Can you fight bipolar disorder without medication?
The term “Bipolar Disorder” actually describes four different disorders which range in phase severity and how quickly someone's mood cycles between phases.
Bipolar Disorder...An Introduction
Bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as manic depression) is a mood disorder that causes drastic changes in mood from high frenzied phases to depressive low phases. The manic episode (or frenzied) phase is characterized by feelings of ecstatic mood and sometimes, exaggerated self-importance, talkativeness, increased sociability, racing thoughts, risky or inappropriate behavior, and increased sexual appetite. This period of mania is often followed by a period of depression, with the symptoms being loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyable activities; major changes in appetite; sleep problems; fatigue, a feeling of worthlessness or hopelessness; problems with concentration or making decisions; and thoughts of suicide.
The change between these phases is called “cycling”. Some people with Bipolar Disorder cycle quickly, while others cycle much slower. The cycling can be intense, with very severe manic and very severe depressive phases. The cycling can also be less severe with mild depression and manic phases.
Even though there are no stand-alone CAM (complementary alternative medicine) remedies for bipolar disorder, some studies suggest that certain natural supplements can provide some benefit as complementary treatments. The most convincing evidence thus far, suggests that Omega-3 fatty acids - like those of Sea-Licious Ultra Omega 3 - are helpful, but remember, this supplement is not recommended as a solo treatment.
Omega-3 Fish Oils for Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Can Omega-3 stabilize mood? Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oils and flaxseed oil, have been recommended as supplements for those who suffer with bipolar disorder. Because EPA and DHA play many essential roles in the body and brain, CAM practitioners (and the Canadian Heart Association) suggest that most people should supplement their diets with these oils. Overall, the evidence suggests that EPA/DHA is also a good supplement for people with bipolar disorder. However, additional studies are needed to fully understand what role these oils play in treating this disease.
- Omega-3’s provide brain cell membranes the flexibility they need in order to function correctly. Brain cells communicate with each other by exchanging chemical neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine), in order to do this, their membranes need to be soft and pliable.
- Omega-3’s reduce the activity of brain cell signaling chemicals, like protein kinase C (manic symptoms have been associated with hyperactivity of this compound).
- Omega-3’s provide anti-inflammatory protection to brain cells. Mood disorders are strongly associated with microscopic inflammation in the brain.
Is There a Diet for Bipolar Disorder?
If you or someone you love, has bipolar disorder, you should know how important it is to manage mood episodes with bipolar medications and healthy lifestyle habits. But did you also know that certain foods and dietary supplements might play a role in helping -- or hindering -- people with bipolar disorder?
Dietary changes can be difficult to not only make, but also to stick to. The benefits can be slow to take effect, so always remember that nutritional approaches are not recommended in emergency situations. If you are currently taking a mood stabilizing medication, please do not make any changes to your medications without first discussing this with your healthcare provider.
Over the years, research has found that the ketogenic diet is helpful for certain brain conditions. A study conducted in 2015, confirmed that it can dramatically reduce the number of seizures in children with epilepsy, including in those children who do not respond to medications. Research now suggests that this sort of diet might ease symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some very early evidence suggests that it could possibly help with bipolar disorder, too.
Ketogenic diets have been around for many, many years, and have proven to be invaluable tools in the treatment of stubborn neurological conditions, most notably epilepsy, but as previously mentioned, they have also shown promise in the management of other brain-based disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Traumatic Brain Injury, Multiple Sclerosis, as well as in metabolic disorders like obesity, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
What are Ketogenic Diets?
Definitions vary, but what all ketogenic diets have in common is that they are very low in carbohydrates (typically 20 grams per day or less) and relatively high in healthy fats. The goal is to lower blood sugar and insulin levels; when these levels are kept low, the body naturally turns to fat (instead of sugar) as its primary source of energy. Most ketogenic diets also limit protein (to no more than the body needs), because excess amounts of protein can raise blood sugar and insulin levels to some extent. Body fat and fat from the diet then break down into ketones, which travel through the bloodstream and can be burned by various cells throughout the body, including most brain cells.
