Monday, March 7, 2011

Dopamine Deficiency (or, I'm Not Lazy After All!) and March Updates

I usually try to pick a theme for my posts, but I couldn't decide on just one today, so I figured I would do a quick little check-in post before my main post.

Garden Update:

It's suddenly turned cold again here in Nashville (booooo, hisssss!), just when I thought it was safe to start leaving my potted kumquat trees and valencia orange tree on the porch. I have a grand total of four kumquats and one orange growing right now.

My seed trays are sitting in my big south-facing living room window and are full of sprouting seeds waiting to be transplanted into the garden boxes soon. We still have to build said boxes, though! That's been on the back burners due to some bad weather. The rainstorms seem to have come early this year and we had a tornado that did some real damage the other week (definitely not the norm for March in Tennessee!)

Sleep Challenge Update:

Wow, I am so failing my sleep challenge! I swear, this is my biggest stumbling block. Sigh. I'm such a hard-wired night owl! At least this challenge has resulted in me getting to bed earlier many nights than I would have otherwise, but I'm in no way close to having reset my sleep rhythms. On the bright side, now that spring is kicking in, I seem to need a little less sleep and have been waking up a little earlier naturally. I'm just going to keep chipping away at my sleep habits (like one of those highways that are under perpetual roadwork;)

Dopamine Deficiency

I recently started taking a dopamine supporting formula and I can tell a difference in how I feel upon waking in the morning (i.e. less zombie-like and way more alert). In fact, a few days ago, I woke up with a perfectly clear, non-foggy mind and non-heavy head. It felt completely novel! It was like my brain was switched to "on" instead of stuck in the "conserve energy" setting. I am noticing more brain energy to start and finish tasks, which is a big issue for me.

I'm not a lazy person (there's a rather sarcastic voice in my mind saying "Sure, Erin- of course you're not!") But seriously, if I were truly lazy, it wouldn't bother me that I don't get things done (and it DOES bother me!)

It's more like my brain runs out of juice easily and can't stay on track. It's not true A.D.D., either. I used to have superb concentration, so I know I wasn't always like this. Again, it's more like a lack of mental stamina. The Primal diet has improved my brain function but my brain has the deck stacked against it due to my Hashimoto's related cognitive symptoms (Hashi's often causes brain inflammation and interferes with neurotransmitters), so I need a little extra help!!

Here is a list of symptoms of dopamine deficiency (with my emphasis added on symptoms I identify with):

1. Physically fatigued easily (Sometimes.)
2. Sleep too much and trouble getting out of bed (Yes on trouble getting out of bed!)
3. Reduced ability to feel pleasure
4. Flat, bored, apathetic (Yes on feeling flat)
5. Low drive, motivation & enthusiasm (Yes, and yes.)
6. Depressed
7. Difficulty getting through a task even when interesting to me (HELL yes!)
8. Procrastinator/little urgency (Mmmm-hmmm!)
9. Shy/introvert (Yes.)
10. Mentally fatigued easily (Yes.)
11.Difficulty paying attention and concentrating (A little bit!)
12.Slow thinker and/or slow to learn new ideas
13.Put on weight easily
14.Crave uppers (e.g. caffeine/sugar/nicotine/diet soft drinks/cocaine/amphetamines)
15.Use these improve energy/motivation/mood
16.Prone to addictions (e.g. alcohol)/addictive personality
17.Light headedness
18.Reduced libido and/or impotence (sometimes on the libido)
19.Family history of depression/alcoholism/ADD

Factors which reduce dopamine levels (with my emphasis added on factors I have):

1. Chronic stress
2. Inadequate sleep (Like, DUH!)
3. Hypothyroidism (Bingo! Hashimoto's!)
4. Lead, arsenic and cadmium exposure
5. Under-methylation (Possibly- I suspect my dad's family under-methylates their B12. They have a strong history of Alzheimer's and dementia.)
6. Tyrosine (precursor) deficiency
7. Magnesium, iron, zinc & vitamins B3/B6/C/D deficiency
8. Excess copper levels (I have melasma and used to be vegetarian, so copper might be a factor.)
9. Genetic dopamine receptor abnormalities
10.Chronic opioid, alcohol & marijuana use
11.Adrenal insufficiency (Definitely!!)
12.Glutathione deficiency
13.Parkinson's Disease
15.Estrogen deficiency (Yes.)
16.Human growth hormone deficiency

I'm encouraged that I'm seeing some results after about a week and a half on the formula. My moods are less flat, my brain seems more alert and I've been less distractible. I'm getting better at following though on tasks. All big deals for me.

