by Julia Scalise, DN, PhD
"If you can dream it, you can do it." ~Walt Disney
A new dawn, a new day, a new year….and the resolutions begin. Yet how many have mentally, year after year, committed to making a change with all sincere intention and once more fell short of that plan? It is beneficial to enhance what your mind has chosen to achieve by backing it up with physiological support to stay motivated.
The best way to achieve success for that annual resolution is first to make ONE choice. Overwhelming yourself with multiple changes at once is a recipe for failure. As some of you know, I always advise keeping things simple. “Just do one thing” and stay committed to whatever that one thing may be. Chances for success increase when only one change is tackled at a time.
Once that choice is made, how does one stay motivated, especially if challenges and temptations are around every corner?
It’s easy to choose to:
- exercise or engage in regular physical activity, or
- eat better for health and weight management, or
- work on positive mindsets.
How does one maintain ongoing motivation for weeks or months or years into the resolution?
The answer for many may be just to increase dopamine levels.
How Neurotransmitters Impact Motivation
Neurotransmitters, of which dopamine is one, are chemical messengers made by the body. These couriers play a role in shaping our day to day function and mood. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation and maintaining interest and drive. It is associated with feelings of being in love, elevates with exercise, sex, and sometimes just by listening to music or dancing.
Without sufficient dopamine we don’t feel alive, may experience difficulty with initiating or completing simple to complex tasks and projects, and may experience poor concentration, and lack of energy and motivation. Low dopamine levels may contribute to self-medication (alcohol and/or drugs) or be involved in addictions with nicotine, gambling, and food.
For dopamine to be made by the body, certain precursors are necessary. We must have access to amino acids (protein building blocks) and other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
Remember that balance is essential. In excess, dopamine can negatively impact gastrointestinal function and can enhance psychosis, mood swings, and make those with attention disorders worse. If you have health issues or take medications where specific amino acids, foods, or supplements are contraindicated, you should always work with your healthcare team for guidance.
Tyrosine is Essential
A primary precursor for dopamine production is the amino acid Tyrosine. Tyrosine also plays a role in adrenal, thyroid and pituitary gland health. Ongoing stress, prolonged work hours, illness, some medications, and sleep deprivation impact our need for tyrosine and its adequate availability.
Tyrosine alone is not all that is required for dopamine production. We must have vitamins and minerals to properly synthesize tyrosine for dopamine production, such as vitamins C, B3, B6, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
Before jumping into using supplements, especially if unsupervised, I always advocate dietary sources as a starting point. If maintaining motivation for your resolutions can be achieved just from a better nutrition plan that is always the safest and best way to proceed.
Tyrosine Food Sources
Aged cheese, ripe bananas, avocado, alfalfa, carrots, beets, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, parsnips, asparagus, sweet peppers, strawberries, apricots, cherries, apples, watermelon, figs, and almonds.
Tyrosine can also be converted from another amino acid Phenylalanine. Therefore, including food sources of Phenylalanine in the diet is also advised.
Phenylalanine sources are beef, poultry, fish, eggs, most green vegetables, along with carrots, beets, tomatoes, pineapples, most nuts, most grains, beans, strawberries, peaches, pears, apricots, milk and cheese.
As you can see, tyrosine and phenylalanine are found in some of the same food sources.
Vitamin and Mineral Food Sources
Vitamin C - All fruits and vegetables contain some vitamin C but the highest concentrations are found in citrus fruits, cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, papaya, berries, and pineapple
Vitamin B-6 - Brewer’s yeast, honey, egg yolks, almonds, kale, okra, spinach, wheat germ, blackstrap molasses
Vitamin B-3 - Brown rice, wheat bran, peanuts with skin, hot red peppers, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, barley, green vegetables, beans, milk, fish, poultry
IRON - Blackberries, cherries, spinach and other greens, egg yolks
ZINC - Whole grains, wheat germ and bran, pumpkin seeds, avocados, asparagus, crab, lobster, oysters, red meat, poultry
Depletors of Dopamine Production
Common depletors of Dopamine include the following:
- Caffeine, alcohol, excess sugar, synthetic estrogen and oral contraceptives, and refined carbohydrates.
- Many medications such as antibiotics, sleeping pills, and sulfa drugs.
- Stress, illness, lack of exercise, lack of satisfying intimate and romantic relationships.
If you are not eating many of these foods due to preference, allergies, restrictions or other reasons, and if you frequently consume depletors, you may wish to work on what CAN BE changed to promote your levels of dopamine. However if your diet has enough dopamine precursors and depletors are minimal, you may wish to have your dopamine levels checked.
I work with clients that achieve energy and motivation improvement just by toxin elimination and dietary changes from food sensitivity testing that is unique to them. I have also worked with clients that needed hormone, neurotransmitter and amino acid testing and supplementation. They required custom formulations for their unique needs to re-establish balance. With balance, they can once more feel alive and motivated for living their best life.
If you are someone that is repeatedly unable to maintain motivation despite intent, commitment, and positive mindset, then you may wish to consider working on dopamine enhancement. Begin on your own with dietary and lifestyle changes and assess your response. But if you need further support to keep that motivation factor going, work with practitioners who will safely and appropriately partner with you.
You will finally remain motivated and therefore successful in achieving your goals.
Choosing a goal is just the beginning. Maintaining the motivation necessary has often been the difference between success or failure. Now you have more information about diet and lifestyle changes. Additional tools are available if you choose to work with knowledgeable practitioners. You can finally achieve and maintain the reward of your efforts.
Wishing you health, success in your well-being resolutions, and living your best life.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017.