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Which Supplements Can Increase Dopamine Levels?

Low dopamine levels can impact your life, causing you to feel tired, lack focus, and feel hopeless or depressed. One or more of these symptoms can make it hard to go about your day, working, taking care of the house, and simply functioning. 

Evidence suggests dopamine-boosting supplements may help with mood, memory, motivation, attention, and sleep. Several probiotics, psychobiotics, and other neurological health-promoting supplements have shown promise in increasing levels of dopamine in those with low levels.

Why Is Dopamine Important? 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain that communicates messages from your brain to your body. You may have heard dopamine referred to as the “feel good” hormone, as it is the body’s way of inducing pleasurable feelings as a reward. You can get a dopamine boost from the reward center in your brain after activities like smelling freshly baked cookies or eating. 

But dopamine also is involved in movement, memory, focus, learning, behavior, and mood. Your body has various dopamine receptors throughout the nervous system, with many located in the hippocampus region of your brain. 

What Happens If Your Dopamine Levels Are Low? 

Not everyone with low dopamine levels experiences the same symptoms, but these may be signs that your dopamine levels are on the low side: 

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety or moodiness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Forgetfulness
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Feeling depressed or not getting pleasure from what you usually enjoy

Multiple mood disorders and life stressors can also mimic depleted dopamine levels. When you're experiencing a high-stress period at work or in your personal life, it might impact your mood and sleep, cascading into other symptoms. You can discuss the above-mentioned symptoms with your doctor if you think they stem from low dopamine levels. In the meantime, you might consider trying a supplement to improve your dopamine production.

What Supplements Can Boost Dopamine Levels? 

Dopamine helps positively impact mental health and supports cognitive function.  Along with enhancing your levels of dopamine, these supplements offer other benefits.

Probiotics & Psychobiotics

Psychobiotic bacteria

Your gut and brain are connected, and a healthy digestive tract can impact your overall health. An unhealthy digestive tract can affect other body systems, inhibit your ability to absorb nutrients, affect your skin and hair, and even affect your ability to make neurotransmitters such as dopamine. For this reason, scientists have studied gut-health probiotics to learn more about their effects on brain health. 

Psychobiotics take the gut-brain connection to a higher level. They are probiotics that more directly impact the gut-brain axis, which is the interconnection between the gut and brain mediated by nerves and neurotransmitters. Although psychobiotics may also improve gut health, they specifically address mental well-being, typically by influencing levels of neurotransmitters throughout the body. 

Some psychobiotics appear to affect dopamine levels by modulating your body’s production and metabolism of dopamine in a variety of ways. While a few may actually produce dopamine themselves, most evidence suggests that psychobiotics indirectly influence the dopamine production and signaling of nerve cells. Prevotella, Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium in particular appear to improve mood because of effects on dopamine signaling.

If you're looking for a probiotic supplement to boost dopamine levels, try a supplement specifically formulated for mood. Look for a formula with Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium infantis, or check the label for Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum, as these two probiotics, mixed with others, eased symptoms in a clinical trial on people with depression

You can also look for L. plantarum PS128. This strain has been shown to increase dopamine levels in animal studies and supports mental health in people. Look for a formula with PS128, like Neuralli, to see if it might ease symptoms associated with low dopamine levels. 

Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin deficiencies can impact the body in many ways, including inhibiting the ability to make dopamine. A deficiency in Vitamin D, in particular, has been shown to impact the brain’s substantial nigra, which controls your movements. The substantia nigra is critical in determining how your body uses dopamine because much of the dopamine travels a pathway originating in this part of your brain. These structures have a high level of the enzyme that converts Vitamin D into its active form. In Parkinson’s patients with vitamin D deficiencies, the substantia nigra may die faster than in those with normal levels. Vitamin D has shown neuroprotective effects against damage in patients with 6-OHDA and MPTP model Parkinson’s Disease. 

Vitamin D helps your body produce dopamine and protects this critical part of your brain. Nearly half of all Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, so it may be worth adding a D supplement to your diet for multiple reasons.

Your body also uses the B vitamins B6, niacin, and folate to produce dopamine, and iron is also required. Find a multivitamin that provides all of these, as well as vitamin D, to be sure that you have all the essential nutrients necessary to help your body make more dopamine.

Mucuna pruriens

Mucuna pruriens can increase dopamine levels. Shown here as a whole bean in a square, white bowl.

Native to Africa and parts of Asia, Mucuna pruriens, or velvet bean, is a legume used for multiple wellness treatments. The bean has a long history of treating symptoms of depression. It is a natural source of L-dopa, which your body can use to synthesize dopamine. Studies indicate Mucuna pruriens may aid the body in releasing more dopamine after crossing the blood-brain barrier. In animal subjects, it helped restore dopamine levels in the brain. 

This supplement is an adaptogen, a substance known for helping regulate natural processes within your body that allow you to adapt to stress. If you’re interested in trying Mucuna pruriens, look for an extract or capsule form. In its natural state, this bean tends to cause the skin to itch, and ingesting too much could be toxic, so it's best to take it as a supplement. 

