How to Upregulate Dopamine Receptors?

This article will uncover how we can upregulate dopamine receptors naturally. It will also answer questions about what is dopamine, how dopamine helps humans, as well as various strategies to increase dopamine in natural ways. 

How do you upregulate dopamine receptors?

The following are the ways to upregulate dopamine receptors:

  • Eating more protein
  • Consuming less saturated fats
  • Increasing the consumption of probiotics
  • Meditation
  • Exercising 
  • Listening to music
  • Getting a good enough sleep

We will be looking into these subpoints in detail in this article, along with what research has to say about the same. We will also cover some frequently asked questions about dopamine. First, let us understand what exactly is dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps us stay energetic, motivated, as well as focused. It produces rewarding feelings when produced after the completion of certain tasks. It helps in giving us a zest for life. 

However, our lifestyle habits, diet, as well as mental-health illnesses can reduce our dopamine levels and can cause us to be lethargic, apathetic, fatigued, and demotivated. It can also lead us to addictive behaviours, mood swings, as well as memory loss.

What is Dopamine?

In order to understand what dopamine is, we need to first understand what neurons are. Neurons are brain cells that carry messages from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain. The human brain consists of approximately 86 billion neurons on average. 

These neurons communicate with each other by producing brain chemicals. These brain chemicals are called neurotransmitters. There are several types of neurotransmitters such as; dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, etc. 

Dopamine is one of the most-studied neurotransmitters. This is because dopamine has links to various kinds of human behaviour which includes motivation, and pleasure-seeking, and it plays a role in addiction behaviours. Dopamine also has a role in attention, memory formation, learning, movement, as well as our ability to anticipate pleasure. 

Even though dopamine is widespread in the animal kingdom, high levels of it in humans are what make us unique. This high level of dopamine in humans contributes to our high levels of intelligence, as well as allows us to exist and form complex social interactions and circles. It helps us use language, and assists us in planning and setting goals.

Dopamine is so important for humans that its dysregulation can cause diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, which is caused by the increasing death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

Dopamine is created by relatively few numbers of neurons. These are located in the hippocampus, also known as the memory centre of the brain, and the amygdala, which is known as the fear centre of the brain. Dopamine is used by kidneys, pancreas, and immune cells. Thus, its use is also in systems outside the central nervous system (CNS).

Dopamine is also known as our motivation molecule. It produces the feeling of “I did it!” when you complete a task you wanted to accomplish. It also facilitates competitive juices and gives you the thrill to achieve and stand out in all aspects of life – school, career, and social life. 

Dopamine is responsible for and in charge of the pleasure-reward system. It produces feelings of bliss, pleasure, and sometimes even euphoria. If there is too little dopamine produced by the brain it can cause a lack of motivation, and lethargy, and can lead to a lack of focus. 

Dopamine is critical to motivating us, studies have found that dopamine-deficient lab rats lack the motivation to eat or even move! Without dopamine, they choose to starve even in conditions where food is readily available.

What are the symptoms of Dopamine Deficiency?

Low levels of dopamine can cause a complete lack of enthusiasm for life. Low levels of dopamine cause low energy levels which can force you to rely on caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants in order to get through the day. The following is the list of common dopamine deficiency symptoms:

  • Apathetic feelings
  • Fatigue
  • This leads to self-destructive behaviours, like addiction
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Inability to finish tasks
  • Inability to form social relationships
  • Lack of ability to feel pleasure
  • Demotivation
  • Low libido levels
  • Sleep problems
  • Procrastination
  • Memory deficit/problems
  • Low moods due to lack of energy

What Does Research Say about Upregulating Dopamine Receptors? 

To upregulate dopamine receptors you can:

Consuming More Protein

Proteins are the building blocks of the body, also known as amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids that the body needs in order to make all the proteins required. Some of the amino acids are made by the body, while others are acquired through different foods. 

The important amino acid involved with dopamine production is called tyrosine. The body’s enzymes can turn tyrosine into dopamine, and hence, having enough tyrosine helps in increasing dopamine levels in the body (Lopez & Mohiuddin, 2022). This can be found naturally in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, dairy, soy, legumes, and eggs. 

Consuming Less Saturated Fat

Research in rats has found that when rats consumed 50% of their calories from saturated fat, they had reduced levels of dopamine in the reward areas of their brain as compared to rats who consumed 50% of their calories from unsaturated fat. 

Studies in older women have also found a link between high saturated fat intake and poor memory, and poor thinking ability in humans. These are the same effects as having lower levels of dopamine. Foods high in saturated fat include; butter, palm oil, coconut oil, and full-fat dairy.

