With the rising healthcare costs especially for bipolar treatment, it may become necessary to consider alternative sources of medication for the illness. The most popular alternative is natural medicine and dietary supplements. The dietary school of thought is believed to be a more holistic approach, with almost zero side effects since the substances are sourced from nature and consumed with as little chemical and biological alteration as possible. Alternative medicine views the body and mind as being intricately connected, such that changes in diet and the increased consumption of naturally occurring substances (which show potency against the underlying conditions within the body that cause or are directly related to bipolar disorders) will be effective in the control and treatment of these conditions. It is important to note though, that institutional medicine does not officially recognize these alternative supplements as being useful against the problem. But how have these natural supplements fared in real life testing, and what is the evidence in their favor? We will discuss some of the most popular ones in more detail.
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) has been used to treat mild depression based on the fact that it is a precursor to serotonin release in the brain, which has a calming effect. 5-HTP can increase the production of serotonin, affect mood, sleep patterns and pain control. Conversely, when serotonin levels are low, it results in depression, irritability, insomnia, impatience, and anxiety.
Even though studies are few, there are documented findings that show that 5-HTP may help to regulate mood and emotion at such a level that it is even comparable to some antidepressants. Taking supplements of 5-HTP has also been reported to greatly reduce levels of anxiety. It is important to also state that before committing to a regimen of 5-HTP, speak to your physician and discuss the possibility of adverse effects especially drug interactions with other medications taken. Although this supplement shows promise, it is not an outright replacement of the standard bipolar medication.
Dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) is a substance that is produced by the body until a person is in their mid-20s, after which the production of DHEA starts to decline. The idea here is that producing DHEA for the body can have anti-aging benefits, boost mood and help depression. In two different studies, DHEA supplementation has been shown to improve depression, mood, and fatigue. But because DHEA affects hormonal levels in the body, more rigorous testing is required to approve this product for general use. However, most instances of DHEA supplementation in healthy adults show few side effects if the drug is administered orally and in recommended doses. It is however unsafe for people with a history of liver disease, abnormal heart rhythms, and blood clot. The long-term effects of DHEA use are not known, and it is not an effective alternative to your regular bipolar medication. It can also cause adverse effects, given the right conditions, effects such as mania, impulsiveness or irritability.
Fish Oil Supplements (Omega-3)
Fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are essential for the production of hormones and nerve tissue. Fish oil that contains these two Omega-3s has been found to be effective in the treatment of depression but not of mania. Fish oil supplementation toward the treatment of bipolar disorder though is less understood, as there are conflicting studies on whether or not such supplementation is valuable against mania or depression. Fish oil that is consumed as alternative medicine must have both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for it to be effective. There is evidence, however, of the effectiveness of fish oils in cardiovascular health, and some physicians now recommend a 1 gram per day dosage of it. These oils may help with bipolar disorder when taken with your recommended medication.
Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral, which is important in the body’s bone-forming process. We get magnesium into our body by the food we eat, but sometimes, the amount of magnesium we pick up from food is insufficient, and so there is the need for dietary supplementation. Magnesium is also arguably effective against bipolar disorders, mania, and depression. It is necessary to point out that the research is inconclusive, and that magnesium supplementation alone is not effective enough to be considered bipolar disorder treatment. It must be taken along with recommended treatment for bipolar disorder.
Vitamins that are often cited in mood regulation are the B vitamins. If you have a deficiency in any of the B vitamins, depression, anxiety, and fatigue can result, depending on the individual. When using vitamin B as a dietary or alternative supplement, it is important to find a product that contains all the B vitamins and mixes them in good proportions along with folic acid, because they work together. B vitamins generally have an energizing effect and help to build the immune system. When injected into the body, B vitamins can effect surprisingly quick mood elevation and are used in this manner by some alternative medicine experts. People with hypermania and mania though, are exempt from this type of treatment as the quick energizing effect will affect them considerably. The B vitamins include vitamin B-1, vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12, and they are used up more quickly when the body or mind is stressed. This is usually when vitamin B supplements are most effective.
Other supplements for the treatment of bipolar disorders are:
This is a Chinese herbal treatment from the Rhodiola Rosea, a perennial flowering plant found in Asia and North America, that has been found to have excellent effects on fat burning and also depression abatement.
St. John’s Wort
From another flowering plant, this time of the genus Hypericum, this extract has the ability to banish depression and has been shown to work effectively several times.
Extracted from the root of the ginseng plant, Korean Ginseng has been shown to have numerous health benefits, from alleviating kidney disease, all the way to Alzheimer’s and bipolar disorders.
The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counselling.