Do you experience moments when everything seems to flow just the right way, and you feel a genuine zest for life? Perhaps you wake up excited to start your day, welcoming the challenges that you may encounter. Have you ever started a project and felt really motivated about completing it, proud of the task that you had accomplished? If so, you may want to thank the neurotransmitter, dopamine.
Dopamine is a “feel good” signaling molecule that acts as a messenger between brain cells. In addition to regulating our pleasure and reward center, it is our primary “focus” neurotransmitter that helps to control memory, motivation, and motor impulses.
Low levels of dopamine in the body can contribute to a plethora of health problems, including depression, a lack of interest in life, fatigue, mood swings, poor memory, and impulsive behavior, just to name a few. In fact, decreased levels of dopamine may even lead to bone loss.
Maintaining adequate dopamine levels is important for bone health because dopamine helps to reduce stress, and as Savers know, stress causes the body to respond by increasing cortisol synthesis. Chronically elevated cortisol levels contribute to an acidifying environment, which in turn accelerates bone loss.
But don’t fret. At the Save Institute we never present a problem without offering a solution. Today we share with you ten ways to naturally increase the dopamine levels in your body.
A Simplified Explanation Of This Complex Neurotransmitter
As mentioned earlier, dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter that regulates several functions in the body. This chemical is necessary for the nerves to send messages across a small space called a synapse (the junction where two cells meet). Once released, dopamine travels across the synapse, and it attaches to one of the five dopamine receptors on the receiving nerve. Depending on the receptor it binds to, dopamine can act as an excitatory (stimulating) or inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter. The exact effect of dopamine depends on which receptors it attaches to, and what subsequent chain reaction it initiates.
Dopamine is produced in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the midbrain, the substantia nigra pars compacta, and the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.
The non-essential amino acid tyrosine, which is generated from the essential amino acid phenylalanine, is the precursor to dopamine.
Dopamine performs several functions in the body including movement, addiction, pleasure-seeking, memory, cognition, focus, pain, and sex-drive, and it is also indirectly related to bone loss.
What Does This Brain Chemical Have To Do With Bone Loss?
There are a few mechanisms by which dopamine affects bone health. First and foremost, dopamine produces feelings of relaxation and calm in the body. As a result, less cortisol is released from the adrenal glands. Savers know that cortisol creates an acidifying environment in the body, thus extracting calcium from the bones and contributing to bone loss.
Additionally, dopamine also regulates prolactin production in the pituitary. Prolactin is a hormone whose main function is to stimulate milk production after childbirth. Lower levels of dopamine in the body cause increased production of prolactin, which in turn can lead to reduced estrogen production, further compromising bone health.
Signs that You Aren’t Producing Enough Dopamine
Symptoms of low dopamine generally manifest themselves in a general lack of interest in life. If you feel a sense of apathy, hopelessness, or a lack of motivation, your dopamine levels may be to blame. People with low dopamine levels often experience difficulty concentrating, remembering information, and generalized fatigue.
It is not uncommon for people who suffer from dopamine deficiency to be impacted by addiction. In many instances, alcohol, drugs, sex, or sugary foods give these individuals the quick burst of dopamine they are craving. Extreme dopamine deficiency may manifest itself in neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.
10 Natural Ways To Increase Dopamine Production
1. Minimize Your Caffeine Intake
There is nothing like the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee in the morning. While Savers know that coffee is acidifying, there are ways to enjoy coffee in moderation. It’s also important to note that while tea has many bone-healthy benefits, some teas also contain caffeine.
Many people believe that it is simply the caffeine in coffee or tea that provides that welcomed burst of energy. However, it is actually a cascade of effects initiated by caffeine that creates that feel-good kick. Caffeine increases your brain’s production of dopamine1 and leads to increased neuron firing, which then causes your pituitary gland to think an emergency might be coming. As such, the pituitary gland responds by producing adrenaline in the form of epinephrine. This elevates your mood and makes you feel more energized.
