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Health Matters: Dopamine – feel great, lose weight

PHUKET: We know that optimal health stems from an equilibrium between mind, body and spirit, so it should be no surprise then, that feeling good about yourself and losing weight are intrinsically linked.


By Sarah Nockles

Friday 15 August 2014, 02:00PM


There is quite a science behind the chemicals our brains release, which in turn impact our hormones, our mental and emotional state and finally the way in which our bodies function. 

Today, I want to focus on how to stimulate dopamine, the “happy” chemical that our brain produces in response to pleasurable activities, like food or sex! Known as the “reward” drug, in psychological forums, dopamine is also responsible for firing up metabolism and beating the blues into submission.

Feeling a little down? Lethargic? Uninspired? Suffering from weight gain or involuntary bodily movements, like the occasional twitch? Chances are, you are not producing enough dopamine.

The best news – increasing the brain’s capacity to stimulate dopamine production is as simple as changing your diet and lifestyle… and it is so simple to do.
Tyrosene – In order to produce dopamine, we need to consume tyrosine. If dopamine is our brain’s happy fuel, then tyrosene is its engine.

Our bodies synthesize and process it, and voila! Out rushes dopamine in response. Foods high in tyrosine include: avocado, blueberries, strawberries, prunes, banana (the riper the better), almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and lima beans.

Capsicain – the chemical compound in a chili that causes its heat. When we consume capsicain, our brains truly activate the pleasure versus pain response. When the body registers the heat in a chilli, it responds by activating a receptor named substance P. And this is where it gets interesting: our brain then tries to protect us by flooding our systems with the pleasure chemicals – endorphins and, you guessed it… dopamine!

Betaine – the amino acid known as nature’s Prozac. A natural antidepressant, betaine will not only lift your mood, it will get that dopamine production cog turning too. The best source? Raw red beets.

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Quercitin – consumption of foods containing the antioxidant used in the treatment of many neurological diseases, such as Parkinsons, is another fantastic way to trigger dopamine. The best natural source is the humble green apple.

Folate - another key component in dopamine stimulation – leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, papaya, lentils and chickpeas are fantastic sources.

In order to ensure a steady and reliable supply of dopamine, avoid junk. Processed, sugar laden, calorie heavy food may give you a temporary high, but are proven to inhibit levels of dopamine production, amongst all of the other well documented drawbacks.

The Glycemic index plays a major role here – the more our blood sugar is prompted to rise and fall is basically equivalent to the amount that we are prepared to torture our brains. Regular exercise and adequate sleep are crucial too.

Why not challenge yourself? How are you going to get your dopamine boost today? How about indulging in a pleasure laden lunch – a special dopamine-boosting raw, organic salad, made with spinach, avocado, papaya, strawberries and blueberries, and a little added crunch – sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds!

An apple cider and chili vinaigrette could accompany your “happy salad” and of course, it should all be washed down with a beetroot and apple juice!

After consuming all of these dopamine triggers, a very happy day could only turn into an even better night… oh, did I neglect to mention that high levels of dopamine also increase libido!?

 

 

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