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how to increase dopamine naturally  what does dopamine do  l tyrosine benefits side effects of l tyrosine l tyrosine for dopamine

How to increase dopamine naturally? The role of L-tyrosine.

Published Oct 3, 2022 | Updated Feb 8, 2024
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Dopamine is your reward and pleasure brain chemical. It is released when the brain is expecting a reward-which could be apparent or anticipated. Good food, sex, exercise, music, socializing, thrill-seeking and other feel-good activities involve the dopamine pathway. Dopamine is also involved in motivation and creating the drive to seek those pleasures. This property also influences its role in addiction. 

What does dopamine do?

  • Dopamine increases motivation

    - Dopamine is released even before you receive the reward/pleasure of an activity, to motivate you to work towards your goals. A study of “go-getters” found that there was an increase in dopamine release in brain areas involving reward and motivation [1]. Animal studies found that decreasing dopamine reduced the motivation to dispense effort to choose a good food option [2].
  • Dopamine encourages risk-taking

    - Dopamine can help overcome the challenge of taking risks to achieve a possible reward/feel-good experience. Increasing dopamine production encouraged individuals to choose riskier bigger-reward options, compared to smaller safer-rewards [3]. This ties in with dopamine’s love for seeking new experiences, with brain imaging showing activation of dopamine-producing areas in response to novelty [4].
  • Dopamine promotes community spirit -

The brain views social interaction as a rewarding experience due to the potential of forming happy relationships and receiving positive social feedback. Activating dopamine brain cells increased social interactions in animal studies [5]. These areas were also activated in humans looking at pictures of their favourite social activity after being kept in isolation [6].
  • Dopamine inspires fearlessness

    -Dopamine, in its attempt to seek rewards and new experiences, reinforces that overcoming fears may be rewarding. When a previously fear-inducing event leads to a positive outcome, instead of a negative outcome, dopamine is released. Dopamine uses this relief/reward to solidify the memory of being safe [7][8].

How is dopamine made?

Amino acid (building block of protein), L-tyrosine, taken from food, crosses into the brain and is converted to L-DOPA which is then converted to dopamine [9]. It is important to consume an adequate amount of L-tyrosine for dopamine production. 

how to increase dopamine naturally  what does dopamine do  l tyrosine benefits side effects of l tyrosine l tyrosine for dopamine

What are the sources of L-tyrosine?

L-tyrosine content of some protein rich foods are as follows: [10]. 

Food (per 100g)

Tyrosine content (mg)

Parmesan cheese

2300

Frozen dried tofu

1800

Powdered full fat milk

1300

Beef steak

1200

Turkey meat

1200

Whole egg

500

Ensuring enough eggs, dairy, plant protein and animal meat in the diet can help your brain produce more dopamine. Supplementation of L-tyrosine benefits those with inadequate intake. Brain feed has created the world’s 1st natural 800mg tyrosine capsule from fermented corn.

How long does L-tyrosine take to show effect?

Upon intake, L-tyrosine blood levels peak after 1-2 hours. It stays in the blood for up to 8 hours [11]. Once it enters the brain, it can be used to produce dopamine when the need arises.

Is L-tyrosine supplementation safe?

The US Food and Drug Administration has labelled L-tyrosine as safe [13]. Research studies employ doses between 500mg-12g per day. Up to 12g/day over 3 months was noted to be safe [11]. Dangerously high dopamine levels using high doses of L-tyrosine are unreported because the body only uses the amount that is needed and metabolises the excess [12]. Serious side-effects of L-tyrosine were unreported when consumed within recommended dosage. 

What are the contraindications of L-tyrosine?

L-tyrosine is involved in the production of thyroid hormones and supplementation is contraindicated in those with hyperthyroidism [14]. 

References:

  1. Treadway, M.T. et al. (2012). Dopaminergic Mechanisms of Individual Differences in Human Effort-Based Decision-Making. The Journal of Neuroscience, [online] 32(18), pp.6170–6176.
  2. Salamone, J.D. et al. (2007). Effort-related functions of nucleus accumbens dopamine and associated forebrain circuits. Psychopharmacology, 191(3), pp.461–482.
  3. Chew, B. et al. (2019). Endogenous fluctuations in the dopaminergic midbrain drive behavioral choice variability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(37), pp.18732–18737.
  4. Bunzeck, N. et al. (2006). Absolute Coding of Stimulus Novelty in the Human Substantia Nigra/VTA. Neuron, 51(3), pp.369–379.
  5. Matthews, G. et al. (2016). Dorsal Raphe Dopamine Neurons Represent the Experience of Social Isolation. Cell, 164(4), pp.617–631.
  6. Tomova, L. et al. (2020). Acute social isolation evokes midbrain craving responses similar to hunger. Nature Neuroscience, 23(12), pp.1597–1605.
  7. Salinas-Hernández, X.I. et al. (2018). Dopamine neurons drive fear extinction learning by signaling the omission of expected aversive outcomes. eLife, 7.
  8. Luo, R. et al. (2018). A dopaminergic switch for fear to safety transitions. Nature Communications, 9 (1) 
  9. Juárez Olguín, H. et al. (2016). The Role of Dopamine and Its Dysfunction as a Consequence of Oxidative Stress. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity2016, 9730467. 
  10. Nutrient Search Tool (n.d.). Foods highest in Tyrosine. [online] Nutrition Data
  11. Frank, K. et al. (2019). L-Tyrosine Research Analysis. examine.com. [online] 
  12. Jongkees, B.J. et al. (2015). Effect of tyrosine supplementation on clinical and healthy populations under stress or cognitive demands—A review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 70, pp.50–57. 
  13. www.accessdata.fda.gov. (n.d.). CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. [online] 
  14. Drugs.com. (n.d.). Tyrosine Uses, Benefits & Dosage - Drugs.com Herbal Database. [online] 

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