“Sin Drug” or Essential Brain Chemical?
It is said that, without dopamine, you will lose your spark or your ‘oomph’. In fact, it may be the most important of the 4 brain chemicals we are talking about. Dopamine is the brain chemical that allows us to have feelings of bliss, pleasure, and euphoria (so it is often called a “sin drug”).
However, it is also the chemical that helps give us drive, motivation, focus, and concentration (very good things). Dopamine kind of works like a natural amphetamine, giving us energy and focus ability – without the side effects of drugs! A word that is often used is the word ”satisfaction”.(1)
Satisfaction is especially important
Dopamine is the source of brain’s power and energy. It is a neurotransmitter that helps the brain control emotional response. It is described as increasing the ‘voltage’ power of the brain – intensifying the brain’s instruction to the body.
The problem comes when people are low in dopamine. When they eat, they don’t feel full or satisfied as quickly. As a result, they continue to eat – looking for that satisfaction! Obviously, we are going to look at the satisfaction factor more later on but there is another way dopamine helps.
Without dopamine, your metabolism slows down! Your best efforts at dieting are not as effective if your body isn’t burning the calories. You are also not going to have as much energy if you are always running low on dopamine. The more dopamine you have, the faster your metabolism will work.
How Dopamine Does These Things
Let’s start at the beginning. The first is that your brain actually communicates with itself. You have a linked system of neuron nerve cells that communicate with each other by specialized receptor sites. Dopamine is a chemical (neurotransmitter) that is used by the nerves to send these messages to each other.
When a nerve neuron releases dopamine, it crosses a very small gap called a synapse and then attaches to a dopamine receptor on the next nerve. Dopamine is one of the chemical signals that pass information from one neuron to the next in the tiny space between them. When it is released from the first neuron, it contacts the 5 dopamine receptors on the other side of the gap. This sends a signal to the receiving neuron – and on down the nerve line.
The simplicity of a single molecule, and its receptors, is what makes dopamine so flexible – yet also makes it a little complex! (For a comparison, serotonin, another brain neurotransmitter we will deal with, has 14 currently known receptors, and even more that are thought to exist.)
Drugs, such as alcohol, and cocaine to heroin, increase dopamine in one way or another. People often describe a drug spike in dopamine as “motivation” or “pleasure” – but that’s not really what it is. Actually, dopamine is predicting a reward by signaling feedback.(2)
Dopamine, itself, isn’t addiction or reward or fear. It simply helps alert and prepare us to experience something that stands out. We are meant to use it in a good way!
Dopamine prepares us to feel the satisfaction
of being full when eating, and
to be willing to stop – and still be happy!
When dopamine levels are depleted in the brain, the “feel full” messages is not properly transmitted. As a result, people take a lot longer to feel the satisfaction of being full and eat longer!
One of the things our IN-Focus does, besides weight help, is to help other areas as well. This is because low dopamine levels can also impair brain functions, behavior, mood, cognition, attention, learning, movement, and sleep!
How to Naturally Increase Dopamine Levels
We like what we read in “Younger (Thinner) You Diet” by Eric Braverman, MD., and highly recommend it. Both the concept and eating patterns it recommends to move into are a very good long term pattern to make part of your life.
Our IN-Focus is simply a concentrated way to help people to get quicker weight loss and energy rewards while they work on their overall diet. The ingredients in our formula help the body produce the Four Brain Chemicals we need including, as we are talking about in this article, dopamine!
Key Dopamine Supplements:
Two Amino Acids are particularly good at converting to dopamine in the body.
1. L-tyrosine (or, tyrosine)
Tyrosine is the most popular amino acid conversion and is well noted to improve dopamine levels. Dr. Ray Sahelian states that tyrosine is an amino acid precursor that is converted into dopamine in the body.(3) (A precursor means it is a nutrient that the body can convert into something else – in this case, dopamine).
In general terms, tyrosine actually forms into something called ‘L-Dopa’ (Dopa) in the body. Dopa is then converted to dopamine. (We’ll talk about L-Dopa more in a moment.) From there, dopamine is then converted into norepinephrine and then into epinephrine.
L-tyrosine, converted into dopamine, can enhance mood, sleep, emotional well-being, and cognitive/mental function. This includes times of emotional stress or when dopamine levels require additional support. Also, some people are genetically programmed to make too little dopamine.(4) Tyrosine helps the mood and alertness to be elevated due to l-tyrosine’s increase of dopamine levels.(5)
Theanine, also found in green tea, has also been shown to help increase dopamine levels. It can create an alert state of relaxation without drowsiness. This is partially due to L-theanine’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and increase dopamine levels in the brain.(6) Animal studies show that L-theanine also increases brain serotonin and GABA.(9) It has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects, reduces mental and physical stress, and leads to improvements in learning and memory in humans and animals. Even just a single, small dose of L-theanine (100 mg – and we use a little more than that) significantly improves the ability to pay attention and maintain focus compared to placebo.(10)
Rhodiola rosea, or ‘golden root’, is a popular plant in traditional medicine in Eastern Europe and Asia. It has a reputation for improving depression, enhancing work performance, eliminating fatigue. Rhodiola has multiple effects on the central nervous system by enhancing the stability of dopamine. This leads to notable decreases in depression, anxiety, and fatigue, as well as an increased ability to handle stress. All this, of course helps the mental condition and, as a result, weight loss as well.(11)
In human studies, rhodiola has been shown to significantly reduce depression, anxiety, and stress-related fatigue compared to placebo.(12) (It is in our formula, or look for a rhodiola extract derived from Rhodiola rosea root and standardized to contain 3% total rosavins and a minimum 1% salidrosides.)
