Serotonin & Dopamine: The Feel-Good Neurotransmitters

How Neurotransmitters Work

Neurotransmitters carry, boost, and balance signals between neurons and affect heart rate, sleep, appetite, mood, and hunger.  The nervous system transmits messages between neurons; communication between two neurons occurs in the synaptic cleft (the gap between the synapses).  Electrical signals travel through and are converted to chemical signals through the release of neurotransmitters, causing a specific response. Neurotransmitters influence nerve cells in three ways: excitatory, inhibitory, or modulatory. 

Serotonin and Dopamine – Key Neurotransmitters

Serotonin is the “feel-good hormone” which acts as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter that affects and regulates several body functions like digestion, blood clotting, bone density, and mood.  The brain uses the amino acid tryptophan to produce serotonin. Competition from other amino acids prevents tryptophan from entering the mind, resulting in low production. Eating carbohydrates with protein increases insulin production, allowing muscle cells to absorb competing amino acids making serotonin levels rise in the brain.  

Serotonin is vital in curbing cravings and shutting the appetite off.  In addition to reducing cravings, serotonin is a natural mood regulator that helps to make you feel more emotionally stable, less anxious and focused.  Serotonin is released when food is consumed. When food intake is decreased, or high stress occurs, serotonin is depleted causing feelings of anxiety and stress.  When serotonin is reduced, cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta, bread, and sweets increase to try to replenish stores. Cravings for other substances that affect serotonin levels like alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviors are all associated with low levels of serotonin.  


Dopamine, another neurotransmitter, brings about positive feelings based on actions and helps regulate movement, attention, pleasure reward, sleep, and behavior.  Dopamine is a chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain, released during pleasurable situations like eating food. Dopamine is created in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the main area in the brain’s pleasure and reward signaling and, in the substantia nigra, an area involved in rewards and with movement.  When someone engages in behavior that the brain deems pleasurable, dopamine is released, and the action is signaled as one that merits a reward. This motivates someone to perform this behavior again. However, when dopamine levels are low, feelings of hunger, boredom, and depression occur. 

Neurotransmitters work together, interacting and affecting each other to maintain balance within the body.  Serotonin and dopamine share a strong link in function. Serotonin can inhibit dopamine production, meaning low levels of serotonin can cause overproduction of dopamine leading to impulsive behaviors.  They exhibit opposite effects on appetite; serotonin suppresses appetite while low levels of dopamine stimulate hunger.  

Nutrients to Support Neurotransmitter Balance 

Nutrients affect the body’s ability to produce and metabolize neurotransmitters.  Consuming specific nutrients help to maintain neurotransmitter function and balance. 

The following nutrients impact and support the balancing of neurotransmitters: 

  • L-Dopa – A precursor to dopamine which can pass the blood-brain barrier.  Dopamine itself cannot readily cross the blood-brain barrier and needs to be synthesized by the brain.  L-dopa is generated from another amino acid, l-tyrosine. Often paired together, l-tyrosine and l-dopa, stimulate natural dopamine production in the brain, supporting neurotransmitter balance.  Dopamine can be found in nuts, which also contain vitamin B6, helping the brain produce dopamine, salmon, beans, eggs and even dark chocolate.  
  • L-Tyrosine – Naturally produced from another amino acid, phenylalanine, l-tyrosine is a  precursor for three neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine and adrenaline. Tyrosine helps to replenish neurotransmitters as stress depletes them. Proper levels of tyrosine help manage stress and keep cortisol levels in balance.  As a component responsible for making thyroid hormone, tyrosine helps with managing appetite by regulating metabolism. Tyrosine can be found in foods like seaweed, egg whites, fish, spinach, and lean protein meats. It can also be taken in supplement form as a stand-alone formula or a synergistic blend to help with conversion.  
  • 5-HTP – 5-hydroxytryptophan is an amino acid naturally produced in the body.  Manufactured from tryptophan, the body uses it to produce serotonin, and low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, anxiety, weight gain, and sleep issues. 5-HTP supplementation helps with weight loss by decreasing fat and carbohydrate intake and increasing feelings of fullness.  
  • Vitamin B6 – Also known as pyridoxamine, B6 is essential to numerous functions in the body and vital to good health.  B6 is needed for the conversion of tryptophan to niacin (vitamin B3), synthesizing neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine, proper functioning of the nervous and immune system, and red blood cell metabolism. One of its roles is metabolizing nutrients like fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, and amino acids to extract energy.  It also helps maintain blood glucose within normal range, and when calorie intake is low, the body needs B6 to help stored glucose to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Vitamin B6 can help with weight loss through the stimulation of the thyroid. Studies show that Vitamin B6 seems to alleviate cravings. B6 can be found in the diet through poultry, fish like salmon and tuna, eggs, carrots, sweet potato, and green peas to name a few.  

Recommended Supplements by INEVO Body

Zen – Supports dopamine levels and naturally boosts overall mood

Calm – Supports serotonin levels and balances mood

Relax – Supports high cortisol levels, stress and anxiety

Digestevo Probiotics – Supports healthy gut microbiome 

NeuroBolix Shake – The go-to meal replacement shake supporting a balanced mood and weight loss

NeuroXCore – Bioavailable source of magnesium supporting relaxation, stress and neurotransmitter production

References 

Amer, A., Breu, J., McDermott, J., Wurtman, R. J., & Maher, T. J. (2004). 5-Hydroxy-l-tryptophan suppresses food intake in food-deprived and stressed rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 77(1), 137–143. doi:10.1016/j.pbb.2003.10.011

Briguglio, M., Dell’Osso, B., Panzica, G., Malgaroli, A., Banfi, G., Zanaboni Dina, C., … Porta, M. (2018). Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge. Nutrients, 10(5), 591. doi:10.3390/nu10050591

Godard, M. P., Johnson, B. A., & Richmond, S. R. (2005). Body Composition and Hormonal Adaptations Associated with Forskolin Consumption in Overweight and Obese Men. Obesity Research, 13(8), 1335–1343. doi:10.1038/oby.2005.162

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