to boost your dopamine…
Pregnenolone is a neurosteroid and the precursor to all other steroids such as DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, etc. It increases dopamine in the brain as well as amplifies the dopamine response of other dopamine increasing agents such as morphine. (1)
2) Trichilia catigua (Catuaba) extract
A Brazilian medicinal plant, Trichilia catigua, has antidepressant-like effects by increasing dopamine. (2)
3) Bacopa monnieri
Bacopa is a creeping perennial with small oblong leaves and purple flowers, found in warm wetlands, and native to Australia and India, and is being used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is considered as a nootropic as it enhances memory, learning, brain blood flow, alertness, is neuroprotective and it increases dopamine. It’s generally very safe and well tolerated. (3) Bacopa doesn’t significantly affect MAO, but significantly decreases acetylcholinesterase, catalyzes the breakdown of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine increases focus, attention span, memory formation, etc. (77) Bacopa also antagonizes serotonin receptors, 5-HT2A and 5-HT6.
4) Huperzine A
Huperzine A is a naturally occurring sesquiterpene alkaloid compound found in the Huperzia species, and mostly in firmoss Huperzia serrata. Huperzine A acts to oppose neurotoxic effects of the beta-amyloid peptide on cholinergic, dopaminergic, and noradrenergic systems. (4) It’s neuroprotective, and increases dopamine as well as noradrenaline, both of which are involved in learning, mental alertness, mental clarity and memory forming. It’s a very good compound to use to keep the brain healthy.
5) Essential oils
Of all the essential oils tested in this study (lavender, rosemary, clary sage and chamomile), clary sage had the stronger anti-stressor effect, by increasing dopamine and decreasing serotonin. All the mentioned essential oils are anti-stressors by increasing dopamine. (5)
Carvacrol is a phenol present in the essential oil of many plants and is the major component of the essential oil fraction of oregano and thyme. It acts in the dopaminergic system and not with the serotonergic and noradrenergic systems, making it useful as an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant. However, the effect might be mild and not as potent as other herb and compounds. (6)
- Oregano oil – 75-85% Carvacrol per cap.
SAMe, S-Adenosyl methionine, is a methyl donating compound made in the liver from the amino acid, methionine. Many people have methylation problems and their SAMe production is limited and therefore everything that requires SAMe, is lowered. Supplementing with SAMe has helped many people improve their methylation, immunity, etc. SAMe lowers prolactin, increases dopamine and is an anti-depressant. (9)
- SAMe – 400mg per serving, 60 servings
Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid formed by bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber. Butyrate can then be used by the liver for energy production and is also very protective for the gut, as butyrates are food for cells lining the colon (colonocytes). It reduces the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons and may protect and aid in the recovery of Parkinson disease. (10)
Uridine is used in the body for the synthesis of cellular membranes, nerve growth by stimulating nerve growth factor (NGF) and DNA/RNA formation. Uridine significantly increases potassium-evoked dopamine release in striatal cells and also increases dopamine receptor D2 turnover, which helps to increase dopamine receptors. (11, 12, S) Uridine is found in high concentrations in beer, brewers yeast and meat.
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, potently inhibits MOA which prevents the breakdown of dopamine, thus increasing dopamine levels. (13)
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, which increases resilience to stress, reduces cortisol and significantly increases GABA. It’s also able to increase dopamine, but at very high doses increases serotonin. (14) Ashwagandha also increases glutathione (master anti-oxidant defense system in the body) and GPx levels in the striatum (part of the forebrain). (15) More on ashwagandha here…
- Ashwagandha (KSM-66 extract)
Shilajit is a natural substance found mainly in the Himalayas, formed for centuries by the gradual decomposition of certain plants by the action of microorganisms, and contains over 85 minerals and trace elements. It is a potent and very safe dietary supplement which restores the energetic balance. Shilajit increases dopamine to a greater degree than ashwagandha and doesn’t increase serotonin. Shilajit also alters cortico-hippocampal dopamine by lowering cortisol and increases GABA but not to such a degree as ashwagandha. It’s also potent anti-anxiety. (16)
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It has been recognized as a cofactor for more than 300 enzymatic reactions. Magnesium is also shown to increase the sensitivity of dopamine receptors. (17) Magnesium inhibits N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-induced norepinephrine (NE) release, thus exerting a calming effect. (18) NE is synthesized from dopamine, so inhibiting the conversion will result in more available dopamine. Magnesium also contributes to protecting neuronal cell membranes and modulates neurotransmitters’ release in the brain. (19) More on magnesium here…
Zinc is a very important cofactor for more than 300 enzymes and is required for the modulating of melatonin and dopamine. (20, 21) A deficiency in zinc results in low affinity and decreased uptake of dopamine to dopamine transporter protein. More on zinc here…
14) Chilies – capsaicin
Capsaicin, the compound in chilies which make it hot, causes an increase in catecholamines, namely epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. (22) Capsaicin is neuroprotective and prevents dopamine neural degeneration as it is anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant. Capsaicin reduced expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β)) and reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species from activated microglia-derived NADPH oxidase, inducible nitric oxide synthase or reactive astrocyte-derived myeloidperoxidase. (23) Capsaicin also increases thermogenesis and resting energy expenditure, and can aid in fat loss via β-adrenergic stimulation. However be careful not to take cayenne pepper powder on an empty stomach, as it may burn your throat and gut like crazy.
