Feel Good Medicine

Dopamine is often referred to as the “feel-good” chemical. It plays a crucial role in motivation, motor control, cognition, pleasure, reward, and reinforcement of certain behaviors. Dopamine also influences gastrointestinal motility, hormone release, blood pressure, immune regulation, and sodium balance.

Medications like amphetamines and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, can increase dopamine levels in the brain. Substances of Abuse like cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine can significantly increase dopamine levels, contributing to their addictive properties. Sugar triggers reward system in brain, releasing dopamine. Did you know sugar is 8x more addictive than cocaine? Sugar contributes to many long-term chronic diseases that contribute to 35 million deaths a year.

Healthy Rewards with Dopamine

Dopamine is made by a healthy gut microbiome. Prevotella, Bacteroides, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Clostridium, Enterococcus, and Ruminococcus have been shown to modulate dopamine actions in the brain and body.

Dopamine release in the brain is a complex process that involves various factors, including environmental stimuli, behaviors, and neurotransmitter activity. Factors include:

  1. Natural Rewards: Dopamine is released in response to natural rewards such as looking at flowers, being out in nature, sex, and social interaction. When you engage in pleasurable activities, your brain’s reward system releases dopamine, reinforcing the behavior.
  2. Exercise: Physical activity can increase dopamine levels in the brain, leading to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This is often referred to as the “runner’s high.”
  3. Music: Listening to music that you enjoy can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, contributing to feelings of pleasure and relaxation.
  4. Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight can increase dopamine levels in the brain. This is one reason why spending time outdoors on a sunny day can improve mood.
  5. Accomplishments: Achieving goals or completing tasks can lead to the release of dopamine, motivating you to continue working towards your objectives.
  6. Social Interaction: Positive social interactions, such as spending time with friends or receiving social support, can stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain.
  7. Novelty: Novel experiences or engaging in activities that are new and exciting can lead to an increase in dopamine levels. This is why trying new things can be rewarding and enjoyable.
  8. Anticipation: The anticipation of a reward leads to the release of dopamine. For example, looking forward to a delicious meal or a vacation can elevate dopamine levels in anticipation of the reward.
  9. Foods: Chicken and other types of poultry, if tolerable: dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, avocados, bananas, pumpkin and sesame seeds, if tolerable, soy may help raise dopamine levels.
  10. Mindfulness and Meditation: Many forms of prayer and meditation can enhance dopamine receptor sensitivity and promote overall well-being.

This article is meant to inspire healthy ways to find rewards for more positive living. It is not intended for individualized medical advice. Questions? Drlaura@southendguelph.ca