Try These Natural Remedies for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a complex mental illness that is often managed using medication, but not always. As part of a treatment plan there are many alternative strategies that can be used to help manage the condition. I am on medication, but do a combination of many other things proven to lift mood and manage wellbeing.
The top three strategies for managing a mental illness are balanced diet, exercise and sleep. We can’t function without eating or sleeping, and exercise increases endorphins and therefore our mood. We need to make sure we maximize all three.
Eating for Health
I had an eating disorder, and as part of therapy I had to learn about the importance of eating a balanced diet of three meals a day with snacks to keep blood sugar levels stable. We need to eat the main food groups — made up of carbohydrates, protein, and fruit and vegetables — to keep our body at its best.
A good diet is about having color on your plate and reducing the amount of sugary, processed foods and drinks you consume. Food is fuel, not just about enjoyment.
Training Your Body to Sleep Well
Sleep is something we can all struggle with, particularly throughout depression and mania. There is no one ‘cure’ for a good night’s sleep but there are helpful tips to follow.
It’s worth remembering we need to train our bodies to sleep properly, which can take time.
Our circadian rhythm regulates periods of sleepiness and wakefulness and dips and rises throughout the day. Our dips are less intense when we have sufficient sleep and more intense when we are sleep deprived.
Changes affect our body temperature, make us feel extremely tired, and release the stress hormone, cortisol. To avoid this we need to implement a regular sleeping pattern as best we can.
Set an alarm to get a minimum of eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, and try to go to bed and get up at the same time. Sleep in a cool, dark room — I have used a sleeping mask before to aid this.
What If You Can’t Fall Asleep?
There are many ways to induce sleep. A bath half an hour before bed not only relaxes the body, but as the body temperature cools down, we feel sleepy.
A hot, milky drink releases tryptophan, a sleep-inducing chemical. This can also be found in protein-based foods such as fish or turkey.
Where Does Exercise Factor In?
Exercise is not just about pounding it out at the gym. Getting active for half an hour four times a week is enough to help you feel better.
It’s great if you enjoy the gym, but if you don’t and you are struggling it can be as simple as walking around the neighborhood or playing with your children.
The key is to stay active — if you feel stuck to the sofa, go out for a short walk to raise your heart rate and release endorphins. It’s about doing what you can, when you can.
Herbal Remedies to Try
Some people use herbal remedies and nutritional supplements for bipolar disorder:
- My consultant psychiatrist recommended omega-3 fatty acids, which help improve depression associated with bipolar disorder.
- There have also been small studies on magnesium, which is suggested as an aid to reduce mania and rapid cycling in bipolar.
- Bach flower remedies are good for reducing anxiety because of its calming properties.
- St John’s Wort is renowned for helping with unipolar depression; however, it comes with a warning for bipolar (not to be used in conjunction with medication) and needs to be discussed with a doctor.
Other alternative therapies — including acupuncture for bipolar disorder, massage, meditation, reflexology, and osteopathy — are found helpful and work on relieving stress and tension in the body. I find massage and relaxation the most helpful.
I have had pseudo seizures in the past where my body expresses stress physically, and massages work on my muscles to release tension. Learning proper relaxation techniques and diaphragmatic breathing has saved my life and is recommended by all professions to calm the body.
Next page: simple ways to improve your mental health.