Exercise increases dopamine sensitivity by increasing dopamine receptors D2/D3 density. (24) Exercise leads to increased serum calcium levels, and the calcium is transported to the brain. This, in turn, enhances brain dopamine synthesis through a calmodulin-dependent system, and increased dopamine levels regulate various brain functions. (25)
Caffeine enhances dopamine (DA) signaling in the brain, which it does predominantly by antagonizing adenosine A2Areceptors (A2AR). Caffeine (300 mg p.o.) significantly increases the availability of D2/D3 receptors in putamen and ventral striatum, but not in caudate. Caffeine intake increases D2/D3 receptor availability in the ventral striatum and is associated with increased alertness. (25) Caffeine doesn’t directly increase dopamine but increases dopamine sensitivity by increasing dopamine receptors. More on coffee here…
Phenylalanine is the first amino acid that is used in the synthesis of dopamine. The pathway is as follows: phenylalanine -> tyrosine -> L-dopa -> dopamine. Phenylalanine is converted via the phenylalanine hydroxylase enzyme. 2.5g a day would be a good starting dose. Phenylalanine also inhibits the enzyme that synthesizes serotonin from tryptophan, tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH).
L-tyrosine is the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, and the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. It’s part of the enkephalin peptide involved in regulating and reducing pain, and increasing pleasure. Tyrosine is essential for any stressful situation, cold, fatigue, emotional trauma, prolonged work, sleep deprivation, and it is shown to improve memory, cognition and physical performance.
19) Vitamin B3, folate and iron
Phenylalanine is converted by the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH) to tyrosine, and the tyrosine is converted to L-dopa by the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) enzyme. The enzymes require vitamin B3, folate, iron and BH4 as cofactors.
Vitamin B3 is needed for converting 5,10 methylene-THF (a methylated form of folate in the folate cycle) to BH4 (part of the tetrahydrobiopterin salvage pathway). When folic acid (an unnatural form of folate) is ingested, it requires vitamin B3 to be converted to THF in the folate cycle, and then requires vitamin B6 to be converted to 5,10 methylene THF, and then again needs B3 to be converted to BH4. Whereas natural dietary folate is immediately converted to methyl THF in the folate cycle, which then requires vitamin B2 and B12 to be converted to THF and then so on to BH4. BH4 is then used in the synthesis of L-tyrosine and L-dopa. PAH also requires a non-heme iron in the catalysis.
As seen above, dopamine is synthesized from phenylalanine -> tyrosine -> L-dopa -> dopamine. So it may work very well to supplement directly with L-dopa so it can directly be synthesized to dopamine. The best natural source of L-dopa is Mucuna pruriens.
21) Vitamin B6
“A single dose of pyridoxine (300 mg iv) produced significant rises in peak levels of immunoreactive growth hormone GH and significantly decrease of plasma prolactin PRL in 8 hospitalized healthy subjects. These data suggest a hypothalamic dopaminergic effect of pyridoxine.” (26) P5P (the active form of vitamin B6) is directly involved as a cofactor in converting L-dopa to dopamine via the dopa decarboxylase enzyme. Vitamin B2 is required to convert vitamin B6 into its active form. More on B6 here…
Massage therapy can lower cortisol up to an averaging decrease of 31% (27). And other than that, a massage is very calming and increases dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good hormone which will give you energy, mental focus, courage, etc.
