When it comes to treatments for bipolar disorder, psychotherapy and medications are the gold standard options. If you have bipolar disorder, you may wonder if there is a way to manage the condition with vitamins or other supplements that help improve your mood. According to psychiatrists, there can be a role for vitamins and supplements in the treatment of bipolar disorder. However, they may only serve as a complement to other treatments, and not substitutes. We’ll cover what those vitamins and supplements are in this article.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings. A person with bipolar disorder can go from intense emotional highs (mania or hypomania) to an extreme low (depression). A person may rarely experience episodes of mood swings, maybe a couple times a year. These mood swings can affect energy levels, sleep, judgment, behavior, and the ability to think clearly. Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, there are ways to help manage mood swings and other symptoms.
Currently, there is not a lot of research on the effectiveness of vitamins and minerals for bipolar disorder. A few of the studies had small sample sizes and short follow-ups, but results varied between trials. Some vitamins may negatively interact with bipolar medications, while others show great promise. Consider talking with your doctor about experimenting with certain vitamins or supplements to determine whether or not they are safe with your current treatment.
Vitamin D helps the gut absorb calcium and supports optimal calcium levels in your bones. According to research, vitamin D exists naturally in foods such as trout, salmon, and mushrooms, and it’s added to foods like orange juice and milk. The body produces vitamin D when the skin is in direct sunlight. One study found that vitamin D deficiencies were almost five times more common in people with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia than in the general population. Although there is a connection between low levels of vitamin D and bipolar disorder, vitamin D supplementation did not improve bipolar depression among study participants. A meta-analysis found that vitamin D provided no significant benefit for depression. While findings are unclear, vitamin D deficiency is more common among bipolar patients. It’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D, regardless of your bipolar diagnosis.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that benefit heart and brain function. These fats have been extensively studied for their neuroprotective effects, but there are three types of omega-3s. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is mainly found in plant oils, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is found in seafood and seaweed, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is also found in seafood and seaweed. Omega-3-rich foods and supplements appear to improve bipolar symptoms, according to a systematic review of 33 studies. EPA and DHA may be the most beneficial of the omega-3s, especially for people with mood disorders.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that works to nourish cells in the body. According to a 2018 study, participants that took 200 milligrams of CoQ10 per day alongside mood stabilizers and antidepressant medication reduced bipolar depression over an eight-week period. While this study revealed positive results, more research and larger studies are necessary to confirm whether CoQ10 is effective for bipolar symptoms.
The body needs magnesium, which is a mineral that aids muscle, bone, and nerve function. It also plays a role in the regulation of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Limited research suggests that magnesium levels can affect your mood. A systematic review of 32 studies found that magnesium supplementation may improve depression symptoms and benefit people with mental health conditions. Similar to CoQ10, it’s not clear whether magnesium supplements are as beneficial for people with bipolar depression as they are for people with unipolar depression.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, encourages healthy cell growth and helps them stay healthy. Currently, the research on the link between B-vitamins like folate and bipolar disorder is limited. That said, a 2019 study found a link between low levels of folate and bipolar disorder. A 2022 review noted that three-milligram folate supplements were effective and safe when used with sodium valproate, a medication used to treat acute mania in people with bipolar disorder. Additionally, folate supplements taken in conjunction with traditional bipolar treatments significantly help reduce depressive symptoms among people with either bipolar or unipolar depression.