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Paleo treatments for bipolar disorder and anxiety?

by (724)
Updated about 23 hours ago
Created August 23, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Ok, here is some back story. I've been diagnosed bipolar I for about 3 or 4 years now, I've done meds and then stopped treatment completely about a year ago. I'm a college student and my symptoms have really wreaked havoc on my transcript and now I'm having to file an appeal for financial aid to be able to finish out my last year. I really didn't have a better excuse for all of the failed and dropped classes over the past several semesters other than that I'm crazy and have had to seek out treatment from my psychiatrist again and get back on meds to show I'm "making the effort" to get through this last year successfully and get my financial aid back.

I've been an off and on paleo dieter for about the last year but have had trouble sticking with it solidly for whatever reasons (lack of money, lack of will power, I'm a recovered anorexic binge-eater with lots of food issues, etc.). I do truly believe that eating a clean paleo diet does help with my mood (not necessarily social phobia/anxiety issues, but my mood seems more stable unless I face a large stressor or traumatic event which still tends to throw me off the deep end). I tried to do fish oil for a bit but it became hard to afford that extra bit and dropped it (I've read that this can be helpful for treating bipolar), but other than that I haven't tried many natural ways of treating other than trying to avoid too much stress when possible.

So, now I've been prescribed Zyprexa, which from what I've been reading there is really nothing I like about it. I've read it works very well for stabilizing mood and might even help with anxiety (as an add-on) but it seems to be one of the worst for weight gain and also carries the risk of causing development of diabetes with long term use. I have expressed to my pdoc that I am EXTREMELY against gaining weight. I've took Seroquel for maybe 3 months and gained 60 lbs, and it is the same type of med (atypical antipsychotic). She told me that not everyone reacts that way (although I have before to a similar med) and that's why they weigh me every time I come in because if I gain any weight she will take me off of it. I have my follow up appt in 2 weeks, but I honestly don't know about taking this stuff AT ALL. It is kind of freaking me out. Even if I do give it a go I think I will just tell her at my appt in two weeks that I'm not cool with taking something that can cause such serious medical issues (obesity and diabetes, namely). I am already a bit overweight (about 40-60 lbs I could do without) and much of it is actually from my stint on Seroquel. I am taking 5 mg daily for these first two weeks, so if anyone has any experience with this med (or similar ones) let me know what you think about just going with it for the two weeks. I'm afraid if I refuse to take it or tell them I've decided I don't want to do meds that they won't approve my appeal and let me finish school.

I have been trying to research other options for rx treatment of bipolar disorder that does not have the weight gain or hyperglycemia issues but the two that I've found info on are two that I've been on and probably can't do again. The first is Abilify, all I remember is that when the dose was raised to a certain point I had SEVERE issues with involuntary movements in my facial muscles, mouth, and tongue and my anxiety went through the roof and to the moon. I don't know if it would be worth it to try it at the lower dose I was initially on that didn't cause these problems and see if it works. The other med is Lamictal, which worked GREAT for me, I really liked it, but I had a reaction to it and ended up in the ER with my mouth and throat swelling and I don't think they would even ever prescribe it to me again (Lamictal rash and all that business). So if anyone happens to know of any other RX treatments that don't make you fat or give you diabetes, let me know. (I know nobody probably really approves of any of this stuff, and neither do I really, but just having the info could help me work with my pdoc).

Lastly, if anyone has any experience, knows of some research or has any ideas of how natural supplementation can and has helped with both bipolar disorder and social phobia/generalized anxiety disorder (all my diagnoses) such as the fish oil stuff I've read, maybe these are things I could talk to my pdoc about trying out and she could still monitor me (so I can show the school I'm still in "treatment") all ideas are welcome! And you are welcome to chastise me about using prescription psychotropic meds as well if you like, give it to me straight! I am REALLY going to try and stick to paleo (if I do take the zyprexa or something similar definitely low carb probably to try and prevent the weight gain) but I'm already worried about it because finances are going to be extremely tight, so it will be like the worst version of paleo probably (lots of factory farmed chicken and pork and BHT containing lard and stuff like that I'm thinking). Better than ramen, that's for sure.

