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Bipolar Disorder and Foods to Avoid

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Which Foods Should I Avoid if I Have Bipolar Disorder? continued...

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.

What About Alcohol and Bipolar Disorder?

Instructions for most psychiatric medications warn users not to drink alcohol, but people with bipolar disorder frequently abuse alcohol and other drugs. The abuse is possibly an attempt to self-medicate or to treat their disturbing mood symptoms, and they may also cause mood symptoms that can mimic those of bipolar disorder.

Alcohol is a depressant. That is why many people use it as a tranquilizer at the end of a hard day or as an assist for tense social situations. While some patients stop drinking when they are depressed, it is more common that someone with bipolar disorder drinks during low moods. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with bipolar disorder are five times more likely to develop alcohol misuse and dependence than the rest of the population.

The link between bipolar disorder and substance abuse is explosive. Alcohol is a leading trigger of depressive episodes in many people who are genetically vulnerable for depression or bipolar disorder. About 15% of all adults who have a psychiatric illness in any given year also experience a substance use disorder at the same time. Substance use disorders can seriously disrupt efforts to treat bipolar disorder and often may require their own forms of treatment

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