Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in many aspects of our behavior, including motivation, pleasure, reward, and movement. Dopamine is produced in different areas of the brain, and imbalances in dopamine levels are linked to conditions like depression. If you’re exploring how to increase dopamine with supplements, options are available. Below, we’ll highlight the best dopamine supplements and explore how each works.
How Does Dopamine Work?
Dopamine is produced in different brain areas and then released into the synapse. The synapse is the gap between two neurons. Then, it binds to dopamine receptors. The effects depend on the part of the brain where it’s released and the specific receptors it binds to.
For example, in the mesolimbic pathway, associated with reward and motivation, dopamine release is triggered by the anticipation of a rewarding or pleasurable experience like food or sex. The dopamine release reinforces the behavior that led to the reward, increasing the likelihood of repeating it in the future.
Dopamine is a critical neurotransmitter that also plays a role in movement and the control of motor function.
Low dopamine levels are associated with neurological and psychiatric disorders, including depression, while high levels are linked to schizophrenia and addiction.
Symptoms of Low Dopamine
If you’re looking for how to increase dopamine with supplements, you may worry you have symptoms of low dopamine. These symptoms can include:
- A lack of motivation: A primary function of dopamine is to drive motivation and goal-oriented behaviors. Low levels can cause a lack of motivation and a decline in the ability to experience pleasure or enjoy rewarding activities.
- Fatigue and lethargy: Dopamine regulates energy levels and your feelings of alertness. If your levels are low, you may have symptoms, including lethargy and fatigue, as well as difficulties getting out of bed in the morning.
- Problems with memory and concentration: Dopamine is critical to cognitive function, including memory, problem-solving, and attention. If you’re deficient in dopamine, it can cause memory and concentration problems, poor judgment, brain fog, and difficulty making decisions.
- Mood swings: Since dopamine regulates mood and emotional responses, low levels can cause mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
- Sleep problems: The regulation of sleep involves dopamine. Low levels disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, causing insomnia and other sleep disturbances.
- Cravings: When you have pleasurable experiences, which can include eating, drinking alcohol, or using drugs, dopamine is released. If your dopamine levels are low, you may have strong cravings for food or substances because your brain is trying to boost dopamine levels.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition thought to be linked to low dopamine levels. Boosting dopamine levels can potentially help the symptoms. Major depressive disorder also probably has a relationship to low dopamine levels, as do many other mental health conditions.
Causes of Low Dopamine
Some of the potential reasons for low levels of dopamine include:
- Genetic variations impact dopamine production, release, and receptor function, leading to low levels.
- As we age, dopamine levels naturally decline.
- Brain damage or diseases like Parkinson’s can lead to low dopamine levels.
- Chronic stress depletes dopamine levels over time.
- Dopamine production relies on nutrients, and if you have poor nutrition, it contributes to low levels.
- The use of some drugs like amphetamines and cocaine can increase the release of dopamine in the brain temporarily, but chronic drug use depletes levels over time.
- Medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can interfere with dopamine function and cause low levels. Serotonin and dopamine are closely linked and can interact with one another. SSRIs can reduce dopamine in certain areas of the brain.
It’s also important to talk about the relationship between alcohol and dopamine levels. Alcohol use is seen as socially acceptable despite its problematic and harmful effects on mental and physical health. Alcohol affects the dopamine system in the brain.
When you consume alcohol initially, it leads to the release of dopamine in certain areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. That dopamine release contributes to the euphoric feelings and the positive reinforcement often experienced with alcohol consumption.
Alcohol can also directly activate dopamine receptors.
With chronic alcohol use, the brain undergoes changes affecting dopamine signaling. Over time, your brain may become less responsive to the effects of alcohol, leading to the development of a tolerance, and some changes may sensitize your brain to the reinforcing effects of alcohol, contributing to compulsive drinking and cravings.
As the effects of alcohol wear off, dopamine levels can drop, leading to negative emotional states, including anxiety and depression. Chronic alcohol use leads to long-term changes in the dopamine system, including alterations in the number and sensitivity of dopamine receptors.
