Hacking the dopamine drought

Food should feel good

So, I did some research on the medication my neuropsych has recommended, if I can’t get my irritability under control. It’s a dopaminergic substance that supposedly takes the edge off fatigue-based irritability and can keep me from freaking out over every little thing.

That’s fine, but I would rather manage this without pharmaceuticals, really.

Now, I have nothing against people using meds when necessary. I believe they can save lives.The thing with me is that I don’t think my irritability is so extreme or beyond my control that I have to have a medication to chill. And I am deeply concerned that relying on a medication will decrease my innate ability to cope, making things even worse, if I go off the med. I don’t want to be that dependent – especially if there is the chance that I may not have access to the meds for ever and all time. I could lose my job and lose my benefits, and end up without needed medications, and then what would I do?

Not good.

Also, if the core issue is fatigue as well as a problem with low dopamine levels in my brain, that’s something I believe I can fix on my own. I can “hack” into this system — as in, figure out how things work, understand the inner workings of it (like you’d figure out the inner workings of a computer program) — and then design a better solution, using tips and tricks picked up here and there to fine-tune the overall system to work better.

I did some research, and it seems pretty clear to me that one of my big issues is low dopamine levels. I haven’t been tested, so I can’t say for sure, but the way my neuropsych talks about it – and the way I am reading information – it sounds like that is a core issue with me. Too little dopamine in my system can lead to depression, irritability, weight gain, a feeling of blah-ness, etc. Not much fun at all.

So, to up my dopamine levels, I am focusing on diet and exercise and a supplement (an amino acid) called L-Tyrosine, which the body converts to dopamine. Ripe bananas and eggs are a good source of L-Tyrosine, and beets, almonds, avodados, meat, fish, and artichokes also help boost dopamine.

There’s a whole bunch of foods I can eat, to help my body produce more dopamine, so that’s what I’m going to focus on, rather than pharmaceuticals. I’m just going to have to be pretty deliberate about it, and also watch myself to see how it is working.

Also exercise. I’m not getting enough of it — so I ran stairs today at work — up and down four flights… twice. It actually felt really good to do it — wore me out a bit, but it’s a small price to pay. Plus, it took the edge off my antsy-ness, which was helpful.

I’m also working on my rewards system. Dopamine is connected with rewards and that sense of fulfillment and excitement that comes along with it. Frankly, my rewards system is for shit — I never really developed a good sense of rewards, so that’s something I need to work on, as well.

I don’t know how I’ll do it, but I’ll figure something out.

But for now, it’s all about the food, baby.

Onward.

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Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.