A massage can also help you to recover from an injury faster, or loosen up a tight and tense muscle that might be pinching. (28)
Dietary copper-deficient animals show a reduction in noradrenaline and dopamine concentrations, together with a depressed tyrosine 3-monooxygenase activity, possibly by neural loss due to depressed cytochrome c oxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD). (29) SOD is part of the body’s oxidative defense system which protects neurons and catecholamine (dopamine & noradrenaline) from damage and oxidative stress. Liver (beef/mutton) is the best source of dietary copper.
Piracetam is a psychotropic drug, which significantly increases the dopamine levels in the cerebral cortex and in the striatum, as well as the 5-HT (serotonin) level in the cortex, while reducing the 5-HT level in the striatum, brain stem and hypothalamus. (30) In this study, piracetam is shown to increase serotonin while not affecting dopamine. It also increases prostaglandins, which increases estrogen. (31) Personally, I would not use it, and think there are many other safer alternatives to increase dopamine.
Adamantane and its derivatives so far seem to possess the following properties: HDAC inhibitor (and thus anti-cancer), anti-cortisol, anti-serotonin, pro-dopamine, anti-diabetes, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-excitotoxic, NMDA antagonism (and thus antidepressant), anticholinergic, antihistamine, etc
Adamantane’s derivative, amantadine, binds to and acts as an agonist of the σ1 receptor and activation of the σ1 receptor is involved in the dopaminergic effects of amantadine at therapeutically relevant concentrations. (32)
- IdealabsDC Diamant – 33mg pure adamantane per serving (40 drops) and it contains 30 servings. However, I advise to use 5 drops (as one serving) and work up from there, till you find the serving that suits you best.
Low doses of alcohol are shown to increase dopamine. But no need to indulge as your body doesn’t build up a tolerance to this effect and doesn’t need more every time for the same effect. (33)
Ghrelin, the hormone that gives you the signals that you are hungry and also stimulates growth hormone release, increases dopamine release in the brain to increase food intake. (34)
Laughter is always good medicine. Laughter is a positive sensation, and seems to be a useful and healthy way to overcome stress. People who laugh more tend to have lower cortisol, higher dopamine, stronger immunity and have a better sense of well-being. (35)
“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
“…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…” – Mathew 18:3. It doesn’t mean to become childish (in an immature way), but rather to become like children by laughing more, being humble, forgive easily, live in the now and trust God, etc…
So remember to laugh more and stress less.
Music therapy (which you find pleasure in listening to) has shown to increase feelings of well-being and increase dopamine release in the striatal system. (36). Although not all music has this effect, as ‘hard’ music can actually increase feelings of aggression and higher cortisol levels and lower dopamine. (37) But above all types of music, the ‘music’ of nature has the most soothing effect on the human mind. Just go to the forest or ocean or just somewhere nice and quiet without the noise of the city, and just listen to the birds and bugs and the wind blowing through the trees, and it will have a very calming effect on you.
Taurine is generally neuroprotective and cytoprotective. (38) Taurine is a close analog to GABA and is thought to function through the same “receptors”.
DIPA formation, but not 5-HTP formation was significantly enhanced by taurine in a dose-related manner in all brain regions studied, indicating an increased synthesis of both dopamine and noradrenaline. Leading to better well-being, energy, mental clarity and enhanced memory forming. (39) More on taurine here…
PS is part of the lipid membrane and stabilizes dopamine binding sites allowing it to exert a powerful stable action. Dopamine forms hydrogen bonds with each of the phospholipids in the lipid membranes, namely PS, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine, with the greatest affinity to PS. (40)
32) Ginkgo Biloba
This herb inhibits dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake by inhibiting the MOA enzyme and has a positive effect on cognition and attention. However, this inhibitory effect was only seen for noradrenaline after 14 days and not for dopamine or serotonin, which might indicate a tolerance. (41) Best to cycle Ginkgo Biloba one week on and one week off, or 3 days on 3 days off.
CDP (cytidine diphosphate)-choline increases dopamine and improves fluidity of the brain neuronal membrane. (42) Uridine also increases CDP-choline levels.
