Vitamins & Supplements for Bipolar Disorder
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Supplements for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Highlights

  1. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. It is a condition that causes unusual shifts in mood and energy levels.
  2. Some research suggests that fish oil, lithium supplements, and rhodiola rosea may have positive effects on bipolar symptoms.
  3. Supplements may interact with medications you’re already taking, or preexisting health conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking supplements for bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression. It is a condition that causes unusual shifts in mood and energy levels. Symptoms include manic episodes. During these episodes, a person might feel excited, euphoric, and full of energy. These are then followed by depressive episodes with feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

A number of different treatment options are available for those with bipolar disorder. These include medication and different types of psychotherapy. Along with these treatments, lifestyle adjustments, such as exercising more and getting enough sleep, can help manage the disorder.

Supplements for Bipolar Disorder

Some people with bipolar disorder take natural supplements, in addition to traditional treatment. Supplements are not recommended as a stand-alone treatment for this condition.

Most of these herbal supplements are safe on their own for people with bipolar disorder. However, this isn’t always the case for everyone. Some supplements don’t mix well with certain medications or individual health issues. For instance, St. John’s wort can help depression symptoms, but it can negatively interfere with both birth control and antidepressants.

Because of this, you should never start taking any new supplements until you’ve consulted with your doctor first.

What the Research Says

Supplements are not yet a proven method for treating bipolar disorder. However, several studies have shown that certain supplements may have a positive effect on the condition.

Some studies have shown that fish oil could be a safe, natural supplement used to manage depression.

Research also points to lithium supplements and rhodiola for their positive effects on bipolar symptoms.

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. It is thought to help in both bipolar and “unipolar” depression.

The effectiveness of fish oil in treating bipolar disorder is still being studied, but most studies have shown a positive correlation in reducing depression.

Though possibly effective in helping to regulate the depressive episodes in those with bipolar disorder, there is little evidence that fish oil can help regulate manic episodes.

For most people, there are very few risks to taking fish oil.

Lithium

Lithium supplements can help treat bipolar disorder. It is one of the few supplements known to help reduce episodes of mania in both severity and frequency. Studies have also shown that it reduces the risk of suicide.

It impacts the central nervous system. It is also thought to strengthen the nerve connection that regulates mood and behavior. However, how lithium works to stabilize a person with bipolar disorder’s mood isn’t exactly known.

Lithium should not be used if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to become pregnant. It should also not be used in those with impaired kidney function.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea is an herb. It is commonly used to help manage stress. It’s also been shown to have positive effects in people who have depression. This is because it helps mediate changes of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. It can also stimulate production of epinephrine and regulate cortisol.

One study has found that rhodiola lacks many of the side effects found in prescription antidepressants. For certain people with bipolar disorder, it can be used together with a prescription antidepressant if needed. Talk to your doctor before taking this supplement.

Warnings and Risks

Some people with bipolar disorder find natural and herbal supplements to be helpful. However, there is always a risk when taking supplements that aren’t a proven treatment option. For instance, fish oil can help stabilize moods. However, in large doses, it can suppress the immune system.

Before you make any changes to your treatment plan, make sure to consult your doctor about natural supplements. Discuss how they could interact with medications you’re already taking or preexisting health conditions.

Outlook

Traditional treatments like psychotherapy and prescription medication are still the most effective forms of treating bipolar disorder. However, certain supplements can help ease symptoms. Some people with this condition may be more likely to take the supplements as opposed to other forms of medication.

Always remember to consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment. Consult your doctor immediately if you have adverse reactions to any new additions to your treatment.

You Asked, We Answered

  • Should supplements ever be used as a stand-alone treatment for bipolar disorder? Why or why not?
  • Supplements should never be used as a stand-alone treatment for bipolar. The reason for this is because of the conflicting evidence associated with such treatments. One study may suggest that a particular supplement improves the symptoms of bipolar, whereas another study will contradict it. Additionally, very little is known about supplement-supplement or supplement-prescribed medication interactions. Discussions about supplements should be had with your doctor to achieve maximal effect and safety in your medication regimen. 

    - Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BC
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