Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter which affects mood, attention and motivation. According to an article "Norepinephrine: From Arousal to Panic," by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., norepinephrine is related to the "fight or flight" response, and high norepinephrine levels cause anxiety, aggressiveness, irritability and muscle tension. Low levels of norepinephrine cause loss of alertness, depression and memory difficulties. Norepinephrine levels are naturally increased through exercise, diet and supplements found at your local health food store. Talk to your doctor about symptoms you feel are related to norepinephrine to get the right diagnosis before starting a treatment plan.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve overall health, and research shows that exercise improves norepinephrine function. According to an article by Laura Blue, "Is Exercise the Best Drug For Depression," a study done at Duke University showed that regular aerobic exercise improved depression as well as Zoloft did. Over time, study participants who exercised were less likely to relapse into depression, whether they used medications or not. According to Blue, exercise improves depression because it increases the brain's production of galinin, a peptide neurotransmitter which regulates production of norepinephrine. Another article posted on the Harvard Health Publications website theorizes that exercise improves depression because of its effect on norepinephrine. If you feel sluggish, slow and mentally foggy, try doing half hour to an hour of moderate exercise as many days of the week as possible.
Consuming certain foods increases levels of norepinephrine. According to the Franklin Institute, the amino acid tyrosine is necessary to produce norepinephrine, and is available in foods that contain protein. Foods that contain high levels of tyrosine include almonds, bananas, avocados, dairy products, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and lima beans. Psychiatrist Henry Emmons in "The Chemistry of Joy," also suggests eating protein to increase norepinephrine. Emmons recommends eating lean beef, pork, turkey, chicken, cold water fish, wild game, low-fat dairy products, eggs and beans. For optimum production and release of norepinephrine, eat three balanced meals a day which contain lean protein, whole grains and vegetables. Avoid overeating, which produces sluggishness, counteracting the positive mental affects of norepinephrine production.
The amino acid supplements L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine increase norepinephrine production, but must be used cautiously, especially if you are bipolar, according to Emmons. Only take one of these supplements at a time and start with a low dose. Ask your doctor if it is ok to use these supplements before taking them, as they can interact with other medications, complicate pregnancy and potentially cause bipolar mania. According to the Franklin Institute, vitamins B6, B3, folic acid, C and minerals iron and copper are necessary for efficient norepinephrine production. B vitamins are especially important to take if you have a high stress lifestyle.