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    With the rise in health care costs, you may wonder about using alternative medicine and dietary supplements for the treatment of bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. Alternative medicine views the body and mind as an integrated system, which means they influence each other. With alternative medicine, your commitment to living a balanced life plays a key role in your health and healing. However, it is important to recognize that dietary or health supplement and "nutraceuticals" are not recognized by the medical community as comparably effective substitutes for traditional medications used to treat bipolar disorder.

    Many alternative remedies and natural dietary supplements are easy to access, whether on the Internet or at your local pharmacy. Yet before you begin taking natural dietary supplements or an alternative remedy, it’s important to do your homework and know what you’re putting into your body. In addition, always discuss any alternative remedy or dietary supplement with your doctor to avoid an herb/drug interaction, which could be medically dangerous. It is important to recognize that the efficacy of dietary supplements is not overseen by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] in the same way that the FDA regulates conventional medicines and food products, and they may not be recognized by the medical community as relevant or scientifically valid methods for treating bipolar disorder.

    What is a dietary supplement?

    According to the FDA, in order for an ingredient of a dietary supplement to be a "dietary ingredient," it must be one or any combination of the following substances:

    • Vitamin
    • Mineral
    • Herb or other botanical
    • Amino acid
    • Dietary substance to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake (e.g., enzymes or tissues from organs or glands), or
    • Concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract

    Can supplementing with 5-HTP help bipolar depression and/or mania?

    5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) may be used to treat mild depression based on the theory that as a precursor to serotonin, the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that has a calming effect, 5-HTP can increase serotonin levels and influence mood, sleep patterns, and pain control. When serotonin levels are low, the result can be high anxiety, irritability, insomnia, impatience, and depression.

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