Balanced meals give beta cells a dopamine hit and the dopamine hit is a good thing – dopamine plays a critical role in sugar control
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Dopamine hits are required for optimal sugar control
There are only a few body chemicals that have made it into the common vincula.
Insulin is one. The other is dopamine.
We’re always hearing about the fact that our phones give us dopamine hits. And they do. But did you know that meals, give beta cells a dopamine hit.
And the dopamine hit is a good thing !
Both for your brain and your beta cells.
The problem is too much of a good thing, becomes a bad thing, both for brains and for beta cells, but I am getting ahead of myself. Maybe let’s just get a little familiar with dopamine.
Officially dopamine is a neurotransmitter i.e. it is associated with neurons and the brain. And most of the time when dopamine is talked about, it is the brain impacts that are front and centre, because dopamine forms the basis of the ticketing system used by the nuclear accumbens (our “reward” centre”).
Dopamine regulates motivation as well as movement.
And these two roles are perfectly captured by the two diseases most associated with dopamine troubles : Parkinson’s and Psychosis.
In the case of Parkinson’s disease, a very special area in the brain, known as the substantia nigra, is experiencing a crisis. The neurons that make the dopamine are dying off.
The why of this is not 100 % clear,
But the consequence is devastating.
Because the neurons in the substantia nigra, connect to another region of the brain, known as the stratium. This is where dopamine controls movements by keeping “the peace” between opposing groups of neurons.
His absence allows for neurotransmitter levels to be UNBALANCED and this impacts movement.
It gives people a very characteristic set of shakes, which gets worse with each passing year, as the number of neurons in the substantia nigra decreases.
Now psychosis is not quite as easy to describe. Hollywood portrays it as the weirdo, hearing voices and doing terrible things………….. the person you should be afraid of, VERY AFRAID OF. A more biological way to explain it, is the person experiences intrusive thoughts and feelings, that make it hard to navigate through the world.
Sometimes these thoughts/feelings produce odd behaviours.
Now, we all have moments when our thoughts/feelings can be OVERWHELMING, but when this is the norm ……….. we would describe the person as being psychotic.
The troubles are attributed to there being TOO MUCH dopamine, floating about.
But there is more to dopamine….
Dopamine is NOT just a brain chemical
Beta cells make it. So do cells in your eye – but this is a story for another day.
The exact details of how this all happens is still a work in progress. What is known, is that the trigger for beta cells to make and release dopamine is two fold.
Beta cells need glucose and L-DOPA.
Both of which will rise, when you eat……………
Revving up dopamine production
The extent of the rise, will depend on what you eat.
Of course getting the glucose is easy – a carb based meal, will send in a supply, the glucose might arrive very quickly or trickle in at a more leisurely pace, but it must arrive.
Dopamine production depends on beta cells being exposed to “relatively” high levels.
What about L-DOPA ?
L-DOPA is actually short hand for 3,4-dihydroxy-L-phenylalanine, for obvious reasons, we will just go with L-DOPA. Now, you’re not going to find it on the ingredient list of your favourite food, because it is home made.
The upper part of the digestive tract, whips up a batch.
The base ingredient for this is tyrosine. This is one of the standard amino acids, that form the structural basis of protein. So anything that is protein will have some.
It’s made to be discharged
The arrival of the L-DOPA, at the same time as glucose, gets the dopamine synthesis machinery inside the beta cells, humming. Ensuring that insulin loaded secretory vesicles, include a dollop of dopamine, along with the insulin. The dopamine drop, drifts down onto the neighbouring beta cells, telling them to stop what they are doing and check their phone.
And when they do this….
Insulin production ceases.
Don’t panic, contrary to what you might think, this is a good thing, because the body is heading into the post-absorptive (after dinner) phase, which means insulin secretion is no longer needed, because the groceries have already been successfully delivered.
It helps to boost insulin secretion after the meal, when sugar levels are high and then STOP IT, when “enough” insulin has been released. In summary it is the beta cell OFF SWITCH.
Switching OFF is just, if not MORE IMPORTANT than starting.
Especially in the metabolically challenged.
