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Bipolar Disorder Supplements

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.

Many alternative remedies and natural dietary supplements are easy to access, whether on the Internet or at your local pharmacy. Yet before you begin treating bipolar disorder with 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 can be quite serious.  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.

Although the studies are few, some findings show that 5-HTP supplements may help regulate mood and emotions, even comparable to some antidepressants. For instance, a small study of volunteers with anxiety disorders reported that taking supplements of 5-HTP greatly reduced levels of anxiety.

Should you take 5-HTP supplements? Talk to your doctor first because of possible adverse effects, including drug interactions with medications taken for bipolar disorder.

5-HTP alone is not an acceptable alternative to your bipolar medications.  At least in theory, increased brain serotonin levels from 5-HTP could cause or worsen mania.

What is DHEA and can it help bipolar disorder?

The body naturally produces the hormone dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) until the mid-20s, at which point the production of DHEA declines. Advertisers claim that supplementing with DHEA may have antiaging benefits, boost mood, and improve  symptoms of depression.

WebMD Medical Reference

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