Sorry so long (I'm wordy) and thanks in advance :)

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11986 · November 17, 2012 at 5:08 PM

I'm upvoting this even though I think it's an answer that's very closely tied to your very specific and personal experience, and may not apply to the OP's situation. It is still very thoughtful, and I agree that the bipolar diagnostic criteria (heck, even the depression criteria) are on shaky ground. We don't know what we're dealing with. Furthermore, I *love* that you're questioning the high-pressure college degree push. I couldn't agree more with your advice to get your health straight, find a job (that you enjoy), and then worry about lofty "career" goals when your head and body are better.

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18671 · November 15, 2012 at 11:03 PM

Although there have not been clinical trials on a ketogenic diet for bipolar, there is plenty of reason to expect that it would be effective. In addition to Eugenia's post, see for example: http://diagnosisdiet.com/bipolar-disorder-and-low-carb-diets/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23030231/ (bipolar ii) and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11918434

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18671 · November 15, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Second, there is no reason one needs to consider a ketogenic diet as a strict alternative to drugs. It can be used as an adjunct under supervision, and drugs can be kept or weaned according to effect.

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18671 · November 15, 2012 at 10:54 PM

Laura, first of all, the ketogenic diet has drug-like effectiveness in some serious medical conditions, without the dangerous side effects. This means that it can have a profound effect on the way the body functions that should not be confused with the kind of "alternative" dietary "therapies" that have turned up little to nothing in clinical trials.

Medium avatar
1029 · November 15, 2012 at 10:45 PM

The drugs are lifesavers in many situations and allow many people to function.

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11254 · November 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Laura, the advice may be dangerous, but so are the drugs. But let's face it- the danger in Eugenia's advice is that it's recipient might not be disciplined enough to actually implement it. The danger in psychiatry is inherent in it- the drugs themselves are dangerous.

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141 · September 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM

I think this is very dangerous advice. Paleo diets can be very helpful for many things, but don't ever attempt to treat a mental illness with diet alone. If this is not what you meant Eugenia, you should be more specific.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that responded, I think I got everybody a +1 for your advice. I love having all these options to check out.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:14 PM

I believe it, I did Atkins long ago and stayed VLC, like <20 grams a day over long periods and always felt fantastic. It's been harder to stick with this time around, I don't know why, but I just can't seem to cut back on the fruit and sweet potatoes. I also have way more of a sweet tooth than I used to have, I wish I could get rid of it!

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:12 PM

I'm hypoglycemic as well, so stable blood sugar levels definitely helps with my levels of irritation LOL, the other thing I'm worried about with the Zyprexa is that is can cause hyperglycemia and even type II diabetes (probably with longer term use though which hopefully won't be the case). I haven't checked out the link yet but definitely will, thanks.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:11 PM

The light therapy sounds neat and probably wouldn't be too hard to set up. Being a college student it is hard to stick with the going to bed early etc. but I'm down to give it a try. Thanks for the link.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Love that evolutionary psychiatry blog, thanks for the link! I'm sort of an evolutionist (is that a term?) and love reading about evolution based approaches to medicine and everything really. It all just makes so much sense to me. Thanks again :)

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Thanks, I think it's gotten hard to accept putting "unnatural" things into my body after going paleo, not this is a bad or a good thing, I think it's good I'm more conscious of what I put in (or on) myself, but sometimes it just freaks me out and makes me feel guilty. I've been taking the med for about 3 days or so now and it seems to be helping, I feel better, emotionally. Also been trying to get some extra activity in and I've actually dropped a pound (not 100% paleo right now either, or even 80%, but working on that)

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724 · August 25, 2012 at 1:39 AM

