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Bipolar Disorder: Various Treatments


Bipolar Disorder:  Nutritional approach

Treating bipolar disorder with prescription medications may be a necessary first step to get the symptoms of this disease under control.  However, the drugs used for this health 

problem are indeed strong.  For that reason, many people search for gentler, more natural approaches to tempering the episodes to provide some type of relief.


One good place to start, surprisingly enough, is with nutritional supplementation.  Nutritional approaches to bipolar disorder are definitely gaining in popularity for two very good reasons.  The first is that the side effects to prescriptions drugs are often harsh.  And the second reason for popularity of nutritional approaches is simple:  it works.


And perhaps the most remarkable of discoveries, made just a few years ago, involves the role of essential fatty acids in alleviating symptoms.  Several studies have affirmed the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids.


One study followed 30 people with bipolar disorder who were given Omega-3 fatty acids for a period of four months.  In that time they experienced fewer mood swings and had fewer recurrences of either depressive or manic episodes than the group given the placebo.


Other nutrients which medical science is just now recognizing include folic acid and other B vitamins, especially vitamin B12.  The body uses both B12 and folic acid in the manufacture of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.  It's already established that a deficiency of either of these can prompt depression in an individual.  But, now studies say that a deficiency of folic acid may also be related to the manic episodes of bipolar as well. 


Some studies suggest that those with high levels of folic acid in their systems respond better to lithium treatment. In fact, a double-blind study showed that those who were given an additional 200 mcg of folic acid resulted in a clinical improvement in their condition.  The group not given folic acid showed no improvement.


Vitamin C, already known for its beneficial effects on the immune system, may also help with manic and depressive episodes. A double-blind study discovered that following the administration of three grams of this nutrient, those experiencing either a depressive or a manic episode were greatly improved.


In a similar vein, many are now beginning to find their bipolar symptoms lessen when they avoid certain foods.  Even individuals who previously didn't think they possessed food sensitivities discover that when they avoid certain foods.  Gluten is probably the most common food people cite being sensitive to.  This protein is found in grains like wheat, rye, oats and barley.  Others report when they steer clear of chocolate, their symptoms are not nearly as bad.  Casein a protein found in dairy products triggers symptoms in yet other individuals. 


If you eliminate all of these and still find your bipolar symptoms have not improved, then evaluate what you eat and drink.  If you are consuming anything with aspartame, try eliminating this artificial sweetener from your diet.  It appears to intensify the mood swings of bipolar disorder.


And if you suffer from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which can reduce the glucose supply to the brain, you may very well find that your symptoms may increase in severity.  This can contribute to the manic and depressive episodes.


Bipolar Disorder:  Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle


While bipolar disorder is not a health condition that you can self-treat, there are some simple measures you can take to help minimize your episodes and effectively manage your disorder on a long-term basis.


Controlling stress levels is a vital management technique.  This can be done with ease by creating a sensible routine for yourself and augmenting this with some healthy habits, including exercise, a healthy diet, and regular sleep habits.


According to several studies presented within the last several years, those individuals who experienced disruptions in their normal daily activities especially in their sleeping and eating habits found themselves more susceptible to developing new episodes of mania and depression.  They were also more vulnerable to experiencing more relapses in their symptoms. Experts agree:  those who maintain a predictable routine handled their bipolar symptoms much better.


An individual with this disorder should develop skills to cope with stress.  While the majority of us think of stress as being exposure to bad situations, there is such a thing as "good" stress.  Events that give you joy can be just as difficult to manage as traumatic, unpleasant events.  Exposure to stress can intensify both manic and depressive episodes.


Research shows, in fact, that in 60 percent of the cases, the first time a major depressive or manic episode occurs it was immediately preceded by a significant stressor. Moreover, the more mood swings a person experiences, the more vulnerable he is to developing future relapses.  Not only that, but relapses may diminish the effectiveness of medication.


Because you are an individual and react differently to circumstances, you'll discover that there are certain activities that may be chronic stressors in your life.  Learn to identify these, pay attention to your ideal life rhythms, and then create a list of what you consider to be your triggers.  Ideally, it would be great to share this list with your family and close friends; they can help you in trying to maintain a low-stress environment.


An important aspect of a daily routine for anyone with bipolar disorder is the necessity of keeping some semblance of an adequate sleep routine.  Individuals with bipolar disorder appear to have a central nervous system that "commits errors."  The body's hypothalamus regulates our internal clocks.  In individuals who suffer with bipolar disorder, this clock is difficult to regulate.  Once the rhythms are disturbed and it doesn't take a great deal to disturb the rhythm of a person with bipolar disorder it triggers a set of reactions.  Disturbed patterns then affect the individual's schedule for not only sleeping and waking, but a host of other routines as well.

Bipolar Disorder:  Herbal Treatments

Herbs have been used since the beginning of time to treat a variety of health problems, and today many find it an amazing natural tool in the treatment of bipolar.  There are a several herbal remedies that may help you manage your health condition.


However, before you embark on any new regime, you should always consult with your health care practitioner to inform him of your decisions and ensure that none of the herbs you're taking will interact adversely with your current medications.


Specifically, herbs that help in the treatment of neurological disorders are known as nervines.  Some of these have proved to be of immense help in alleviating the symptoms of bipolar.  Other herbs, though they may help alleviate some of the signs of this condition, could be, in the long run, hazardous.  The key to understanding which herbs you should and shouldn't use is education.  Before using any herb for bipolar disorder, you need to understand everything about the possible side effects.  In fact before you enact any of the following recommendations, visit your professional herbalist.  She can provide you even more detailed information on these natural alternatives.


The black cohosh herb, also known as Cimicifuga Racemosa or squaw root, depresses the central nervous system.  Those with bipolar disorder as well as various auto-immune conditions often use this as a sedative.  It also possesses anti-inflammatory qualities.  Researchers believe the active ingredients in black cohosh may bind to the estrogen receptor sites, which may stimulate hormonal activity.


Another common herb for bipolar disorder is gingko balboa.  The extract of the gingko tree and a supplement more routinely linked with an enhanced memory, this plant may prove useful for bipolar.  This is especially true if your medications have diminished your sex drive.  Gingko works, it appears, by increasing the flow of blood to all parts of the body including the genitals.  This accounts for its effectiveness increasing sexual desire and performance.


Many individuals who suffer with this chemical imbalance turn to damiana, also called turnera aphrodisiaca to help relieve their depressive episodes.  Damiana has also been used as an aphrodisiac.  But, be careful when using this potent herb.  Its natural energizing quality may be dangerous for those with bipolar.


And there's one herb, that individuals with bipolar should try to avoid.  It's St. John's Wort -- hypericum perforatum.  While it's popular for it reputed ability to relieve depression, it also has the potential to interfere with some medications. 


Some adverse reactions have been noted when St. John's Wort is sued with certain classes of antidepressants, especially monoamineoxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  The use of this herb has been known to provoke manic episodes in some people with bipolar and are sensitive to light.



Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.


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