If you or a loved has bipolar disorder, you know how important it is to self-manage mood swings with bipolar medications and healthy lifestyle habits. But did you also know that certain foods and dietary supplements might play a role in helping -- or hindering -- people with bipolar disorder?
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a complex disorder that's characterized by dramatic or unusual mood swings. The mood swings can range from very mild to extreme. With bipolar disorder, mood swings can come on gradually. Or they can come on suddenly, occurring within minutes to hours.
With bipolar disorder, the person may experience major depression and extreme elation. The elation is called mania. The mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are accompanied by disturbances in thinking, distortions of perception, and impairment in social functioning.
Bipolar disorder was once thought to affect about 1% of the population. Some experts now believe that the prevalence of bipolar disorder may be much higher. There are no laboratory tests to diagnose bipolar disorder. As a result, it's often misdiagnosed and undertreated.
Is there a diet for bipolar disorder?
There is no specific bipolar diet. Nevertheless, it is important to make wise dietary choices that will help you maintain a healthy weight and stay well.
These choices include:
- Avoiding the ""Western"" style diet that's rich in red meats, saturated fats and trans fats, and simple carbohydrates. This eating style is associated with an increased risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
- Eating a balance of protective, nutrient-dense foods. These foods include fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean meats, cold water fish, eggs, low-fat dairy, soy products, nuts and seeds. These foods provide optimal levels of nutrients necessary to maintain good health and prevent disease.
- Watching caloric intake and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Some findings show that those with bipolar disorder may have a greater risk for overweight and obesity. Talk to your doctor about ways to avoid weight gain when taking bipolar medications.
Does fish oil improve mood with bipolar disorder? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fatty fish at least two times a week. Good choices include:
- albacore tuna - herring - mackerel - salmon - trout
If you do not enjoy fish, the AHA recommends taking 0.5 to 1.8 grams of fish oil per day as supplements. That way you will get enough eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Fish oil can help keep your heart healthy. But some experts also believe that fish oil is an important bipolar supplement and that it plays a key role in brain function and behavior. These experts report that omega-3 fatty acids are important for those with bipolar disorder, particularly if they have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or elevated triglycerides.