Amino Acid Supplements

Certain foods can impact your dopamine levels. This effect occurs because some amino acids are converted into neurotransmitters when you eat high-protein foods. Your body metabolizes these aromatic amino acids into dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and others. 

Eating a balanced diet high in protein could help your body increase dopamine production, and adding amino acid supplements can help. One supplement, L-tyrosine, is commonly used by athletes to aid recovery after a workout since it aids muscle repair. This supplement can also help your body build a dopamine reserve

L-theanine is another amino acid supplement studied for its cognitive benefits, including the ability to ease depression-related symptoms. Typically found in green tea, or taken as a supplement, it increases serotonin and dopamine, making you feel relaxed. 

Ginseng

Ginseng whole herb, which may increase dopamine and help people with ADHD

An herbal treatment for many common ailments, ginseng has long been touted for its effects on memory. Supplements are usually made from the roots and come in capsule and powder form. In clinical studies, ginseng decreases inflammation and has a slight pain-relieving effect. It also increases dopamine levels. Specifically, Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng), tested in people with ADHD, looks like a promising treatment to help improve attentiveness and focus. 

Ginseng helps regulate your brain’s D2 receptor, a dopamine receptor involved in managing pain and controlling motor functions. 

Bacopa monnieri

Another herbal supplement used for mood and memory, Bacopa monnieri is a plant native to wetlands across the globe. It may also have the name Brahmi on the label. This herb helps protect neurons from damage because of its antioxidant properties, potentially impacting how your brain absorbs dopamine.  

In rat studiesBacopa monnieri had antidepressant effects and anti-inflammatory properties. It also functions as an adaptogen, helping the body react better to stress. This supplement can help your body balance its serotonin and dopamine and reduce cortisol levels. Some people use it to relax, while others use it to boost memory. 

Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola rosea, known as golden root, shown here as a plant growing in a mountainous area. May help with dopamine and serotonin levels.

You may see this supplement labeled “golden root.” Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen that, when tested on animals, impacts their brain’s ability to reuptake dopamine. With this supplement, neurons don’t reabsorb as much dopamine, leaving more within the synapse where it can continue to signal. If you’ve ever taken a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to manage depression or anxiety, you may be familiar with this concept. 

An animal study suggests that Rhodiola rosea can make the blood-brain barrier more permeable to precursors for dopamine and serotonin biosynthesis, which allows your brain to store more amino acids that aid in dopamine production. Other uses include aiding in memory and boosting concentration. Rhodiola rosea also helps repair neurons in animal subjects. Because this supplement limits the ability of neurons to reuptake dopamine, it may work well when paired with another supplement that boosts dopamine production. 

Caffeine

When drinking coffee or tea, our body absorbs caffeine into circulation in 30 minutes. Studies show the benefits of taking caffeine, such as better memory and cognition. Caffeine can act on adenosine receptors and dopamine receptors. So, most people feel more energized from caffeine after a cup of coffee or tea. These effects are an attribute of caffeine which enhances dopamine signaling. Caffeine has also shown neuroprotection effects on neurons producing dopamine because of its antioxidant activity.

Caffeine can also help your body manage the side effects of having too much dopamine. It makes you feel more alert and enhances dopamine signals in your brain by inhibiting a receptor that normally inhibits dopamine receptors. 

Studies show that caffeine helps protect the dopamine receptors in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s Disease from degeneration. Researchers studied it for its synergy with levodopa (L-dopa), a typical treatment for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. In one study, caffeine helped reduce some of the levodopa side effects.   

Fish Oil

Fish oil caplets scattered on a white surface

Another supplement, fish oil, has long been touted for its role in brain health because it is high in Omega-3 fatty acids that aid brain development. But fish oil is also being studied for its effects on various neurotransmitters, including dopamine. One study showed that fish oil added to the diet of depressed people helped their bodies release more dopamine. 

Conversely, a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids may lead to dopamine deficiency. A fish oil supplement can help you get more omega-3 fatty acids if you don’t like to eat fish. 

Finding the Right Supplement for You

If you’re looking for a supplement to help boost your dopamine, talk to your doctor about which supplement may be right for you. Some supplements can interfere with medications, and they may have side effects. Look through clinical studies to see what potential side effects you may experience. 

Supplements, including probiotics and psychobiotics, generally have a low risk of side effects. Some of them may even help your medication work more effectively. Talk to your doctor before starting a supplement if you’re currently receiving treatment for mental health or other condition.

You can also find the right nutritional supplement by tracking your diet and identifying where you may be deficient in specific vitamins or essential fatty acids. With daily stressors and busy schedules, acquiring the nutrition you need through your diet alone may pose a challenge. Once you evaluate your eating habits, you may notice areas where a supplement can enhance what you already eat. Choose dietary supplements with ingredients that have been studied and follow the dosing instructions.

 

Recommended reading:

Can You Use Probiotics for Sleep?

Do Probiotics Help with Anxiety?

Probiotics for Parkinson's Disease

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