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Bipolar Disorder and Foods to Avoid

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Does Fish Oil Improve Mood With Bipolar Disorder? continued...

If you do not like fish, the AHA recommends taking 0.5 to 1.8 grams of fish oil per day as supplements. That way you will get enough dietary omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).

Fish oil can help keep your heart healthy. But some experts also believe that fish oil is an important bipolar supplement and that it may play a role in brain function and behavior. These experts report that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful for those with bipolar disorder, particularly if they have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease or high triglycerides.

Some research suggests that getting more omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil is linked to greater volume in areas of the brain. In particular, these areas are related to mood and behavior. In one study of 75 patients, one of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids was decreasing depression in bipolar disorder.

Still, the overall evidence for benefit of fish oil in bipolar disorder is inconsistent. More studies are needed before fish oil can be recommended as a proven treatment for bipolar disorder.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan looking for possible benefits of fish oil, go with nuts. Walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is converted to omega-3 fatty acid in the body.

Which Foods Should I Avoid if I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Some general dietary recommendations for treating bipolar disorder include:

  • Getting only moderate amounts of caffeine and not stopping caffeine use abruptly
  • Avoiding high-fat meals to lower the risk for obesity
  • Watching your salt if you have high blood pressure but not skimping on salt if you are being prescribed lithium since low salt intake can cause higher levels of lithium in the blood
  • Following your doctor's instructions to stay away from foods that may affect your specific bipolar medication, if any

In addition, you need to be wary of natural dietary supplements that can cause a drug-herb interaction.

Avoiding too much caffeine may be helpful for getting good sleep, which is especially important for people with bipolar disorder. When someone with bipolar disorder is feeling depressed, extra caffeine can help that person boost the low mood. The problem is caffeine can disrupt sleep. Caffeine can also lower the sedative effects of medications, such as benzodiazepines, that are used to treat anxiety and mania associated with bipolar disorder.

In addition to lowering caffeine, it's important to avoid high-fat meals with some bipolar medications. High-fat meals may delay the time it takes for some bipolar medications to be absorbed into your system. Talk to your doctor about your medications and necessary dietary changes.

If you take MAO inhibitors (a certain class of antidepressant that includes Emsam, Nardil, and Parnate), it's important to avoid tyramine-containing foods. These foods can cause severe hypertension in people taking MAO inhibitors. Some foods high in tyramine are:

  • Overly ripe bananas and banana peels
  • Tap beer
  • Fermented cheese
  • Aged meats
  • Some wines, such as Chianti
  • Soy sauce in high quantities

Your doctor can give you a list of foods to avoid if you take these drugs.

Also, avoid taking natural dietary supplements if you are taking bipolar medications. Supplements such as St. John's wort and SAM-e are touted to treat moderate depression. A few studies show benefit for some people with depression. But these natural therapies can interact with antidepressants and other bipolar medications. Discuss any natural dietary supplement with your doctor to make sure it is safe.

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