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How Food Changed Bipolar Disorder for Me

Carley Cooper

Controlling our Bipolar Disorder is a full time job, even during the good times. We have meds, psychotherapy, and other standard treatments. However, have you considered food as a form of treatment? I've discovered there are certain foods that help me keep the Bipolar roller coaster on the up side.

Here’s My Story in a Nutshell
It all started several years ago when I was in a period where I didn't want to take my meds (That's not the case anymore). During this time I learned much about diet and exercise as a way to keep myself in check. I had a goal of improving my mental health before it was too late. I was on a downward spiral that was out of control and getting worse fast. I believed that going natural was the only thing I could trust as being 'right'. To me, 'natural' meant God's way, and I knew I couldn't go wrong following that route. I started reading anything and everything I could get my hands on about healthy living. I also started testing myself with certain foods that I read are believed to help. I was my own guinea pig for testing.

Some Foods Believed to Help Depression
The foods that I have found helped me are:
• Green Tea (has a long list of benefits in general; green tea can be a blog on it’s own)
• Pro-biotic Yogurt (helps keep me regular, which helps to improve my mood)
• Blueberries
• Raspberries
• Strawberries
• Flax Seed
• Flax Oil
• Oatmeal
• Spinach (fresh; not canned or frozen). I use it to make salads instead of lettuce. It gives me a major energy boost when I eat it.
• Salmon
• Chicken
• Bananas (increases serotonin)
• Chocolate – Dark, (increases serotonin) 70% or more Coco (avoid Milk-chocolate)
• Nuts (in particular, Almonds and Walnuts)
• Apple Cider Vinegar (Raw with Mother). In the beginning, I tried actual organic apple cider vinegar mixed in water (a table spoon in a glass of water 3 – 4 times per day), but the vinegar after several months started to hurt my stomach, so I switched to ACV capsules - extra strength, organic version. For 4 years I was medication free because of these. But you have to figure out the dosage. I took 8 capsules each morning with breakfast. DO NOT quit your meds without consulting your doctor first.)
• Whole Grain breads, pastas, and cereals

Other Ways to Help Your Mood
• Eat foods that are slow to digest - Foods that are high in fiber such as beans, oats, brown rice, apples, and other fruits and vegetables are good examples.
• High-fiber foods are also an important staple
• Protein also helps to avoid blood sugar crashes - Some good sources of protein are chicken, fish, eggs, seeds and nuts, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese and milk, tofu, and peanut butter. Ideally, you should combine protein and carbohydrates at every meal.
• Often, it’s how we put foods together that makes a difference. Combining protein and carbohydrates can help slow digestion and help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
• Avoid concentrated sources of simple sugars, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, jellies and jams, syrups, and candy bars.
• Go for Fatty Acids - Omega-3s, the essential fatty acids found in walnuts, flaxseed, and coldwater fish, such as salmon.
• Limit Alcohol and Caffeine - alcohol is a depressant. Caffeine interrupts sleep cycles, which is important for good mood. If you drink caffeine, don’t stop abruptly as that might cause headaches and make you more irritable.
• Take a B-vitamin Complex supplement – specifically; B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folic acid; which play a role in the production of brain chemicals that regulate mood. Good food sources for many B vitamins include shellfish, poultry, eggs, low-fat yogurt, and fortified breakfast cereals. Folic acid in particular is found mostly in leafy greens.
• Take vitamin D - helps your brain produce mood-boosting chemicals - The best food sources of vitamin D are fortified dairy products.
• Eating regularly is a key factor in boosting mood. Never let yourself get too hungry. Ideally, you should eat something healthy every four to five hours to keep your blood sugar stable.

The Bad Stuff
In addition to increasing the amount of these foods that I have in my daily diet, there are other things that I stay away from. This helps, at least, as much as the healthy helpful foods. They are:
• White Flour
• Processed foods (if it comes in a can, bag, or box; chances are you don't want it)
• Too much sugar
• Foods with a lot of sugars, alcohols, preservatives, or chemicals listed on the labels (If you can't pronounce the words, or don't know what it is... leave the product in the store.)

