illustration of junction between neurons with depictions of neurotransmitters
Dr. Michael Newman, DNM., Ph.D., HHP.
Dr. Michael Newman, DNM., Ph.D., HHP.
February 23, 2024 ·  14 min read

5 Symptoms of Low Dopamine and Top Ways to Help Increase It

There are over 40 neurotransmitters in the human nervous system, and dopamine (DA) is considered one of the top four significant neurotransmitters, next to acetylcholine, serotonin, and glutamate.  

What is dopamine, and what are its roles? 

DA is a well-known brain chemical (neurotransmitter); although it also acts as a compound that helps maintain homeostasis (state of balance), it is the body’s chemical messenger. It communicates chemical messages between nerve cells, your brain, and the rest of your body. Its vital role is that it functions as our “reward center” and emotional state. It, along with serotonin, also has been called our “happy” neurotransmitter. DA functions include memory, learning, reward, mood, motivation, and movement (Speranza et al., 2021) (Lewis et al., 2021). 

What are the symptoms and conditions associated with low dopamine? 

Dopamine deficiency can affect your mental and physical health, leading to many medical conditions associated with DP deficiency, like Parkinson’s disease, depression, restless legs syndrome, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), social withdrawal, and schizophrenia, to name a few disorders. It may also make you more susceptible to taking risks or developing addictions (Cramb et al., 2023).

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder caused by the degeneration of nerve cells that either die or become impaired, and the loss of function (neurodegenerative) is mainly caused by a lack of dopamine in the substantial nigra, which is part of the brain that controls movement. With the lack of dopamine in sub-Parkinson’s patients, studies have indicated symptoms such as tremors (hands, arms, and legs); rigidity and stiff limbs; slowness of movement; and diminished balance and coordination are developed in more than 80 percent of patients’ loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain (Emamzadeh & Surguchov, 2018). 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a multiplex neurodevelopmental disorder, sometimes referred to as ADD. Still, ADHD is the medically accepted term that is believed to be caused by a variety of things, namely genetics. It has been observed in individuals with a “brain reward cascade dysfunction.” Dopamine helps to regulate our emotional responses to rewards and its pivotal role in positive motivation.
Researchers have observed that dopamine levels are different in people diagnosed with ADHD than in those without ADHD. Many studies have shown the benefit of medication or natural supplements for treating ADHD by increasing the stimulation of dopamine.
These medications and supplements increase dopamine levels in the brain by targeting dopamine transporters and increasing dopamine levels (Volkow et al., 2009) (Fusar-Poli et al., 2012). 


Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is one of the most widespread mental disorders globally (Kessler & Bromet, 2013). This disorder is complex and likely to involve a multitude of unique circuitry; it is considered one of the leading causes of burden of disability and disease among mental and behavioural disorders (Belujon & Grace, 2017b). Dopamine system dysfunction has been linked to specific symptoms of depression, such as low motivation. 

Restless Legs Syndrome 

The Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a dopamine-dependent disorder distinguished by a strong urge to move. Between the brain and nervous system, the neurotransmitter dopamine helps regulate the brain’s coordinated movement. If nerve cells become damaged, the dopamine in the brain is reduced, which is the root cause of muscle spasms and involuntary movements (Mitchell et al., 2018).  


Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder. The most common theory is that there is an overabundant amount of dopamine receptors in certain parts of the brain, but low dopamine in the prefrontal cortex results in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and high disorder (Brisch et al., 2014). 

Here are some common symptoms of dopamine deficiency (low dopamine levels), which may include but are not limited to:

  • Lack of motivation or drive
  • Feeling tired.
  • Depressed, feeling of hopelessness.
  • Low sex drive.
  • Trouble sleeping or disturbed sleep.
  • Diminished balance and coordination
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulties with focusing attention and concentrating 
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood swings

    (Belujon & Grace, 2017) (Juárez Olguín et al., 2016)

Read More: The Link Between Your Serotonin and Headaches and Migraines

How can you increase your dopamine levels naturally? 

Because dopamine is such an important chemical messenger for the brain, raising it can benefit how you feel and increase your motivation while regulating body movements. Here are a few ways you can naturally boost your dopamine levels.

Getting a quality amount of protein in your diet

Studies show getting quality protein in your diet is an excellent way to affect your dopamine levels positively. Twenty-two amino acids are the building blocks of protein; one of those amino acids – tyrosine, has been shown to have a critical role in manufacturing dopamine levels in the brain (Kühn et al., 2017)

Adding probiotics to your daily regimen

Several studies have shown that the gut and brain (gut-brain axis) are closely linked. Large quantities of certain species of probiotic bacteria can produce dopamine, which may influence mood while reducing anxiety, depression, and behavior. More research is needed to identify the specific species and strains to understand the full effects of probiotics on dopamine production and mood (Lerner et al., 2017) (MacQueen et al., 2017) (Pinto-Sanchez et al., 2017).

Vitamins B5, B6 and B9  

Besides a balanced diet, supplements like omega-3 fish oil and vitamin D may help boost dopamine levels naturally. At the same time, studies show the body needs vitamins B5, B6, and B9 and minerals such as iron to make dopamine. Studies suggest the amino acid L-theanine increases brain dopamine levels (Zielińska et al., 2023) (Takeshima et al., 2016).

Activities proven to increase dopamine levels.

Mindfulness mediation practice  

Research has found that mindfulness practice incorporating meditation can help increase dopamine levels.  More studies need to be done to identify if these dopamine-boosting effects also occur in experienced and non-experienced mediators (Mosini et al., 2019) (Knytl & Opitz, 2018).

