Living With

5 Diet Tips To Help Manage Bipolar Disorder

Heather Reese Oct 11th, 2012 (updated Aug 20th, 2015)
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Two million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. This very serious illness involves dramatic mood swings from high manic episodes to very low depressed episodes. It can be very disruptive to the lives of the people who suffer from this illness as well as their close friends and family members. Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence and continues throughout life. While it can not be cured, with treatment these people can lead normal lives. Here are some tips on creating a bipolar-conscious diet.

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Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids

Bipolar disorder is not a condition that is generally considered to have direct nutritional considerations, like diabetes or heart disease. However, recent research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may lessen the symptoms of bipolar disorder. While research is still ongoing, studies have found that they lessen stress and aid in focusing.

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Antidepressants and weight gain
Antidepressants and weight gain

There are special dietary requirements for people who take many of the medications used to treat bipolar disorder. Weight gain is a potential side effect of nearly all antidepressant medications. However, it is not clear whether the weight gain is a direct effect of the drug or of the state of depression. Still, weight control should be a consideration for people who are being treated with antidepressants.

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MAO inhibitors and tyramine
MAO inhibitors and tyramine

MAO Inhibitors (MAOI’s) are also used to treat depression and may be prescribed to people who suffer from bipolar disorder. They can combine with tyramine, which is a common component of many foods, and cause diarrhea, headache and high or low blood pressure. 

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High tyramine foods to avoid
High tyramine foods to avoid

People who take MAOI’s should avoid any foods high in tryamine. Since the amount of tyramine increases with aging, people on MAOI’s should avoid any aged or mature foods including cheeses and wines. Here are some of the top high tyramine foods to avoid while on MAO Inhibitors: yogurt, game meat, lentils, soy beans, avocado, bananas, figs, raisins, raspberries, beer and wine, caffeinated colas, coffee and tea.

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Lithium and sodium
Lithium and sodium

If you are taking lithium (a mood stabilizer), you should maintain a consistent salt intake. Sodium stabilizes lithium levels in the body and too little or too much can impact the medication’s effect. Too little salt in your diet can increase side effects like water retention, mental confusion and kidney problems. Too much salt can prevent lithium from working properly.