Dopamine supplements are claimed to improve mood and alleviate depression. However, upon reviewing the label, it becomes apparent that these supplements contain ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, food extracts, and herbal powders, which can potentially boost dopamine levels in the body.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain and distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream. It is often referred to as the feel-good hormone and has a crucial role in the body’s reward system. However, dopamine’s functions extend beyond that, as it serves as a chemical messenger between brain cells. It is involved in various aspects including cognitive functions (decision making, attention, memory, and motivation), behavior, mood, motor functions and muscle movement, sleep, lactation, blood pressure, and kidney function.
Emerging research indicates a potential link between dopamine and immune function. According to Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist based in Boston and author of “This Is Your Brain on Food”, food can profoundly influence the availability of dopamine in the brain since dopamine is influenced by various nutrients. Dr. Naidoo, who is also a professional chef and nutrition specialist, highlights the impact of diet on dopamine availability.
Here is a list of supplements and foods that are known to supply the necessary nutrients for the synthesis and maintenance of dopamine levels in the body: berberine, caffeine, curcumin / turmeric, fish oil, gingko biloba, ginseng, L-theanine, magnesium, probiotics, saffron extract, oregano, vitamin C, vitamin D, tyrosine.
Berberine, a bioactive compound present in specific plants utilized in traditional Chinese medicine, possesses anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties. In a 2018 study involving rats with post-traumatic stress disorder, berberine exhibited the ability to elevate dopamine levels and alleviate anxiety. However, further investigation involving human subjects is necessary to establish its impact on dopamine levels conclusively.
Caffeine, one of the most widely consumed substances worldwide, has been suggested by certain studies to potentially elevate dopamine levels.
According to Lisa Young, an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, caffeine has been associated with increased dopamine levels by enhancing dopamine receptors in the brain. However, it is important to note that individuals may develop a tolerance to caffeine over time, requiring higher consumption to achieve a similar effect.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day to be safe. Caffeine is commonly found in beverages such as coffee, tea, and dark chocolate. While there are variations in caffeine content due to brewing methods, an average 8-ounce cup of coffee contains around 100 milligrams of caffeine, while an 8-ounce cup of black tea contains approximately 50 milligrams. It’s crucial to consult your doctor before making any changes to your caffeine intake, especially if you have specific medical conditions or take medications that may increase sensitivity to caffeine.
A study conducted on rats revealed that oregano extract exhibited a beneficial impact on the levels of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, in the body. Oregano, a commonly used spice in the Mediterranean diet, is abundantly available and can be found in various forms such as oregano-infused oils and dietary supplements.
Turmeric, a spice containing the active compound curcumin, has the potential to promote the release of dopamine and exhibit antidepressant properties. Curcumin has demonstrated the ability to effectively cross the blood-brain barrier and influence the release of serotonin and dopamine, contributing to its antidepressant effects. Turmeric, a staple in Indian cuisine, can be incorporated into various dishes, including beverages like smoothies. Enhancing its bioavailability, or the extent to which the body absorbs a substance or drug, can be achieved by adding a pinch of black pepper, facilitating its absorption into both the brain and body.
Ginkgo biloba, a herb with a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, offers various health advantages. It is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ability to enhance circulation, and combat free radicals as a potent antioxidant. While smaller studies have explored the effects of ginkgo biloba on dopamine levels, its mechanism in this regard remains incompletely understood by scientists at present.
Ginseng is a long-standing component of traditional Chinese medicine, known for its diverse therapeutic applications. It possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and analgesic properties. Studies on animals and in vitro have indicated an increase in dopamine levels with the use of ginseng supplements. While there is potential for ginseng to raise dopamine levels in humans, particularly in individuals with ADHD, further research is required to validate this.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that offer significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and have demonstrated effectiveness in alleviating symptoms of depression. The main omega-3s of interest are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA and EPA, in particular, may contribute to an elevation in dopamine levels within the brain. Omega-3 can be obtained from fatty fish like salmon, as well as plant sources like walnuts and chia seeds.
L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid present in tea, facilitates relaxation by diminishing stress and anxiety. Animal studies have indicated that L-theanine can enhance serotonin, dopamine, and GABA neurotransmitter levels. L-theanine is found in various teas such as white, green, oolong, and black tea, as well as certain mushroom varieties.
Magnesium plays a crucial role in promoting brain health. Deficiency in magnesium has been associated with depression and a reduction in dopamine levels. Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, studies have demonstrated that magnesium supplementation can elevate dopamine levels and exhibit antidepressant effects.
Avocados, black beans, almonds, pumpkin and chia seeds, oats and spinach are some foods rich in magnesium.
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms residing in your body, supporting gut balance and overall health. They assist in food digestion, boost the immune system, and produce essential substances like vitamin K, B vitamins, and neurotransmitters. Recent findings suggest a connection between gut-brain signaling involving the microbiota and dopamine release, synthesis, and availability. Disturbances in gut microbe diversity caused by factors like antibiotics could potentially affect dopamine transmission.
Consuming fermented foods abundant in probiotics, such as kimchee, sauerkraut, kombucha, and plain dairy or coconut yogurt, may potentially enhance dopamine levels.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that is crucial for producing neurotransmitters and hormones like dopamine. It is obtained through diet and can also be synthesized by the body. Tyrosine supports the function of adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid glands involved in hormone production and regulation. It is naturally present in various foods such as dairy products, soy products, meats, fish, avocados, bananas, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and poultry, making tyrosine deficiency rare due to its widespread availability.