Dopamine, an important neurotransmitter is present in the brain of both vertebrates and invertebrates. Dopamine is recognized as '4-(2-aminoethyl) benzene-1,2-diol' and its chemical formula is C6H3(OH)2-CH2-CH2-NH2. It is expressed with the abbreviation 'DA'. It is an important neurotransmitter released by the hypothalamus. Actually, dopamine is produced in various parts of the brain, including the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area. If you know the functions of dopamine in the brain, it would be easier to understand the effects of its deficiency.
- Dopamine is absolutely critical to the way our brain controls our movements.
- It plays an important role in the addictive behavior of an individual.
- It gives a signal to those parts of the brain, which are responsible for learning new ideas.
- It is required for healthy sleeping habits, maintaining mood (feeling of pleasure), good concentration skills, sharp memory and better learning skills.
- It acts as a neurotransmitter and activates the five types of dopamine receptors - D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5, along with their variants.
- As a hormone, it suppresses the release of prolactin (involved in lactation and sexual gratification) from the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland. Dopamine producing medications are prescribed to control elevated prolactin levels and to control the growth of prolactinomas (benign pituitary tumors).
- It plays an important role in behavior and cognition (thinking process), voluntary movement, motivation, punishment (practice of imposing something negative or unpleasant on a person or disobedience, defiance) and reward (behavior known for pleasurable effects) of an individual.
Low Dopamine Symptoms
- Deficiency of dopamine causes Parkinson's disease, in which a person cannot execute smooth, controlled movements.
- A person with this kind of deficiency might sleep a lot and might have difficulty getting up.
- Dopamine deficient person is more likely to form addictions, a need for caffeine or other stimulants.
- Low levels of dopamine may lead to weight gain.
- Low blood pressure, low blood sugar and frequent dehydration can be observed if the body is not able to produce sufficient amounts of dopamine.
- A person diagnosed with such kind of deficiency might experience quick drop in blood pressure level while getting out of bed in the morning, which might result in sudden dizziness.
- The deficiency can be held responsible for depression, lack of motivation, mental and physical fatigue, low libido or impotence, suicidal thoughts, procrastination and the inability to feel pleasure.
It is easy to check dopamine levels with the help of a dopamine deficiency test or a basic urine test. Balanced and healthy diet and prompt medication help raise the levels of this neurotransmitter. 100 to 500 milligrams of dihydroxyphenylserine (DOPS) is recommended to severe cases of deficiency. This medication, which increases blood pressure levels and helps reduce dizziness, can be taken two to three times each day. If DOPS medication does not work, then fludrocortisone or indomethacin (medications that are taken orally each day) can be administered. These medications also help raise blood pressure levels and they help in restoring balance in the frequency of urination. Severe deficiencies are treated with hormones and other medications. Remember, this information is just to provide guidelines, you should consult a doctor for proper medication. People on medication for insufficient production of dopamine need to be evaluated at least once every five years for renal function.
Significance of Healthy Diet
Dopamine levels can be affected by stress, certain antidepressants, drug abuse, poor nutrition, poor sleep, alcohol abuse, excessive caffeine and sugar, electrolyte imbalance, exposure to toxic substances like lead, arsenic and cadmium, hypothyroidism, hormone imbalance (deficiency of other important hormones like thyroid hormones, estrogen and hormones secreted by adrenal glands), etc. To improve the levels, intake of alcohol, caffeine and excessive sugar should be stopped. Sugar, saturated fats, cholesterol, and refined foods affect brain power and can cause low dopamine levels. Saturated fats and cholesterol should be avoided as they can clog the arteries going to the brain, heart, and other organs.
Foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables should be consumed in large quantities. Antioxidant rich foods can help protect dopamine-using neurons from free radical damage. Doctors or dietitians usually recommend supplements containing vitamins C, vitamin E, and other antioxidants. Foods which are high in dopamine-increasing tyrosine (an amino acid) include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Dopamine supplements can be taken under the guidance of your physician.
As explained above, dopamine levels may decrease due to various genetic and acquired reasons; but proper diet, regular exercise and prompt medication can help improve these levels considerably. This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, you should consult your doctor.