Trigger Foods
Finally, I found that certain food were in fact triggering bad episodes for me. I call them 'Trigger Foods'. My trigger foods could be different than yours. You need to keep a detailed journal of what you eat and when, as well as a mood journal listing your physical symptoms as well. Then compare the two. For example, processed cheese slices cause me to go into a bad downward spiral starting about 20 minutes after I eat them. It also causes severe 'Foggy Brain Syndrome' that will last for at least 24 hours. Other trigger foods cause me to go into a bad depression, sometimes even with a lot of crying. By keeping the food and mood journals you can find patterns between your eating and your mood swings. This will help you find your trigger foods. Once you find them, you will know what to avoid to keep bad episodes at a minimum.

My trigger foods are:
• Artificial Sweeteners (gives me severe Foggy Brain Syndrome, and often confusion)
• Fat Free products (I know the world is preaching fat-free, but it doesn’t agree with me, so I avoid them)
• Lactose (dropping dairy with lactose from my diet increased my energy levels by leaps and bounds)
• Processed Cheese Slices (gives me depression, emotional outbursts, Foggy Brain Syndrome)
• Carbonated Soft Drinks (same results as artificial sweeteners)
• Other drinks made from crystals, such as Kool-aid (same results as artificial sweeteners and processed cheese)
• Some red food-dyes (give me migraine headaches)

You can Do It Too!
These lists are very basic, and are just a jumping off point. I hope this information can help you get started on your own healthy eating program that can be geared to help Bipolar Disorder. Oh, and exercise regularly! It helps so very much to increase your mood.

I'm writing a book on this subject, but it won't be ready for release for about another year.

by Carley Cooper; Blog Websites: CarleyCooper.com, Worship Melodies and Tin Roof Sundae. Also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Comments

Thank you so much for sharing. I am in my early stages, and I am trying to avoid taking medication for as long as I can while maintaining a healthy mental state. Your story and guidance are very inspirational and helpful.

I am a female aged 40, my marriage to my wonderful hubby is 14 years now and we have been blessed with 3 kids aged 13, 8 & 5. I have been suffering from bipolar since age 17/18. Have been off medication since 2005 because
no meds worked for me. I do the following
to keep stable and have been very succesful:
(my health is good, doing well in my career, I
am an Executive Manager in ICTM, also
completing my MBA this year and will apply
for a PhD study in 2016).
Take 3 tablespoons of coconut oil daily, 3 tablespoons omega3 oil daily, 1 capsule Lecithin daily, cup of crudeblack molasses 1-2 times a day, magnesium supplements, probiotics, cup of green tea atleast 4 times a week, cayenne pepper and tumeric in my food or sometimes just make cayenne+tumeric tea, take no sugary stuff, no wheat and gluten foods, no caffeine, no alcohol, no smoking, no meds that have alcohol in them, gym atleat 4 times a week, have tried hatha yoga as well, afford myself lots of "ME" time, surrond myself with positive people. I research a lot on bipolar and improve my diet and lifestyle as I come across new helpful information - always check advantages and side-effects especially if having other medical conditions such as low blood pressure, heart condition, etc - always check with your Doctor if in doubt. I get very mild episodes at times when work or studies become too stressful however, many atimes I can sense an episode coming and do the right thing to stop it on its tracks and my husband is very suppirtive and at times he alerts me when he thinks i am going off balance.

If medication works for you, good for you, however, I believe even people on meds need a good diet.
Stay blessed.

my 7 year old grandson has been diagnosed with bipolar. i am raising him and would like to help him all the information i can find is on teens or adults and i don't know where to start i don know what foods to give and not give a typical wide open 7 year old or know where to get information
help!