34) Vitamin C
Vitamin C administration upregulates tyrosine hydroxylase, which is the rate-limiting enzyme of dopamine biosynthesis, thus leading to more dopamine production. (43) Vitamin C also protects dopamine neurons from oxidative stress and therefore their survival during toxic or harmful situations.
36) Gut bacteria
A pivotal study found that mice raised in sterile environments and therefore lacking indigenous bacteria (germ-free mice) showed exaggerated physiological reactions to stress compared to normal controls. The abnormal reactions were reversible through probiotic-induced bacterial recolonization (45).
- Bacillus and Serratia: dopamine & noradrenaline.
- Lactobacillus: acetylcholine & gamma-aminobutyrate (GABA)
- Bifidobacterium: GABA
- Enterococcus and Streptococcus: serotonin
- Escherichia: noradrenalin & serotonin
If you want to increase dopamine, avoid these that increase serotonin.
Theanine (gamma-glutamylethylamide) is one of the major amino acid components in green tea and can pass through the blood-brain barrier. Theanine potently lowers cortisol, is anti-anxiety and panic, which makes it a powerful adaptogen. It also increases dopamine. “Co-injection of glycine receptor antagonist, strychnine, reduced theanine-induced changes in dopamine.” (49) In other words, theanine increases dopamine similar to glycine, by increasing GABA.
Cocoa contains both bromocriptine and caffeine which increases dopamine. Cocoa increases cognitive performance and decreases free dopamine urine excretion. (50) Epicatechin (a flavonoid in cocoa) consumption increases tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) levels in both hippocampus (1.51-fold) and cortex (1.79-fold) and decreases monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) expression. (51) Epicatechin also decreases myostatin, a muscle growth inhibitor, and increases muscle building ability.
After the ingestion of carbohydrates, brain serotonin concentrations rise only when the protein component of the meal is less than 2% (52). 40% of cocoa’s calorie content is protein, which would be sufficient to negate any serotonin effect. Cocoa causes a release of opioids, such as β-endorphins in the hypothalamus (53), thus producing an analgesic effect (54). Cocoa is also one of the richest sources of magnesium. (55) I like to mix a tbsp (30g) raw cocoa in a glass of raw milk with some stevia… tastes very wow. Cocoa can really lift up your mood, calm you down, make you feel happy and induce a pain-killer effect.
39) Vitamin A
The active form of vitamin A (retinoic acid), when bound to its receptors, increases the expression of the dopamine receptor D2R. The liganded retinoic acid receptors are specific transcription factors that are essential for full expression of D2R. (56) As protein, vitamin D, steroidogenesis and exercise increase, so does the need for vitamin A. More on vitamin A here…
40) Vitamin D
Insufficient levels of vitamin D inhibits tyrosine hydroxylase, resulting in a disturbance in the dopamine pathway. Vitamin D increases the synthesis of dopamine. More on vitamin D here…
Dietary calcium increases brain dopamine synthesis through a calmodulin (CaM)-dependent system. (57) Calmodulin is an intracellular target of the secondary messenger Ca2+, and the binding of Ca2+ is required for the activation thereof.
Creatine activates the adenosine and dopamine D₁ and D₂ receptors, which is known to have anti-depressant effects. (58) Creatine is also a potent natural survival and neuroprotective factor for developing nigral dopaminergic neurons. (59)
- Aspirin – Start with 1 cap in the morning.
44) Insulin sensitivity
Insulin resistance in the brain induces mitochondrial and dopaminergic dysfunction, leading to anxiety and depressive-like behaviors. Brain mitochondrial dysfunction with reduced mitochondrial oxidative activity, increases levels of reactive oxygen species and increases levels of lipid and protein oxidation in the striatum and nucleus accumbens. Insulin resistant mice also exhibit increased levels of monoamine oxidase A and B (MAO-A and B) leading to increased dopamine turnover in these areas. (62)
Insulin can also be useful at increasing dopamine, as insulin causes a spike in brain uptake of tyrosine (and tryptophan). This will increase dopamine synthesis. Just be sure to take BCAA + tyrosine + vitamin B6, to ensure tyrosine is taken up to create dopamine, instead of tryptophan for serotonin synthesis. BCAA compete with tyrosine and tryptophan uptake in the brain, so by taking just tyrosine will lead to a decrease in dopamine and serotonin and lead to depression.
