The countless number of researches conducted on neurons have provided us with all to know about dopamine. The brain, as an organ, runs on a vast, intricate network of over 80 billion neurons— out of which dopamine is the most researched upon. These neurons work together, serving as chemical messengers or neurotransmitters that communicate the brain commands to other organs of the body. As you would have expected by now, dopamine is a vital part of this network.
Dopamine regulates numerous aspects of brain function and human behavior. Its contributions are significant in learning, moving, sleeping, and deriving pleasure. However, dopamine must always be at a specific level in the body— no more, no less. Studies have established that both dopamine excessiveness and deficiency are associated with major mental illnesses, ranging from insomnia and drug abuse to depression and schizophrenia.
How Does The Body Make Dopamine?
Dopamine is defined as a neurotransmitter and feel-good hormone that transmits commands between the brain’s nerve cells. To make signals possible for cells between themselves, dopamine binds to the brain receptors. So, in a way, we can liken dopamine to a mast that aids communication between cellular networks.
The benefits of dopamine are essential to the body. It aids the brain in cognitive functions, such as movement, as well as influencing behavioral structure, which includes our eating, feeling, and sleeping mannerisms. Findings have revealed that dopamine receptors are also available outside the central nervous system, specifically in the pancreas, kidneys, and lungs.
For the body to make dopamine, tyrosine, an amino acid, changes to precursor dopa, which is a compound available in nervous tissue, which is then changed into dopamine by the body. Dopamine is secreted by three portions of the brain, namely the hypothalamus, ventral tegmental area, and substantia nigra.
Difference Between Dopamine & Serotonin
There are questions about the differences between dopamine and serotonin, as both are triggers of positive emotions. Both are neurotransmitters, but whereas dopamine influences pleasure through its link to the “pleasure center”, serotonin is concerned with regulating mood.
So, to enjoy the feeling of pleasure or reward, the body has to secrete a substantial amount of dopamine. On the other hand, when there is a low amount of dopamine in the body, we tend to feel helpless and demotivated. These impacts are because the brain reward system is firmly associated with dopamine. So, to feel motivated and pleasured, dopamine must be available.
Facts About The Roles Of Dopamine In Mental Health
- The brain reward system considers dopamine to be essential. Although its neurons make up barely 1% of the total neurons in the brain, studies have indicated that dopamine has keen, far-reaching effects on mental health and brain function.
- When the body is secreting dopamine in its property quantity, we barely notice it because the brain and mind work fine as they should. When there’s a dysfunction, however, say dopamine can’t connect well with its receptors, or when there’s an abnormally high or low level, we begin to display questionable attitudes in our physical and behavioral functions.
- Dopamine is associated with learning that involves incentives. It also regulates our behavioral decisions, particularly reward-seeking behaviors. Also, there are indications that numerous mental disorders are linked with chemical messengers in the brain, especially dopamine.
- For example, a change in the brain’s chemical levels may engineer addictive behavioral disorders, which would explain why there are issues like eating disorders, gambling, self-injury, and compulsive sexual behaviors.
- There’s an apparent connection between dopamine inadequacy and depression. Having a low level of dopamine can lead to anxiety, insomnia, constant feeling of helplessness and guilt, fatigue, mood swings, trouble focusing, and absence of motivation.
- Dopamine must be moderate in the body. When excessive, it can cause psychological disorders, including schizophrenia, drug abuse, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, Tourette’s syndrome, Autism, and ADHD.
Ways Of Increasing Dopamine
When suffering any psychological disorder related to dopamine level, ensure to visit a hospital to be tested. If results show you’re deficient, then you can try out the following suggestions.
Eat More Tyrosine Foods
Remember that the secretion process of tyrosine begins with the tyrosine. Research has established that the level of tyrosine in the body strongly affects how dopamine is secreted. When tyrosine levels are low, dopamine is also low. Some of the commonest tyrosine-rich foods to eat are:
- Pastured eggs.
- Wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats.
- Organic dairy products.
- Whole grains, such as oats and quinoa.
- Beans and legumes.
- Nuts and seeds.
In the same vein, it is advised to avoid foods that deplete tyrosine levels. Examples are foods high in saturated fats and artificial sugar, which may initially cause a surge in dopamine levels but eventually lead to deficiency.
Maintain A Sleeping Routine
Maintaining your sleeping routine is as important as getting adequate sleep when it comes to dopamine management. This is due to the circadian rhythm, which is the body’s natural clock.
The brain secretes dopamine when we wake up to set us up for the day and reduces secretion towards nightfall to help us relax for the night. Sticking to the same waking and sleeping hours, therefore, stabilizes production as the brain knows the exact times to secrete high and low amounts.
By the way, studies prove that sleep deprivation will lead to dopamine deficiency, so we suggest that you sleep for at least 7 hours every night.
Exercising helps to regulate three neurotransmitters, which are serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine. There’s a clear link between physical activity and these 3, which explains why exercising influences brain function positively.
Studies suggest that the body is triggered to produce more quantity of these chemical messengers when we do some exercises.
While there are no designated supplements for dopamine, you can try out some of the below options to boost levels naturally.
- Vitamin D: According to a study in 2016, vitamin D regulates the operations of dopamine circuits. It was, therefore, beneficial when used to treat dopamine-influenced behaviors.
- Probiotics: Bacteria may respond to chemical messengers according to studies, which suggests that high levels of good bacteria may affect dopamine secretion.
- Curcumin: A publication in Psychopharmacology reported that curcumin boosted dopamine secretion in mice.
Concluding All To Know Dopamine
Knowing all to know about dopamine is necessary to be ready in case of necessity. With the info above, you can identify why you feel demotivated when you sleep late and wake up early as well as solutions. So, the next time you are anxious, I hope you remember to eat some nuts and exercise for some minutes.