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Bipolar Natural Treatment Diet: Does Diet Affect Bipolar?

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Some people suggest there is a natural diet treatment for bipolar disorder, but does this really exist? The evidence is scant, but here’s what we know about bipolar and diet.

The Natural Diet of a Person with Bipolar Disorder

While everyone is different, research suggests that those with bipolar disorder eat a less-healthy diet when compared to others. It’s not known why this is, but it’s possible that people with bipolar disorder use unhealthy foods to soothe themselves when a mood episode hits.

This has real implications for those with bipolar disorder as comorbid (co-occurring) physical disorders such as metabolic syndrome and obesity are common. Unhealthy bipolar eating habits may also affect the following biological processes that also can be dysregulated in bipolar disorder:

  • Monoaminergic activity (neuron activity that secretes norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin
  • Immune/inflammatory processes
  • Oxidative stress (imbalance between free radicals and the body's ability to counteract free radicals' harmful effects )
  • Mitochondrial activity (mitochondria are involved in metabolism and cell growth and differentiation regulation, among other activities)
  • Neuroprogression (neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative processes)

Carbohydrates, Sugar and Bipolar

While some would say that cutting down on sugar or going low-carb should help the mood of a person with bipolar disorder, there is no evidence that this is the case.

That said, some cases suggest that reducing carbohydrates and sugar in the diet of a person with bipolar could be helpful for some, especially those that are overweight.

On the other hand, there are reports of fatigue and a more negative mood in those deliberately going without carbohydrates. Moreover, there is now a case report of a case of psychosis associated with the Atkins diet (a carbohydrate-free diet).

The conclusion of bipolar expert, Jim Phelps MD, is the following:

“. . . these bits of evidence support the idea that in people who already have metabolic syndrome (e.g. very overweight, pre-diabetic), a dietary approach could have a positive impact on mood symptom control; but a rigorous Atkins approach with very little or no carbohydrate could have some opposite effects in the short run.”

A Diet that Treats Bipolar

Research is mixed, but it is thought that an overall, healthier diet heavy in fish and vegetables can positively impact mood and improve mood stability. However, this may only be the case for some with bipolar disorder. For example, one study only found an association between bipolar depression symptoms (and not other bipolar symptoms) and diet in men.

Regardless, a healthy diet will always have benefits for anyone, including those with bipolar disorder.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2017, April 14). Bipolar Natural Treatment Diet: Does Diet Affect Bipolar? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-natural-treatment-diet-does-diet-affect-bipolar

Last Updated: June 4, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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