How to Increase Dopamine With Supplements
While there are varying factors contributing to low dopamine levels and dopamine deficiency, taking supplements may help. The benefits of using dietary supplements to boost dopamine levels include:
- Improved mood
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression
- More motivation
- Enhanced cognitive function
- Better sleep
- Reduced cravings
Below we cover some specific natural dopamine supplements that can boost your mood and boost dopamine production. When you boost natural dopamine production, it can help with depression symptoms.
L-Tyrosine for Dopamine
The first and one of the most important supplements for dopamine is L-tyrosine. It is an amino acid that acts as a precursor to a number of neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Taking L-tyrosine supplements can help improve your mood and increase your focus and concentration.
L-tyrosine supplements help with cognitive function and can reduce stress while improving energy levels.
If your goal is increasing dopamine with L-tyrosine, you might start with a divided daily dose of 1000 mg, taking 500 mg in the morning and 500 mg later. L-tyrosine’s conversion to dopamine relies on the availability of certain cofactors, including vitamin B6 and iron, so make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients from your diet or supplementation.
Don’t combine L-tyrosine with high-protein meals because it can reduce its absorption.
You might also consider cycling L-tyrosine to avoid becoming tolerant of it. Cycling L-tyrosine means taking breaks from using it so your body can regulate its production.
You can take doses up to 2000 mg a day, and it’s best absorbed on an empty stomach. You should try to take it at least 30 minutes before or several hours after eating to avoid it competing with other amino acids for absorption.
DMAE for Dopamine
Dimethylaminoethanol, or DMAE, is a compound that’s been shown to increase dopamine levels. Doing so can help with focus and concentration, mood, and cognitive function. DMAE supplements also reduce inflammation. Inflammation in the brain can decrease dopamine levels.
DMAE may help improve athletic performance by enhancing energy and motivation levels as well.
Common DMAE supplementation doses range from 100 to 300 mg a day. You can take it with or without food. Choline is a DMAE cofactor, so you might want to combine the two to enhance the effects.
Rhodiola Rosea to Increase Dopamine
Rhodiola rosea is a plant used for centuries in traditional medicine to help mental and physical performance. Rhodiola rosea has stimulant properties, which can help with motivation and energy levels.
It’s an adaptogenic supplement, so it helps the body adapt to stress, and it can help reduce inflammation in the brain.
Common starting doses of Rhodiola rosea for dopamine are anywhere from 200 to 600 mg a day, taken in one or two doses. Most people find it’s best to take it in the morning to avoid it interfering with sleep because it can be energizing.
It takes time for adaptogens like rhodiola to exert their full benefits, so give it several weeks of consistent use to see changes in your mood and energy levels.
Curcumin is the bioactive compound found in turmeric that can help increase the production of dopamine in the brain. Along with increasing dopamine production, curcumin can protect against dopamine depletion because it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin can enhance neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to reorganize and form new neural connections, and this may be in part due to its ability to increase dopamine levels. Curcumin also has demonstrated anti-depressant effects.
Curcumin has low bioavailability, which means the body does not easily absorb it. You want to be mindful of this and choose a version of the supplement that is designed to be better absorbed. For example, you can choose a curcumin phytosome or a liposomal version. You can also combine it with piperine, which is a black pepper extract. It helps enhance bioavailability.
Curcumin is fat-soluble, so it’s better absorbed with dietary fat, and typical doses range from 500 to 2000 mg a day.
L-Theanine to Raise Dopamine Levels
L-theanine is an important dopamine supplement. An amino acid from tea leaves, L-theanine, can reduce stress and promote relaxation. It can also increase the brain’s production of dopamine and protect against dopamine depletion.
L-theanine potentially improves cognitive function and sleep quality, likely at least due in part to its effects on dopamine levels.
