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What lowers dopamine levels?

As a neurotransmitter, dopamine is responsible for communication between nerve cells in the brain and is important for maintaining motor skills, motivation and drive. A dopamine deficiency, such as occurs in Parkinson's disease, can cause considerable discomfort and symptoms. That the dopamine level is very low can have various causes.

Causes of low dopamine levels

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There are various reasons for low dopamine levels or dopamine deficiency. For example, with an unhealthy, unbalanced diet or a strict fast, the body may not be getting enough of the amino acids needed to make dopamine, so it can produce little dopamine.

Another cause of reduced dopamine production is that the dopaminergic neurons in the brain die and therefore can no longer produce dopamine. This is the case, for example, in Parkinson's disease. The disease is characterized, among other things, by motor restlessness and trembling of the hands, which is due to a lack of dopamine. In the early stages of the disease, no symptoms are observed, but when only less than half of the dopaminergic neurons are left, the symptoms appear.

Certain drugs such as cocaine can also lower dopamine in the long term. First, these substances inhibit the reuptake of the neurotransmitter into cells, which causes dopamine to stay in the body longer. To prevent excess dopamine, some of the receptors to which the neurotransmitter can dock break down. However, once dopamine levels drop again, a greater amount of dopamine is needed to stimulate the existing receptors for its effects to take hold [1]. This contributes to the development of the addictive vicious circle.

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In addition, other factors can lower dopamine and lead to dopamine deficiency. For example, sleep deprivation can reduce the number of dopaminergic receptors in the brain, leading to impaired dopamine production and transmission [2]. Effects on dopamine levels are also seen with a veryhigh-fat diet [3] and obesity [4], which share some similarities with addictive behaviors [5]. Furthermore, major psychological stress such as psychosocial stress can also massively impair dopamine function [6].

Detection of low dopamine levels

Dopamine can be detected in urine, for which urine collected over 24 hours is examined. As this is a complex test, it is only performed in justified exceptional cases. Independently of this, one can orientate oneself by the complaints that occur with a low dopamine level. A dopamine deficiency is noticeable through the following symptoms, among others: uncontrolled sweating or salivation, digestive problems, swallowing and movement disorders, listlessness, severe fatigue, attention, concentration and memory problems.

Conclusion on low dopamine levels

There are many factors that negatively affect dopamine production in the body, thus lowering the dopamine available there. These include sleep deprivation, drugs, an unhealthy diet, obesity, and stress and psychological strain.


[1] https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2017/03/impacts-drugs-neurotransmission
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22573693/
[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27152150/
[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18640912/
[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22778831/