Low thyroid often causes low dopamine, which then causes further low thyroid function. Vicious cycle, there! So, this is probably another piece of the healing puzzle for me, which I'm thankful for. Maybe this will be a puzzle piece that some of you are looking for, too.



  1. I have Hashimoto's and have the same exact problems as you, including the same messed up sleep cycle (the last few nights I went to sleep at 3am). I've suspected a dopamine deficiency for years, even before I knew I had Hashimoto's, and now I see that I was correct. Drives me nuts that I can't seem to get anything done and my house is a mess! Thanks for letting me know about this product—I'm taking other Apex supplements but not this one. Just wish it didn't have blueberry in it cuz they tend to give me a headache.

  2. My son was low on Dopamine (we both have major adrenal issues - subclinical Addison's Disease) and he did so much better on a dopamine precursor - are you using Apex Dopatone/flow? I have been thinking about trying it, too. Do you use it once a day?

  3. Stephanie, Yes, I'm on Dopatone (4/day).

    Laurie, there's not a whole lot of blueberry in it. I wonder if it would still give you a headache?
    You could also try a DLPA/phenylalanine/mucuna combo.

  4. Great post Erin. It was extremely informative. Thanks for sharing it. I currently take L-Tyrosine as I suspect I also have low dopamine (especially after going through the checklists you posted!).

    I’m not sure the L-Tyrosine is enough of a support though. I am going to check if I can get the product you are using here in Canada.

  5. Awesome. I take 5-htp at night for sleep, which is a serotonin precursor... does taking a dopamine precursor later in the day affect sleep at all?

  6. Paleogurl, if you can't get it in CA, you could add mucuna and phenylalanine (iherb.com has both of these and ships to CA). I bet a lot of people have low dopamine and have no idea!

    Stephanie, I haven't found it to interfere with my sleep at all (I usually take a dose at dinner). In fact, I seem to be falling asleep really quickly and easily lately.

  7. Erin, so sorry you're not feeling well! I hope the new regimen works out...
    Totally separately, I have a question. You mentioned once on the fabulous foragers or the raw board that there was a skin .. peel? from garden of wisdom (I think) that had really turned your skin around. I was complaining that very suddenly my facial skin had turned dry and micro-wrinkly. Is it still your preferred treatment, or what would you recommend?

  8. Gosh, I can't remember what product that was.
    My skin has gone through some changes since I hit my 30's and it gets dehydrated more easily now. I really like Red Flower's Omega Berry facial oil. It does a great job with the dehydration. It looks expensive, but the bottle is big, so it's very economical compared to most moisturizers. I like their Phytopower Lymphatic cleanser, too, since it's one of the few that doesn't dry my skin out. It's also a big (8 oz.) bottle.

  9. Hi Erin,

    Thank you for this great and informative post. I got a lot of insights from it and I think I'm running low on dopamine also, after I went through the checklists.

    I'm about to order Apex Dopatone that you mentioned. Since it's been about two years from the post, I was wondering how do you feel now? For how long did you use it? Any adverse side effects from its usage?

    1. Hi Kedadi,
      I still use it, although I stopped for about two months recently, and I noticed that I wasn't feeling quite as good not taking it. I just felt a little more flat and lazy. So I started again a few weeks ago and it's helped with my motivation. I think the tyrosine in it also helps me with thyroid hormone production.

      I've never noticed any side effects from it.


  10. Hi!
    I read your blog post and it is amazing. It's soooo helpful to learn other people feel the way I do. I was wondering if you knew of anyone that had their diagnosis changed from fibromyalgia to dopamine deficiency while pregnant. Long story short I decreased my fibro meds due to risk to the baby and realized I didn't break through with a lot of the symptoms that I should have. I have my Masters in Biomedical Sciences so I started looking things up and I've come to DD. I was wondering if there are any OTC treatments that you know of that homeopathic practitioners reccomend? Of course I'm gonna google and pub med and ask my gyno about everything- just looking for a place to start.

  11. Hi, Katelin!
    I don't have any specific knowledge about dopamine and fibro.

    However, if your fibro is autoimmune, the lack of breakthrough symptoms while pregnant could very well have to do with shifts your immune system goes through while pregnant. In autoimmune women, the immune system is typically TH1 dominant during the first trimester and then shifts to TH2 dominance after that (then back to TH1 postpartum).
    As far as I understand, fibro is often associated with TH1 (cell mediated) immune dominance).

    You may be at the point in your pregnancy where you have shifted to a TH2 dominance, which would suppress the immune response that caused the fibro inflammatory symptoms.

