“The underlying hypothesis is that the body needs more energy to heal a wound or overcome an infection, for instance, both of which are associated with low-grade inflammation. To ensure that energy is available, the brain uses an adaptive technique to reduce the natural drive to perform other tasks which could potentially drain away the energy needed for healing. This is essentially a recalibration of the specialized reward neurons in the motivation center of the brain, so that ordinary tasks no longer feel like they’re worth doing.”
Motivation to get out an do things is an indicator of happiness. Neurotransmitters are responsible for both of these moods, and being low on these chemicals, especially dopamine, can reduce motivation and the joy of doing things we love.
What is dopamine & what lowers it?
Dopamine doesn’t work alone and is often used with serotonin. According to Psychology Today, Dopamine is one of the brain’s neurotransmitters—a chemical that ferries information between neurons. Dopamine helps regulate movement, attention, learning, and positive emotional responses…. When the brain fails to produce enough dopamine, it can result in Parkinson’s disease.
A recent study published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences linked decreased dopamine in the brain to low-grade inflammation. What is low-grade inflammation? Well, it can be a lot of things, and that’s where the problem is.
One of the causes of low-grade inflammation is chronic injury. Chronic injuries are just old injuries that didn’t heal right. These include disc problems in the spine, that old knee injury from high school football, the clicking in your jaw, or that sprained ankle from your hiking trip – Anything, really. All of those have more medical names, like degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, TMJ disorder, and tendinitis.
Other issues that can cause low-grade inflammation are occult infections – These are infections that don’t actually cause you to be sick in the classic sense. These are mostly lingering viral infections, such as the dreaded high school-era kissing disease, mononucleosis. But these can also be dental caries, urinary tract infections (yes! You can have these with very few symptoms!), undiagnosed food sensitivities, and even bacterial overgrowth in the digestive tract. But the list doesn’t stop there!
Other causes that most people, including doctors, don’t think about are: obesity, sugar issues (type II diabetes in particular), diets high in Omega-6 fatty acids (aka the Standard American Diet, or SAD), all autoimmune disorders, allergies, pollution… and more.
How can you raise dopamine?
Simplest answer: Get the causes of low-grade inflammation fixed. Go to your chiropractor and get your back, neck and headaches under control. Talk to your dentist about your dental health. Get labs on your IgG food sensitivities, digestive health, etc. And ask your doctor to include some blood markers for inflammation like C-Reactive Protein and SED rates. Other things you can do are:
- Get the right amount of protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids and amino acids make up neurotransmitters. Tyrosine is the amino acid that makes dopamine, and can be found in foods like turkey, beef, certain dairy products, and some legumes – Especially velvet beans, or Mucuna pruriens, which are naturally high in L-Dopa!
- Get physical! Whether in the gym or the bedroom – Physical activities increase dopamine levels.
- Watch the fats. Diets high in saturated fats can decrease dopamine uptake in the brain.
- Get to bed on time. Sleep increases dopamine levels and the brains ability to use it.
- Do things you enjoy. Listen to your favorite music, spend time with your favorite people. While decreased levels of dopamine make doing these things seem less important, actually doing them helps fix that.
If you’re curious about your dopamine levels, talk to doctor that is familiar with testing dopamine and neurotransmitters. Want to know how Canopy Natural Medicine and Nutrition can help? Schedule a complimentary consultation. There’s no pressure, no pitch, no commitment – just a conversation.