By: Arielle Aquino
Sexual arousal, libido and pleasure are all contingent on mood. If you are very stressed, excessively tired or have low sex drive, you may be dopamine depleted. We consulted with Erica Matluck, ND, NP to understand the role of dopamine on mood and pleasure. Read on to learn about this neurotransmitter, and how taking Mucuna may be able to help boost dopamine in the body.
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which activates the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. Certain activities or drugs activate dopamine. For example, drinking a cup of coffee temporarily boosts dopamine, rewarding the brain by sending it a pleasure signal. Sex can similarly activate dopamine.
Dopamine during sex
When you have an orgasm, your brain gets flooded with pleasure-rewarding dopamine. So when you have sex and orgasm, your brain will begin to associate sex with the rush of dopamine. This is why people sometimes say that the more often you have sex, the more you become interested in it. Your brain has associated the pleasurable sexual experience with a positive feeling and is seeking it out again.
If you’re feeling uninterested in sex or having trouble enjoying it, you may be producing low levels of dopamine.
Why would you have decreased levels of dopamine?
Our modern everyday lives are more stressful than we evolved to withstand. Dopamine levels are depleted by stress, certain antidepressants, drug use, nutritional deficiencies, and poor sleep. Alcohol, caffeine, and sugar all impact dopamine metabolism.
How to increase levels of dopamine
Although dopamine is also found in many types of food, it is incapable of crossing the blood–brain barrier that surrounds and protects the brain(1) It must therefore be synthesized inside the brain to perform its neuronal activity. Dopamine is synthesized when the amino acid L-Phenylalanine is converted to L-Tyrosine which is converted to l-Dopa and then finally, dopamine. We can consume l-Dopa - the immediate precursor to dopamine - through supplements like Mucuna.
Mucuna pruriens is a tropical legume found in Southern China and India. The beans and pods contain high levels of l-Dopa. Taking a small amount of mucuna as a supplement may help boost support dopamine levels in the body, improving feelings of pleasure, motivation and reward.
How to incorporate Mucuna into your routine:
It is not recommended to take high doses of Mucuna extract. More is not necessarily better and it is possible to over do it. Because Mucuna impacts your brain chemistry, excessive doses can lead to many undesirable states of mental health. So be sure to start out slowly, proceed with caution and seek professional guidance if you’re unsure.
Some drug interactions to be aware of:
Increasing dopamine levels can be problematic for people with certain health conditions. It is also important to be aware that Mucuna supplements can interact with some medications, including certain antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Always speak to your doctor before taking a new supplement.
The statements made have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or health care provider. The information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a health care provider, and should not be construed as individual medical advice.
Erika Matluck is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and Nurse Practitioner. Learn about her services and holistic mind-body retreats here.
(1) The National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions, ed. (2006). "Symptomatic pharmacological therapy in Parkinson's disease". Parkinson's Disease. London: Royal College of Physicians. pp. 59–100
Photo by Isabella Bejarano