If you were with me on Tuesday, you read about my ever so enjoyable, recent doctor visit. I promised today that I would expound upon the bit of wisdom that I gleaned from that visit – dopamine levels are important – especially in people with autoimmune issues. When I get potentially valuable info, I tend to be the type that immediately throws myself into research about whether there is more than one source to support the theory; and if so, how best to implement the change. This makes me feel like I have read SO much about the conditions I have been diagnosed with that I have “tried everything.” Keep reading and I’ll share what I have learned about dopamine, what I’ve been doing to increase it, and the results I have seen for myself.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects multiple systems in the body, including the nervous and immune systems (2 systems that contribute to most of my Fibromyalgia symptoms). As well, there have been recent studies that support healthy dopamine levels have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Inflammation is an indicator looked at when diagnosing autoimmune disorders, and one that my doctors have attempted to regulate with medications, with my personal conditions. So, it stands to reason that the good doctor was on to something, and I want to make sure I am producing dopamine optimally. How can I do that naturally? Read on.
MEDITATION. I know a lot of people get put off when they hear this word because it has a connotation of being intangible, unreachable, and maybe even pointless to some. Hold on a minute though. There is not only research to support the overall positive effects of meditation, but even that it has a positive effect on dopamine. I had trouble getting started with meditation, as many of us do, because my brain was so active with constant thought. There was an endless list of “to do’s” that would play over and over in my head. Meditation helps to quiet those thoughts, allows you to center yourself and be mindful, focusing on the now and releasing all the self defeating feelings of failure, inability, lack, and negativity. I have become able to connect to the energy of nature and my surroundings and feel a sense of calm, peace, and joy. There are multiple free guided meditations to be found on the web to help you get started. I also find that it is helpful to play soft music (my personal favorite is Tibetan singing bowls) and to diffuse essential oils to enhance the feeling of calm and tranquility. I typically use a blend of Frankincense and Lavender.
EXERCISE. Duh, right? Everyone knows that exercise is good for everything. However, I have been walking the line between trying to find how much exercise I can do without hurting my self more (even small amounts of activity can cause fibro flare ups for me), and giving me positive results. My answer has been yoga. Not only does it go right along with providing me time to be quiet and reflective, when done in conjunction with a moderate amount of activity, I don’t have as much pain and I am finally noticing some increased flexibility. For instance, I have been using the treadmill, walking at a moderate pace for 3 minutes and then jogging at a bit faster pace for 1 minute bursts, for a total of 20 minutes (including a warm up and cool down) three times per week. I also do about 15 minutes of yoga everyday. I still have the challenge of being much less flexible than most, and don’t have the stamina for a full yoga class, so I choose online instruction. Dailyom.com has a very affordable 21 day yoga body course, and Yoga with Adriene has tons of free instruction on her YouTube channel, just to name a couple I use. Also, if I find I am having extra muscle stiffness, there is an essential oil blend containing blue tansy that when applied topically, gives great relief.
FOOD. While I have very specific thoughts about food and the way it affects chronic illness, I am will save that for a future post. Here I will stay on task and talk about it only as it relates to dopamine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that helps the brain synthesize dopamine. Protein rich foods like meats, dairy, nuts and seeds contain tyrosine. Almonds and avocados are also good sources. Oregano oil not only helps to produce dopamine, but it is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties also. Good quality oregano oil can be added directly to your foods to reap the benefits, and potentially curb cravings. Abstaining from foods that contain additives and other toxins will also support your body in producing more dopamine. Cutting out refined sugars is a major player in this as well. I have reinvigorated my commitment to eating a modified Paleo type diet. I prefer to limit my meat intake a bit more than most Paleo eaters, and increase my nuts, seeds, and protein rich veggies. Having been back to this for only a couple of weeks, I’ve noticed less visible swelling in my face, hands and feet, and less intestinal distress.
Again, I don’t feel like I have all the answers, but I do know that I have spent hours researching things that will help me on my road to wellness. The things I have laid out here, have had an astounding overall effect on my day to day life. I feel lighter, happier, and like I am moving toward a place of better health.
Email me if you have any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org) or as always, feel free to leave a comment.
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