Foods that can cause dopamine swings?

Submitted by synchro on
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Just wondering if there are known foods which may cause a rise or fall in dopamine levels that should be avoided? I have heard possibly too much salt, sucrose, caffeine, etc. Not sure which ones would make it rise and then fall quickly which could start cravings, but it would be good to know so as to avoid them if possible.

It seems that

we have evolved to go for foods with high caloric content. This means that we like sugars and fats...without even trying. Smile Many processed junk foods manage to combine the two these days.

The real answer is that you just have to find out what has the greatest effect on you. Sometimes I think it's the binge itself that triggers jumpy reward circuitry...rather than the particular food.

Mood over Food

Hi Synchro,

My experience has been that when I am overtired, stressed and in a down mood, junk food is a much bigger temptation than at other times. That sugar rush that leads to a let down may not be the dopamine system at work as much as the insulin system, but the effect can be similar.


For me there seems to be a link..

For me, when I observed there seemed for a while that there was a link between fat rich, spicy meat, all kinds of fried stuff including rice when made in the chinese fried style and other high calorie food wired to our brain as desirable (as Marnia mentioned)....but as I go through the weeks of withdrawal I am seeing a marked change in my tolerance for these foods and I dont find a significant surge in the relapse tendencies either...

Curiously enough I also have this experience of hunger pangs triggering temptation to indulge....could be a personal connect I made in my formative years and may not be applicable to you, but just wanted to share this too...the way I deal with it is always tell myself that its just the hunger and kick the thought away....also I try not to remain hungry for a long time ...snacking or drinking green tea to kill the hunger pangs...

Hope the rambling helps in some way..:)

Thanks, and yes, I have made a similar discovery

that if I eat smaller portions throughout the day, about six times, as opposed to three large meals which make me sleepy the hunger pains and cravingness do not exist and I feel much more balanced. I read about this method from people that are lifting weights to build muscle because they said that if the body is not getting food and goes into hunger mode, it will take from the muscle tissue and store fat which is totally opposite to the intended result of building muscle in the first place.
I think I recall reading an article about how the rats who were hooked on sugar did not seem to have withdrawl symptoms if the meals were moderate and spaced out more, which Marnia linked to using Karezza-based gentle intercourse with inbetween days of non-goal orientated bonding behaviors which helps smooth things to keep a balance.

This also leads me to another post which I would like to make (probably on another thread) about the growing resentment that I seem to be having toward these seeming biological urges that are not in line with where I want to go. Marnia's comment that "This means that we like sugars and fats...without even trying." triggered the resentment again. It goes something like "why do we seem to be wired one way which is against or opposite to where the harmony and balance are?"
I will ask Spirit to help recontextualize this so I can see it a different way (probably with wisdom from people on this site). Hopefully to see it with compassion, perhaps a compassion for the animal nature which to no fault of its own seeks gain and pleasure out of everything with its goal of survival no matter what. I think I know the answer to this already but just need it to sink in or surrender my positionality about it which has turned into a sort of make wrong because a part of my infantile ego wants things to be different, change things or win over the ego instead of just dance around them or perhaps "live (from Spirit) and let (the animal nature) live as well". I do believe that percieving it in Truth from a higher level of consciousness will reveal that everything is perfect and complete as it is.


I think the goal of the esoteric wisdom about sex is to let you live in harmony with your inner animal by achieving inner (brain chemical or energetic) balance. What seems like a terrible struggle now won't be as much of a struggle as you near equilibrium. At least that has been our experience.

In any case, it may be that our current habits, and resulting cravings, are on the excessive end of the scale. I remember a quotation in Mantak Chia's book for men, "Taoist Secrets of Love," to the effect that transmutation of sexual energy was once widely practiced and as natural as breathing. I can see how it could have been Smile

It's like making a diet change. When you first cut back on sugar or something, you have unruly cravings...and think "This sucks. I can't keep this up." But gradually something shifts. In fact, in my experience, healthy foods like salads start to taste better than before. Though sweets might still "sound" good, they're easier to say "no" to. In fact, even when you have them they seem less compelling somehow, especially after a couple of bites...perhaps when you get a clear sense of "I'm going to feel really icky after I eat this giant piece of cake."

So, I guess I'm saying that the struggle you feel now will decrease. You don't have to "conquer" the urge, as much as tiptoe around it. Of course, the idea is to focus on socializing with others at the same time, as that creates feelings of well-being, eases cravings, and lets you strut your increasing charisma!

Sugar rush isn't sugar flooding the brain.

The neuro-endocrinology of blood glucose levels, hunger, feeling full, overeating, obesity, etc. are extraordinarily complex. Researchers seem to find something new every day.

The central player in hunger, satiety, and pleasure of food is the hypothalamus and the reward circuitry. The hypothalamus is part of the very complex reward circuitry.

