Natural ways to increase dopamine include regular exercise, eating enough protein, and meditation. People can also speak with a doctor if they are concerned about low dopamine levels.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that forms part of the reward system the brain uses to motivate certain behaviors. It also supports motor control and executive function and helps people plan and prioritize.

When a person completes a beneficial or enjoyable behavior, neurons in the brain release dopamine. Neurons also release dopamine before an action to motivate individuals to begin.

This article discusses how to increase dopamine naturally, the signs of low dopamine levels, and when to speak with a doctor.

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A 2021 systematic review suggests that physical activity may help increase dopamine levels and improve mental health, such as reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms.

The review’s authors suggest that the release of dopamine motivates people to exercise and creates positive feelings about physical activity, which will encourage them to repeat the behavior.

Learn more about exercise.

L-tyrosine, or tyrosine, is an amino acid that is a fundamental part of protein. According to a 2019 study, tyrosine increases the availability of dopamine and may improve cognitive ability.

Dietary sources high in tyrosine include:

  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • beans
  • whole grains
  • beef
  • lamb
  • chicken
  • fish
  • nuts

The body can also convert the amino acid L-phenylalanine into L-tyrosine. Phenylalanine is present in certain animal and cereal sources.

Learn more about protein.

A 2021 review suggests diets high in saturated fat may affect dopamine release and reuptake. Long-term diets high in saturated fat may dampen dopamine signaling.

This may link to inflammation affecting dopamine neurons and lessening the effects of the neurotransmitter.

People can take the following steps to reduce their saturated fat intake by:

  • eating fewer processed meat products
  • trimming excess fat from meat
  • opting for lean cuts of red meat
  • substituting meat for alternatives, such as legumes, nuts, beans, and soy products
  • choosing fish or skinless chicken
  • replacing butter, lard, or coconut oil with liquid oils, such as olive or peanut oil

According to a 2019 article, research suggests gut microbiota may affect neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Changes in gut microbiota may also link to psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

Consuming probiotics may help support gut health and help create a healthy balance of microorganisms within the body.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may occur in months or climates lacking sunlight and may link to changes in neurotransmitters such as dopamine.

Exposure to natural sunlight or light therapy may help treat SAD. Exercise may also help to boost dopamine levels in people with SAD.

Dopamine promotes wakefulness in a person’s sleep-wake cycle.

According to a 2019 review, factors such as artificial light, traveling across different time zones, and shift work can disrupt natural circadian rhythms, affecting this cycle. Sleep disorders that compromise the release of dopamine can also disturb this cycle.

The following steps may help people to regulate their sleep cycle:

  • sticking to a routine for waking up and going to bed
  • taking time to relax before going to bed
  • reducing noise and light levels in the bedroom
  • making sure the bedroom is a comfortable temperature

Learn more about sleep hygiene.

Meditation may help increase dopamine levels and reduce stress and anxiety. To meditate, people can try guided meditation or focus on their breathing.

Learn about the different types of meditation.

According to a 2019 study, research suggests listening to music may cause dopamine release. Listening to music a person enjoys may result in reward-like feelings of pleasure.

People who think they have low dopamine levels can talk with a doctor. Symptoms of low dopamine levels may include:

What can cause low dopamine levels?

Low dopamine levels may indicate a health condition, including:

  • Schizophrenia: Irregularities in certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, may cause the symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • Depression: People with depression may experience anhedonia, an inability to feel pleasure which links to dysfunctions in dopamine and the body’s reward system.
  • Parkinson’s disease: This condition causes a degeneration of nerve cells in the brain, affecting their ability to produce dopamine.
  • Bipolar disorder: This may occur when there is an imbalance in brain chemicals, including dopamine.
  • Anxiety disorder: Neurotransmitter dysfunction can cause mood disorders, such as anxiety, and dopamine may play a role in anxiety modulation.

Depending on the underlying cause, a doctor may suggest medications, diet, or lifestyle remedies to help treat a dopamine deficiency or a condition relating to dopamine production.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter important in motivating behavior, mood, and cognitive function.

People may be able to increase dopamine through diet and lifestyle factors, such as getting regular exercise, eating protein, listening to music, and practicing meditation.

If people have symptoms of a dopamine deficiency, they can contact a doctor to learn the underlying cause. Low dopamine levels may indicate a health condition, such as depression or an anxiety disorder.