Dopamine–a look at Stress and Depression


The best piece of advice I can give is to smile. This simple act can make a huge difference in your daily life.  One of the parts of medicine I always talk about is increasing vitality. This is different to everyone, but I like to describe vitality as the sparkle in your eye. How one finds that bliss can be challenging, but if you start with enhancing your mood in stressful situations it will make for a calmer and more focused response. This is due to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is thought of as the happy hormone. This neurotransmitter increases when smiling and is usually found in higher amounts in optimistic people.

What happens when this neurotransmitter is not utilized?

The dopamine pathway is very important for vitality and is one of the reasons why people can become stressed and depressed.  Generally speaking, there can be mutations in an enzyme (Dopamine Beta Hydroxylase aka DBH) that causes all of your dopamine to be used in order to make adrenaline, leaving you with the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Low libido
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of motivation

Adrenaline is the get-up-and-go neurotransmitter that makes it possible to survive in stressful situations. This is the icy cold sensation in your veins you feel when driving on the highway and someone switches lanes right in front of you, nearly clipping your bumper.  It is the fight or flight response that many people feel in dangerous situations.  In order to get out of the fight or flight response, this enzyme should be slowed down so dopamine can be increased. This can be achieved via a vitamin called pantothenic acid, a type of B vitamin. When pantothenic acid is broken down in your digestive track, it can decrease DBH thus allowing for a surge of dopamine. The other important enzyme in the dopamine pathway is called dopa decarboxylase, aka DCC. If there are genetic mutations here, your body will not be able to make adequate levels of dopamine or serotonin.

There are many ways to increase dopamine levels with supplements and lifestyle changes. However, I want to emphasize that if you are battling with depression or low dopamine levels, please seek out the guidance from a naturopathic physician.

People are not just one biochemical reaction and we therefore; we need a holistic approach to fix a problem.  Taking a pill the rest of your life is not the answer most people are looking for. I work with diet and lifestyle modification, along with ways of modulating genes with natural supplements and medications to address the underlying reasons for low dopamine. If you are interested in changing your mental fortitude for the New Year, please make a Genetic (Opus) or Meal Plan (SWAMI) appointment with Dr. Brody at the Center of Excellence in Generative Medicine. Please call 203-366-0526 to schedule your appointment today.