Fish Oil and Bipolar
I am a naturopathic physician with nearly 20 years of experience developing breakthrough nutritional products.I also have extensive television and radio experience and have lectured widely to health professionals, the military and the public on all aspects of natural health.
Dr Myers, an expert who holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine
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After graduating, I was recognised as being the 'best young neurosurgeon in Britain'
With the ups and downs that are associated with bipolar disorder (sometimes referenced as manic depressive disorder in more recent times), it’s understandable that the patient might want to find a medication that can help to keep things more level. Instead of having the extreme highs and lows, the patient can manage their disorder and live a healthy and normal life. In recent years, the idea of additional medications and natural remedies to handle this diagnosis has been discussed – with surprising answers.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
When the brain is unable to regular the chemicals in the brain that affect mood, the patient can experience wide variations in their temperament. The ‘ups’ include euphoric feelings in which the patient is energetic, happy, and feels as though they can accomplish anything. They will often not eat as much, they will sleep little, and they will be very productive. However, when the brain chemistry changes, the ‘downs’ create depressive states in which the world seems lonely. The patient may be sad or angry as well as begin to isolate themselves from the world. In some ‘downs,’ the patient can begin to have suicidal thoughts along with fatigue, changes in eating habits and crying spells.
What’s hard about bipolar disorder is that there is so little known about the chemistry in the brain that it’s hard to determine how to control these chemicals. While this condition is not difficult to diagnose anymore, the medication and therapies that are tried can be successful for a time and then stop working as they once did. This may be due to another shift in the brain’s chemistry or the body simply building up a resistance to the medications themselves.
A lifelong disorder, bipolar disorder can lead to major life disruptions as swings in mood can lead to erratic and harmful behaviours that need to result in hospitalisations. Once the moods are stabilised again, the patient is free to leave the hospital, but the cycles can repeat again and again.
How is Bipolar Disorder Traditionally Treated?
While the individual cases of bipolar disorder and treatments vary, there are a few common therapies that are used more commonly:
With medications like mood stabilisers, the mood can be greatly regulated over the long term. Medications like lithium are widely prescribed, but they have side effects that can be detrimental to the long term health of the patient. Other medications need to be closely monitored in the bloodstream as they can affect the liver and other organs if too highly concentrated. Other medications like anti-psychotics and anti-depressants are only used in short term therapies as a sort of bridge out of the mania or the depressive state.
Talking therapies can be beneficial when used in conjunction with medication therapy, but by itself, this does not address the brain chemistry malfunctions. Hospitalisation is a fair way to address the change in brain chemistry, but the treatment is only for issues in which the patient is suicidal and harmful to themselves and to others.
What are the Studies Saying?
That said, there are some promising studies that are linking the use of fish oil and success with bipolar disorder patients. In 1999, a controlled study used fish oil and the placebo of olive oil to see how patients with bipolar disorder responded. Results showed that moods stabilisation was possible with the use of fish oil, often helping to promote the same cellular reactions as lithium and other medications.
Another statistical analysis of countries that eat diets high in fish and fish oil showed that these countries had much lower rates or mood related disorders.
How to Increase Fish Oil Levels in the Body
The good news is that adding fish oil and essential fatty acids to the diet is a relatively simple process. With a number of fatty fishes to choose from, it’s simple to add two to three servings of these essential nutrients to your diet each week. However, with rising pollution counts in the water, scientists are wary of suggesting human consumption of anything more than two to three servings a week. Higher mercury levels in the water can damage the body and cause toxicity in the bloodstream.
Essential fatty acids can also be found in non-fish sources like flaxseed, nuts, and seeds. Many more food choices are also being fortified with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, so it’s easier than ever to add these to the diet.
However, finding the time to prepare fish and to find these products can be difficult. To help make this step easier, fish oil supplements are also available. They provide concentrated amounts of essential fatty acids in a convenient form. In addition, they don’t contain the high levels of mercury.
While dealing with mental illness requires several different approaches to therapy, adding fish oil seems to be the easier step toward more stable moods and a much more stable life.
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