NOTE : When you are metabolically challenged insulin is high : morning, noon and night. It’s the night time insulin that is problematic, this is what drives the bad BODY CHEMISTRY.
It works like a charm………..
Except when dopamine’s biology is altered – which it is, if you are taking dopamine based medications. Now the different meds, spark different problems.
Here are the cliff notes :
In the case of anti-psychotics
Remember the problem in psychosis is “TOO MUCH DOPAMINE”. So, the pharmacological “fix” is to take meds that block/lower dopamine levels, in one way or another. This lowering of the dopamine level ends up toning down the invasive thoughts/feelings.
But it creates metabolic mayhem.
Insulin production is not switched off….hyperinsulinemia ensues leading to beta cell burn out.
In the case of anti-parkinson’s meds
Remember the problem here, is “TOO LITTLE DOPAMINE” in the substantia nigra region, because of nerve cell death. The meds used to treat Parkinson’s disease put the dopamine back, in one way or another. Unfortunately they don’t put back the nerves, so things worsen over time, requiring add on medications.
Starting out with Parkinson’s meds
Usually at the start of the problem, the substance that is destined to be dopamine (L-DOPA, also known as levo-dopa), is given, along with a defender. The defender helps ensure that some of the L-DOPA actually makes it into the brain.
Together they make a great team.
But, despite the precautions, some of the L-DOPA in the CARBIDOPA pill, will pass by the beta cells.
Triggering the dopamine production factory.
Facilitating dollops of dopamine release with insulin.
The timing is OFF
Unfortunately, the timing and dose are not quite what Mother Nature ordered, so sugar control can be compromised, particularly when the L-DOPA is taken, before meals.
In this case, the insulin production machine ends up being shut down early.
There is just not enough insulin doing the rounds, to mop up all the sugar that is circulating.
Leading to glucose intolerance….
Adding other drugs to the mix
There are other drugs that are used, as I said, they are typically ADD ONS. One that is particularly interesting is bromocriptine, because it mimics dopamine at the D2 receptor. There are formulations of bromocriptine, that have been approved as an anti-diabetic meds.
Quite possibly some of bromocriptine’s benefits are due to it’s ability to buzz your beta cells.
Natural dopamine hits ?
At BETTER BODY CHEMISTRY we’re all about doing things NATURALLY – so what are your options ?
Pinging phones, happy thoughts and bubble baths, change dopamine levels in your head, not in your body. So this biology is not particularly helpful when it comes to modulating glucose control.
But all is NOT lost.
Beta cell hits
Can be facilitated if you…..
Obey the rule of thirds.
Make sure that every time you eat, you include some protein on your “plate”. Among the many benefits of that protein, will be the dopamine hit.
And the timing will BE PERFECT.
If you’re taking dopamine based meds, be especially sensitive to the timing of your medication, relative to your meals.
NOTE : Here is more information on a science based strategy that can minimize the fallout if you’re taking an anti-psychotic.
New roles for dopamine D2 and D3 receptors in pancreatic beta cell insulin secretion. Molecular Psychiatry (2020) 25(9):2070-2085. Zachary J. Farino, Travis J. Morgenstern, Antonella Maffei, Matthias Quick, Alain J. De Solis, Pattama Wiriyasermkul, Robin J. Freyberg, Despoina Aslanoglou, Denise Sorisio, Benjamin P. Inbar, Benjamin Free, Prashant Donthamsetti, Eugene V. Mosharov, Christoph Kellendonk, Gary J. Schwartz, David R. Sibley, Claudia Schmauss, Lori M. Zeltser, Holly Moore, Paul E. Harris, Jonathan A. Javitch, Zachary Freyberg
The incretin effect is mediated by glucagon, making it an honorary “INCRETIN” – so if you’re metabolically challenged, you must eat protein, along with your carbs
Are you trying to keep your appetite in check through willpower ? Make sure to load up your plate with protein if you want to stop the give me MOREs.
To enjoy the rides in the brain’s NUCLEAR ACCUMBENS THEME PARK, you need dopamine tokens. The more you have, the more fun you’ll have up to a point.