Foods and Supplements That May Help Calm Your Nerves
Learn what foods can help you calm down during mania.
The Highs and Lows of Bipolar
Bipolar disorder is a condition marked by varying highs (mania) and lows (depression). While many people with bipolar disorder love the manic side of it, there are times when it can get out of control. Thankfully, certain foods may be able to help relieve stress and improve the effectiveness of your medication.
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Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries all contain natural antioxidants and vitamin C. Studies published in the journal Psychopharmacology, vitamin C-rich foods may help regulate and prevent spikes in cortisol levels (Psychopharmacology, 2002). Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands. Elevated cortisol levels activate your stress response, raising your heart rate and blood pressure, and suppressing your immune system when you’re anxious or encounter a perceived threat. According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term effects of high cortisol levels can include increased risk of heart disease, depression and trouble sleeping.
Whole grains are good for your heart, but can also have a calming effect on your mind. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating complex carbs such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta boosts your brain’s production of serotonin, one of the “feel good” chemicals that squashes anxiety and helps you feel more in control. The next time you’re feeling a little nervous or overwhelmed, grab a handful of whole grain crackers or eat a baked sweet potato.
When stress and mania hit, you may want to sneak a few more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. These fats do all sorts of good for your body, including reducing inflammation and anxiety, according to an Ohio State University study.
Great sources of omega-3s include:
If fish is not to your taste, snack on walnuts, pumpkins seeds or soybeans to reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
Milk and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt contain a good amount of riboflavin, a handy B vitamin that can help settle your nerves. Getting enough riboflavin keeps your protein synthesis and secretion systems in check. According to research published in the Journal of Nutrition, riboflavin deficiency can alter the way your body secretes and transports proteins. This, in turn, triggers your stress response.
Apples, Oranges & Bananas
These three fruits do all sorts of wonders for your body. They include fiber and high levels of vitamin C, which may improve immune function. Even the slow process of peeling an orange can force you to slow down for a few minutes, which may be just as effective as the citrus fruit itself.
There are lots of calming teas on the market that can help settle a worried or anxious mind. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), chamomile has been used for centuries as a folk remedy for upset stomach, anxiety and insomnia. Want to double the effects? Adding a splash of milk to chamomile tea can aid in chamomile’s calming effects.
Chocolate is a great comfort food. But instead of chomping away at a bar of milk chocolate, go for the purest dark chocolate you can find. Just like berries, dark chocolate can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as the harmful norepinephrine and epinephrine that can make you feel nervous and anxious. The bittersweet treat also stimulates your brain to produce “pleasure” chemicals called opioids that make you feel better.
Foods to Avoid
When you’re feeling a bit wired, avoid foods containing caffeine, alcohol, sugars, and processed ingredients. Caffeine is a stimulant that can produce a jittery feeling that might amp up your anxiety.
You might think alcohol will take the edge off your mania, but as your body breaks down the chemical, anxiety and edginess are likely to return. Alcohol can cause dehydration, which also can affect your mood.
Sugar and processed foods do not necessarily contribute to anxiety and mania, but they may contain chemicals to which some people are sensitive. Food sensitivities can affect both your physical health and your behavior. Stick with natural, fresh ingredients.
All of these foods can calm your mind, but they are no replacement for your regular therapy. As always, be aware of any food allergies you have and let your doctor or therapist know if you begin experiencing problems with your medication.
When depression kicks in, check out our Foods That Beat Fatigue slideshow.