45) Saturated fatty acids
Saturated fats such as palmitate, oleate and myristic acid can protect from endotoxin, diabetes, heart failure, dementia, cancer, osteoporosis, glucocorticoid excess, etc. and are able to increase dopamine (63, 64). Good sources of saturated fat are beef, bison, lamb, goat and dairy fat as well as coconut oil, olive oil and cocoa butter.
A low protein diet resulted in low dopamine as well as its receptors. (65) This can be due to low tyrosine and phenylalanine. Milk is one of the best protein sources with the most favorable amino acid ratio. It contains a low amount of tryptophan (serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan in the brain) and high amounts of tyrosine and phenylalanine. Just be sure to get the raw milk – straight from the farmer – non pasteurized and nonhomogenized.
47) Lower ammonia
Ammonia alters the function of the blood-brain barrier, impairing synthesis of serotonin and dopamine in the brain and produces abnormal neurotransmitters such as octopamine. (66) Ammonia also binds to the NMDA receptors and can induce anxiety. A simple symptom of high ammonia is chronic fatigue while feeling on edge, or anxious. “Tired but wired”. Vitamin B1, manganese, activated charcoal, ornithine, arginine and citrulline, Ceylon cinnamon, biotin and zinc also lowers ammonia.
Manganese, ornithine, arginine and citrulline supports the urea cycle which breaks ammonia down to uric acid. Activated charcoal helps excrete harmful bacteria which increases inflammation and increases an enzyme urease, which creates ammonia from urea. Take activated charcoal at least 1 hour before or after a meal as it will also bind to some beneficial nutrients (in the gut) to be excreted with the toxins.
Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) is a second messenger in cells. This increase in cAMP levels leads to activation of protein kinase A (PKA), which affects the phosphorylation state of other proteins, notably dopamine. (67) A few known stimulators of cAMP include caffeine, exercise and forskolin.
Forskolin is able to stimulate dopamine formation from tyrosine via tyrosine hydroxylase and also via potassium-evoked stimulation. (68) Forskolin also increases dopamine receptors as well as their sensitivity. (69)
Leptin, the satiety hormone, increases striatal dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) binding. (70) Leptin also increases nucleus accumbens tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) activity, leading to more dopamine synthesis. (71)
Leptin decreases on a low carb diet compared to a low-fat diet (<30%), however, people on a low carb diet vs a low-fat diet have similar dopamine levels. (72) Could be to enhanced leptin sensitivity after a low carb diet. A high-fat diet increases dopamine receptors, increases D2 binding in the nucleus accumbens shell and inhibits dopamine reuptake, but decreases dopamine transporters. (73) This could just be because less leptin means less dopamine, but now the body adapts by increasing dopamine receptors and inhibiting dopamine reuptake to compensate for the lower dopamine.
A high salt diet increases dopamine synthesis in the kidney by upregulating dopamine-producing enzymes. (74) Dopamine’s role in the kidney is to regulate salt and water excretion and prevent hypertension. A low salt diet leads to less dopamine receptor activation and higher renin-angiotensin levels, thus more water and salt retention which could lead to hypertension. (75)
Blackcurrant supplementation inhibits dopamine degeneration via the enzyme MOA-B. (76)
53) Epicatechin gallate (EGCG)
EGCG exerts a modest inhibitory effect on L-DOPA methylation (breakdown via COMT) plus a strong neuroprotective effect against oxidative damage and degeneration. EGCG is one of the strongest natural COMT inhibitors. (77)
Phenibut is a full agonist to the GABA-B receptor, which is sedating, but at higher doses, phenibut loses its selectivity of GABA-B, and gains additional activity as a GABA-A agonist. Additionally, phenibut has been found to increase dopamine levels within the brain. (78) Start with 1g once a week and tailor to yourself from there.
- Phenibut – (very high quality and purity) 10% off of order if you use the link (link, just search for phenibut on the site)
55) 5-HT3 agonism and serotonin antagonism
Although 5-HT3 is a serotonin receptor…which is stimulated by serotonin, actually increases dopamine release. (78) However, other serotonin receptors are dopamine antagonists and serotonin is antagonistic to dopamine.
As always, if an adverse reaction is felt after supplementation, stop immediately or cut back on the dose. It’s always safer to start at the small end of the spectrum and work up from there to find your perfect dose.