*L-Dopa and Mucuna Pruriens
L-Dopa is, perhaps, the most important. L-DOPA is the same biochemical that is made in humans from the amino acid L-tyrosine and is then synthesized into dopamine. It is frequently taken for anti-aging and life extension purposes. As we have seen, dopamine levels naturally decline as we age and a person can lose thousands of dopamine neurons in the brain. When more than 70% of your dopamine-producing neurons have been depleted, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease begin to appear.(13)
Some even suggest that this neuron loss is actually a normal part of aging. They say that, if we were to live to 200 years old, we would all eventually contract Parkinson’s disease because of the inevitable decline in dopamine levels.
However, supplementing with L-dopa, a precursor to dopamine, helps counteract these effects and potentially slow down the aging process in our brain. (It would be interesting to live that long and see.) Moreover, recent studies, utilizing Mucuna supplements, have shown promising results. This is not just for Parkinson’s but for other conditions related to dopamine deficiency, including depression and psychological stress.(14)
The most common source of L-dopa is mucuna pruriens, commonly known as velvet bean. It has been used in India for many centuries for Parkinson’s disease. It is a natural brain supplement (providing L-dopa) and is known for improving mood and keeping the brain healthy, functioning at its best while also reducing susceptibility to anxiety and stress.
Powdered mucuna seeds extract has been shown to increase not only dopamine concentrations, but also other neurotransmitters that affect mood, such as serotonin and norepinephrine.(15) A deficiency of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain can result in depression, sadness, lack of focus and low motivation. Unlike synthetic levodopa treatment, Mucuna pruriens powder treatment significantly restored the endogenous levodopa, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.(16)
Of course, the biggest reason mucuna pruriens has been so effective is the L-dopa in it. It naturally contains up to 5% L-Dopa.(17) Most supplements will usually concentrate the extract to 15%.
L-dopa is preferred over direct dopamine supplementation because L-dopa can cross the blood-brain barrier where dopamine cannot. As soon as it crosses the blood-brain barrier‚ the body converts L-dopa to dopamine and elevated the brain levels.
Researchers are also making other discoveries about mucuna pruriens – including possibly being able to increase levels of human growth hormone (we’re keeping an eye on this research).
Extras: If all that wasn’t enough, L-Dopa also helps to remove toxins and poisons from the body, especially the brain. This includes free radicals and other particles which have been damaged due to oxidation. It also raises plasma HGH levels which can contribute to improved health – as well as reduce signs of aging. L-Dopa also helps increase muscle mass and to lose weight (and keep it lower)
We love all these things but we avoid using high dosages of macuna pruriens. Itching can occur when people use the raw plant stems or leaves. However, if they use an extract, they will not encounter this effect. L-Dopa is generally regarded as safe and well-tolerated in low dosages. It is very powerful, but we can keep the dosage lower because of the other ingredients we use in our formula.
Also, it is best to consume with food to ensure that it is properly absorbed from your intestines – as with the other nutrients in our formula.
1. Burns,Gregory, Satisfaction: Sensation Seeking, Novelty, and the Science of Finding True Fulfillment,Holt Paperbacks, 2005.
3 Sahelian, Dr. Ray, “Natural Sex Boosters: Using Supplements, Herbs and Natural Ways for Male and Female Enhancement.” Square One Publishers, Inc. 2014.
4. Biol Psychiatry. 2005 May 1;57(9):999-1003.
5. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Jun;14(2):114-40.
6. Reiss, Uzzi. M.D., Gendell, Yfat., “The Natural Superwoman: The Scientifically Backed Program for Feeling Great, Looking Younger,and Enjoying Amazing Energy at Any Age.” Penguin Group (USA), 2008.
8. Phytother Res. 2011 Nov;25(11):1636-9.
9. Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jun;62(7):2320-7.
11. Verpeut J, Walters A, Bello N. Citrus aurantium and Rhodiola rosea in combination reduce visceral white adipose tissue and increase hypothalamic norepinephrine in a rat model of diet-induced obesity.Nutr Res. 2013 Jun;33(6):503-12.
12. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Mar;14(2):175-80.
13. Kathrynne Holden. “Fava Beans, Levodopa, and Parkinson’s Disease”. Retrieved Sep 30, 2013.
14. Parkinson’s disease. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/parkinsons-disease#ixzz3DxfnDGwu University of Maryland Medical Center
15. Orient Pharm Exp Med. 2013 Jun;13(2):143-148.
16. Manyam BV, Dhanasekaran M, Hare TA. Neuroprotective effects of the antiparkinson drug Mucuna pruriens. Phytother Res. 2004 Sep;18(9):706-12.
17. Pankaj Oudhia. “Kapikachu or Cowhage”. Retrieved Nov 3, 2013.