There are a number of lifestyle improvements that can benefit anyone, but some can also positively contribute to the management of bipolar disorder. One such change is a healthy, nutrient-rich diet.
How Nutrition Fits In
Bipolar disorder requires a comprehensive treatment plan to keep its mood swings in check. The basis of this plan is usually medication and psychotherapy, but there are a number of things that a person with bipolar disorder can do to help make this core treatment more effective. A healthy diet gives a person's body, including his or her brain, adequate amounts of the materials it needs to function properly.
How Nutrition Works
The body needs fuel. It also needs certain vitamins, minerals, and other substances that it cannot produce itself in order to function. Many of these help the brain and nervous system maintain themselves and transmit information effectively.
The body gets these things through food. Ideally that food should include a broad variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins, to name just a few dietary staples.
For bipolar people, weight gain is a common problem that can stem from the depressed phase of their cycle or emerge as a side effect of many of the medications used to treat bipolar disorder. A healthy, well-managed diet can help them keep weight gain under control.
Some vitamins and minerals have also been linked to improved mood or stable mood, while deficiencies in these have been linked to mood swings.
Blood sugar levels have also been linked to mood. Eating lots of sugar-rich, nutrient-low junk food can make blood-sugar levels seesaw, which in turn can cause a person's mood to do the same, which is not good for bipolar people.
Keeping the intake of junk food and other sugar-rich foods to a minimum or eliminating them all together is a good idea not just for bipolar people, but for everybody.
The same can be said for other mood-altering substances like alcohol and caffeine. Using them moderately, or eliminating them from the diet can help manage mood and overall health.
Who Can Take It
A healthy diet is a good idea for everybody, with benefits that are too numerous to list here.
For bipolar people, there can be dietary restrictions if they are taking a certain class of drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs, a type of antidepressant.
MAOIs can cause potentially life-threatening conditions like hypertensive crisis—an increase in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke—if certain foods are ingested. People taking MAOIs must adhere to a strict diet that avoids foods like cheese, aged meat, and red wine. These medications can have similar effects if combined with some other drugs, particularly decongestants.
There could be other food-related issues that could arise, depending on what medications a bipolar person is taking.
It is important when starting any drug treatment to find out what kind of restrictions you will have to adhere to, including dietary ones.
Food allergies and intolerance are other issues to be aware of, but generally there are few downsides to a healthy diet.
The trick is finding the right balance of calories and nutrients for you, which depends on other factors like your overall health and amount of physical activity.
Once again, it is a good idea to consult your doctor or a nutritionist to find out more.
It can be as simple as going to the grocery store and picking fruit over candy and juice instead of soda.
Good nutrition is something everyone should strive for.
For bipolar people specifically, it can help them maintain their weight and their mood.
What The Expert Says
“Healthy nutrition is healthy period,” says Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist practicing in California.
But she also says there are specific diet-related benefits and restrictions for people who have bipolar disorder.
The condition can cause considerable changes in a person's weight and his or her nutrition must be managed in relation to overall health, she said.
Some foods should be avoided depending on medications involved in a person's bipolar treatment. For instance, milk and lithium CANNOT be mixed, Dr. Bacchus says.