The word supplement can cover a lot of products when it comes to the pills, tablets, and other substances marketed as dietary or health aids. It can refer to basic daily multivitamins and fish oil tablets, or it can refer to more exotic things like ginkgo and kava.
Some of these supplements, such as daily multivitamins, can be useful for ensuring that someone is getting all of the nutrients they need on a given day, which is an important part of maintaining health.
Others, like St. John's Wort, kava, and ginkgo have been marketed as antidepressants. Still others are believed to help with the function of the brain and the nervous system.
How Supplements Fit Into Your Treatment
There is no real broad consensus as to the usefulness of supplements in the direct treatment of bipolar disorder. Some see them as an option, while others think them a waste of time and money.
For instance, while there is some evidence that St. John's Wort has some effect on minor or moderate depression, but there is little that supports its usefulness for major depression.
How Does It Work
Some supplements, like multivitamins and fish oil capsules, are meant to prevent deficiencies of certain substances in the body. There have been links made between mood swings and deficiencies in necessary substances like B vitamins.
Others are marketed as antidepressants or sleep aids, but there are mixed opinions as to their effectiveness and safety.
Who Can Take It
While there is little supporting evidence to prove the effectiveness of supplements in response to major medical conditions, it is important to discuss using them with your doctor.
Some supplements can interact with standard bipolar medications in various ways.
Too much of even something considered good for you—such as vitamins—can be toxic.
Two recent studies suggest that multivitamins and dietary supplements don’t have health benefits, may cause harm, and may be considered a waste of money for people without a nutrient deficiency or chronic illness, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal.
Depending on the supplement and how it interacts with the body, some supplements could worsen depression or mania symptoms.
Quality control in production can be an important point of consideration. Additionally, there are many supplements lacking a large body of evidence supporting their usefulness, which suggests there is a chance that they are ineffective.
Basics like multivitamin tablets and fish oil capsules are available at most stores, while other types of supplements mean a trip to natural food or health stores.
The reviews on supplements among a number of sources are mixed. Some experts think they have at least some limited uses in treating bipolar disorder, while others see them as ineffective at best and dangerous at worst.
Quality control can vary with supplements, making it hard to be sure you are getting a useful or safe product.
When considering adding any supplement to your treatment plan, talk with your doctor and do your homework on the substance in question.
What The Expert Says
Dr. Soroya Bacchus, who practices in California, said she discourages the use of supplements other than a basic multivitamin. Supplements can interact with standard bipolar medications and people who are bipolar are often already taking a lot of pills.
“Supplements are a waste of time and money,” said Dr. Bacchus. “I would rather you save your money and spend it on something you can really enjoy.”