So, I’ve been tweaking my daily diet somewhat, and I can already feel the difference. I’ve just been making some small changes — eating a banana each morning with my cup of coffee, eating nuts and other foods that are specifically for increasing the amino acid L-Tyrosine in my system, which can help improve my dopamine levels.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s connected with a “rush” of good feelings — the reward system in our brains and bodies. Having whacked-out dopamine levels (either very low, or when your system is desensitized to it) is tied to attentional issues, as well as drug addiction, pain, and Parkinsons. And since the part of the brain that produces a bunch of dopamine — the substantia nigra (Latin for “dark matter” because it’s darker than the surrounding tissue) — is particularly vulnerable to concussion, then it makes sense to me that that might apply to me.
I’ve had a bunch of those, after all.
And while I can’t confirm for sure that I’ve got low dopamine levels (you need a blood test from a doctor do do that), I know that having low dopamine levels is a problem I need to address proactively, whether I have specific confirmation or not. Hell, I have a bunch of symptoms that correlate with low dopamine levels.
Over at Livestrong, there’s an article about foods that increase dopamine and serotonin levels. It says this:
Low dopamine levels can cause depression, a loss of satisfaction, addictions, cravings, compulsions, low sex drive and an inability to focus.
Check, check, check, and more checks on each of those.
Also, another article describes how dopamine levels affect things like cognition, memory, attention, movement/coordination, social functioning, and pain. (read it here)
Now, what to do about it? Returning to Livestrong, It says this:
Tyrosine is another important amino acid (a building block of protein) found in dairy products, meats, poultry and nuts. It encourages your brain to release dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters act as stimulating substances to the brain and can help perk you up by making you feel more alert and sharpening your thinking. In addition to meats and dairy products, other specific tyrosine-rich foods that help increase dopamine levels are almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
And that interests me even more, because some of the meds they give folks with attentional issues increase both dopamine and norepinephrine levels in brain.
So, if I can increase the Tyrosine levels in my system, that might get my dopamine levels up — meats, poultry, nuts… specifically, almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds (and more that I’m finding listed online under “dopamine diets”), and my body is still doing what it’s supposed to do… then I should be able to improve my dopamine and norepinephrine levels, and create pretty much the same results that meds will.
Maybe even better — because my own body will be doing it at the rate that I need it to.
So, I’ve been giving myself regular food fixes for the past few days — having an egg, first thing in the morning, as well as a banana (eggs and bananas are both high in Tyrosine)… eating nuts and blueberries, apples, and prunes, as well as drinking peppermint tea instead of coffee. I’m also exercising more regularly, to get things moving.
I have to say, I’m feeling better already. And I don’t have as persistent a fog over me that keeps me from knowing when I’m tired. The last few days that I’ve been having a banana and eating nuts and fruit during the day, I’ve really felt good. Later I’m going to go out and see if I can get some supplements that are supposed to help me further — some straight Tyrosine, as well as oil of oregano (which is supposed to slow down the degradation and re-uptake of both dopamine and serotonin). I know there’s always the chance of me overdoing things, so I need to be careful. But if I keep things simple, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to make even more progress.
For the time being, I’m going to focus primarily on foods — cooking up nutritious alternatives that not only taste good, but ARE good. I’m going to keep on with the research and experimentation, and I’m going to pick up more varied foods which are supposed to help. I’m hoping this will also help my spouse, who has their own set of issues which appear to be directly related to dopamine levels, as well. In fact, in some ways, I’d say they have even more serious issues than I — and I might be able to really help them with the right foods in the right amounts.
Anyway, it’s worth a try. And I’ve got plenty of time to experiment, too. So, onward.