Have you been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and been told by your doctor or psychiatrist that this is a lifelong disease,often inherited, and uncontrollable without medication? Do you believe them? Though I am not a doctor, I can say that most doctors who are good at what they do will tell you that a patient’s healing journey begins with how much they believe they can actually heal. So, the question is begged then, why are many told bipolar is not curable? I will allow you to venture your own theories, but mine is that it all boils down to lack of knowledge, making more profit, and having more control.
What is true is that people with bipolar disorder have experienced brain changes over time that are not quickly and easily reversible; however, that is a long way from saying they are not ever reversible. These changes can occur as a result of trauma, stress, poor nutrition, drug inducement, and others. Though it is true that having family members with bipolar increases one’s risk of also having it, it is not clear whether this is more genetic or more a learned social behavior. Also, most doctors have limited to no training in medical school about the impact of nutrition and other lifestyle decisions on either physical or mental health. In this article, 5 ways will be presented on how you can take control of your own mental (and physical) health and begin to improve and reverse your condition safely and naturally.
1. Improve your diet. An unhealthy brain typically lives inside an unhealthy body. Look at what you’re eating (and not eating), and you might better understand why your brain is struggling. Mood disorders are made worse behaving unstable blood sugar. Think of it like this: mood follows sugar. When you eat a lot of sugar (including sweets, sodas, and baked goods) or white starch, your blood sugar and mood shoot up, then crash 15-30 minutes later. You feel exhausted, irritable, foggy. If you want to control your mood, control your sugar. Eat either 3 normal sized meals or 5 smaller sized meals, whichever works best for you. Make the bulk of your meals fruits, vegetables, whole grains,legumes/beans, nuts and seeds. These foods are high in fiber and protein, which cause blood sugar to be more stable. Have smaller amounts of animal products; one serving per day is enough. Eat less at restaurants, which soak foods in sugar, salt, and oil to make them “tasty” so you’ll become addicted. Also, avoid eating packaged foods full of chemicals, hormones, and genetically modified ingredients, contributing to gut and systemic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, including the inability of your brain and nervous system to manufacture the hormones they need to regulate properly. Healthy foods that enhance brain power include blueberries, pomegranates, avocados, whole grains, beans, nuts & seeds, fish,green tea, and dark chocolate. Another simple tip is to keep yourself hydrated by drinking at least 3-4 bottles of water per day; this will help your brain work better, reduce headaches, clean out toxicity and waste more efficiently, and make you less thirsty, so you might better avoid liquid temptations like soda, coffee, and alcohol, all of which are not great for your mental or physical health.
2. Supplement. Along the lines of nutritional deficiencies, consider the following nutritional supplements to boost your brain’s performance. Omega fatty acids are essential for brain health, and they reduce inflammation in your whole body. They are instrumental in the makeup of the myelin sheaths over your nerve fibers, equivalent to the rubber coating over copper wire to prevent electricity from escaping the wire before it reaches its destination. The diet of most Americans is severely deficient in this nutrient, since most of us do not eat fish/seafood, flax, chia, hemp, or walnuts on a regular basis. Further, the omega 6’s found in most of the other plant oils we eat actually make it harder for our bodies to absorb omega 3’s. To counter this problem, supplement with either 1000 mg of fish oil or 1 tablespoon flax oil (tablets or bottle)daily. Refrigerate the flax oil to keep it from spoiling, and keep the fish oil in the freezer so it melts rather than bursting in your stomach, to prevent acid reflux. Also consider adding B vitamins (also found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds), which are known to help the brain function better, especially when it’s under stress. Another important supplement known to reduce inflammation and improve brain power by creating new brain cells and improving memory, is turmeric (or curcumin), a yellow root which is available in powder form (take 1 or 2 capsules per day) or you can add it to recipes. This root is what makes Indian food yellow. Finally, gut health is now thought to be far more important than earlier assumed, and the gut is now being called the “third brain,” since it contains a nexus of thousands of nerve fibers, appears to communicate directly with the brain and heart, and manufactures most of the chemicals our nervous systems need to regulate. Consider taking a good quality supplementation daily, preferably in the morning before your first meal, to make sure your gut is populated with healthy bacteria. This is especially important for those taking antibiotics or other drugs, which tend to destroy gut flora. Going up to two capsules a day might be necessary while taking any kind of drug and for weeks afterwards.