Hey Deedee,
Great job to your family and grandson for going ahead and getting the diagnosis he needs. It's can be a hard one to live with and get beyond but many people live with it for years without knowing what they have and it can really mess people's life up. Setting your grandson up with the right foods (and avoiding the wrong ones) can change the outcome of his bipolar and make it much more manageable in the years to come. Yet a lot of these foods are much less palatable for a 7 year old, but you can definitely find ways to work them in. Here are some ideas: smoothies are a great way to add food that's your grandson might find unfavorable. Fish oil is one of them, my mom used to add this to my smoothies and we never noticed. They come flavored too, she used to feed us the one that tasted like strawberry. You can also try to stick some greens in there too but take your time and build up to this- a totally green smoothie that tastes like kale is a quick way to lose a 7 year-olds trust when it comes to making food. Check out green smoothie recipes online and experiment with adding leafy greens like spinach. Smoothies are also a great way to get antioxidants, so make sure to add in lots of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries to make the smoothie sweet. Just beware of grapefruit if he is being medicated with an anti-convulsant (like Lamictal) as it can screw things up in regards to medicine intake. For the base of the smoothie I recommend using flax milk or coconut milk, flax milk is a great way to pack in those Omega-3s which you really want to create a balance of, and coconut milk is just all around good for you and delicious (try to get unsweetend milk or at least watch the sugar count, sugar is a huge trigger for bipolar people.)
To work in more Omega-3s, try serving him salmon burgers, fish and chips, or tuna sandwiches. With any burger or sandwich you can usually add a fair amount of greens (I recommend the organic "spring mix" that comes in plastic containers) so long as you layer it with condiments he likes. If he doesn't like avocados you can cook with avocado oil to get some of that fat. If he'll eat yogurt, coconut yogurt or just plain yogurt (if he is not lactose intolerant, check with an allergy test) is an easy way to input finely chopped walnuts, ground flax seed, and blueberries into his diet. All of these foods are great for bipolar and help stabilize moods. For the most part, just try to keep him on a healthy diet and explore healthy foods with him, finding out what he likes and what you maybe need to introduce as he gets older and his tastes change. Above all else, PLEASE AVOID SUGAR! Check the nutrition information of ALL the food and beverages he ingests and if it seems like a lot of sugar (over 9 grams is usually my limit but I'm a young adult,) do not feed it to him, even if he wants it. You might have to entice him into eating certain foods by asking him to take "adventure bites," you may have to put your foot down more than you want to get him to avoid the foods that will trigger him, but boy, if you get this stuff down now, he- and all of his friends, teachers, and family, will thank you later. It is an amazing thing that you are doing, bipolar is tough, but you and your grandson have got this. Keep pushing on girlfriend!

Thank goodness your grandson was diagnosed early. And how remarkable you are in caring so much about him. I wish you well, both of you. I got my diagnosis in my early 50s. I'd been in talk therapy with a psychologist who didn't believe in meds--probably because he couldn't prescribe. My life, my relationship with with my husband and son were irretrievably damaged. A word about depression. TCS cures it. If you have MDD it is covered by Medicare. My current brilliant p-doc, Carol Berman, NYC, believes in a few years Medicare will cover it for BP. My supportive wonderful husband who stuck by me literally mortgaged our house to pay for my TCS. It worked. I realized I had been depressed as a child for when the treatment was complete I felt a zest for living I had never known. This year I've had a cancerous tumor removed from my right lung and face a complete knee replacement in September. Yet I'm still holding together. I also think TCS helps my BP II.

I have been diagnosed with BP 2.
I m researching & trying to learn about it & this artical came up & I don t know what your abbreviation mean. Please help me. Thank You.

Am really glad u can manage it naturally ...do u have bipolar one or two?am going well with medications ...and healthy habits and food plays the main part

may i ask what you sense,when one is coming?

you are lucky you are married...i am still single...and i am not sure someone will accept me when i have bipolar...

Which type of bipolar are you I or 2?

i do not know it exactly...i did not ask my doctor. but i had mania bipolar

Must be an error - 1-2 cups a day? Molasses is very high In sugar. Did you mean a tbs or rbsp?

How did you come up with this combination of supplements?

Hi DK. I know your comment is from 2 years ago but I hope you see this.

Your comment was so straightforward and honestly made me cry, because it has been my hope for 7 years since I was 18 and first diagnosed (it was a violating, life-altering and overdramatic experience) that I could find balance in my life on my own terms. Number one conviction of mine has been the right kind of nutrition. If there is an imbalance within, it not for a lack of lithium. It is systemic and must therefore be treated holistically with the whole person in mind.

I am transitioning off of meds and working at it every day, it has already been about 1.5 months and I can sense my body transitioning. I am extremely vigilant and working at filling my body with the right things and creating a lifestyle around long-term med-free existence.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It honestly gives me so much hope and also validates my desire to take care of myself in a way that is true to my self. I am so glad I came across ibpf, cheers.

Question; Is it really 1-2 cups of molasses per day? Or is that a typo?

Thanks so much for your story.

I loved this. I hate going back and forth between my meds because I start becoming almost addicted to my mania if that makes any sense. I notice when my diet falls into place my mood does too. I like that you validated a lot of things for me in this :)

hi your page is very informative my partner has bipolar and is look to better himself thought his food choose

Green tea and theanine caps have made a big difference in my bipolar disorder. The GABA produced by green tea balances out the added glutamine to even out your mood. My psychiatrist is now a believer. I still take my one med a day, but green tea has helped a great deal.

Wow, Michelle Matcha works so well for me too!

Which green tea helped you

I'm hoping to incorporate the healthy diet suggestions I have read here to my life along with my medication. I am bi polar 1 very fragile rapid cycling sometimes multiple times in a day. I'm hoping to find a balance between western and eastern medicine as well. I will also be starting on acupuncture for pain as my muscle relaxers and pain meds cause me to rapid cycle.

I've just recently been diagnosed as a type 1 Bi-polar. My symptoms happen daily also, and it's very tiring. I'm right now studying about the proper eating habits for Bi-polar. I don't plan on taking any prescribed meds, it's something I've decided for myself. I do smoke Marijuana though to help. I'm not saying it's for everyone, but for me it creates a sense of peace or allows my thoughts to slow down enough to come to my senses. It prevents me from looking past my family in those times. But it also has had the "Hippie effect" on me, and I'm not a hippie. But it does make me feel connected with the world around me, which is very important to have. It's also opened my eyes to things like diets, exercise, yoga, meditation etc. I plan on continuing battling this on my terms. That's the most important thing to remember, is that it's on your terms. Everyday is a battle and everyday has to be studied and you learn everyday of something new, positive or negative. Good luck with yours, I know how it is.

cannabis is a known cause of mania...although it may offer immediate relief it prolongs the manic phase

Yes there’s been quite a few studies read about thc induced mania I gave a family member going through this now

Thank you so much for your very interesting article. I'm trying to help a friend right now and the main thing I'm noticing is her diet. I think her diet is horrible! This helps explain so much! Is your book out yet. I would love to read it.

My son was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, spent 10days in the hospital. They started him on 2 meds which he has stopped taking. He still drinks, smokes cigarettes and marijuana, his diet is very poor. He drinks a lot of soda, coffee and energy drinks. He lives alone and has stopped communicating with his siblings. Luckily, he still calls me and sometimes his dad. I am Very worried about him driving when he gets in a manic state or just starts laughing for no reason at all. This is new to me and I'm not handling it well. If someone is experiencing something similar, please let me know how you're coping. Thanks

Hi Grace, did things ever improve with your son? hope you are doing well.

Grace; I found this site incredibly valuable:

http://www.bipolarcaregivers.org/supporting-the-person

If your son is in danger of hurting himself or someone else, you can try and get him hospitalized until he is out of the woods. Contact your local mental health organization: or local nami.org chapter.

