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Alternative Treatments for Bipolar Disorder
Learn about which alternative treatments could help with your bipolar disorder, even if you won't find any in Natasha Tracy's medicine cabinet.
I am not a proponent of alternative treatment. If you look in my bathroom cabinet you will not find kudzu root or ginseng or little tinctures of magic potions. I don’t believe in them. Period. If something, natural or not, were to work for mental illness you can bet it would be manufactured by a pharmaceutical company if for no other reason than the money.
There are a few alternative compounds out there, however, that do have some evidence suggesting that they treat bipolar disorder.
Natural Compounds That May Help With Bipolar Disorder
Some of the natural compounds that may help with bipolar disorder are pretty common, like omega-3s. Others, not so much. Regardless, these compounds are generally available over-the-counter at drugstores, vitamin stores or over the internet.
Compounds have typically only been tested as an adjunct to current pharmaceutical therapy, generally mood stabilizers, and not as treatments in and of themselves. Anyone considering one of these treatments should consult with their doctor beforehand.
Remember: never take even an over-the-counter medication without consultation from a psychiatrist as there may be interactions with your medications of which you aren’t aware.
Alternative Treatments for Bipolar Mania
Quite a few natural products have shown promise for bipolar mania.
- Magnesium: has been used orally and intravenously
- Choline (phosphatidylcholine): found within the B-complex vitamins
- Branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine): available through dietary modification (see linked article for more information)
- Folate (used with lithium): folate levels often start out as being low in the blood (not the serum) but this appears to be related to bipolar disorder and not dietary intake so supplementation is necessary
- Proprietary nutrient formula: containing 36 separate constituents, including chelated minerals, vitamins, and trace elements. May also help with depressed mood and psychosis.
- Reserpine (rauwolfia serpentine): may be effective in treatment-refractory psychosis including mania
Alternative Treatments for Bipolar Depression
Only two products have shown promise in the depressed phase of bipolar disorder.
- Omega-3 – pharmaceutical grade via prescription is available and recommended to avoid contamination with heavy metals and other substances – possibly also useful in pediatric bipolar disorder
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC) – an amino acid with antioxidant properties. Read more here.
- Saint John’s wort – contraindicated for bipolar disorder, can cause mania and interact with antidepressants. May be useful in treating seasonal affective disorder
Note that in all cases no large-scale placebo-controlled studies have been done so this information should be used with caution. To read more about these alternative treatments and their evidence and safety please see Psychiatric Times, Integrative Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Recommendations.
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