INSULIN: Has many functions. It’s main affect on blood sugar is to lower it. As food enters the blood, insulin is released to store glucose in the liver for later use, and store it in fat cells as fatty acids, for later use.
Many hormones affect blood sugar, but insulin is the only one to lower it.

1) The simple food intake paradigm was that as blood sugar rose we felt full, and as it fell we felt hungry. We ate accordingly.
2) The old SUGAR RUSH paradigm was that a high sugar food would make our blood glucose soar and our brain would be flooded with glucose, it’s primary fuel. This flood of glucose was like stepping on the accelerator to add more gas to an engine.

Neither of these two paradigms is accurate.

The sugar rush is activation of the reward circuitry. Primarily involving DOPAMINE & OPIOIDS.
The “sugar rush” has nothing to do with blood glucose levels.

On the other hand - those with true hypoglycemia (low blood sugar and multiple associated symptoms) will feel relief from those symptoms when they consume glucose containing foods. Someone with hypoglycemia will also be rewarded with dopamine/opioids.
Furthermore insulin does act on the brain. One function is to decrease dopamine in the reward center to reduce urges to eat

Think logically about the so-called sugar high (buzz, rush) - with the old idea that an excess of blood glucose in the brain causes the high, and subsequent low:
1) Many sweet junk foods contain fructose. Fructose is not blood sugar (only glucose is blood sugar). Fructose must be processed by the liver before it is usable. It’s usually turned into fatty acids, not glucose, then released into circulation. We still get a buzz from the fructose-laden junk food, but there’s no affect on blood glucose. So no sugar rush can be possible
2) Eat ice cream, or chocolate cake, and you get a buzz, then maybe a drop off. Both items are digested slowly due to their fat content. Thus, their glucose would take perhaps hours to enter the blood stream (especially if it was at the end of a meal). The "sugar rush" high and low occurred long before any sugar could enter the blood. The rapid highs and lows of the so-called sugar rush match dopamine ups and down perfectly. At the same time, their blood glucose would still be elevated from the meal, thus having no direct effect on the brain.
3) We often get a buzz (dopamine) from the anticipation of a rich desert. Yet at that point, our blood sugar is has not changed.
4) Diabetics have chronically elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Do they feel a buzz? No. It's dopamine, not glucose, stimulated by ingestion of food - especially tasty stuff.

As Poet mentioned: "feeling overstressed and tired" has him craving junk food. Feeling “burned out" are the classic symptoms of low cortisol. That is, not enough cortisol to meet the extra demands being placed on the person - whether mental or physical. Low cortisol leads to low dopamine. An easy, but brief, way to get our dopamine up is to eat something tasty.

low carb diet helped low dopamine

My feet used to hurt all the time, then one day I stumbled upon a website that told me how to find out what my blood sugar levels are (I can't afford a doctor). I bought a meter and strips and, as I suspected, my blood sugar was too high. I immediately went on a low-carb diet, and within a few weeks, I was feeling much better. Not only did my feet stop hurting, but I believe that the combination of low carbs, and higher protein and fat raised my dopamine levels, because before, I had all symptoms of low dopamine...especially the anhedonia, which was just awful. I could tell that my brain chemistry was off, but I didn't know what to do about it (I had tried different amino acids, but none of them worked), and I was damned if I was going to go on psychiatric drugs. I believe that the higher dopamine levels have given me the motivation I need to make changes in my life (or even just to do the laundry). The anhedonia is gone, and I can tell that my oxytocin is going up from the bonding behaviors. I have also lost about 30lbs and am feeling better about myself because of that, too. I have been on this lowcarb diet for about 5 months now.

Diet comes up often

here, and we've all learned a lot of useful things. I've also gone low carb, and heavy on raw, and like the effects. One of our visitors insists that diet alone would correct mankind's passion problems by healing the imbalance that results from system-irritating foods. Maybe he's right. Smile

I am going to start doing

I am going to start doing research tonight. I want to try gluten free for awhile. see how that effects me. I will let you know. It is just going to take some time to get everything ready. I will need to stock up on the right stuff and get prepared to stick with it. I hope to get started before the end of the month.

low carb = gluten free

For me, going low carb has meant going gluten free, just as a sort of side effect because most wheat products are so high in carbs. Because they are low carb, I could eat some wheat germ, or use a little bit of gluten flour in recipes, but I almost never do, and now that I've had gluten out of my system for awhile, boy, can I tell when something has wheat in it! It gives me the weirdest feeling, almost like a mild alcohol buzz. Bleh...I hate it.


It took me years to figure out that a binge on sugar did this to my dopamine. I get pretty bad withdrawals if I binge for a period of time then withdraw. Actually, the physical symptoms are close to that of withdrawing from orgasm for me. Im glad Ive figured out both now because I used to get these headaches and think that there was something majorly wrong with me, nope, just dopamine.