Cycles of heaven and hell
Bipolar I is the most dramatic manifestation of the disease. Patterns of intense euphoria, inflated self-esteem and a racing mind alternate with depressive periods of anxiety, fatigue and suicidal thoughts or behavior. It causes significant disruptions and problems in family life, work and school. The manic episodes can be extremely dangerous as the person feels 'invincible.' The suicide rate during depressive episodes falls between 10 and 20 percent
Bipolar II is less severe. Elevated moods alternate with irritability or depression, but the individual is generally functional. Hypomania, a moderate form of mania, is present. Periods of depression tend to be more lengthy than cycles of elation.
Cyclothymic disorder is the most mild type of bipolar disease. Hypomania and depression can be troublesome, but the highs and lows tend to be easier to manage.
Due to the more subtle manifestations of bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder, both are frequently diagnosed as depression and drugged accordingly. However, this often aggravates the situation as antidepressants trigger manic episodes in 5 to 10 percent of patients. The drugs also carry the common side-effects of weight gain along with loss of libido and mental clarity.
Building a solid foundation for a calm mind
Instead of immediately resorting to pharmaceutical drugs, lifestyle and nutritional choices offer an alternative. Since stability of mind is closely linked with diet, nutrient dense meals are imperative. Several ounces of cold water fish like wild-caught salmon, mackerel and herring should be consumed daily. Likewise, supplementing with high-quality fish oils helps support proper brain chemistry as well. In fact, countries that have the highest consumption of fish (Japan, Iceland, Korea, Taiwan and Puerto Rico) also have the lowest rates of bipolar disease.
Vegetables, fruit, potatoes, seaweed, lemons, eggs, seeds and nuts are also beneficial.
Adequate levels of magnesium are important too. According to the nutritional website Food For the Brain:
"Magnesium is interesting in bipolar disorder because of its chemical similarity to lithium (lithium being the drug most commonly used as a mood stabilizer). In fact, there is some evidence that the drug lithium may attach to the places inside the cell where magnesium is supposed to attach. In studies (Chouinard, Giannini), some people with bipolar disorder or other psychiatric illnesses had differences in the amounts of magnesium in their blood. There have been some studies where magnesium was added to other treatments to stop symptoms of mania or rapid cycling."
Individuals suffering from bipolar disorder should avoid the following: wheat and any gluten-containing food, sugar, caffeine, high-salt foods, bananas, grapefruit juice, fermented cheese, champagne, red wine, liver, soy sauce and chocolate.
Seeing that stress can exacerbate the condition, lifestyle support is helpful. Yoga, meditation, mild exercise and therapies such as Holotropic Breathwork have received positive feedback from those suffering with the disease.
Photo Credit: By epSos.de [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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