What is ADHD?
Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is a neurological disorder. Though it typically affects children and adolescents, ADHD can persist into adulthood.
Symptoms of ADHD include: hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, problems with social interaction, and poor academic performance (1).
The role of dopamine in ADHD
Scientists have known for quite some time that a lack of dopamine is one of the main neurochemical problems present in ADHD (4).
ADHD medications work by blocking a certain dopamine transporter, which helps to increase dopamine available to the nervous system (5).
Why you’ll want to use natural methods of increasing dopamine
Pharmaceutical ADHD medications such as methylphenidate, amphetamine, and atomoxetine can be effective. However, they have a multitude of adverse effects. They also interact with many other medications that a patient may be taking (6).
ADHD medications have even been associated with risk for future substance use disorders in patients who take them (7).
Natural methods of increasing dopamine
Studies have noted that patients with ADHD do have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood (8).
Studies have also shown that vitamin D has an effect on the synthesis pathways of dopamine (9).
One research study in particular looked at 86 children with ADHD, who were randomized into one of two groups. In the first group, each patient received 2000 IU of vitamin D per day for 12 weeks. The other group received placebo daily for the 12-week period. Researchers found that the dopamine levels increased significantly in the vitamin D group as compared to the placebo group (10).
This goes to show that this dose of vitamin D in children can help to increase dopamine levels.
L-tyrosine is an amino acid that can be taken as a supplement.
L-tyrosine is actually a building block of dopamine, so it’s not surprising that supplementing with this amino acid leads to higher levels of dopamine in the blood.[i]
DL-phenylalanine is another building block of dopamine.
A study published in a German psychiatry journal demonstrated that phenylalanine can actually be as effective as certain mood medications[ii].
Supplementing with the building blocks of dopamine can have a fairly direct effect on dopamine levels in the blood.
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb. This means that it can help the body and mind better adapt to mental and physical stressors that may arise.
Rhodiola helps to increase dopamine, as well as to enhance learning capacity and memory in those with ADHD[iii].
Chaste berry, also known as vitex, has also been shown to increase dopamine levels in the body[iv].
All proteins help to increase dopamine levels. This includes foods of both animal and plant sources[v].
For example, protein sources that help to increase dopamine levels include: milk products, fish, beans, nuts, soy products, and meat (especially turkey!)
Since tyrosine is a building block of dopamine, taking a tyrosine supplement can help to increase dopamine levels[vi].
A simple alternative to a supplement is to increase your intake of tyrosine-rich foods.
These include: almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
Exercise has been proven to increase dopamine levels in the blood. It’s also a great way to help get out some of that excess energy[vii]!
Therapeutic touch can help to increase levels of our happy mood hormones, and dopamine is no exception. Massage is one of the best forms of therapeutic touch there is[viii].
If you want to treat ADHD by increasing dopamine levels, pharmaceutical medications are an effective option. However, these can lead to some nasty side effects and potentially interact with other medications. As you can see above, there are several natural options for increasing dopamine, which can then help to improve symptoms of ADHD.
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- [i] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.
- [ii] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.
- [iii] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.
- [iv] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.
- [v] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.
- [vi] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.
- [vii] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.
- [viii] Turner, N 2010, The hormone diet, Random House Canada, Toronto.