What is dopamine deficiency?
Low dopamine levels feel like this. You know those days when you feel like you’re dragging your feet, fatigued, mood swings, lack of motivation, and can’t remember a thing?
You may be low in dopamine.
Dopamine is your main neurotransmitter for motivation, feeling productive, focus, and learning and memory.
It’s your zest for life.[i]
If you feel like you’re missing out on life, low dopamine may be the reason.
The good news is, once you are aware of it, you can easily boost dopamine levels in your brain. Which I’ll share with you in a minute.
But are you sure it’s Dopamine?
Here’s a crazy little statistic. Less than 1 percent of your brain’s neurons are dopamine neurons.[ii]
And yet it seems everybody is talking about dopamine. It’s even a popular research topic in the neuroscience community.
But what people often blame on dopamine, it could be something else entirely that is going wrong in your brain.[iii]
Now, assuming you got it right, dopamine is one of three catecholamine neurotransmitters.
With the help of various enzymes and cofactors, dopamine also contributes to the production of norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline).
Dopamine is linked to feelings of pleasure and euphoria. It’s also critical for appetite, reward processing, libido, short-term memory, creativity, attention, body movement, and motivation.[iv]
Epinephrine and norepinephrine act to increase alertness and attention.[v]
What it feels like to be deficient in dopamine
If you are low in dopamine, everything is dull.
And you will have very little enthusiasm for life.
You find yourself reaching for caffeine, sugar, or stimulants because it’s the only way you can get through your day.
Dopamine deficiency symptoms include apathy, fatigue, feeling hopeless, can’t complete tasks, can’t concentrate, or can’t connect with others.
You can’t feel pleasure. No motivation, poor libido, memory loss, mood swings, procrastination, insomnia, and possibly addictions.
If any of this rings true for you, consider using a nootropic supplement to increase dopamine levels in your brain.
Best nootropics to increase dopamine
You can increase dopamine levels in your brain with the amino acids L-Phenylalanine or L-Tyrosine which is present in a variety of foods.
You can also increase dopamine by using L-DOPA (from Mucuna Pruriens) but I don’t recommend it. Not at the start. Because L-DOPA immediately makes dopamine.
There is no wiggle room. And if you don’t get the dosage right you’ll soon know what happens when dopamine is high.
You also miss out on making thyroid hormone. Because L-Tyrosine works with iodine and some other cofactors for the production of thyroid hormones.
You can also get L-Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine from high-protein foods such as poultry, fish, dairy, nuts, soy products, lima beans, avocados, and bananas.
But you may be low in dopamine because you suffer from one of 18 known disorders of tyrosine metabolism.[vi]
Or you don’t eat enough food containing these amino acids.
You could also be missing one or more of the cofactors or enzymes needed to convert L-Phenylalanine and/or L-Tyrosine into dopamine.
Whatever the reason. If you suspect you are low in dopamine, the easiest and quickest way to boost levels of these critical neurotransmitters is to use a nootropic supplement.
L-Tyrosine recommended dosage for increasing dopamine is 500 mg – 2 or 3-times per day.
You may find your body responds better to smaller doses. Or you may need to double your dose if you’re stacking it with ADHD stimulant meds. Listen to your body and see how you react.
Or you can try N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine (NALT) which is simply L-Tyrosine with an acetyl group added. Which breaks down in your kidneys back into L-Tyrosine.
NALT is a more soluble form of L-Tyrosine so it should be more bioavailable to your brain. But some studies say this isn’t so.[vii]
I’ve tried both and use whichever one I have on hand. I find they both L-Tyrosine and NALT are equally as effective for me. Try each for a month and see which one works better for you.
You can also get N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine in what many believe to be the best pre-formulated nootropic stack on the planet (over 1 million bottles sold), and my favorite pre-made nootropic stack – Mind Lab Pro® v4.0.
Mind Lab Pro® is considered a “universal” nootropic because it can stand on its own. And is effective with just 2-capsules per day.
Because Mind Lab Pro® also contains Citicoline, Bacopa Monnieri (24% bacosides), organic Lion’s Mane Mushroom (full spectrum including the fruiting body and mycelium), Phosphatidylserine (from sunflower lecithin), L-Theanine, Rhodiola Rosea (3% rosavins, 1% salidrosides), Maritime Pine Bark Extract (95% proanthocyanidins), and Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 (as NutriGenesis®).
