Bipolar disorder can be a crippling illness to deal with. This one is often referred to as manic depressive and can end up taking over a person’s entire life.
It affects the person both mentally and physically to a point that it becomes almost impossible to go about their daily life – both their personal and work life. With that said it’s no wonder that people seek medical treatment for this mental illness.
While there are a number of different prescription-based drugs that can help treat the disorder, not everyone wants to take this route yet they still want relief from the illness. This is when people turn to natural remedies for bipolar disorder.
While the natural route may not be the best idea for those suffering from a severe case of the illness, those with mild to moderate cases of bipolar disorder can often find relief through a variety of natural routes.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what bipolar disorder is, how it affects the person, what the typical treatment path is, and how and what natural remedies can help. In some cases, a person may opt to try a few different remedies at once.
Remember it’s on a case-by-case basis about what works best for you and it’s always recommended you speak to your doctor before you start on any remedy/course of action.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar Disorder is also called manic depression and is a mental illness that can affect people. It has been shown that it can be hereditary, so if someone in the family has it there’s a good chance others will.
The way this illness works is that it affects the person’s brain by creating changes that occur often and without notice. These changes include a drastic change in a person’s energy, mood, activity level, and the ability to perform regular everyday activities.
This illness shouldn’t be confused with people who have a bad day, followed by a good day. This is just the normal flow of life that goes up and down. With bipolar disorder the shifts are drastic and the person can’t just snap out of the “down” periods.
Although no specific cause has been identified for the disorder, doctors and scientists seem to be in agreement that there are a number of risk factors that actually work together. Even though a cause hasn’t been identified for sure, it does seem to develop in the late teenage years or the early years of adulthood.
Different Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is divided into four different types. When a person is being diagnosed by a professional physician they will be able to determine what category the person falls into. The types are:
Bipolar I Disorder – This is the most severe type of bipolar disorder. In this type, people have episodes that last long amounts of time, at least seven days. The person suffers from manic symptoms that are quite severe.
Bipolar II Disorder – This type of bipolar disorder doesn’t involve mixed or manic episodes to the extreme or severe level. The person also goes through a pattern of episodes.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – If a person has the symptoms of bipolar disorder and doesn’t function with “normal” behavior, yet they don’t fit into bipolar I or II they are classed as this type.
Cyclothymic Disorder – If the person has mild depression or hypomania in episodes they are classed as Cyclothymic. This is the mildest form of bipolar disorder, but it is still a form of it.
The Top Signs of Bipolar Disorder
So how can you tell if you are someone you love is suffering from bipolar disorder? Sometimes the symptoms can mask themselves as something else, so it’s always important to be examined and diagnosed by a medical professional.
Here are some of the signs that a person may be suffering from bipolar disorder.
Going through a manic episode. What this means is that the person is going through an episode where they have very high energy. This can be obvious in their physical actions, the way they talk, and the way they think. During these episodes, the person may make decisions that can be harmful or reckless to their well-being.
A change in the way the person socializes. They may find it hard to socialize, they may seem angry or moody, and they can have a hard time keeping friends.
Periods of depression. This is the opposite of the manic times obviously, during these periods the depression can be debilitating and make it hard to go about life in a normal way.
Problems sleeping. It may be that they have a hard time staying asleep or falling asleep, both of which are classed as insomnia. Of course, lack of sleep only contributes to their overall unwell feeling.
Changes in the way the person normally acts. This can mean anything, it can mean you go from being a neat and tidy individual to someone who lets the mess build up, a person who usually has lots of happy energy suddenly just wants to sleep all day, it can mean any changes to behavior.
The person could suffer from thoughts about suicide or causing harm to themselves.
Not following through on things. Instead of following through on promises, appointments, and tasks, suddenly they have no desire to finish them.
Why Treatment is Important
Seeking treatment for bipolar disorder is extremely important not only so that the person can function physically but that they also get that relief mentally and get back to feeling like themselves.
It is a chronic illness, so it will never go away or be cured instead it’s about managing the symptoms.
There are plenty of prescription medications available to help treat the bipolar disorder but they can sometimes cause unwanted side effects such as feeling tired, a period of weight gain, shakes, and trembles, the person may notice they are thirstier than usual, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
For those people who would like help but don’t want to deal with the side effects associated with the prescriptions, there are some natural remedies that have been shown to help treat or at least alleviate the symptoms involved with bipolar disorder.
Top 11 Natural Remedies for Bipolar Disorder
First off it’s important to understand there isn’t going to be a quick fix, in fact, to get control of the symptoms of bipolar disorder it’s really about making changes to a person’s lifestyle.
These changes will need to be kept up with throughout their life. What may start out as a difficult process will definitely become easier over time, and eventually these changes the person has made just become a natural part of their life and they won’t even have to think about them.
1- Making changes to your lifestyle
This is a blanket statement that can seem a bit vague, so what exactly do these “lifestyle changes” mean? These changes include limiting your alcohol intake to a minimum and avoiding any illegal substances.
For people with bipolar disorder, these items can cause depression, which will obviously make your illness worse. Be sure to get enough sleep in each and every mood.
Insomnia is quite common with those suffering from bipolar disorder, and lack of sleep only makes the symptoms of bipolar even more pronounced.
