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How To Increase Dopamine Naturally (and Recover From Dopamine Deficiency)

When I first heard the term “dopamine deficiency”, I thought to myself, “Oh goodie! Yet another medical ‘condition’ fabricated by marketers who want to sell me something!

After all, the majority of individuals who are diagnosed with ADHD have unintentionally corroded their focus and concentration through poor lifestyle decisions and don’t have a clinical problem (but big pharma will never tell them this).

Yet, this hasn’t stopped pharmaceutical companies from cashing in on the population’s ignorance and medicating over 4.8 million Americans with drugs like Adderall (which is basically prescription meth) and Xanax.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of cases in which individuals, young and old, suffer from genuine attention disorders. Which caused me to ask the question, “If there is credible evidence supporting ADHD and ADD, is it possible that these claims of ‘dopamine deficiency’ could have some merit?”

So I decided to dig a bit deeper and find out.

I wanted to know: “What is it, what causes it, and how can it be treated?”

My findings were a bit surprising…

What is Dopamine, and What Does it Do?

At the most basic level, dopamine is a neurotransmitter or “chemical messenger” that is naturally produced in the human body.

Like all neurotransmitters, dopamine shuttles between cells and then binds to molecules called receptors which then relay signals from one cell to the neighboring cells.

While most of you are probably familiar with the pleasure/reward function of dopamine in the brain, dopamine is actually responsible for a number of different actions and reactions that you are likely unaware of.

And while research into dopamine functions and effects is still being conducted, there are six primary and important ways that dopamine affects your daily life.

1. Movement

Within the brain, there are two main areas where dopamine is produced. The first is the substantia nigra, a tiny strip of tissue at the base of your brain in a region known as the midbrain. Dopamine produced in this part of the brain is responsible for helping with movement and speech.

The basal ganglia is the main structure in your brain controlling a wide variety of bodily movements, and in order for it to function at peak efficiency, the substantia nigra must secrete a specific amount of dopamine.

When dopamine secretion is decreased, or when dopamine doesn’t reach the basal ganglia, voluntary motions can become delayed or uncoordinated as is common with Parkinson’s disease.

On the flip side, when the basal ganglia is flooded with too much dopamine, the body will start to make unnecessary and involuntary movements, i.e. the repetitive tics that you notice in individuals with Tourette’s.

2. Memory

Dopamine secretion has also been shown to affect your prefrontal cortex, specifically as it pertains to your ability to retain information.

Whenever dopamine is released during an event or experience, the brain will typically remember that event. When it is absent, research typically shows an inability or reduced ability to effectively recall information.

This explains why you can easily recall new and exciting information from months past but often struggle to recall the mundane details of this morning’s conversation.

3. Motivation

Dopamine is commonly known as “The motivator molecule”, because in addition to regulating movement and memory, it is also the chemical compound responsible for nearly all human motivation, inspiration, and achievement.

While dopamine was once believed to simply regulate the the rewards system in our brain that is associated with completing certain tasks (e.g. sex, work, eating), recent studies have found that dopamine is actually released before the completion of those tasks and is thus responsible for motivating our behavior.

As UConn researcher John Salamone put it Low levels of dopamine make people and other animals less likely to work for things, so it has more to do with motivation and cost/benefit analyses than pleasure itself.”

In addition, studies have found that dopamine is actually released during times of high stress, in order to motivate us to avoid something. For example, when soldiers with PTSD hear gunfire, their dopamine levels instantly spiked.

4. Pleasure & Pain

Historically, dopamine is known as the neurotransmitter responsible for modulating the pleasure and reward centers in the brain. And while those findings s