Get: Mind Lab Pro® v4.0
Or you can get Ajipure® L-Tyrosine in Performance Lab® Mind. This nootropic stack is effective with just 1-capsule per day.
Performance Lab® Mind also contains Citicoline (as Cognizin®), Phosphatidylserine (as Sharp PS® Green), and Maritime Pine Bark Extract (95% proanthocyanidins).
Performance Lab® Mind is best is taken with a multi like Performance Lab NutriGenesis® Multi for men or women.
Get: Performance Lab NutriGenesis® Multi
If you feel like you’re dragging your feet more days than not. Mood swings make life unpleasant for those around you.
If your get up and go feels like it has got up and gone. You have no motivation and cannot remember a thing.
You may be dopamine deficient. And the easiest way to know for sure is to try supplementing with L-Tyrosine 500 mg twice per day for 2 or 3 days.
See if L-Tyrosine or NALT makes a difference. If you feel a positive change then you know for sure you were dopamine deficient. And now you know how to fix a dopamine deficiency and start enjoying life once again.
[i] Depue, R. A., & Collins, P. F. (1999). “Neurobiology of the structure of personality: dopamine, facilitation of incentive motivation, and extraversion” The Behavioral and brain sciences, 22(3), 491–569.
[ii] Poulin J.F., Zou J., et. Al. “Defining Midbrain Dopaminergic Neuron Diversity by Single-Cell Gene Expression Profiling” Cell Reports VOLUME 9, ISSUE 3, P930-943, NOVEMBER 06, 2014
[iii] Colombo M. “Deep and beautiful. The reward prediction error hypothesis of dopamine” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 2014 Mar; 45:57-67.
[iv] Wise R.A. “Dopamine, learning and motivation” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5, pages 483–494(2004)
[v] Lapiz, M. D., & Morilak, D. A. (2006). “Noradrenergic modulation of cognitive function in rat medial prefrontal cortex as measured by attentional set shifting capability” Neuroscience, 137(3), 1039–1049.
[vi] Chakrapani A., Holme E. (2006) “Disorders of Tyrosine Metabolism”. In: Fernandes J., Saudubray JM., van den Berghe G., Walter J.H. (eds) Inborn Metabolic Diseases. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
[vii] Magnusson I., Ekman L., Wångdahl M., Wahren J. “N-acetyl-L-tyrosine and N-acetyl-L-cysteine as tyrosine and cysteine precursors during intravenous infusion in humans.” Metabolism. 1989 Oct;38(10):957-61
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What regulates emotion, serotonin or dopamine? Can you use L-Tyrosine or NALT when you a use an antidepressant?
David Tomen says
Ed, depending on your definition of “emotion”, it is dependent on any of the major neurotransmitters, oxidative stress, low hormones, poor blood flow, and more. There is no easy solution to countering something like depression because there can be so many different causes.
As for L-Tyrosine, it depends on the antidepressant. If the drug affects dopamine or norepinephrine then it is not a good idea to use L-Tyrosine.
Are there alternatives to wellbutrin in nootripic world?
David Tomen says
There is no direct alternative to Wellbutrin. But some supplements like Saffron and Pine Bark Extract have been compared to Ritalin and were effective.
It depends on what you are trying to do. If it’s to treat the symptoms of ADHD or ADD I’ve done it with a nootropic stack.
I have never taken prescription meds before, but my therapist thinks I should take Wellbutrin so I don’t sway too far away from my baseline. The idea is that it may help with self-esteem and drive by working on my dopamine. I wonder if I should do dopamine detox, cold shower or take NALT in place of wellbutrin. I am always apprehensive of taking prescription meds and feel like it should be the absolute last resort. Do you have any suggestions?
I take Ashwagandha KSM 66 daily.
David Tomen says
Sparsh, L-Tyrosine or NALT (whichever works best for you) boosts dopamine and norepinephrine. Try 500 mg of either twice per day and see how that works for you. You also need a good BioActive B-Complex because Vitamins V6, B9 & B12 are cofactors in the synthesis of dopamine.