Fats on the Brain = Better Moods
Research from various studies and clinical trials that tested omega-3 supplements in people with various types of depression suggests that raising EPA and DHA levels can make a difference. Omega-3 researcher David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, director of research in the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says EPA and DHA “are thought to be active as antidepressants” in the brain. From their catbird seat in cell walls, omega-3s help with what brain researchers call “second messenger systems” that carry messages from outside into cells.
• EPA plus DHA can improve primary depression. 15 trials involving 916 participants, concluded that supplements with at least 60% EPA improved depression symptoms. The meta-analysis was published online in the September 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. A Canadian study published in the August 2011 issue of the same journal found that a similar 60/40 ratio of EPA/DHA eased depression somewhat in people with depression who didn’t have anxiety disorders.
• Omega-3s help some aspects of bipolar disorder. In an analysis led by researchers from Australia’s University of Melbourne, concluded that omega-3s could have a significant effect on bipolar depression but not on bipolar mania.
• Low omega-3 levels are associated with suicide and self-harm. In response to increasing rates of suicide in the military, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently found that low blood levels of omega-3s were widespread and raised suicide risk by as much as 62%. The study was published online in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
5 Foods to Avoid If You Have Bipolar Disorder
Studies say, “Stimulants can trigger mania and should be avoided”. “Caffeine is an underappreciated trigger and can also impair sleep” and sleep deprivation is a notorious trigger for bipolar mood swings and mania. The National Sleep Foundation points out that caffeine can increase irritability and anxiety, in addition to affecting sleep, and recommends avoiding caffeine as you approach bedtime.
Put simply: Alcohol and bipolar disorder make a bad combination. Alcohol can negatively affect bipolar mood swings and may also interact negatively with medications such as lithium, according to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (NIHCC). People with bipolar disorder are also more likely to die prematurely if they use alcohol or other substances, according to an analysis of data that included more than 11,000 people with bipolar disorder published in the September 2015 issue of The Lancet Psychiatry.
Eating a diet high in sugar can make it harder to control weight, and obesity — including related belly fat — may make some bipolar disorder drug treatments less effective, according to results of a multicenter study published in the June 2015 issue of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. If you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, reach for nature's candy…. Fruit.
If you happen to be on lithium, moderating salt intake can be tricky, because a change in salt intake — either a sudden increase or a decrease — can affect lithium levels, according to the NIHCC. Talk with your healthcare provider about how to safely manage the salt in your diet to stay within a healthy range. The Canadian Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 milligrams a day. Equally important when taking lithium is to make sure you drink enough fluids: Dehydration can cause dangerous side effects.
Studies suggest that following the heart-healthy recommendations from the Canadian Heart Association to limit the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in your diet. That means opting for lean protein and low-fat dairy products when choosing animal products. You might have heard that the fat in foods could alter the way your body uses medications: Generally, your medications will still be effective, but eating a lot of fried, fatty foods just isn’t good for your heart. And remember that the oils used for frying are high in the omega-6 fatty acids you want to avoid.
Alternatives for Fishy Burps
It’s an unpleasant turn-off—and a big reason people stop taking fish oil supplements. To avoid the unpleasant aftertaste, opt for a higher-quality supplement like Sea-Licious Omega 3 EPA + DHA which has a great tangerine~lime or tropical colada flavor. Another great high-quality option is Sea-Licious Ultra Omega-3 + Vitamin D3 Softgels, which are double strength with vitamin D3 and are easy-to-swallow softgels providing 1500mg of triglyceride omega-3 goodness with added 1000IU of vitamin D3 to help support healthy bones, joints, skin, heart, brain and overall immune support. Each serving of Sea-licious Ultra omega-3 softgels contains the most powerful algae astaxanthin antioxidant giving its signature bright, red color. Sourced from the purest and most sustainable anchovies and sardines in a natural lemon-flavored softgel, you can say goodbye to fishy burp backs and unpleasant aftertastes.
If you found this article interesting and are looking at further informative reads on DHA or Omega-3, we have a great article revealing what happens when you take DHA supplements. If you’re interested in trying the supplements mentioned, you may want to head over to our promotions page where we are featuring Sea-Licious Omegas.
Disclaimer: The information submitted in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended for self-diagnosis. If you are in crisis, or feeling suicidal, we strongly recommend you get in contact with a crisis line such as the Lifeline Foundation, your doctor, therapist or a hospital immediately.