Eating certain foods, like those high in protein, and engaging in healthy practices like exercising and sleeping the recommended amount can help increase your body’s dopamine levels without medication.
When dopamine is released in large amounts, it creates feelings of pleasure and reward, which motivate you to repeat a specific behavior (
In contrast, low levels of dopamine are linked to reduced motivation and decreased enthusiasm for things that would excite most people (
Dopamine levels are typically well-regulated within the nervous system. When these levels get dysregulated, you may develop a mood disorder like depression (
Here are the top 10 ways to increase dopamine levels naturally.
Studies show that increasing tyrosine and another amino acid, phenylalanine, can raise dopamine levels in the brain, which may promote deep thinking and improve memory. On the other hand, eliminating phenylalanine and tyrosine can deplete dopamine levels (
While these studies show that extremely high or extremely low intakes of these amino acids can impact dopamine levels, it’s unknown whether typical variations in protein intake would have much impact.
Dopamine is produced from the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine, both of which can be obtained from protein-rich foods. Very high intakes of these amino acids may boost dopamine levels.
Some research has found that saturated fats, such as those found in animal fat, butter, full-fat dairy, palm oil, and coconut oil, may disrupt dopamine signaling in the brain when consumed in large amounts (12).
One study found that rats that consumed 50% of their calories from saturated fat had reduced dopamine signaling in the reward areas of their brains compared with animals that received the same amount of calories from unsaturated fat (
Research has found that diets high in saturated fat may reduce dopamine signaling in the brain, leading to a blunted reward response. However, more research is needed.
Several studies have shown that large quantities of probiotic bacteria can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in humans and animals, though the mechanism of action is not yet understood (
More research is needed to better understand the effects of probiotics on dopamine production and mood.
Probiotic supplements have been linked to improved mood in humans and animals, but more research is needed to determine dopamine’s exact role.
Velvet beans, also known as Mucuna pruriens, naturally contain high levels of L-dopa, the precursor molecule to dopamine.
Studies show that eating these beans may help raise dopamine levels naturally, especially in people with Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder caused by low dopamine levels (
Remember that velvet beans are toxic in high amounts (
Make sure to follow the dosage recommendations on the product label. It’s also important to consult a healthcare professional before changing your diet or supplement routine.
Velvet beans are natural sources of L-dopa, a precursor molecule to dopamine. Studies show that they may be as effective as Parkinson’s disease medications at boosting dopamine levels.
5. Exercise often
Research also shows that exercise can help raise dopamine levels, though more research is needed to determine the intensity, type, and duration of exercise that is most effective (
Exercise can improve mood and may boost dopamine levels. More research is needed to determine specific recommendations for increasing dopamine levels.
6. Get enough sleep
When dopamine is released in the brain, it creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness.
However, lack of sleep appears to disrupt these natural rhythms. Setting regular, high quality sleep may help keep your dopamine levels balanced and help you feel more alert and high functioning during the day (
Lack of sleep can reduce dopamine sensitivity in the brain, resulting in excessive feelings of sleepiness. Getting a good night’s rest may help regulate your body’s natural dopamine rhythms.
7. Listen to music
Listening to music can be a fun way to stimulate dopamine release in your brain.
Research has also found that music therapy has the potential as an alternative treatment or support mechanism for people living with mood disorders like depression or neurodiversity like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (
Listening to your favorite instrumental and choral music may boost your dopamine levels. Music may even work as an alternative treatment or support for certain mood disorders or neurodiversities.
Meditation is the practice of clearing your mind, focusing inward, and letting your thoughts float by without judgment or attachment.
You can do it while standing, sitting, or even walking, and regular practice is associated with improved mental and physical health (
Furthermore, as a result, people who meditate regularly have been found to be more open to feedback than people who don’t (35).
However, it’s still unclear whether these dopamine-boosting effects happen only in experienced meditators or occur in people who are new to meditation as well.
Meditation can increases dopamine levels in the brain, but it’s unclear whether these effects occur only in experienced meditators or also in those who are new to meditation.
9. Get enough sunlight
Low sunshine exposure can lead to reduced levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and sunlight exposure can increase them (
That said, it’s important to get sunlight exposure in moderation. Limit it during peak hours when ultraviolet radiation is the strongest — typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — and apply sunscreen whenever the UV index is above 3 (
Sunlight exposure can boost dopamine levels, but it’s important to be mindful of sun exposure guidelines to avoid skin damage.
10. Consider supplements
Suppose you have a deficiency in one or more of these nutrients. In that case, you may have trouble making enough dopamine to meet your body’s needs, which some cases may contribute to the development of a mood disorder like depression (
Blood work can determine whether you are deficient in any of these nutrients. If so, you can supplement as needed to bring your levels back up.
In addition to proper nutrition, several supplements may help boost dopamine levels.
Having adequate levels of vitamins like iron, folate, and vitamin B6 is important for dopamine production.
What are the symptoms of low dopamine?
Not having enough dopamine can negatively affect your mood, focus, coordination, motivation, and enthusiasm for things that normally bring you joy. In extremely rare cases, a child may develop dopamine deficiency syndrome, a progressive movement disorder.
What triggers dopamine release?
Anything that gives you pleasure will trigger the release of dopamine. This can range from a fun activity you enjoy, like dancing or cooking, to sex, shopping, and even certain drugs. Dopamine activates the reward pathway in the brain, leading you to desire these activities more. For this reason, dopamine can play a role in addiction.
Is ADHD a lack of dopamine?
While researchers haven’t determined what causes ADHD, they have found that people living with ADHD have different dopamine levels than neurotypical people. Learn more about research on the role of dopamine in ADHD.
Which foods increase dopamine the most?
Because Parkinson’s disease is closely connected with insufficient dopamine in the brain, researchers have been looking at nutrition as a way to slow the progression of the disease (
Dopamine is an important brain chemical that influences your mood and feelings of reward and motivation. It helps regulate body movements as well.
Levels are generally well regulated by the body, but you can boost your levels naturally by making a few diet and lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle factors are also important. Getting enough sleep, exercising, listening to music, meditating, and spending time in the sun can all boost dopamine levels.
Overall, a balanced diet and lifestyle can go a long way in increasing your body’s natural dopamine production and helping your brain function at its best.