In the meantime, the energy drinks and poor diet can be making things worse. As can alcohol abuse. Blood sugar spikes and crashes can exacerbate mood problems, and stimulants can trigger mania and make sleep problems worse.

For many bi-polar individuals, the mania is addictive when it's mild. The problems come from the fact that it feels so good, it's hard to reign in before it gets out of control. Plus they often don't remember how bad they felt and acted when they were psychotic or out of control. Another issue is the more episodes of mania one has had, the more likely it is that they will increase in frequency and intensity. Medications may need to be adjusted over the course of a year or two or more in order to help, and in the meantime, side effects can be very burdensome.

Encourage your son to make lifestyle changes that will reduce his susceptibility to mania and depression while continuing to get psychotherapy and take the medication. This is a very serious disease and lack of treatment makes for a poor prognosis. Educate yourself and him as much as you are able to and make sure and talk through these issues when he is well, and cultivate a firm, gentle & supportive role ias much as you can. .

Bipolar, ADHD, addiction, I've heard it all get lumped together as a syndrome of sorts. I know there is a lot of overlap. When I have sugar, I often go to town on it then for at least the next 24 hours, I feel bad, irritable, fatter than I really am and tired. I know that everything in moderation is a common expression, but when it comes to eating right, this is very black and white for me. There seems to be no such thing as "not too much sugar" it's either a whole bunch and then some, or it's zero grams. I wish I could control and enjoy my food, but often I find myself either controlling it or enjoying it, but not both. However, when I do exercise more regularly, it helps a lot because I am doing great things for myself on the elliptical getting my heart rate up. What to do about meds that make you want to eat and eat and eat some more? Get off of them? That would't be good, but maybe experimenting with Doc's help to be less medicated would help. Any suggestions for increased appetite and voracious sugar addiction? Thanks for this website and Happy new year

I hear you! My psychologist told me the average weight gain for those on lithium is 20kg! So far I've managed to keep it to 7kg - and I'm still well over my normal weight. Sugar is a big one for me too. The best thing working for me is exercise, and LOTS of it. It suppresses my appetite, and I'm too busy exercising to eat! It does get tedious though, I have mix up my routine regularly. Hope this helps..

Hello and thank you for sharing your efforts.
I have bi-polar 2 and have suffered radically from childhood. I too tried to alter my diet and have had success however may I add that all grains (ALL and any form including corn) have had very very devastating reactions on me. So I gave them up too.
So far so good. I will never be able to drop my meds but that's ok. Right now, I'm able to keep my job and be a mom without being in the Emergency room.
Thumbs up and best luck to you on your health journey!

This is amazing thank you so much for taking the time to research this and share it with others who have Bipolar Disorder!

thanks alot. I recently spent months in hospital because I couldn't snap outer it.stress ,alcohol and family problems are the worst for this disorder. go to counsellors,get help,avoid stress and get a hobby but this page was really helpful because I didn't know diet affected it as well.thank you

Thank you. Great article. I have been on meds for years and am looking to reduce/get off them by making many changes. diet and supplements are one component of these changes. Today I learned the importance of B vitamins - I never used to eat greens, so started taking supplements today until I get into the habit if eating greens.
Cheers
Mark

I have ADD and suspected for a long time that my mood swings and brain fog are caused by bi-polar. I feel so clear headed in the mornings but the fog sets in mid morning or mid day. Will change diet and avoid alcohol and pray thatvit helps as I wouldvlike to avoid meds. This was very helpful and encouraging.

It's brilliant to read of your experiences because I've just watched a programme on BBC1 about bipolar disease and at the end of it wondered why no one had mentioned that diet might help. I had a strange experience in my 30s which was food/mood related but fortunately was already aware of the effect of food on my general well-being(I'd been diagnosed by a nutritionist several years before as lactose intolerant). So when I became very depressed after eating a meal of highly processed food on two separate occasions, I quickly made the connection and avoided them afterwards. So far so good, thirty years later!! I started taking extra B6 which also helped my mother when she became very low. I also read a book by an American nutritionist/psychologist who did food trials on prisoners which showed that eating a healthy diet like the one you describe had a very positive effect on their mood and behaviour. So keep spreading the word in the hope that more people will get the message!

