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Bipolar Diet: How Different Foods Affect Bipolar Symptoms

Could a bipolar diet help you better manage your bipolar disorder symptoms? Get trusted information on bipolar and diet on HealthyPlace.

A bipolar diet is a quick and natural way to manage some of the challenging symptoms of bipolar disorder (some bipolar symptoms can cause appetite loss).  When someone receives a bipolar disorder diagnosis, a combination of bipolar medication and psychotherapy is the most commonly prescribed treatment regimen.  Research has shown these are the most effective approaches to the overall treatment of bipolar disorder. However, including a bipolar diet, (along with getting enough sleep and adequate exercise) can help in terms of decreasing some bipolar disorder symptoms and improving your overall quality of life.

Bipolar Diet

A bipolar diet, depending on specific symptoms and overall health, may look slightly different from person to person and might include the ketogenic diet for bipolar. Nonetheless, there are common suggestions when it comes to a general bipolar diet plan.

  • Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids – one of the most well-researched aspects of the bipolar diet, omega-3’s, like those found in wild Alaskan salmon and other kinds of fatty fish, are shown to decrease depressive symptoms. Because those with bipolar almost always experience periods of depression, making sure you get enough omega-3 essential fatty acids is vital.  Other fatty fish options with high levels of omega-3 fats are sardines, anchovies, oysters, albacore tuna, and Pacific halibut.
  • Magnesium – lithium is one of the most common mood stabilizers prescribed to those with bipolar, and magnesium functions in much of the same way as lithium. Adding magnesium to your bipolar diet plan, you may notice decreased manic symptoms. Also, boosting your magnesium intake can positively affect sleep quality. Foods high in magnesium include black beans, pumpkin seeds, spinach, swiss chard, soybeans, and sunflower seeds.
  • Healthy Fats –found in avocados, low-fat dairy, nuts, and fish provide the nutrients essential to healthy brain function and emotion regulation, thus being a staple on the bipolar diet food list.

As with any diet, those on a bipolar disorder diet may want to avoid some foods as well.

  • Refined Carbohydrates – carbs come in many forms, but in general, refined carbohydrates are usually those found in manufactured foods.  Although a bipolar diet suggests nixing the refined carbs, eating whole grains (like barley, oats, quinoa, etc.) is just fine.
  • Refined Sugar – mood swings are inherent to bipolar disorder, so eating anything that could exacerbate these ups and downs is a big no-no.  Refined sugar, which spikes insulin levels, does just that.  Of course, there are ways to satisfy a sweet tooth on a bipolar diet; try using stevia (a naturally sweet herb that does not affect insulin) instead of artificial or refined sugars.
  • Alcohol – drinking alcohol can be detrimental to those with bipolar for various reasons.  Alcohol has been known to negatively interact with many bipolar medications and can cause a person to become quite ill.  Other reasons to steer clear of alcohol when following a bipolar diet is its likelihood of causing sleep problems as well as increasing prevalence and severity of mood swings.
  • Grapefruit – although dependent on the specific medication, many anticonvulsants (frequently prescribed for bipolar disorder) negatively interact with grapefruit and grapefruit juice.  Beware of this if medication is part of your treatment plan.

Although following a bipolar diet will not cure your bipolar disorder, it may help manage symptoms and improve quality of life.  When considering any change in your lifestyle, including your diet, or change to your treatment regimen, you should first discuss these things with your doctor prior to making any changes.

article references

APA Reference
Jarrold, J. (2018, May 30). Bipolar Diet: How Different Foods Affect Bipolar Symptoms, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar/foods-and-bipolar/bipolar-diet-how-different-foods-affect-bipolar-symptoms

Last Updated: June 3, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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