3. Get your sleep. Those with bipolar disorder know that sleep is an issue. People in manic or hypomanic stages often skip sleep believing they can“make it up later.” Our bodies don't work like that. Less than 6 hours of sleep is clinical sleep deprivation and causes brain impairments in most people, especially after several days, weeks or months. Aim for a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Create a sleep culture to help you sleep better, including using white noise, wearing eye covers and earplugs, removing all electronics from your bedroom, and using it only for sleep and sex. You can also use 1 or 2 capsules of valerian root an hour before bedtime to make you sleep more easily and deeply without any side effects, as well as consuming a relaxing sleepy time or chamomile tea in the evening and avoiding any caffeine after noon. Also, avoid drinking too much fluid after dinner,to avoid having to get up during the night to use the bathroom. Hydrate throughout the day with one bottle of water in the morning, 1 in the afternoon, and 1 later in the afternoon or early evening.
4. Move your body, preferably in nature. There are so many benefits to being out in nature, it’s amazing so many of us think we can be the only animal in the world that barely ever goes outside. Sunlight is great for your health and mood, and the Vitamin D it causes your body to make is not just vitamin, but also a hormone used to regulate among other things your nervous system. Have you heard of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder? This is a very real depression that comes basically from too little sunlight, usually in the winter. Not to mention that outside air has 10 times the air quality of inside air, which means more oxygen, more energy, more mental clarity. The random movements of clouds, trees and grass blowing in the wind, light dancing, all have relaxing and balancing effects on our nervous systems, as does swinging our arms bilaterally while walking. Exercise improves circulation of all fluids, elimination of toxicity,strength, overall health, and most importantly, mood!
5. Manage your stress. It can’t be emphasized enough that stress accumulates and is the “number one killer,” worse than all others. Without stress management, the brain becomes overwhelmed, the mood tanks, and the bodily systems all take a hit. What are some ways to best manage stress? Well, all of the above suggestions will reduce systemic stress and especially keep your brain happier and healthier. In addition, having supportive relationships with positive friends, keeping active doing things we enjoy, doing work we basically like, and practicing active stress management areal important. What is active stress management? That would include practicing deep breathing, listening to guided relaxation tapes, listening to relaxing music, taking relaxing baths with candles and music and essential oils and Epsom salts, practicing tai chi or yoga, getting massage, even having safe and loving sex with a partner. Find a method that works for you and do it regularly, at least every other day (or every day even better). What about drugs and alcohol? Though it’s true many with bipolar disorder, self-medicate in this way, not only are these effects short term, but drugs are addictive,take more and more quantity to do their job, and destroy our health, finances,and relationships. Just say no and get help if you cannot.
If you are able to put these changes into effect, no doubt you will be well along with way to recovery. Should you simply abandon your prescribed medication right away and commit to this path? That is not recommended, as it will take time for your body to adjust to change, even positive change. It would be better to put these changes into effect, see if your moods and energy levels stabilize, and then consider reducing your medications gradually and evaluating the effect, preferably while working with a licensed mental health care provider to insure you’re safe and getting the proper support. Most importantly, if you believe you can heal yourself, you will be that much closer to actually doing just that, instead of relying on high doses of toxic medications your whole life!
The basic recommended PhoenixWay juicing plan for maintaining optimal health is 1 liter of fresh-made, raw vegetable/fruit juice per day. This recommendation is based on the research of Dr. Max Gerson, Dr. Norman Walker, and other leaders in holistic, natural healing on the benefits of reversing most disease in the body, cleansing and detoxing, maximizing energy, and enhancing youthfulness and longevity. Since green juice is arguably the most nutritious and important for the body, the plan is green juice every other day, alternating with 3 different carrot-based juices on non-green days.
