Could your cravings be the result of a dopamine deficiency?

Have you ever craved high caloric, feel good foods?

These types of cravings are our brains way of tricking us. Have you ever heard of something called “pleasure foods?” Our brains plot against us, confusing our regulating systems. Meaning we never feel satisfied when eating these so called “pleasure foods.” According to Dr. OZ, North Americans get the most pleasure from refined carbohydrates. Everyday things like vegetable oil, diet sodas, and much more. Our brains need micronutrients but when we consume these “empty calories” or “pleasure foods” it signals our brain to eat more. Thus the overeating begins. So how do you combat these “eat more” signals? The answer is understanding what dopamine is. Dopamine is the feel good neurotransmitter that controls our pleasure sense.

So how does this affect your diet?

According to Dr. Oz, the pathway between the brain and body is the neuroendocrine-immune super system. When this system breaks down it can at first appear to be a hormonal issue, when in reality it is a neurotransmitter imbalance. Symptoms associated with this type of system breakdown are mood changes, focus issues, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and, in particular, compulsive overeating resulting in weight gain. A study in The Journal of Nutrition & Metabolism, suggests that our brain uses dopamine to tell our bodies when to stop eating. Those with a genetic predisposition to low dopamine levels may also experience the urge to overeat. When we are experiencing the “feel good” state we want to seek more of it and we work to sustain it. These “feel good” signals causes a loss of dopamine activity over time. This is because we are decreasing the receptors in charge of pleasure. Which again leads into the overeating cycle in order to sustain our feelings of pleasure through the intake of food. Making us crave more food and while left unsatisfied.

The Silver Lining

The good news is by consuming foods that are micronutrient-rich with high levels of tyrosine, the natural building block of dopamine, and supplementing with the amino acid L-tyrosine, the craving to overeat will diminish. As time goes on you will reactivate the dopamine receptors in the brain, making it easier to enjoy and get pleasure out of smaller amounts of food. L-tyrosine as a supplement can be an essential step in the dopamine diet, as it boosts your dopamine levels. According to Dr. OZ, he recommends to take 500 to 1,000 mg on an empty stomach in the morning and again between lunch and dinner. Ask your healthcare provider before starting supplements to get a plan that works best for you.

Foods to Incorporate

Studies have shown that foods rich in omega-3 increase dopamine levels up to 40 percent. Meaning seafood is a great food to incorporate into your dopamine diet. As well as the foods listed below:

Foods highest in L-tyrosine include:

  • Fava beans
  • Duck
  • Chicken
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Oatmeal
  • Mustard greens
  • Edamame
  • Dark chocolate
  • Seaweed
  • Wheat germ

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