Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells in the brain. This particular chemical directly affects the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, which affects mood. While high dopamine levels can boost one’s mood, low dopamine levels can lead to depressive symptoms. Dopamine also plays an active role in drug abuse and addiction. We’ve already talked about some natural ways to get high, so here are some dopamine foods that can boost your mood naturally and help you stay on track in addiction recovery.
Dopamine and Food
Before we go into what foods help with dopamine production, we wanted to address a diet called the dopamine diet. This diet is advertised as one that boosts mood while helping you shed pounds. Certain celebrities like TV chef Tom Kerridge have popularized this diet in recent years.
One study tested this theory and found that eating a high-protein breakfast including eggs, lean meats, and dairy reduced mid-morning cravings while increasing dopamine levels.1 There’s also emerging evidence that people who are overweight may have impairments in dopamine receptors due to long-term exposure to sugary and fatty foods.
Foods That Increase Dopamine
In addition to pleasurable activities like eating, addictive drugs like cocaine and opioids also boost dopamine levels. As a Boston rehab, we’re aware of the impact that drugs have on dopamine, which in turn makes recovery so difficult. The bulk of addiction is a psychological and emotional attachment to how the drug makes the person feel.
Especially for people who struggle with mental illness, dopamine-boosting drugs have both a physical and emotional impact, starting with the reward center in the brain and ending with improved mood.
What’s more, chronic drug abuse forces dopamine production to the point where the brain becomes dependent on the substance to function.
For this reason, addiction recovery can be just as psychological as it is physical. Fortunately, eating foods to help dopamine production is a natural way to improve your mood and stick to your recovery.
According to research, dopamine-boosting foods are usually high in protein and l-tyrosine, an amino acid that’s commonly found in protein. Therefore, eating a diet that’s high in amino acid l-tyrosine can increase your likelihood of having the building blocks needed for efficient dopamine production.
Below are common foods that help release dopamine:
- Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Dark chocolate
- Fava beans
- Fruit and vegetables, particularly bananas
- Green leafy vegetables
- Green tea
- Kefir (a fermented dairy product)
- Lima beans
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, and flax seeds
- Olive oil
- Omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and mackerel
- Raw sauerkraut
- Sesame and pumpkin seeds
- Soy products
- Unprocessed or lean meats like beef, chicken, and turkey
- Wheat germ
In searching for what foods increase dopamine, make sure you speak to a healthcare provider before making any major changes to your diet. If you have an underlying condition, such as Crohn’s Disease, for example, you might be limited in the foods you can safely eat.
If you’re in addiction recovery, it’s also crucial not to fall into a cross-addiction situation by relying on eating foods to increase dopamine. Cross-addiction is when someone switches one addiction for another.
While eating dopamine-rich foods is a great way to boost your mood naturally, don’t abuse this outlet. Overeating can lead to a variety of other issues, so it’s important to speak to your doctor about any major changes you want to make to your routine.
Help for Drug Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, we can help. Banyan Treatment Center offers Massachusetts drug and alcohol treatment that incorporates individual and group therapy modalities to promote personal healing, peer support, and community as part of the recovery process.
To learn which of our levels of care for substance abuse treatment is right for you, call Banyan today at 888-280-4763.
Getting off Prescription Pills: Natural Ways to Avoid Anxiety
The Science Behind Beer Goggles