You may want to drink less caffeine during the day if you find this is adding to your inability to sleep. Be sure to eat a well-balanced healthy diet full of the nutrients your body needs. Add regular exercise to your daily life.
It keeps your body healthy and also releases endorphins to your brain, which can help you sleep and help you with feeling better and more energized. Avoid those in your life that tend to bring you down. You need to be around people who are supportive and encouraging.
2- John’s Wort
This is a herbal supplement that is widely received as a natural way to combat the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, in particular depression. There have been a number of studies done on the supplement that have positive results. As far as dosage information goes, your doctor should be able to discuss the ideal amount for you.
3- Fish Oils
Most people just don’t consume enough fish in order to fulfill the body’s need for the Omega-3 fatty acids found in them. Fish Oil is believed to help alleviate depression and help your brain to function better. Other ways in which fish oils can help is that it can help keep your mood more stable, it helps to bring down aggression, and can help with a person’s irritability.
Fish Oil supplements are very easy to find nowadays, as they can be bought in liquid and capsule form. You can also include foods in your diet that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
4- A variety of Amino Acids
There are a select group of amino acids that are believed to be involved in the brain’s neurotransmitters that control and regulate a person’s mood. With that said you can include the supplement form of these amino acids into your daily routine.
The ones that have shown promise are tyrosine, taurine, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e), and phenylalanine. Keep in mind these should be taken under doctor supervision because it’s important to know the correct dose to use.
These have been shown to have serious side effects if the wrong dosage is taken, plus they can sometimes interact with certain medications you may be taking.
5- Light Therapy
There has been attention to light therapy to treat bipolar disorder as of late. There are two different types of light therapy being looked at. Dark therapy is believed to may be of help with rapid cycling.
Meanwhile, light therapy is showing some results in treating depression associated with bipolar. It should be noted that light therapy has been known to also cause mania, so it’s never recommended without consulting your doctor first.
6- Magnesium supplements
This one doesn’t have a lot of research and studies to back it up yet, but it is believed that magnesium can help when it comes to rapid cycling and mania by lessening both of them.
This practice has been around for anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 years depending on whom you speak to. It originated in China and has been used to treat all kinds of illnesses over the last few thousand years.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very small fine needles into certain key points on the body. A trained acupuncturist will know exactly the locations needed in order to treat your particular illness. In terms of bipolar disorder, the practice is used to help with the depression aspect of the illness.
What’s nice about this particular remedy is that it can be used with any other type of medication or treatment method, so it’s a great compliment to your current treatment plan. Just be sure to go to a trained professional.
8- Valerian Root
This root is recommended for a variety of issues as it works by calming the body’s nervous system. It is a natural sedative and can be helpful if insomnia is associated with bipolar disorder.
It also helps with mood and anxiety problems. You can speak to your doctor about the ideal dosage and it can be taken in liquid or capsule form, there are also tea bags with the herb in them.
9- Ashwagandha Root
Thanks to a study that was performed in 2013, this herb is getting quite a bit of attention as of late. The study was done at the University of Pittsburgh and found that the root acted like a nervine tonic. It ended up helping people with social cognition, improving peoples’ reaction time and helping them with their memory.
This is another herb that is showing some positive results in terms of how it affects the neurotransmitters in a person’s brain. This particular herbal supplement can help to calm a person’s nerves. It acts as a mild tranquilizer and sedative.
It can also be helpful if the person is suffering from bipolar related insomnia. If the person goes through depression and anxiety in cycles, again it can prove to be helpful.
11- Include Yoga and meditation in your life
Both of these exercises can have profound effects on a person’s mind and body. They have been shown to help with relaxing people and both techniques can be done by all ages.
They are easy enough to learn on your own or in a class. If possible, including them on a daily basis can prove to be very beneficial to the individual. What’s great is that you can use these techniques anywhere even if you’re traveling.
As well because this isn’t any type of medication you can use this remedy with a combination of anything else. This is more of a lifestyle change.
What to Avoid
There has been plenty of attention about how food plays into bipolar disorder, and with that said there are some foods that are thought to make the bipolar disorder more pronounced and increase the severity of the symptoms. The list of foods that are recommended people avoid or at least limit the intake of are:
You may find that you can tolerate these foods/ingredients within reason; a food journal would be an excellent way to track how they affect you. Be sure to record what time you consumed the item, how much you had, what you felt like shortly after, and for the full day. It may even be helpful to record how you feel the next day, as it could have lasting effects.
Living with bipolar disorder is a very trying and stressful thing, but with the proper diagnosis, a person can get on their way to finding a treatment path that works best for them.
There is no quick fix, no magic one-size-fits-all solution, instead, it often involves a lot of trial and error as you experiment with different options and find what the best products are for you.
It’s always best to go about this process under the watch of your doctor, and a person should never just take themselves off their medication no matter how much better they may be feeling.
As mentioned bipolar disorder is a chronic lifelong illness. It will never be cured or go away instead it’s about managing the illness and hopefully keeping the symptoms at bay or at least lessening them so the person can go about their daily life.
It can be very scary to be diagnosed with the illness but thanks to the many advances in medical research there are lots of options available to people nowadays.