We all go through challenges in life, which is how we grow and develop as people. I challenge myself to balance all areas of my health—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. It is a constant learning process. And one lesson I have learned is that there are effective natural remedies to such mental illnesses as bipolar disorder.
I consider mental health to be equally important as physical health. Depression is the most common mood disorder; it tends to affect everyone at some point in his or her life. In fact, there are about 20 million clinical cases each year. Impaired mental health can create many problems in your life, which may even put your relationships and career in jeopardy.
But there is one specific mental health condition I’d like to focus on today: bipolar disorder.
The Harmful Effects of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a condition that hits home for me. My mother was diagnosed with the condition at age 48—although looking back, it probably went undiagnosed for years, as it is often hard for people to recognize the signs and symptoms of the condition.
It is a roller coaster of a condition that leads to a life full of extreme highs and lows. I recall moments when my mother’s mood would be normal and pleasant. However, that would be the calm before the storm. Arguing with my father, family dysfunction, and issues at work were all regular occurrences.
Unfortunately, these scenarios are common for many people. About 5.7 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, and I can only imagine how many more suffer in silence.
The condition can also cause uncontrollable feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, or emptiness. Physically, the person has adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, sleep problems, and changes with weight or appetite. They also may have issues with memory and concentration. The condition can also reach a climax, at which point the person may experience thoughts of suicide or death.
While I recommend a natural approach to treating mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, it is important that you discuss these options with your doctor before taking any action—that includes adding these natural remedies to your regular routine and also cutting out any medications your doctor has prescribed. Every body is different, so the following remedies may benefit you, but on the other hand, they may not be the right fit for your case.
Natural Remedy #1: Ashwagandha
Herbal remedies are important for conditions such as bipolar disorder. Ashwagandha is an ancient adaptogenic herb known within Ayurvedic medicine to help for immunity, stamina, and adrenal and mental fatigue. A randomized placebo-controlled adjunctive study from 2013 also found that ashwagandha improved cognitive capacity in 29 bipolar disorder patients during an eight-week period. The participants performed several bipolar tests that measured response time, cognition, and social cognition response.
Ashwagandha is also known to treat anxiety and depressive behaviors associated with bipolar disorder. Other herbs used to treat depressive disorders include St. John’s wort, Ginkgo biloba, saffron, and lavender.
Natural Remedy #2: Essential Fatty Acids
Low amounts of the omega-3 essential fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are associated with depression and bipolar disorder. Fish oil supplements with high amounts of EPA and DHA are known to be effective for the treatment of bipolar disorder. Wild fish with sufficient amounts of these essential fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines, usually should accompany a bipolar disorder supplemental protocol. Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed are also plant-based omega-3 options that should be considered for brain health.
Natural Remedy #3: Magnesium
People with depressive disorders often have a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is known as a mood stabilizer—similar to the drug lithium. It can help with the maintenance of nerve and muscle function, which help with the sleep problems people with bipolar disorder tend to experience. In 2013, preliminary research from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that magnesium may reduce symptoms of mania associated with bipolar disorder as well.
Other Natural Remedies
A person with bipolar disorder may also benefit from the following nutrients:
- Folate (vitamin B9)
- Vitamin C, vitamin D, and other B vitamins
- S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) are also known to help people with bipolar disorder.
Finally, acupuncture, yoga, and massage therapy are other common ways to ease mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
But I cannot stress this enough: mental illnesses can be very serious and difficult to treat. If you are being treated for bipolar disorder, you shouldn’t stop taking any medication you’re already on and should check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking any additional supplements or herbs to ensure you’re not at risk for interactions with your medication.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Sylvia, L.G., et al., “Nutrient-based therapies for bipolar disorder: a systematic review,” Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 2013; 82(1): 10–9, doi: 10.1159/000341309.
Chengappa, K.N., et al., “Randomized placebo-controlled adjunctive study of an extract of withania somnifera for cognitive dysfunction in bipolar disorder,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry November 2013; 74(11): 1076–1083, doi: 10.4088/JCP.13m08413.
Murray, M., et al., The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (New York: Atria Paperback, 2012), 479–502.
“Bipolar disorder,” Mayo Clinic web site; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/basics/alternative-medicine/con-20027544, last accessed November 24, 2014.
“Bipolar Disorder Statistics,” Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance web site; http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_statistics_bipolar_disorder, last accessed November 24, 2014.
“Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms,” HelpGuide.org web site; http://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-signs-and-symptoms.htm, last accessed November 24, 2014.