Increased consumption of probiotics

Research has shown that the gut and the brain are closely linked. The gut is also called the second brain as it produces a large number of nerve cells that are also capable of producing neurotransmitters, including dopamine (Wall et al., 2014). Hence eating more probiotics will keep your gut healthy, which in turn can increase the production of dopamine in your body.

Meditation

Meditation is a practice of calming your mind, and orienting yourself in the present moment. It includes letting your thoughts float without any attachment or judgement. Research has found that meditators have found about a 65% increase in their dopamine production, which helps them remain in a positive mood, and stay motivated, focused, and oriented.

Exercising

Studies have shown that exercising can improve one’s mood. It helps in the natural production of dopamine. Dopamine receptors are produced while working out, as well as after it. However, more research is required in studying how exactly this effect is produced.

Listening to music

Koelsch (2014) found that listening to music increases activity in the reward areas of the brain, which are rich in dopamine receptors. Another study has found that when participants listened to instrumental music, a 9% increase in dopamine was observed in their brains.

Getting Enough Sleep

When people don’t get enough sleep, it can reduce dopamine sensitivity in the brain. This causes excessive feelings of sleepiness. Thus, getting a good night’s sleep helps in regulating the body’s natural dopamine receptors (Korshunov et al., 2017).

Conclusion:

This blog addressed the question of “how to upregulate dopamine receptors?” It highlighted what dopamine is, what are the symptoms of low levels of dopamine, as well as how to naturally increase dopamine levels.

FAQs: How to upregulate dopamine receptors?

Can you reset your dopamine receptors?

Yes, it is possible to reset dopamine receptors. One way to do this is to go on a “dopamine fast”. In this, you are required to stop doing the things you normally enjoy doing. This could include stopping alcohol consumption, smoking, gaming, and taking a social media break.

It can also include reducing pleasurable eating such as sugary foods, and carbohydrates. The idea here is to destimulate your dopamine production and reset your neurochemical system. 

What causes low dopamine?

Low dopamine can result due to a number of factors. Some of them can include; sleep deprivation, obesity, excessive drug use, overeating, consuming high levels of saturated fats, and stress.

How can I know whether I’m low on serotonin or dopamine?

Low levels of serotonin and dopamine cause similar symptoms. However, one stark difference is that dopamine deficiency affects muscles, while serotonin deficiency does not. One common consequence of dangerously low levels of dopamine is Parkinson’s disease. 

Common symptoms of lack of dopamine are discussed in the article above. Some common symptoms of lack of serotonin include; decreased energy levels, sad moods, lethargy, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, cravings for carbohydrates, low sex drive, gastrointestinal problems, as well as engaging in compulsive behaviours.

What happens when there is too much dopamine being produced?

The symptoms of high dopamine levels include; mania, excess energy, anxiety, as well as increased irritability. Varying levels of dopamine also play a role in the causation of schizophrenia, addiction disorders, as well as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Can dopamine and serotonin improve your mood?

It is usually serotonin that plays a role in regulating moods and causing happy moods. Dopamine does not regulate moods but plays a role in stimulation, and memory, as well as helping us stay focused.

Is there a test to assess dopamine levels?

Certain blood tests do measure dopamine levels. However, these tests do not inform doctors about how the brain reacts or responds to dopamine. In some diseases, a person’s body does not manufacture dopamine transportation. Hence, doctors do not assess dopamine levels with blood tests but diagnose the condition on the basis of the symptoms reported by the person.

References

Hryhorczuk, C., Florea, M., Rodaros, D., Poirier, I., Daneault, C., Des Rosiers, C., Arvanitogiannis, A., Alquier, T., & Fulton, S. (2016). Dampened Mesolimbic Dopamine Function and Signaling by Saturated but not Monounsaturated Dietary Lipids. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 41(3), 811–821. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2015.207

Koelsch S. Brain correlates of music-evoked emotions. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2014 Mar;15(3):170-80. doi: 10.1038/nrn3666. PMID: 24552785.

Lerner A, Neidhöfer S, Matthias T. The Gut Microbiome Feelings of the Brain: A Perspective for Non-Microbiologists. Microorganisms. 2017 Oct 12;5(4):66. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms5040066. PMID: 29023380; PMCID: PMC5748575.

Korshunov, K. S., Blakemore, L. J., & Trombley, P. Q. (2017). Dopamine: A Modulator of Circadian Rhythms in the Central Nervous System. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, 11, 91. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2017.00091

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