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Managing Bipolar Disorder With Diet

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  • There are certain foods that may exacerbate the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and it’s best to remove them from your diet to avoid unexpected mood swings
  • Consult your doctor about your food triggers to determine the best dietary approach to manage your condition

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, then you probably know that it’s an incurable condition that is typically controlled by conventional methods like psychotherapy and medications. But did you know that your diet may also influence the prognosis of this mental health problem?

The imbalanced brain chemicals that cause bipolar disorder may also cause you to crave “hyperpalatable” foods, which are sugary, salty, fatty and generally unhealthy. What’s worse is that the medications for this condition may also cause weight gain.1

Following a diet that’s specifically tailored to your needs not only enables you to maintain a healthy weight, but also helps you take control of your mood swings. Knowing the foods that you should and shouldn’t eat can be a first step to reducing the effects of bipolar disorder on your quality of life.

Beware of Foods That May Trigger Your Mood Swings

There are certain foods that may exacerbate the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and it’s best to remove them from your diet to avoid unexpected mood swings. These foods include:2,3

Caffeinated beverages — Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, soda and energy drinks, may trigger and/or worsen some symptoms of bipolar disorder, including sleeping problems, nervousness and high blood pressure.

Processed products — Numerous studies have shown that processed foods, aka a “Western” diet, can impair your mental health by destabilizing the brain chemicals and gut flora.

They usually contain either high amounts of red meats, or foods with too many carbohydrates, including refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, gluten and other food additives — all of which are bad for your health. Plus, they may contain trans fats, which can significantly reduce the serotonin levels in the brain, leading to serious mental health issues, like bipolar disorder.

Alcoholic drinksPatients with bipolar disorder have a higher chance of developing alcohol misuse and dependence in an effort to alleviate disturbing mood symptoms. Unfortunately, alcohol does not help with mood swings. In fact, it’s the leading trigger of depressive episodes in bipolar patients, not to mention that it also hinders the treatment of this mental health problem.

Choose Foods That Can Help Keep Your Mood Stable and Calm

Eating a diet that consists of healthy and organic foods not only wards off the debilitating symptoms of bipolar disorder, but improves your overall health as well. Here are some of the foods that you should load up on if you’re diagnosed with this condition:

Healthy fats — Healthy fats, such as saturated and omega-3 fats, are vital for optimal brain function and mental health.4 You can get omega-3 fats from animal-based sources, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, anchovies and sardines. On the other hand, saturated fats can be obtained from avocado, grass fed meat, organic pastured eggs, and certain seeds and raw nuts.

Probiotics — Eating foods that are rich in probiotics, such as fermented vegetables, natto and kefir, helps balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut. This leads to better production of serotonin and dopamine, which are vital brain chemicals that influence mood and neurologic function.5

Green leafy vegetables — Green leafy vegetables, like spinach, mustard greens and Swiss chard, are rich in magnesium, which may help decrease your dependence on medication by naturally stabilizing your mood.6,7 They’re also high in folate, which is found to be helpful in lowering the risk of depressive episodes.8,9

Fruits — Fresh organic fruits, especially those that are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, may help reduce your stress levels by regulating the cortisol in your body. Plus, they help boost the condition of your immune system. Some of the best fruits for bipolar disorder include blueberries, raspberries, oranges and bananas. Be sure to eat these fruits in moderation, though, since they contain fructose, which may be bad for your health if ingested in excessive amounts.10

Chicken and turkey — Chicken and turkey are protein-rich lean meat choices that contain high levels of tryptophan,11 an essential chemical that stimulates serotonin production.12 While the foods mentioned above are generally good for your overall health, you should still consult your doctor before making any dietary changes, especially if you’re taking medications for your condition.

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Additional Dietary Tips That You Should Remember

If your treatment approach for bipolar disorder involves the use of lithium, then you should monitor your salt intake regularly and keep it at a consistent level. A sudden change in salt intake may disrupt your treatment efforts, or worse, put your health at risk.13

Following a regular eating schedule may help control mood swings, so make sure that you eat at regular times every day. You should also consider keeping a food journal to see if your mood swings are associated with certain meals. Consult your doctor about your food triggers to determine the best dietary approach to manage your condition.14


Bipolar Disorder: An Introduction

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder in Children

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Bipolar Disorder Causes

Bipolar Disorder Types

Bipolar Disorder Test

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar Disorder Prevention

Living with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder Diet

Bipolar Disorder FAQ

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