The Dopamine Diet

How To Quench Your Cravings

So how successful were you with your New Year's resolutions last year? Whether it's a new diet, exercise program, quitting smoking, or turning off the smart phone, the start of a new year is the perfect time to start making positive changes in our lives to improve our health, but one slip can often send all those good intentions down the drain. January first is your date with destiny. This is the year to make the most impactful and deeply meaningful change you've ever made. It doesn't require a lot of effort, but like most efforts that end up successful, it will require commitment. I'm talking about making an easy but very powerful dietary change that will impact virtually every aspect of your life. Not only will it help to take off excess weight and improve your health and vitality, it will also increase energy levels and improve your state of mind.

I call it the Dopamine Diet. It is a diet that can help you reach your goals by focusing on quenching your cravings. It has helped so many of my patients lose the fat pounds they desperately needed in order to achieve better health.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure and reward centres in the brain and lets your body know when you have had enough.

Research has found that people with low dopamine levels have higher rates of addiction, and about 40% of people with weight loss problems are low or imbalanced in dopamine. The Dopamine Diet helps to regulate levels of the chemical in the brain naturally, giving you a significantly better chance of curbing your cravings and losing weight for good.

The amino acid L-Tyrosine, one of the building blocks of protein, is the necessary ingredient needed to make dopamine. For this reason, L-Tyrosine is often recommended for people with depression, ADD, ADHD, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as to help with alcohol and cocaine withdrawal.  Common symptoms of low dopamine include fatigue, anxiety, mood changes, and in particular compulsive overeating. Too little dopamine will result in craving food, sex, or some other form of stimulation, while too much dopamine can also result in addictive behaviours and even paranoia. Almost all addictive substances influence dopamine production; one reason that people trying to quit smoking tend to eat more is because both food and nicotine share similar dopamine reward pathways.

Tyrosine can be found in meats, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes and some grains.  Fermented soy products like Tempeh and miso and other legumes, especially fava beans, combined with grains to form complete proteins, also become excellent sources of dopamine-related amino acids. Some vegetables will stimulate dopamine production like beets, avocados and artichokes, and raw spirulina seaweed has very high levels of tyrosine. Apples, strawberries, blueberries and prunes also trigger dopamine release. Raw almonds, sesame, and pumpkin seeds help to regulate dopamine levels.

Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, especially those found in seafood and that are high in DHA, also help to regulate dopamine levels.

Some herbs also are good at regulating dopamine, especially when consumed as tea. Try nettles, fenugreek, ginseng, milk thistle, red clover and peppermint.

The top 10 foods richest in L-tyrosine are fava beans, edamame, chicken, duck, oatmeal, ricotta cheese, seaweed, mustard greens, dark chocolate, and wheat germ. I recommend making one of these foods the main component of every meal you eat during the day. For example; have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, a salad featuring mustard greens for lunch, and chicken for dinner with a dark chocolate dessert. For snacks you can eat edamame or a fava bean spread on toast.

Avoid any foods that inhibit brain function including refined white flour, white sugar, packaged foods, caffeine, cholesterol and saturated fats.  You have all heard about addictions to caffeine or junk food.

Exercise also stimulates dopamine production by increasing blood calcium, so it's important to stay active as you try to control your cravings, whether it's food, nicotine, drugs or alcohol and even your crackberry. Work yourself up to 30-60 minutes of exercise daily, even a brisk walk will help to boost the feel good chemicals in the brain.

But to really regulate dopamine levels, you can add L-tyrosine as a supplement.  I normally recommend 500-1000 mg when you wake up; levels should reach full effectiveness to curb your cravings. L-tyrosine is a stimulating supplement and before you self-diagnose it is a good idea to test your dopamine levels first. And before adding any supplements to your diet, it's always advisable to check with your health care provider. Discontinue taking it if you experience side effects like nausea, headaches, fatigue, heartburn or joint pain.

So how do you know if you have low levels of dopamine? There is a home test available, it's called MyStatus.  I developed the test and you can order it from my website It will help measure all the chemicals in your brain and let you know where you are deficient.

Dr. Bryce Wylde is one of Canada’s leading experts on natural medicie.  He is the author of The Antioxidant Prescription.

Categories: Health & Wellness