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The Bipolar Diet

The first lines of defense against bipolar disorder are often medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but the impact of diet and exercise should not be discounted. Here is a list of foods shown to improve — and worsen — symptoms of bipolar disorder.

A healthy bipolar diet on forks

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Following a bipolar disorder diagnosis, most doctors recommend a regimen of medication and therapy — the best lines of defense against mood disorders. But these treatments can take weeks to reach their full effect, and they are not the only solutions for managing your symptoms and keeping your moods in line.

As it turns out, following a proper sleep schedule, getting plenty of exercise, and eating the right foods can do wonders for bipolar symptoms — and improve your overall health in the process.

A healthy bipolar diet includes the following:

Omega-3s: Multiple studies have shown thatOmega-3 fatty acids like the kinds found in fish and fish oil supplements can help decrease the feelings of depression so common in bipolar patients. Vegetarian? Try getting your Omega-3s from eggs or nuts instead.

Magnesium: Magnesium — found in whole grains, beans, and dark leafy vegetables like spinach — has been shown to have an effect similar to lithium, the most common bipolar medication. Upping your intake of magnesium, a natural mood stabilizer, may decrease your need for medication. (It should be noted, however, that magnesium cannot replace lithium entirely.)

Salt: Seems counterintuitive, right? If you have bipolar disorder, don’t let your salt intake get too low, and definitely don’t cut out salt entirely — salt is very necessary to regulate the levels of bipolar medication in your bloodstream.

Healthy Fats: Healthy fats like those found in avocados and olive oil can help keep you feeling full longer, and decrease your cravings for the “foods to avoid” listed below.

Individuals with bipolar disorder should cut back on the following:

Caffeine: Caffeine and other stimulants can kick mania up a notch. When experiencing a manic phase, avoid coffee, soda, and energy drinks whenever possible. Try herbal teas or infused water instead — the herbs can give you a natural energy boost to overcome slumps.

Sugar: Sugar highs and lows can make an already unbalanced mood even more erratic, and sugar crashes can make a depressive phase much worse. If you really need something sweet, reach for fruit — the natural sugars won’t cause such a drastic blood sugar spike.

Refined Carbohydrates: Bipolar patients may be more prone to obesity, since imbalances of seratonin in their brains may lead them to crave more unhealthy carbohydrates. Ditch the processed junk and get your carbs from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables instead.

Alcohol: Alcohol and bipolar disorder just don’t mix. Not only can alcohol interact poorly with psychiatric medications, it can also disrupt sleep — bad news for an already high-strung bipolar person. Bipolar patients are also more likely than neurotypical people to develop drug or alcohol addictions. In other words, alcohol is not worth the risk.

Grapefruit: Talk to your doctor about your specific situation, but some bipolar medications — particularly anticonvulsants — interact poorly with grapefruit and grapefruit juice.

Food can’t cure your bipolar disorder, and it’s always best to talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. But proper diet and a healthy lifestyle can definitely help get your symptoms under control — and your life back on track.

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