I. Dopamine, the neuronal messenger of pleasure
Dopamine is a small hormone- like chemical messenger molecule known as a neuronal hormone , neurohormone or neurotransmitter .
It is synthesized in the brain by dopaminergic neurons from a molecule found in food: tyrosine .
Production and message :
It is then secreted by these producing neurons to find itself between 2 neurons , in a space called a “ synapse ”. It will then go to join the next neuron by attaching itself to it via specific receptors . Depending on the number of molecules that bind and the receptors that receive them, the message transmitted to the brain will be different.
Mechanism of action :
This neurotransmitter is involved in the reward system . It is secreted abundantly in our brain during experiences that it associates with immediate pleasure . When a task or objective is accomplished, linked to the motivation necessary to achieve it, the hormone is produced to give us an almost instantaneous feeling of satisfaction. For example, the taste of a sweet food, a cigarette or the sexual act immediately provides a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure .
We therefore understand that dopamine is vital in the survival of the human species because it is what motivates our survival instinct . For example, escaping potential danger creates a feeling of satisfaction which further strengthens this instinct. This reward system in which it is involved is also essential in the evolution of the human species: no desire, no dopamine reward , no desire to start again. Consequences: the species could be doomed due to lack of sufficient reproduction.
II. Dopamine: beneficial or evil hormone?
Its advantages :
Thus, dopamine , by creating the pleasure of accomplishing a task , motivates the completion of the next one and promotes taking initiative and planning . It therefore significantly boosts cognition ( attention , concentration , memory ), greatly stimulates motivation and improves the quality of sleep for increased productivity . When we eat after being hungry, during feelings of love or after sexual intercourse, dopamine is boosted.
We might then believe that dopamine is a natural and risk-free hormone , but unfortunately, it is the most effective molecule in making us addicted : to food , to sport , to taking risks , to romantic pleasure , to alcohol , drugs (heroin, cocaine, morphine), nicotine ...
Indeed, when consuming drugs , our brain releases dopamine and the pleasure felt is immediate. But when levels of this pleasure messenger drop, the brain once again feels the need to experience this feeling of satisfaction, which pushes it to consume more and more and leads to a state of dependence . Motivating yourself to fight against addiction means trapping dopamine at its own game by pushing its secretion as a reward for each day of abstinence. Be careful though, the social environment is the most predisposing element to addiction, we must not blame everything on this neurohormone .
Low dopamine levels :
Insufficient dopamine leads to a lack of motivation , fatigue , memory loss , mood swings and a susceptibility to developing addictive behaviors . Even more serious, Parkinson's disease is caused by the destruction of dopaminergic neurons , which impairs the production of dopamine . This results in poor coordination of the limbs, tremors , blockages and motor slowness . Therapeutic solutions are the use of a dopamine precursor (L-dopa) or inhibitors of enzymes that degrade dopamine .
High levels of dopamine:
Excess dopamine leads to schizophrenia and its symptoms ( hallucinations ) and aggression . Antipsychotic treatment blocks the action of this neuronal hormone to help resolve these problems.
III. 7 tips to easily boost your dopamine
Eat foods rich in tyrosine, the precursor to dopamine . Already, eating will help release dopamine , especially if the foods consumed contain tyrosine . For example, almonds, avocados, bananas, beets, cabbage, green tea, lima beans, oregano, peanuts, rosemary, sesame and pumpkin seeds, turmeric and melon of water contain interesting quantities. It is better to avoid saturated fats and artificial sugars which are likely to create addiction and therefore significant fluctuations in the secretion of this neurohormone.
Spend more time outdoors . The sun 's rays will increase dopamine receptors . In addition, they will promote the synthesis of vitamin D which activates the genes responsible for the release of the hormone .
Listen to music. X-ray studies of the brain have shown that the brain's pleasure centers light up when exposed to music .
Pet an animal. It is known that petting an animal feels good and instills the satisfaction of creating a bond.
Sleep . Lack of sleep is known to decrease the number of dopamine receptors , so don't deprive yourself of a good night's sleep.
Cold showers (14°C) . Taking a cool shower has been shown to provide a personal accomplishment that stimulates dopamine synthesis.
Make to-do lists and complete a task. As has been said, dopamine is secreted as a reward following the accomplishment of a task . Giving yourself your own tasks can then help. Don't hesitate to celebrate even the smallest victory .
Dopamine can give you pleasure, motivate you, and improve your attention, concentration, and memory while making you more productive. Be careful though, this angelic hormone can quickly become demonic by opening the path to addiction. Boosting your dopamine makes you less vulnerable to addiction and the harmful effects of this hormone, and it's so simple! Consumption of food supplements can also regulate and rebalance hormones, including dopamine. This is the case of saffron which you can test in Life & Balance .