Treating bipolar disorder with prescription medications may be a necessary first step to get the symptoms of this disease under control. However, the drugs used for this health problem are indeed strong. For that reason, many people search for gentler, more natural approaches to tempering the episodes to provide some type of relief.
One good place to start, surprisingly enough, is with nutritional supplementation. Nutritional approaches to bipolar disorder are definitely gaining in popularity for two very good reasons. The first is that the side effects to prescriptions drugs are often harsh. And the second reason for popularity of nutritional approaches is simple: it works.
And perhaps the most remarkable of discoveries, made just a few years ago, involves the role of essential fatty acids in alleviating symptoms. Several studies have affirmed the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
One study followed 30 people with bipolar disorder who were given Omega-3 fatty acids for a period of four months. In that time they experienced fewer mood swings and had fewer recurrences of either depressive or manic episodes than the group given the placebo.
Other nutrients which medical science is just now recognizing include folic acid and other B vitamins, especially vitamin B12. The body uses both B12 and folic acid in the manufacture of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. It’s already established that a deficiency of either of these can prompt depression in an individual. But, now studies say that a deficiency of folic acid may also be related to the manic episodes of bipolar as well.
Some studies suggest that those with high levels of folic acid in their systems respond better to lithium treatment. In fact, a double-blind study showed that those who were given an additional 200 mcg of folic acid resulted in a clinical improvement in their condition. The group not given folic acid showed no improvement.
Vitamin C, already known for its beneficial effects on the immune system, may also help with manic and depressive episodes. A double-blind study discovered that following the administration of three grams of this nutrient, those experiencing either a depressive or a manic episode were greatly improved.
In a similar vein, many are now beginning to find their bipolar symptoms lessen when they avoid certain foods. Even individuals who previously didn’t think they possessed food sensitivities discover this when they avoid certain foods. Gluten is probably the most common food people cite being sensitive to. This protein is found in grains like wheat, rye, oats and barley. Others report when they steer clear of chocolate, their symptoms are not nearly as bad. Casein – a protein found in dairy products – triggers symptoms in yet other individuals.
If you eliminate all of these and still find your bipolar symptoms have not improved, then evaluate what you eat and drink. If you are consuming anything with aspartame, try eliminating this artificial sweetener from your diet. It appears to intensify the mood swings of bipolar disorder.
And if you suffer from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which can reduce the glucose supply to the brain, you may very well find that your symptoms may increase in severity. This can contribute to the manic and depressive episodes.