Getting an adequate amount of sleep

Research indicates that dopamine is released in the highest amount in the morning upon waking up, while there is a decline in the evening when it’s time to sleep (Kesner & Lovinger, 2020). However, studies have shown that a lack of sleep may disrupt your natural circadian rhythms, interfering with dopamine production (Tomasi et al., 2016).

Dopamine and sunlight

Seasonal affective disorder is a condition known to occur in a small population group, commonly occurring every year in the winter and fall months—symptoms ranging from mild to moderate to severe. While the pathophysiology is not clear, some data show the involvement of neurotransmitters like dopamine and other neurotransmitters as the culprit (Rosenthal, 1984). Light therapy has been shown to increase dopamine function and elevate individuals’ mood and motivation (Cawley et al., 2013).

 Stress management

Dopamine has two opposite reactions to stressors depending on the duration of exposure to psychosocial stressors.
An acute psychosocial stressor caused a significant release of dopamine in the ventral striatum (subcortical brain region). This brain region involves decision-making functions like motor control, emotion, habit-forming, and reward (Pruessner et al., 2004). At the same time, studies found that chronic exposure to psychosocial stressors was associated with significantly reduced striatal dopamine synthesis capacity (Bloomfield et al., 2019).

Nutrition and Diet role in Dopamine production

Studies show that foods rich in sugars and fat increase dopamine levels and affect individuals’ feeding behaviors. The dopamine reward system is recognized as the most critical structure that controls appetite and emotional drives for food, especially the intake of high-fat and high-sugar foods (Baik, 2021) (Lenoir et al., 2007). 

Common foods that help release dopamine:

  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Dairy foods such as full-fat milk and cheese
  • Dark chocolate
  • Eggs

Natural Supplements that Boost Dopamine Levels

Ginkgo Biloba

Preliminary animal (rats) and test-tube studies found that supplementing with Ginkgo biloba increased dopamine levels, which helped improve cognitive function, memory and motivation. However, further studies on humans are needed before scientists can conclusively determine the increase in dopamine levels using Ginkgo biloba (Blecharz-Klin et al., 2009) (Yoshitake et al., 2010) (Ramassamy et al., 1992)

Product Recommendation: Naka Platinum GINKGO BILOBA 60mg – 75 Caps

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Ginkgo increases blood flow to the whole body, especially the brain and extremities. The active components are known as flavone glycosides and terpene lactones. Ginkgo Flavone Glycosides are a balanced group of bioflavonoids primarily responsible for Ginkgo’s ability to inhibit platelet aggregation (stickiness) and its antioxidant activity. Terpene Lactones (Ginkgolides and Bilobalide) improve circulation, inhibit platelet-activating factor (PAF) and protect nerve cells. Too much PAF causes platelets to clump together and is associated with nerve cell damage.


Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to have antidepressant effects due to its ability to stimulate dopamine release (Kulkarni & Dhir, 2010). One controlled study found that taking 1 gram of curcumin showed improvement and similar effects to the prescribed drug, Prozac, for individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) on their mood (Sanmukhani et al., 2013). However, further studies are needed to understand curcumin’s role in increasing human dopamine levels.

Product Recommendation: Naka Platinum Organic Whole Root Turmeric 500mg, 120 VCap.

Product Description: Formulated by Naka, Whole Root Turmeric uses the whole turmeric root to support inflammation naturally. Naka’s formula utilizes a non-irradiated, organic source that is GMO and gluten-free. This vegetarian formula provides antioxidants to support the maintenance of overall health. Generally, the whole Turmeric root is used in herbal medicine to relieve joint pain and inflammation. Take one capsule daily.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3’s critical role in your body is regulating certain neurotransmitters like dopamine (Bertone-Johnson, 2009). However, it’s still being determined if having a vitamin D3 deficiency would have the same effect on dopamine levels. Initial animal studies show promise; however, more human studies are needed to understand better the relationship between dopamine and humans (Menon et al., 2020). 

Product Recommendation: Naka Platinum Pro Emulsified Vitamin D 100ml 

Product Description: Emulsified vitamin D from Naka Platinum is a gentle, safe form for all ages. Vitamin D has many health benefits, including preventing heart disease and improving the immune system. Naka’s emulsified vitamin D has superior bioavailability, helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorous. With over 35 years of clinical experience, Naka Platinum Emulsified vitamin D provides you with 1000IU daily – the recommended amount by many Naturopaths and health care practitioners.

What can lead to a reduction of dopamine receptors in your brain:

  • Chronic stress levels 
  • Lack of quality and quantity of sleep
  • High saturated fats in the diet 
  • High caffeine and sugar intake
  • Poor nutrition
  • Obesity

The Bottom Line

Dopamine is an essential chemical in your body known as the “feel-good” hormone that impacts many brain-related functions, such as decision-making, emotions, mood, habit formation, motivation, and memory.

Generally, your body regulates dopamine levels well, but some medical conditions, poor sleeping habits, caffeine, and stress can lower your levels. Implementing a balanced diet and many possible supplements, including ginko, vitamin D, B5, B6, B9, and curcumin, may help boost dopamine levels. 

Each supplement listed is considered safe when used correctly. However, talk to your healthcare provider because some supplements may interfere with specific prescription or over-the-counter medications.

Read More: Feel Lazy Sometimes? Don’t Worry it May Help Reduce Stress, High Blood Pressure, and Improve Mental Health


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    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.