The standard “green” juice is several green chard leaves (4-8), several lettuce leaves (romaine, green, iceberg, etc.), 4 stalks celery, 1/2 cucumber, ½ green bell pepper, 2 medium apples (or pears or 1 each pear and apple), sometimes jicama (equivalent to apple size), large handful cilantro, 1/2 squeezed lime.
The "orange" juice is 8-12 large carrots, 1 medium apple, 1 medium yellow beet, 1 medium orange, ½ orange or yellow bell pepper, 2 celery stalks, 1 chunk fresh ginger, 1/2 squeezed lime.
The “purple” juice is 8-12 large carrots, 1 medium purple beet, 1 apple, a few handfuls of blueberries and/or
blackberries, chunk ginger, 2 celery stalks, 1/2 squeezed lime.
The “red” juice is 8-12 lg carrots, 1 medium tomato, few handfuls strawberries, 2 celery stalks, ½ red bell pepper, 1 apple, 1/2 squeezed lime.
Adjust due to fruit size. If apples are small, add another; ditto with tomatoes, beets, oranges, etc. Lime can be put directly in juicer or squeezed in separately. Lemon can be substituted (but limes are cheaper!).
This juicing program can be added to an intermittent fasting program, such as the one I personally have followed, to stay clean and energized and control calorie consumption and maintain lean, healthy weight. The plan I’ve followed is on fasting days (usually Mon, Wed, and Fri) 1 liter of juice per day (above), plus all the fresh fruit and flax milk (w/added vegan protein, 1g/1oz, usually 1 liter minimum) I want, alternating with days (Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun) where I still do the juicing and eat fruit and flax milk, but balance by adding in other healthy (typically vegan) foods and usually less fruit (sometimes less flax milk). You can also fast one whole day (such as Mondays) on just 2 liters of juice and water/tea, or add in some fresh fruit if you need it.
Juicing Shopping list
(based on 1 liter/day, green juice every other day, 1 each of “purple,” “red,” “orange” juices per week)
2 bunches celery, organic
2 bunches swiss chard, green, organic
2 cucumbers, organic
1-2 clumps cilantro, organic
5 lbs carrots (at least 16-20 large)
1 medium beet, purple
1 medium beet, yellow/orange
1 package blueberries, organic
1 package blackberries, organic
1 package strawberries, organic
2 bunches bananas
5 lbs apples, organic (at least 12 medium)
1 bag oranges
1 bag grapes, purple or red, organic
2-4 tomatoes, organic
1 large piece fresh ginger
The following produce should be organic, due to high pesticides/herbicides (the rest optional): apples, all leafy greens, celery, cucumber, bell pepper, berries.
The flax milk I used to use is Good Karma Flax Milk, Unsweetened + Protein, found at Whole Foods, EarthFare, and sometimes Harris Teeter. It tastes great drinking while eating a banana or two. I now make my own fresh flax/hemp milk by blending 5 cups of spring water with 4 TBSP ground flax seed and 6 TBSP of hemp seed, a pinch of sea salt, and 1 TBSP of quality local honey or agave nectar. Blend for 1 minute, rest 1 minute, repeat total 3x. Strain through nylon nut milk bag (available online, Amazon, eBay, etc.).
Ken Pataky, MS, LPC, Holistic Psychotherapist & Transformational Life & Health Coach
The PhoenixWay to Holistic Natural Health, http://www.phoenixway.net
I’m including here some tips and pointers about stress management, which will improve how you feel both individually and in any relationships you may have. In fact, doing these are an important addition to talk therapy; without them, your progress will be limited.
You may be doing some of these already, and some will be new. Try to do more than 1, as they will work together to support each other, and 1 + 1 will be greater than 2.
First, are supplements. I buy mine from Vitacost. They are cheap w/free shipping over $49, here in NC so delivery is quick, and they always send you discount coupons for 10-15% off your next order. Always take supplements with food.