Starting doses of L-theanine are around 100 to 200 mg, but you can take higher doses. You can take it with or without food, and it’s often combined with caffeine. This can improve focus and alertness and give you a smoother burst of energy than caffeine alone.
Gingko biloba is an herbal supplement used for centuries to help memory and cognition. It’s been shown to increase the release of dopamine in the brain and protect against dopamine depletion because it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginkgo biloba can help with memory and attention, and it increases blood flow going to the brain. This helps to increase oxygen and nutrient supply to brain cells. This transport of oxygen and nutrients to the brain helps support healthy dopamine function.
Starting doses of ginkgo biloba can be 120 to 240 mg a day, taken with or without food. It can take weeks or even months to experience the full cognitive benefits, so be patient.
Vitamin C for Natural Dopamine Production
Nutrition and brain function are carefully linked in terms of how to naturally boost dopamine levels. Vitamin C is also incredibly important for your brain’s natural production of dopamine. Adequate vitamin C levels support healthy dopamine levels. The vitamin helps with the synthesis of neurotransmitters, including dopamine. The conversion of dopamine precursors like L-dopa into dopamine requires reactions facilitated by vitamin C, as a brain support supplement.
Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that protects brain cells, including the ones that play a role in dopamine signaling. Oxidative stress can negatively impact dopamine neurons, and vitamin C has a protective role. It’s known that vitamin C can modulate dopamine receptor activity, and it’s involved in the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, which is another neurotransmitter.
Vitamin C improves the absorption of non-heme iron, and iron is a cofactor involved in the synthesis of L-dopa, a dopamine precursor.
If you’re taking a vitamin C supplement, consider bioavailability. Liposomal vitamin C is well-absorbed and helps you get the most benefits.
Magnesium and Dopamine Production
Magnesium is a critical mineral that many Americans are deficient in. It plays a vital role in many of our important physiological processes, including neurotransmitter function.
Magnesium can help increase dopamine release in the brain, and it protects against oxidative stress, which in turn protects against dopamine depletion.
Other benefits of magnesium include improvements in cognitive function, better sleep quality, and reduced anxiety and stress.
A common starting dose of magnesium is usually 200 to 400 mg a day. There are many forms of magnesium, but some are better for neurotransmitter and dopamine support than others. For example, magnesium glycinate is a good version of magnesium that’s less likely to cause stomach upset, and it does cross the blood-brain barrier.
Magnesium citrate is also well-absorbed and has high bioavailability.
Vitamin D for Dopamine
Vitamin D is needed for many of the body’s processes, including proper neurotransmitter function. Vitamin D can increase dopamine production in the brain, and it can help improve your mood. There are also anti-inflammatory effects that can help people who have low levels of dopamine. Inflammation decreases dopamine levels, so reducing inflammation can help increase the brain’s dopamine production.
Vitamin D3 is the optimal form for supplementation. It’s more effective at raising and maintaining vitamin D blood levels compared to D2. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so it’s best absorbed with dietary fat, and you should take it consistently to maintain steady levels in the body.
Lion’s mane is a functional or medicinal mushroom used for centuries traditionally. Lion’s mane has a number of potential benefits for brain health, including its ability to increase dopamine production. Lione’s mane stimulates the production of nerve growth factors in the brain, increasing dopamine production.
Lion’s mane can also enhance nerve regeneration in the brain, which helps people with low dopamine levels.
A common starting dosage of lion’s mane is 500 to 1000 mg a day. You need to give it weeks or months because the benefits are often cumulative with this functional mushroom.
How to Increase Dopamine with Supplements—Final Thoughts
In conclusion, supplements that may help increase dopamine levels in the brain include L-Tyrosine, DMAE, Rhodiola Rosea, Curcumin, L-Theanine, Ginkgo Biloba, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Lion’s Mane. These supplements have potential benefits for improving mood and cognitive function and protecting against dopamine depletion, among other benefits.
However, it’s important to note that individual responses to these supplements may vary, and more research is needed to understand their effects on dopamine levels fully. Talk to a healthcare provider with any questions.