Thank you for considering what my experiences have been with these symptoms there is so much more to say about intolerence and a lot of natural foods making sure we never get deficient, and then all the refined and highly processed so called foods to avoid!
Experience teaches us so much. I read a book written by a psychiatrist Richard Mcarness called not all in the mind excellent reading

I recently discovered I am bipolar as symptoms have increased rapidly within the past year. It's been SO tiring dealing with different types of crazy ups and downs every single day. I refuse to go on medication because I believe it's too much of an easy/lazy fix and I don't trust pharmaceutical meds. Also I think diets have to do with a lot of how our mood is!. So I'm very happy to have found your article and excited to start stabilizing my mood with this diet and excersize. Thank you so much for posting!.

Hi! I'm very glad to know that many of you did better for depression and mood swings trough diet.
I was diagnosed bipolar for some years and I'm on meds but it's getting worse and worse. I went to see an hollist doctor that prescribed me an anti-inflamatory diet + a supplement. I'm doing this for over 4 months and nothing.
I'm experience the most terrible toughs, I expect always the worse from people and life in general, I can't be in social events, not even with close friends, I can't concentrate, I can't think right (I have 2 degrees and it was always easy for me in the university and I was was I successful professionally), small tasks are overwhelming, I'm very emotional, I can't keep a job (I run a small tourism by myself and that's it), but I had to quit my professional area. Intellectual incapacity (I feel really dum) and loneliness derived from the social phobia are the worst. This is a nightmare. Everyday is a struggle.
I find it very difficult to motivate and impose myself the rules to make a healthy lifestyle and also, I have been doing this diet for so long and it didn't make any difference so now I find it difficult to have hope.
I'm seeing a therapist which is making this more bearable.
If anyone have experienced something alike, or can give me a helpful advice, I'd be grateful.
*Sorry for the bad english.

Isabel, I'm so sorry you are struggling. I struggle everyday just to get out of bed but have finally got an antidepressant that helps. I have been on many. Unfortunately some didn't work or some would cause side affects that might never go away. ( Latuda). See your psychiatrist to change your meds. There are so many out there. Hopefully you will be able to find one that helps.

Hi Isabel,
Espero que leas esto. No pierdas la esperanza. Tal vez tengas que tomar mas suplementos y probioticod xq sino mejoras tu flora no podras absorver los micronutrientes como el magnesio, zinc y vits que son tan importantes. Chequea en internet al dr Mensah y Hyman. Inositol selenium y vit B6 son imp pero escribe a dr Mensah seguidor de dr Walsh. Ellos hacen unos blood tests y descubren tu tipo de methylation y que quimicos te faltan o sobran. Si hay esperanza!

Hey there, after reading your list I decided to give it a try and it works!!!

hey how are you ?
is the book released or not yet ? and what is the name of your book ?
thank you

Hi there. Thank you for sharing this insightful information. I'm really going to give it a serious try. I have bipolar type 1

Thank you

Thanks for the great advice. I would like to know how many episodes you had gone through before you were able to stop meds for 4 years.

I have been on meds for seven yrs now .Thanks for good advice I will try diet

Was diagnosed with bipolar in 2007. Been on every med there is. Recently started getting vitamin B-12 shots because of gastric surgery my body can not digest vitamin B-12 in pill form My last severe episode was four years ago. I had to stop taking depakote because it makes me extremely nauseated. I am on a feeding pump because. I have a severe case of gastroparesis. I am seeing a therapist and hope to someday be medicine free. Thank you for sharing this.

Thank you for the information on what helps with bipolar disorder and what to stay away from.

I have even researching how PTSD can actually cause mental illness in the first place.

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