While the initial caffeine kick feels good, eventually the adrenaline begins to wear off, and bone-destroying cortisol slowly starts to build. An occasional cup of joe won’t cause harm, but repeating this cycle on a regular basis causes cortisol to build up in the body. As a result, you can experience signs of chronic stress such as anxiety, fatigue, and lowered immunity.
Regular caffeine consumption may reduce long-term dopamine levels over time, as well as contribute to the decreased sensitivity of dopamine receptors.
2. Correct Mineral Deficiencies, Such As Magnesium And Zinc
There is some scientific evidence suggesting that low levels of magnesium contribute to decreased production of dopamine. Additionally, zinc has been shown to regulate dopamine in the brain through its role in dopamine transport. Zinc binds to dopamine transporters and slows them down, allowing dopamine to remain active in the synapses for longer periods of time.2
Since both zinc and magnesium have been shown to be extremely beneficial to bone health as well, it’s important to make sure that you are consuming enough of both in your diet. Many of the Foundation Foods listed in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program contain high levels of both of these essential minerals. Supplementation is also recommended in most cases, with 25 mg of zinc orotate and 400 mg of magnesium bisglycinate (both are amino acid chelates).
3. Reduce Stress Levels
Stress is an evitable part of life, but you can learn effective coping strategies that help you to minimize the negative impact of stress.
High-stress levels are associated with dopamine deficiency. When we are chronically stressed, our bodies produce excess cortisol, which can have devastating effects on our health, including hormone imbalances, weight gain, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and last but not least, bone loss.
There are many ways to reduce stress, but one such activity that has scientific support for increasing dopamine levels is massage therapy. One research study illustrated that urine dopamine levels increased by 28% in those who had received a massage. Equally important is that cortisol levels were shown to decrease by 31% upon completion of a massage.3
4. Decrease Your Sugar Intake
Like caffeine, sugar has been found to boost dopamine levels. However, the elevation is temporary and ultimately results in a dopamine decrease, or “crash.” In fact, studies have shown that sugar stimulates the same pathways as other illicit drugs, illustrating that reduced dopamine levels can lead to sugar addiction.4 While most people realize that sugary foods are unhealthy, the stimulation of dopamine receptors causes them to keep consuming it.
No matter what the “drug,” the compulsive behavior of addiction is related to the desire for dopamine. Decreasing, or better yet, eliminating your sugar intake will help to break the addictive cycle. There are many ways to stop sugar cravings right in their tracks, including increasing your consumption of apples, cinnamon, and oats. Additionally, the companion cookbook to the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, Bone Appétit, is filled with many low or no sugar recipes that can satisfy your sweet tooth.
5. Consume Tyrosine-Rich Foods
There are many foods, including potatoes, tomatoes, and bananas that are rich in dopamine. However, dopamine consumed in food is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result, if you want to increase the dopamine levels in your brain, you will have to look at its amino acid precursor, l-phenylalanine.
L-Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid found in most foods that contain protein, and once ingested, it is converted into tyrosine. Tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid necessary to synthesize dopamine in the brain, has been shown to decrease stress in the body.5
6. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is restorative and healing in many ways, and lack of sleep contributes to a myriad of health disorders, including bone loss. Also, research reveals that sleep deprivation may reduce the number of dopamine receptors in the brain.6 Clearly, you will want to make sure that you are getting enough Z’s.
Also, research has recently revealed that dopamine plays a role in the regulation of the circadian rhythm, or the sleep-wake cycle.7 Studies have shown that limiting electronics before bedtime, sleeping in a cool room, and avoiding stimulatory foods such as chocolate and caffeine before bedtime, contributes to a more restful sleep.
7. Ensure You Are Getting Enough Whole-Food Nutrients
Savers know that the benefits of a natural whole-food diet are plentiful. As dopamine is easily oxidized, it’s vital to consume foods high in antioxidants to protect neurons from free-radical damage in the body.
