Food to Avoid When You Have Bipolar Disorder

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Diet can affect bipolar disorder

Diet is an important part of living a long and healthy life. This is especially true for people with bipolar disorder. A few studies published in 2015, one in the Journal of Psychiatric Research and one in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found that a poor diet could trigger bipolar mood swings, worsen bipolar outcomes, and contribute to reduced life expectancy because of the effect on comorbid conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions and obesity.

Healthy quinoa, beet, hummus, falafel bowl.

What to eat

In the studies, researchers found that a diet resembling the Mediterranean diet is best. These diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and foods high in omega-3 fats. The western diet, which includes many processed foods and is high in sugar, was found to not only contribute to poor physical health but could trigger bipolar moods and contribute to worsening of the condition according to the study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Different types of sugar in cubes, on spoons, loose on table.

Stay away from sugar

One of the side effects of some bipolar medications is weight gain. Eating a diet high in sugar contributes to that weight gain. In addition, sugar can make some medications for bipolar less effective according to a study published in Acta Psychiatrica Scanddinavica.

Steaming cup of hot coffee on napkin.

Caffeine can trigger mania

Stimulants, such as caffeine can trigger mania according to the International Bipolar Foundation. It also inhibits sleep, which might contribute to bipolar mood swings and mania.

Salt shaker on wooden table.

Salt can be tricky

Because people with bipolar have a high comorbidity with heart disease and high blood pressure, they should limit their sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg. per day according to the American Heart Association. Persons taking lithium need to be especially careful with salt, as sudden changes in sodium intake can affect lithium levels according to the National Institutes of Health. If you take lithium, talk to your doctor about how much sodium you should have on a daily basis.

Bacon cheeseburger with fries.

Fatty foods can affect medication

Fatty foods can change the way medication is absorbed. High-fat meals can delay the absorption of some bipolar medications. Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if you should take the medication on an empty stomach or with food and, if so, whether certain foods, such as high-fat meals, will interfere with the effectiveness of the medication.

Pink grapefruit.

Grapefruit interferes with medication

Grapefruit and other citrus fruits may interfere with how your medication is absorbed. The chemicals in the grapefruit can wipe out the enzyme that breaks down the drugs in your system causing you to absorb the medication too quickly. Check with your pharmacist to see if you should avoid grapefruit juice while taking your medications.

Celebrating with drinks and a toast.

Alcohol can trigger depression

Some people with bipolar disorder use alcohol to help stabilize their moods, but this doesn’t usually work because alcohol is a depressant and can trigger a depressive episode. In addition, people with bipolar are more at risk of developing alcohol dependency. Approximately 46 percent of those with bipolar disorder indicated they had abused alcohol or were addicted to alcohol according to

Young woman binge eating and drinking in kitchen at night.

Binge eating and bipolar disorder

People with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of binge eating than those without bipolar. Those that do binge eat are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, psychosis, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse. When moods are not stabilized, binge eating is more frequent.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.