Women’s multi: https://www.vitacost.com/natures-way-alive-once-daily-womens-multi-vitamin-ultra-potency-60-tablets-13 (1 per day)
Dong quai root (to help w/depression, women’s cycle balance):
https://www.vitacost.com/natures-way-dong-quai-root-565-mg-100-vegetarian-capsules (1 per day)
Men’s multi: https://www.vitacost.com/natures-way-alive-once-daily-mens-multi-vitamin-60-tablets (1 per day)
Eleuthero root (to improve energy and endurance): https://www.vitacost.com/solgar-eleuthero (1 per day)
For both Men & Women:
Omega 3’s (fish oil, to improve anxiety, depression, brain fog, and reduce systemic inflammation including obesity, heart disease, arthritis): https://www.vitacost.com/vitacost-synergy-mega-efa-1200-mg-omega-3-epa-dha-per-serving-120-softgels (1 per day, keep the fish oil refrigerated or in freezer if you get fish burps)
Vitamin D (to improve mood, immunity): https://www.vitacost.com/vitacost-vitamin-d3-mini-gels-5000-iu-100-softgels (1 per day)
Astragalus root (to support adrenal health exhausted from stress, improve energy): https://www.vitacost.com/natures-answer-astragalus-root-90-vegetarian-capsules (1 per day)
Kava Stress Relief Yogi Tea (to foster relaxation and positive mood, you can also get at Walmart). https://www.vitacost.com/yogi-stress-relief-herbal-tea-caffeine-free-kava
(OR chamomile tea OR sleepytime tea, drink in the evening, at least 2 hours before bedtime)
Valerian root (to improve sleep naturally): https://www.vitacost.com/natures-answer-valerian-root-90-vegetarian-capsules-1 (take 1-3 about an hour before bedtime)
Melatonin (natural: https://www.vitacost.com/life-extension-liquid-melatonin-natural-citrus-vanilla (1 ml, an hour before bed)
Here are some other suggestions about managing stress/worry/anxiety/frustration:
Complete moderate exercise, especially weight training, at least 3-5x per week, for 30-60 minutes. Ideal is minimum 2 strength training sessions and 5 cardio of 30 minutes (can be walking). Make it fun. Do it with a partner. Do it outside when possible. Exercise is even more effective than psychotropic meditation for managing anxiety & stress.
Get outdoors. Nature has a positive effect on our mental & physical health. Put your bare feet on the soil to ground yourself. Sunlight is the best form of Vitamin D. Open your windows. Open your sunroof/windows. Outside air is 10X more healthy than inside air (unless you are in a city or near a great source of pollution).
Limit caffeine to one cup per day if possible, no later than lunch, to improve sleep and to reduce anxiety. Caffeine may improve focus & energy, but it also worsens anxiety/worry/stress. Find another source.
Limit alcohol to one drink per day or less, with food/dinner, to improve early morning sleep. Alcohol is a toxin, interferes with deep sleep and worsens depression.
Try adding epsom salt (magnesium) baths, 2 cups per bathtub, 2x/week...also add relaxing music, candle/low light, etc., and essential oil/s...3-5 drops...esp. lavender. Magnesium relaxes muscles and helps use up excess calcium in the body, improving cardiovascular health, arthritis, etc.
Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds and smaller amounts of animal protein (ideally less than 10% of the diet, 5% even better), to improve calmness and peace of mind and healthy brain and body function. Meat carries stress hormones from when the animals were killed, which add to your stress. A plant based diet reduces inflammation, toxicity, acidity, and negativity.
Develop a daily Meditation/relaxation practice, ideally a mind body practice such Yoga or Taiji/Qigong, with deep relaxing breathing, to release tension and develop more positive overall feelings in your mind and body. Learn how to regulate your stress & emotions with holistic practices such as HeartMath & Tapping & Hypnotherapy. Click on the links in this paragraph to learn more about these on my website, http://www.phoenixway.net.
Ken Pataky, MS, LPC, Holistic Psychotherapist & Transformational Life & Health Coach
The PhoenixWay to Holistic Natural Health, http://www.phoenixway.net
For those who suffer from too much or too little sleep, disturbed sleep, or inability to fall or remain asleep, please enjoy this helpful holistic guide. Choose as many of the following steps to implement simultaneously as you can—the more the better. They all work synergistically to support each other!