Dopamine and its Functions

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Dopamine is a natural neurotransmitter in the body that plays a role similar to a reward centre.

What is dopamine?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the body makes, and the nervous system utilises it to send messages or signals between nerve cells.

Dopamine is a chemical messenger. This chemical plays an important role in determining how we feel pleasure.

It helps us focus and find things that can interest a person. Dopamine also plays a vital role in helping a person to plan. Too little or too much dopamine can lead to various health issues or cognitive health decline.

This monoamine neurotransmitter is made in the brain and communicates messages between nerve cells and the rest of the body.

Dopamine also serves as a hormone in the body. These hormones are produced by the adrenal gland located on top of the kidneys. The brain produces dopamine in two steps. Initially, it changes the amino acids into a substance called dopa, which is further transformed into dopamine.

Dopamine plays a crucial role in affecting physical and behavioural functions like

  • Motivation
  • Learning
  • Heart rate
  • Kidney functions
  • Lactation
  • Mood
  • Attention
  • Feeling of nausea and vomiting
  • Movement
  • Pain processing and
  • Other critical bodily functions.

Dopamine and mental health go hand-in-hand. Even though the exact cause of most mental health disorders is a mystery, they can be linked to excess or deficient dopamine in different brain parts.

What is the role of dopamine in our body?

Dopamine is vital in many body functions like

  • Mood
  • Lactation
  • Sleep arousal
  • Behaviour
  • Pleasurable reward
  • Motivation
  • Memory
  • Movement and
  • Learning.

Dopamine is most known for its fight or flight syndrome. When this hormone is released into the bloodstream, the body perceives danger and the need to escape.

Apart from those benefits, dopamine can also

  • Cause blood vessels to relax
  • Increase salt and urine excretion from the body
  • Reduce the production of insulin in the pancreas
  • Reduces the gastrointestinal movement
  • Protect the gut lining
  • Reduce lymphocyte activity occurring in the immune system.

Dopamine can also save lives. This hormone plays a role in helping a person from medical situations like

  • Low BP
  • Poor cardiac functioning
  • Lack of proper blood flow to the organs
  • Specific cases of septic shock.

Providing such functions is the primary role of dopamine, and it is most applauded for making someone feel happy.

Will dopamine make a person feel happy?

Dopamine is a feel-good hormone that gives a person a sense of pleasure.

This hormone provides a person with a sense of pleasure and also drives them to do something when they feel pleasurable.

Dopamine is a part of the body’s natural reward system. The natural reward system is designed to reward the body or do things a person needs to do when they try to survive.

Activities like eating, drinking, and competing to survive or reproduction require dopamine.  

When a person is doing something pleasurable, the brain releases dopamine in large amounts to make them feel good and seek more of that feeling.

This is the reason why most people find junk food or sugar addictive. Such food releases a large amount of dopamine into the brain, giving the feeling of happiness and making a person crave it more often.

It is easy to know if a person has the right amount of dopamine level in their body. If someone has the right balance of dopamine, they can feel motivated, happy, focused and alert.

If there is no dopamine level in the body, then a person is more likely to be unmotivated, tired and not happy. They can also exhibit symptoms like mood swings, memory loss, sleep problems, low sex drive and concentration problems.

Having a high level of dopamine in the body can make a person feel euphoric, energised and have a high sex drive.

Can health be affected if the body is imbalanced with dopamine?

As discussed, various health conditions are associated with high or low levels of dopamine in the body.

Some diseases can be associated with low dopamine or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, restless leg syndrome and Parkinson’s disease.

Diseases associated with higher dopamine levels are obesity, mania and addiction.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition with no exact cause but can be traced to a direct link with high and low levels of dopamine in the body.

How do you improve dopamine levels in the body naturally?

A person can naturally increase dopamine by

  • Consuming a diet that is rich in minerals and tyrosine.
  • Consuming a lot of protein, eating less saturated fat, including more probiotics in the diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, music, meditation, sunlight and supplements
  • While increasing dopamine levels in the body, it is also essential to keep them at optimum level and prevent them from a decline.
  • Some factors include lack of sleep, reduced alertness, less motivation and enthusiasm for coordination and moment difficulties are symptoms of low dopamine levels.

What is meant by dopamine agonist?

Dopamine agonists are medications that replicate the natural neurotransmitter dopamine and activate the receptors in the nerve cell, causing them to react the same way the body would respond to natural dopamine.

These medications treat health conditions like Parkinson’s disease, restless leg syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and low sex drive.  

Dopamine reuptake inhibitors

Dopamine reuptake Inhibitors are drugs that restrict dopamine from entering and being reabsorbed by the nerve cells after they are released. Doing so makes more dopamine available to the neurons present in the brain.

Such drugs treat depression, narcolepsy and other health conditions.

To sum up

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the body naturally makes and is used by the nervous system to send messages or signals to the nerve cells present in the brain.

Dopamine plays a significant role in how a person feels pleasure and can play an essential role in determining a person’s health.

It is essential to maintain an optimal level of dopamine in the body.

FAQ

Does caffeine increase dopamine?

Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance globally, is used to promote wakefulness and enhance alertness.
 
Caffeine enhances dopamine signalling in the brain. Caffeine can also increase the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.

What affects dopamine?

Getting adequate rest, exercising, listening to music, consuming a balanced diet and spending time in nature can help increase or boost dopamine levels in the body.

What does dopamine do to the brain?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays the role of a reward centre and also has a crucial function in many functions of the body like memory, movement, motivation, mood, attention and concentration.

What does dopamine mean?

Dopamine is a molecule that plays a vital role in sending signals to the nerve cells present in the brain. Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that the body produces and then utilises it to send messages between the nerve cells.


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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