Do You Have a Dopamine Deficiency?
Having a dopamine deficiency can wreak havoc on your health and well being, so it’s important to know why you need dopamine, how you become deficient, and what you can do to correct the problem if you are.
Dopamine is produced by the hypothalamus gland in the brain. It functions as a neurotransmitter, and affects a myriad of functions in the human body, including: memory, motivation and drive, cognition, mood, attention span, emotional responses to situations, and even the ability to learn and retain information. Dopamine is also closely related to the way we interact socially with one another. Studies have shown that many people who experience social anxiety and other mood disorders often have low dopamine levels.
Dopamine is related to feelings of pleasure, but not necessarily with gratification. It might be more accurate to say that dopamine is related to the thrill of the chase rather than the satisfaction of victory. Dopamine gives us that excited and pleasurable feeling we get when we are anticipating something; we feel excited, we get a certain kind of “high.” This is probably why people who use drugs that interfere with dopamine production often find themselves endlessly chasing a state of mind that they can never seem to reach.
In a healthy brain, dopamine works in conjunction with endorphins, which are released when we are actually achieving something. Fed by the anticipatory excitement provided by dopamine, we feel compelled to push ourselves –whether into a sexual encounter, a rigorous workout, or a challenging endeavor. We are then rewarded with the release of feel-good endorphins.
So, how can you tell if you might be suffering from a dopamine deficiency yourself? There are several indicators of too-low dopamine levels in the body. Some of them are:
- Trouble focusing and paying attention
- Chronic boredom, with no motivation to do anything
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Heavy cravings for stimulants like sugar and caffeine
- Procrastination in all aspects of life
- Low or non-existent libido
- Excessive and/or rapid weight gain
- Cold extremities
- Inability to cope
- Irritability, anger
Obviously, no single symptom necessarily indicates a problem. However, if you find that you are regularly experiencing more than one of these, you may have a dopamine deficiency.
There are several factors that can contribute to decreased dopamine levels in the brain. Some of the most common are:
- Prolonged periods of stress
- Lack of adequate sleep
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of social interaction
- Deficiencies in certain vitamins or minerals
- Having the flu
- Lead, cadmium, or arsenic exposure
- Drug use – especially opiates and stimulants
- Alcohol abuse
As you can see, many of the symptoms of a dopamine deficiency are the same as its causes. Because of this, people with low dopamine levels can enter a cycle where they are compelled to do the very things that exacerbate their condition. Breaking out of this can be tough, and that’s why many people opt for some type of medication to help tip the balance back.
There are a lot of things you can do to restore your body’s optimal dopamine levels. One option is to use medication or hormone replacement therapy. Some meds are available over-the-counter, but others are by prescription only.
Some things you can do naturally to increase dopamine production are to exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and eat a healthy diet. Some foods that can help are:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Lima beans
- Sesame seeds
- Dark colored fruits and vegetables
If you think you have a dopamine deficiency, take steps right now to correct the problem. Dopamine is a vital component of health, and is necessary to maintain a balanced lifestyle.