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  • Kevin Patton

Hacking Noradrenaline

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Noradrenaline, the main neurotransmitter of the sympathetic nervous system, is a catecholamine that plays a major role in regulation of the ‘inner world’ of the body by the brain. responsible for tonic and reflexive changes in cardiovascular tone.

Low levels of noradrenaline can contribute to a variety of physical and mental conditions, including:

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • fibromyalgia

  • hypoglycemia

  • migraine headaches

  • restless leg syndrome

  • sleep disorders

Chronic stress, poor nutrition, and taking certain medications, such as Ritalin, can make your less sensitive to noradrenaline. These factors can also cause your body to start producing less noradrenaline.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Noradrenaline, along with dopamine, has come to be recognised as playing a large role in attention and focus.

For people with ADHD, psychostimulant medications such as methylphenidate (Ritalin/Concerta), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), and Adderall (a mixture of dextroamphetamine and racemic amphetamine salts) are prescribed to help increase levels of noradrenaline and dopamine. Atomoxetine (Strattera) is a selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor, and is a unique ADHD medication, as it affects only noradrenaline, rather than dopamine. As a result, Strattera has a lower abuse potential. However, it may not be as effective as the psychostimulants are with many people who have ADHD.

Consulting with a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner is needed to find the appropriate medication and dosage. (Other SNRIs, currently approved as antidepressants, have also been used off-label for treatment of ADHD.)


Differences in the noradrenaline system are implicated in depression. Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors are antidepressants that treat depression by increasing the amount of serotonin and noradrenaline available to postsynaptic cells in the brain. There is some recent evidence implying that SNRIs may also increase dopamine transmission. This is because SNRIs work by inhibiting reuptake, i.e. preventing the serotonin and noradrenaline transporters from taking their respective neurotransmitters back to their storage vesicles for later use.

Nutritional Sources

The synthesis of noradrenaline depends on the presence of tyrosine, an amino acid found in proteins such as meat, nuts, and eggs. Dairy products such as cheese also contain high amounts of tyrosine (the amino acid is named for "tyros," the Greek word for cheese). Tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine, which is in itself a precursor of epinephrine and noradrenaline. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is in many ways the opposite of the catecholamines, is also directly synthesized from an amino acid (tryptophan). However, tryptophan has a somewhat different process of degradation. When serotonin is catabolized in the body, it does not break down into useful substrates in the way that dopamine is further degraded into epinephrine and noradrenaline. Instead, it breaks down into 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIA), an organic acid which may be harmful in high amounts. Tryptophan can further be catabolized into kynurenate, quinolinate, and picolinate, harmful substances that are generally regarded as markers of bodily inflammation. Banana peels contain significant amounts of noradrenaline and dopamine.

Behavioural Strategies

You can stimulate the release of noradrenaline by dynamic exercise (20 mins) and cold exposure (2 hours per day for 3 days).

Hyperventilation (20 mins) increases noradrenaline levels by 151%, although even a brief exercise (lasting some 20 seconds) will raise the level of noradrenaline enough to improve your mood sufficiently to get started on moving towards the life you want to live!

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