Alternative therapies and holistic medicine can treat or improve the symptoms of a wide range of health problems, including allergies, diabetes, and fibromyalgia, and can also help treat disorders like drug addiction, too. When it comes to psychiatric conditions like bipolar disorder it’s a little more complicated, because these conditions cause specific changes in brain chemistry that are receptive to only very specific kinds of treatment. Despite this, there are many natural methods that people with bipolar disorder can use to help them cope with their symptoms.
Please note that none of these natural solutions are intended as a replacement for prescription medications that are designed to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder. Instead, consider these natural therapies as an addition to a plan that includes medication rather than an alternative to medical treatment prescribed by a physician or psychiatrist. While alternative therapies can help people cope with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, they can’t treat the root cause of the disorder, or treat the symptoms as effectively as medication can. For people with this disorder medication is an absolute requirement in order to prevent or reduce the risk of potentially serious consequences. If you are affected by bipolar disorder and would like to try one of the remedies mentioned in this article, please do so with the full knowledge of your doctor or psychiatrist, and be sure to let them know if you experience any side effects or alterations in your usual pattern of symptoms and behavior.
While there’s no actual “bipolar diet” that has been proven to help people manage their symptoms, avoiding certain types of foods can be of use to some people. For example, stimulants like caffeine are best taken in only moderate amounts, due to the ability of caffeine to disrupt sleep patterns and trigger anxiety. Caffeine is problematic also because it can reduce the effectiveness of sedative medications like benzodiazepines, which some people with bipolar disorder use for symptom management.
It can also be useful to avoid sugar and foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, to prevent blood sugar spikes and their tendency to trigger mood swings. Instead, go for whole unrefined carbohydrate sources, and try to eat plenty of fresh foods whenever possible. It can be helpful to choose foods that can be eaten raw or that don’t require complicated recipes, to make it easier to avoid trigger foods.
Exercise as a Mood Enhancer
There’s a huge amount of evidence to support the idea that exercise improves the mood and helps stave off depression, and while it’s definitely not a cure, exercise is good for both mental and physical health. Exercising—especially cardiovascular exercising—promotes the release of hormones called endorphins, which help lift the mood, and reduce feelings of anxiety. Exercise of any kind will have a beneficial effect, however, and forms of exercise like yoga can be particularly beneficial for their ability to promote relaxation and mental well-being.
If motivation is a problem, try and enlist the help of a friend — someone who’s willing to exercise with you, and help you get going on those days when you’re not in the mood.
Improve Your Sleep with a Daily and Nightly Routine
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help stave off depressive and manic episodes, but unfortunately, insomnia is an extremely common problem for people with bipolar disorder. A large proportion of people with bipolar disorder have trouble with sleeping even when they’re not having an episode, and find it quite difficult to maintain regular sleeping patterns.
One thing that should help, with life in general as well as sleeping in particular, is to establish a set routine: go to sleep at the same time every night, and set an alarm for the same time every morning, even on days where you don’t have any scheduled activities like work or school.
Supplements and More
For the most part, herbal supplements are best avoided, because of the possibility that they might interact unfavorably with psychiatric medications. In particular, any herbs that are considered natural antidepressants or sleep aids should be avoided.
On the other hand, there is evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help improve manic symptoms for some people. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in various types of fish, including mackerel, sardines, and salmon, and are also widely available in supplement form. There is also evidence that supplementing the diet with chromium may also be helpful for managing symptoms of depression in people with bipolar disorder.
By Anne Grange
About the author:
Anne Grange used to work in the healthcare sector – primarily with people who suffered from mental health difficulties. Anne also worked as a volunteer for a number of mental health charities, too. After her marriage and starting her family, she took a step back and started a career as a writer writing informative articles on the subjects she was initially trained in.
A lot can be done to naturally maintain emotional health and a healthy positive mental attitude, and avoid feeling low and unhappy. It is a good idea to keep your natural feel-good chemicals flowing by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grain foods, ensuring plenty of fresh air, adequate sleep, moderate sunshine and regular exercise. Many healthy foods (e.g. bananas, turkey and carbohydrates) contain nutritional precursors of serotonin and this makes them natural ‘mood foods’ to maintain healthy serotonin levels!