Additionally, studies have shown that eating foods high in saturated fat decreases dopamine receptor sensitivity.8 Therefore, it is important to limit certain foods such as palm oil, dairy, and excessive consumption of red meat. If you’re following the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, then you’re already doing this!
8. Drink Green Tea
Green tea has many positive attributes, one being the fact that it contains high levels of bone-building polyphenols. These powerful antioxidants, which give green tea its bitter taste, can prevent cancer and heart attacks. Additionally, polyphenols have been scientifically shown to aid in the synthesis of dopamine.9
Savers know that green tea contains fluoride, so as with everything, moderation is key.
9. Practice Meditation
Meditation has received a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason. In addition to fighting stress, anxiety, and depression, studies confirm many other health benefits. In fact, mindfulness has been shown to decrease chronic pain and boost immunity.
The mechanism by which meditation works is debatable. However, there is significant evidence to support the fact that various types of meditation increase dopamine in the brain.10
Meditation does not have to be complicated. Simply find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes, and breathe. Some people find it helpful to identify a mantra, or a loving phrase, that can quietly be repeated to help bring your focus back to the practice. The most important part of meditation is to be easy on yourself and gently guide your mind back to the present moment. With practice, your dopamine levels will naturally increase.
10. Establish A Regular Exercise Routine
Savers know that physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your bones and your body. However, did you know that it is also incredibly beneficial for the brain?
Exercise increases blood circulation in the body, which helps to boost production of new brain cells, improve the flow of nutrients, and slow down the aging process of cells. In fact, exercise has been shown to increase serum calcium levels.11 Calcium travels to brain, which is used to enhance brain dopamine synthesis, along with serotonin and norepinephrine. These hormones help you to respond more effectively to stressful stimuli.
Consistent exercise, meaning creating an established regular routine of working out, may enhance dopaminergic activity, increase dopamine receptors, and increase levels of dopamine in the brain.
Exercise Benefits Go Well Beyond Bone Health
There are many ways to establish a regular exercise routine to naturally increase your dopamine levels and also build your bones. And at the Save Institute we have the taken the guesswork out of this equation for you!
The Densercise™ eBook System is an effective and quick way to strengthen the most important muscles and bones in your body. In as little as 15 minutes a day, three times a week, you could be well on your way to higher dopamine levels, and stronger, rejuvenated bones.
Densercise™ can be done at home and does not require the addition of equipment or gym memberships. It is easy, fun, and proven to strengthen your bones and increase your muscle tone.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
The best part of it all is that while you are building bone, you are also producing dopamine. You will feel healthy, happy, and energized as you take on your day!
Till next time,
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2 Lepping P, Huber M. Role of zinc in the pathogenesis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: implications for research and treatment.CNS Drugs. 2010 Sep;24(9):721-8. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20806985
3 Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C.Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.Int J Neurosci. 2005 Oct;115(10):1397-413. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16162447
4 Rada P, Avena NM, Hoebel BG. Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell. Neuroscience. 2005;134(3):737-44. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15987666
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7 González S, et al., Circadian-Related Heterodimerization of Adrenergic and Dopamine D4 Receptors Modulates Melatonin Synthesis and Release in the Pineal Gland. PLoS Biology, 2012; 10(6).
8 Hryhorczuk C, Florea M, Rodaros D, et al. Dampened Mesolimbic Dopamine Function and Signaling by Saturated but not Monounsaturated Dietary Lipids. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016;41(3):811-821. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4707827/
9 Mirza B, Ikram H, Bilgrami S, Haleem DJ, Haleem MA. Pak Neurochemical and behavioral effects of green tea (Camellia sinensis): a model study. J Pharm Sci. 2013 May;26(3):511-6. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23625424
10 Kjaer TW1, Bertelsen C, Piccini P, Brooks D, Alving J, Lou HC. Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2002 Apr;13(2):255-9. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11958969/
11 Sutoo D, Akiyama K. Regulation of brain function by exercise. Neurobiol Dis. 2003 Jun;13(1):1-14. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12758062