How to Increase Dopamine Naturally

Medically Reviewed By Danielle Hildreth, CPT
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Dopamine is a chemical that is important for multiple neurological functions in several different body systems. You may be able to increase your dopamine levels naturally through diet modifications, supplements, exercise, and adequate rest. Dopamine contributes to learning, memory, the sleep-wake cycle, and more.

Read on to learn how dopamine affects the body and how to increase your dopamine levels naturally.

Overview

A woman wearing headphones in the sun
Michela Ravasio/Stocksy United

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has multiple functions in the body. Physically, it stimulates the blood vessels to either contract or dilate, affecting blood flow. This makes it useful in treating cardiac problems, such as congestive heart failure or cardiac arrest.

Decreased dopamine levels may play a role in certain health conditions. For example, damage to nerve cells that contain dopamine receptors causes tremors, rigidity, and loss of coordination in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Dopamine is also a significant chemical in learning, memory, and the sense of reward. Low levels of dopamine contribute to apathy and a lack of motivation. Increased dopamine creates a sense of pleasure and satisfaction, which can be motivating.

Dopamine also influences circadian rhythms and helps tell your body when to sleep and when to wake.

Increasing your body’s natural dopamine levels may help you feel more motivated and satisfied, less apathetic, and more likely to maintain positive health habits.

Diet

Foods rich in the amino acid tyrosine may increase dopamine levels. Enzymes in the body transform tyrosine into dopamine. In addition, the amino acid phenylalanine converts to tyrosine and becomes dopamine.

Please note that it is important for people with phenylketonuria to avoid excess phenylalanine in their diets. Testing for phenylketonuria generally occurs at birth as part of routine newborn screening.

Certain plant-based foods are rich in tyrosine and phenylalanine, including:

  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • beans
  • soybeans

Some animal food sources include:

  • eggs
  • cheese
  • beef
  • chicken
  • lamb
  • pork
  • fish

Supplements

There are several supplements available that may help you increase your dopamine levels naturally.

Tyrosine

While you can purchase tyrosine supplements in the form of L-tyrosine, further study of tyrosine supplementation is necessary. Healthy individuals may get some cognitive benefits from tyrosine supplements, but their effect on people with psychiatric conditions or damaged dopamine receptors seems limited.

Phenylalanine

Phenylalanine is also available as a supplement. L-phenylalanine is a shelf-stable form of phenylalanine.

Probiotics

Cells in the gut produce dopamine, and studies suggest that maintaining a healthy gut bacteria population may raise dopamine production in the gastrointestinal tract.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D may have a protective effect on dopamine receptors. A 2018 study involving rats with Parkinson’s disease symptoms showed that vitamin D may help reduce dopamine depletion in neurons under stress.

Exercise

Research shows that physical activity corresponds to increased dopamine levels and dopamine receptor availability. As a result, exercise may have a positive impact on people with symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Additionally, a 2015 review of animal research suggested that exercise could positively impact motor and cognitive function by increasing dopamine levels in subjects with Parkinson’s disease. But experts need more research on this topic involving human participants.

Sleep

Dopamine has a major influence on the quality, amount, and timing of sleep. In turn, sleep affects the quality and function of dopamine receptors, which can degrade without enough sleep. This can lead to a cycle in which inadequate dopamine decreases sleep quality, which degrades dopamine receptors, and so on.

Getting regular, adequate sleep can help maintain dopamine levels and dopamine receptor quality. You can try practicing healthy sleep habits using the following tips:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
  • If you are awake for more than 20 minutes after trying to go to sleep, get out of bed and do a quiet activity that does not involve electronics or excessive light.
  • Refrain from using electronics for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Avoid substances like caffeine and alcohol for several hours before going to bed.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, comfortable, and free of distractions.

Other methods

There are a few other ways to raise your dopamine levels.

Listening to music

A 2019 study suggested a link between the rewarding experience of listening to music and increased dopamine activity. In addition, music therapy can be effective in treating both motor and mental health aspects of life with Parkinson’s disease.

Listening to your favorite music can be enjoyable and feel good, so try to enjoy music often.

Practicing meditation

Meditation is a series of practices that may expand your consciousness, generally through disciplined practice that integrates mind and body. Some research shows that transcendental meditation can increase dopamine production and pleasant feelings.

There are many different meditation techniques. Some are active, but others are passive. Some require disciplined attention to specific activities, like breathing, while others require different types of focus. Choose the meditation technique that is right for you.

Getting some sunlight

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to sun exposure. The previously mentioned 2018 study with rats suggested that vitamin D may help protect the receptors on cells that respond to dopamine.

It is still important to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit your exposure to direct sunlight to lower your risk of developing skin cancer.

Summary

Adequate dopamine levels are essential to physical and mental health. Dopamine boosts learning, memory, and motivation. It is also responsible for the sense of reward and pleasure that comes from an activity.

You can naturally boost your dopamine levels with a balanced diet rich in foods that contain tyrosine or phenylalanine. You can also try meditation, supplements, exercise, or music.

Try enjoying some time outside in the sunshine each day as well. Raising your natural dopamine levels may lead to a happier, healthier life.

Contact your doctor to discuss ways to increase your dopamine levels safely and effectively.

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Medical Reviewer: Danielle Hildreth, CPT
Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 26
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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