How Diet May Affect Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder changes a person’s mood from one extreme to another, sometimes within a matter of minutes. Moods may quickly swing from depression to elation. Doctors prescribe medications to help ease the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, but researchers have also found that certain foods can both help and hinder the effects of the mood disorder. Researchers now recommend that any treatment for Bipolar Disorder should also include nutritional counseling.

More Than Medicine

Last year, a study in the UK by Evanne Constantine and Wesley Freeman-Smith of Lewisham Counseling and Counselor Associates, offered guidelines for a beneficial diet for people with Bipolar Disorder. The study suggested supplementing meals with Omega-3, Vitamin B, and Magnesium, as well as reducing sugar and caffeine.

While there is no specific diet for people with Bipolar Disorder, researchers have made suggestions of foods that may help regulate brain activity dealing with mood and behavior.

Benefits of Fish Oil

In general, most nutritionists suggest consuming a variety of foods for a well-balanced diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein, dairy, nuts, and seeds will help the body receive many valuable nutrients.

Some researchers suggest that an extra supplement of Omega-3 fatty acids helps with mood and behavior in those with Bipolar Disorder. While Omega-3 is found in fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and trout, many people choose to reap its benefits by taking fish oil supplements.

Although there is no study that fish oil combats Bipolar Disorder, there is much evidence that shows the health benefits of consuming fish oil. One study reported the association between fish oil and reduced depression in patients with Bipolar Disorder. Seventy-five patients, in a test using Omega-3 and a placebo, stated that the ones who had consumed Omega-3 had a decrease in depression.

Foods That Interfere With Bipolar Treatment

People with Bipolar Disorder are advised to limit fatty foods, salt, sugar, and caffeine. They also should be aware of the way different foods can affect their medications.

  • Caffeine – Caffeine can affect both mood and sleep patterns. Not only can it affect mood on its own, but it can interact with benzodiazepines used to treat mania and anxiety.
  • Fatty Foods – Eating meals with high fat content can delay the beneficial effects of some Bipolar medications.
  • Salt – Getting the right balance of salt in the diet of someone who is taking lithium is crucial. Too much or too little salt can alter the effects of lithium.
  • Tyramine-containing Foods – Certain foods can cause hypertension in those who take MAO inhibitors (antidepressants that include Nardil and Parnate). Foods that could interfere with these inhibitors are bananas, champagne, fermented cheese, liver, and soy sauce.
  • Grapefruit – Grapefruit juice sometimes interferes with anticonvulsants and benzodiazepines like Klonopin, Xanax, Valium, and Ativan. Interactions with these medications can cause impairment or toxicity.

Balanced Diet

Patients should regularly check with their doctor and educate themselves about possible interactions between their medications and different foods. Both alcohol and herbal supplements have also been found to cause problems in people with Bipolar Disorder.

Managing Bipolar Disorder involves more than just taking medication regularly. Patients and treatment specialists can work together to discover all the ways that food can positively or negatively affect the patient, and help the patient find the right balance for a healthy mind and body.

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