    I hope this is helpful!

  12. My acupuncturist/herbalist thinks I have a dopamine insufficiency. Here are the products he put me on:

    Brand Product

    Apex Energetics Dopatone Active (K-41)

    Apex Energetics DopaFlo (K-49) - its a spray

    Biotics Research Cytozyme AD

    After five days I already feel better. I feel more alert, more positive and upbeat and I am able to stay focused and alert longer. I have greater mental clarity as well. Have also been sleeping better.

    1. That's great!
      I've taken Dopatone and it definitely helped. I'm now taking N-Acetyl Tyrosine in place of it and it also helps (the Dopatone got a little pricey with everything else I take).

  13. Hi.. my name is viviana. I'm kinda interested in this. I'm suffering through depression. Which was diagnosed with bpd. I have been taking cymbalta for couple of months and buspar was just added. I am so those symptoms above. I have no motivation to look for work. If you can advice on this or email me at Acostavi34@gmail.com

    1. Hi Viviana!
      I can't advise you as to what to do, but here are some resources:
      True Hope is a company that makes supplements for depression and bipolar disorder and was founded by a woman with severe bipolar disorder. I know several therapists and psychiatrists that speak very highly of it.

      Brain State Conditioning, a form of neurofeedback, is also really helpful for any kind of brain imbalance.

      The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman has some helpful protocols for depression and brain function in general.

      Good luck to you!

  14. I was diagnosed with ADD several years ago and have noticed a big improvement since I started taking Adderall. However, I think I will try the supplement you recommend to see if it helps any.

    I take fish oil pills but they do not seem to help much. St. Johns Wort has helped my mood swings a lot. A big improvement came when I stopped consuming fluoridated water and Aspartame laden food and drinks.

  15. Great post - I just found it - thank you!

    The first doctor to take my symptoms (same as above) seriously was after 40 years of suffering and 20 years of searching while being repeatedly diagnosed with the simplest and/or most popular condition at the time (depression) and effectively pigeonholed into taking anti-depressants (even though I kept saying I was NOT a depressed person!): an ND discovered I had a reversed cortisol curve (i.e. was a confirmed night-owl based on tests related to adrenal function).

    However, what you have explained here is more comprehensive and covers more symptoms I had and still have that weren't addressed by the adrenal issue.

    I'm grateful for your sharing this information publicly with those of us who take to searching for the answers our doctors aren't interested in giving us, don't want to give us or simply can't give us because they don't know any more than we do.

  16. Hi Erin, I have tried L-Tyrosine to support my healing from adrenal fatigue (and honestly could've probably benefitted from dopamine supplementation before that even set in) but it didn't do anything. I likely can't convert it and tend to do better with the most active, absorbable forms that require little conversion. Do you know of a product that would help those in my situation? I see that the dopatone has l-tyrosine in it, so that probably would not be very effective in my case. Thank you so much <3

    1. Hi Julie,
      Dopatone has N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, which is a different form than regular L-Tyrosine. L-Tyrosine tends to stimulate a norepinephrine release from the adrenals, whereas N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine works on dopamine production.

      Also, Dopatone contains a whole host of nutrients that work synergistically support dopamine production like mucuna and NAC, so it's not at all going to be comparable to taking L-Tyrosine or even N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine on its own.

    2. Sounds great! Thank you so much for clearing that up! I will run this past my doc & check it out!!

  17. Great information; exactly what I need!! Would you mind telling me exactly what you are taking and where I can purchase it? Thank you!!

  18. .....follow up from my question...I have chronic Restless Leg Syndrome among many of the symptoms you listed....

  19. I've been on antidepressants for 12 yrs. I'm uninterested in things, lack motivation, have insomnia and rls. I drink frappacinos daily, overeat and have no sex drive. Ive been to a couple of doctors the year and the only med that made a difference was vyvanse but i built a tolerance fast and started having bad side effects. Idk where to go from here. I can't take the natural stuff if I'm on meds but I'm not sure if i should stop them but nothing is changing. My email is tierlin@hotmail.com if it's better to talk there.

  20. Thank you Erin. The link to your supplements does not work.
    What do you think of the idea of taking for a short time period some drug that increases dopamine levels. That way I would know pretty quickly if I have a low dopamine problem or not.

    1. Thanks for letting me know about the link. I linked to a different vendor that carries the product.
      You could definitely try a supplement or drug short term. I've found that people respond differently to different substances (my current fave dopamine supplement is Jarrow SAM-e 400 mg).
      Selfhacked has a great list of ways to raise dopamine, including pharmaceuticals: