Bipolar disorder, or bipolar depression, affect millions of American adults each year. For many, healthy routines – including diet, exercise, stress reduction, and sleep – are part of a well-rounded treatment plan.
Though no one “bipolar diet” exists, wise dietary choices that not only help in optimum brain functioning, but also help with weight and overall health.
Diets, rich in red meats, trans fats, refined sugar, and simple carbohydrates, can spell disaster for the bipolar individual. These foods not only increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, but may also lack the essential nutrients needed to properly balance brain function.
The ideal diet for people with Bipolar Disorder should include fresh fruits and vegetables (organic is always better!), legumes, whole grains, lean meats, fish, soy products, low fat dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds. A few specific pointers for maximizing the benefits of food for bipolar individuals are listed below.
- Cold-water fish (especially salmon) can be a wonderful addition to the diet, as it also contains substantial amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, a proven supplement for healthy brain function. Walnuts, flaxseed, and flaxseed oil contain alpha-linolenic acid, are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Protein helps lift mood and alertness by stimulating the production of dopamine and norepinephrine.
- Vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables like spinach, should be included. Folic acid, found in leafy green vegetables, is one of three officially recognized natural supplements for bipolar disorder.
- Restrict refined, over-processed grain and cereals. Highly refined carbohydrates convert to sugar quickly and result in weight gain and fatigue, and also impair mental or cognitive functions by giving you a sluggish feeling. Slow release unrefined carbohydrates, however, can help initiate the body’s relaxation response and fight stress.
- Replace unhealthy fats with the omega series, especially omega 3. Use supplements that combine omega 3, 6, and 9, as well as pure olive oil, while removing other oils from the diet as much as possible. Flaxseed oil is another great oil to use.
- Limit alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants.
As with any other healthy diet, caloric intake should be monitored. These are important elements of a good bipolar diet.
In addition to dietary needs, regular exercise remains a key component of a healthy lifestyle for bipolar individuals. Consistent exercise has been shown to boost and regulate mood, improve circulation, and oxygen uptake by the brain/
Bipolar individuals may wish to consider yoga and tai chi, which emphasize the mind-body-spiritual connection. Unlike intensely competitive sports, these low-impact mindful practices may help reduce the severity of both manic and depressive episodes.
Meditation can prove useful in helping to control mood swings while balancing mood.
Finally, making sure that you control stress and get enough sleep will help round out a holistic approach to treating Bipolar Disorder. Many people with bipolar disorder may find that an episode of depression or mania might start after they have been under more stress than usual. Nobody functions well without rest, or in a continuous high-stress environment.
Make one or two small changes to your current lifestyle, and call on a health coach if you need some help! Managing Bipolar Disorder holistically is a real possibility.