Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

8 Proven Natural Treatments for People with Bipolar Disorder

Besides the medical prescriptions, there are several alternatives that a person with Bipolar Disorder can use to cope with its symptoms. Bipolar Disorder involves extreme shifts in energy, mood, and level of activity in a person.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a person with this Disorder requires to manage two different categories of symptoms, which include depression and manic symptoms. Manic symptoms involve having excessive irritability, impulsive behavior, and anxiety, whereas depressive symptoms include poor appetite, low mood, and emotional indifference.


Previously called manic depression, Bipolar Disorder falls into two types. Bipolar I is more extreme than Bipolar II and is characterized by escalating and severe manic episodes and less depressive episodes. Bipolar II, on the other hand, is much more common, and usually involves less obvious manic symptoms combined with depression.


While it is easy to find complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) remedies for manic behavior, it is not easy to get non-prescription therapy to alleviate depression. A majority of Bipolar Disorder patients spend most of their time depressed than manic. Thus, they should continue to take their antidepressants even as they embrace other alternative treatments that may provide relief from symptoms.


Bipolar Disorder can immensely disrupt a person’s life, but it’s also very treatable. Bipolar Disorder has no known cure, but treatment enables people with it to manage it. Some lifestyle adaptations alongside the medication can also help cope with it.


Some natural treatments include:


1.    Diet

A person with Bipolar Disorder should eat a healthy diet. According to a study conducted in 2011, up to 68 percent of people who were seeking treatment for this Disorder had obesity or excess weight. That’s because, during the depression episodes, these people tend to overeat.

Another 2013 report indicated that people with Bipolar Disorder were more likely to get into binge eating compared to the general population, which is a side effect of the medication they take.


Moreover, the research indicated that people with this condition are at a higher risk of developing other conditions such as low bone density, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, they need to stick to a healthy lifestyle. If they eat a healthy diet, it can help reduce the risk of developing these conditions.


Here are tips to help maintain a healthful diet:

  •    Make a weekly meal plan, prepare a list before you go to the grocery store, and stick to it
  •    Keep regular eating times
  •    Ensure that the diet is well-balanced, varied and has plenty of fresh citrus fruits which are a great source of Vitamin C and green leafy vegetables which are high in folic acid.
  •    Learn and practice new recipes during the times of positive mood shift, which can help you establish these habits.


2.    Exercise

Regular and moderate exercise can also help balance the mood. Doing physical activities can help improve mood during a low phase. Also, it helps prevent some health problems, including obesity and cardiovascular disease.


A study conducted in 2016 revealed that physical activity is associated with improved health, including regulating depressive symptoms, improving the quality of life, and functioning. However, more studies should be done to establish how often and intense the activity should be to be useful for a bipolar disorder patient.


3.    Cannabis and CBD products

Cannabis and CBD products are now popular alternative treatment options for different mental disorders, including Bipolar Disorder.


Cannabidiol (CBD) ingredient and THC are present in the cannabis plant and have medicinal properties. CBD acts as a non-psychoactive therapeutic agent and interacts with the endocannabinoid system in the body. High THC strains on the flip side can result in adverse effects.


CBD regulates the cannabinoid receptors and thus acts as an antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective agent. CBD oil for Bipolar Disorder can help treat some bipolar symptoms, especially the depressive ones.


Some studies show that CBD cannot effectively treat the Bipolar I manic episodes on its own. However, CBD is being developed as an antipsychotic and can be safe to use alongside other antipsychotic meds. CBD is legal in most states, and thus, it has become readily available to everyone.


4.    Herbs and supplements

People with Bipolar Disorder may use herbs or supplements to relieve their symptoms. They include:


•    Omega-3

A study that was conducted in 2015 and published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition indicates that omega-3 fatty acids cause anti-inflammatory effects that help regulate mood. Therefore, people with Bipolar Disorder can consume much fish with omega-3, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.


According to a 2010 research that was published in the Journal polish psychiatry, adding about 300 milligrams of omega-3 each day to the plan of a depression treatment helps enhance the results. The omega-3s help in moving neurotransmitters in and out of the brain, which can help stabilize the moods.


•    St. John’s Wort

St.John’s Wort helps in mood management and is widely known as the natural mood enhancer around Europe. However, there is no conclusive finding on whether this herb has any real positive effects on bipolar disorder patients. The herb can cause psychosis if it interacts with other antidepressants. Thus, it’s vital to seek physician approval before trying it.


•    Rhodiola Rosea

This herb may also help manage stress and has had positive effects on people with depression. According to a 2015 report in Phytomedicine, Rhodiola may not be as effective as an antidepressant, but it has fewer side effects.


5.    Counseling and CBT

Studies reveal that counseling, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people to manage the challenges and symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. According to a meta-analysis done in 2017, CBT can effectively decrease the relapse rates and improve the symptoms of depression, mania severity as well as psychosocial functioning. CBT can help the individual identify the harmful and destructive behaviors and habits and change to more positive ones.


6.    Sleep

People with Bipolar Disorder can manage it if they get regular sleep and rest. Bipolar Disorder disrupts the person’s sleep where they sleep a lot during a low phase and more during a manic period. Since missing sleep can trigger mood change, it’s vital for the person to get adequate sleep to manage their mood. Light therapy can also help the person manage their sleep patterns.


Here are a few tips to help with regulating sleep:

  •    Go to bed and arise at regular hours
  •    Avoid screen time and potentially stressful situations before going to bed
  •    Avoid eating a large meal when almost going to bed
  •    Make sure that the room is comfortable
  •    Avoid or limit alcohol intake


Seek a physician help if you are having problems with regulating your sleeping patterns.


7.    Meditation

Studies show that if you meditate using a supervised mindfulness-based cognitive therapy approach, you can reduce depressive episodes. Meditating helps deal with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, according to a study published in 2013 in Behavior Research and Therapy.


8.    Practice Moderation

Last but not least is practicing moderation in every aspect of your life. People with Bipolar Disorder are more likely to engage in addictive behaviors.


A study revealed that at least 56 percent of people with this condition at some point in their life experienced addiction to either drugs or alcohol, among other things. This is because, in their brain, there were stronger activation circuits that play a role in pursuing rewarding experiences. Moreover, that may be what pushes the individual towards risky behaviors.


The advantage of this is that it encourages people to work with energy towards achieving their goals and ambitions. However, that may make the person entirely focus on short-term goals disregarding the possible long-term risks.


Tips to help avoid these problems include:

  •    Become more aware of any tendency to engage in risky and addictive behaviors
  •    Ask help from friends and loved ones to support any positive decisions

Key Takeaway

Bipolar Disorder needs lifelong treatment, and some lifestyle adaptations can help manage the condition. Always let your doctor know before you start any alternative treatments because some therapies and supplements may interact with your medication and cause unintended side effects. Alternative treatments must not replace your traditional drugs and medicines. Some bipolar disorder patients have conveyed feeling increased benefits when they combine prescription and natural therapies. So, pursue what works best for you.

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash