Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is an increasingly common mental health condition, where sufferers experience periods of mania (feeling euphoric) and clinical depression.
While mainstream approaches to treating bipolar disorder include therapy and anti-psychotic medications such as olanzapine and mood stabilizers including lithium, improved nutrition may also have a role to play.
Foods to Help Bipolar Disorder Sufferers
In addition to mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics and antidepressants, making simple changes to dietary intake will likely make a difference to those affected with bipolar disorder. Even making sure one has a balanced diet, high in fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals will improve mood and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
In Eat Yourself Happy, Isaac & Isaac, highlight key foods to help bipolar disorder sufferers, to include the following:
- Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna) – rich in omega-3 help boost mood;
- Nuts and seeds – peanuts, pumpkin seeds;
- Wholegrain fibres – rich in magnesium (calming mineral); and
- Brazil nuts – rich in selenium.
Nutrition for Bipolar Sufferers on Lithium
The reason why eating foods rich in selenium (such as Brazil nuts) may help those suffering from bipolar disorder, is due to the effects of lithium, which is a commonly used mood stabilizer. As identified by Isaac & Isaac, lithium can affect the way the thyroid gland functions, while selenium is believed to help improve thyroid function.
Drinking plenty of water, particularly in warmer weather, is also important for those taking lithium as it will help the individual to maintain a balance of lithium levels. Sufficient fluids are required to help the kidneys to get flush the lithium, which must be excreted in urine to avoid toxicity.
Improve Bipolar Mania – Reduce Tyrosine Levels
Another important aspect of improving bipolar disorder symptoms through nutrition, relates to the amino acid tyrosine. In the mania episode of bipolar disorder, reducing tyrosine is recognised to be a helpful approach to improving symptoms.
As identified by Isaac & Isaac, tyrosine-rich foods to reduce or avoid during episodes of mania, include as follows:
- Mature cheese;
- Cured meats;
- Pickled vegetables;
- Chocolate; and
In addition to avoiding or limiting intake of foods rich in tyrosine, it is also important to try to reduce intake of caffeine and alcohol. Whilst taking antidepressants, anti-psychotics or mood stabilizers, drinking alcohol may have potentially serious effects.
As highlighted above, bipolar disorder involves episodes of mania and clinical depression, with lithium, olanzapine and therapy being common forms of treatment. Nutritional approaches to bipolar disorder, include cutting out tyrosine-rich foods and eating foods such as nuts and seeds, those rich in selenium, omega-3 and magnesium.