I took lithium (RX) for almost a year I think at one point, first in combo with lamictal, then after the lamictal reaction, lithium and celexa. I think it worked for me, and I did read a lot on how it supposedly works in the brain, but it seemed to give me extreme brain fog and made school that much more difficult. I was taking 900 mg, I will do some research on OTC stuff, maybe lower doses would be good. Thanks for the tip :)

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2387 · August 24, 2012 at 1:54 PM

One thing to consider if you can do the research and understand it: look into the mechanisms of action on Lithium and why it works, including the relationship of the circadian rhythm and BPD and how Lithium sets things straight. Also how lithium is anabolic including with respect to neural growth. Then look into low-dose lithium otc supplements such as Lithium Orotate where 120mg tablet delivers 5mg elemental lithium. Also experiment with fish oil - my using fish oils with higher ration dha/epa has been amazingly effective in conjunction with low dose lithium. I personally will never do meds.

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1105 · August 23, 2012 at 7:53 PM

Please don't beat yourself up about using meds. I don't have any experience with antipsychotics, but I take antidepressants and I'd be a mess without them. Yes, Paleo helps. Yes, exercise helps. Yes, meditation and yoga and deep breathing help. But I still function best when I'm on meds.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Thanks, I think it's gotten hard to accept putting "unnatural" things into my body after going paleo, not this is a bad or a good thing, I think it's good I'm more conscious of what I put in (or on) myself, but sometimes it just freaks me out and makes me feel guilty. I've been taking the med for about 3 days or so now and it seems to be helping, I feel better, emotionally. Also been trying to get some extra activity in and I've actually dropped a pound (not 100% paleo right now either, or even 80%, but working on that)

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2030 · August 23, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Hi sabretooth, you can check around the site a little there are quite a few people with bipolar or other issues here that have seen improvements. I'll post a few questions.

http://paleohacks.com/questions/54003/any-experiences-overcoming-mood-disorders#axzz24NwX9MEP

http://paleohacks.com/questions/35195/bipolar-disorder-and-paleo#axzz24NwX9MEP

http://paleohacks.com/questions/82059/what-do-you-think-is-the-optimal-diet-for-mental-health#axzz24ObbEjwS

Also Emily Deans has a great blog dedicated to mental health with an evolutionary tie in:

http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.ca/

Hope this helps you out.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Love that evolutionary psychiatry blog, thanks for the link! I'm sort of an evolutionist (is that a term?) and love reading about evolution based approaches to medicine and everything really. It all just makes so much sense to me. Thanks again :)

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805 · September 16, 2012 at 6:39 AM

I'd look into Neurofeedback and maybe into ketogenic paleo diet, stay gluten free, I know gluten allergies can manifest and affect you psychologically.

I love this book, I have read many paleo books, by Dr. Cordain, Robb Wolf, and Nora Gedgaudes' Primal Body Primal Mind <---- click here, listen to her podcasts, she has some good one on mental health.

I have ADHD and auditory processing disorder, and the ketogenic has done wonders for me, I am more focus and calm, and not as hyper. (yes I know you have bipolar and its completely different) but I heard that bipolar like adhd may actually lie on the autism spectrum

I know, I know, n=1, so you can try something and maybe it works or not but i'd give it shot, as far as the gluten free stuff I believe you have to stay gluten free for 6 months to really see results from what I heard. Beware of hidden gluten, depending on your sensitivity... walking into a bakery and breathing in a flour cloud could cause you to produce gluten antibodies.

another book to look into The Autoimmune Paleo Diet: Anne Angelone you never know it could be a food allergy.

Though I think you might see some improvement with the ketogenic diet because blood sugar dysregulation can cause hormonal imbalances which could affect brain chemistry

Good luck

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11254 · November 15, 2012 at 9:55 PM

I have seen the effects of Zyprexa. It isn't good. A three hundred pound man who looked pregnant. More than just one guy too- I was in the mental health field when it came out. These poor folk were already sick and heavy, this stuff just made it worse. I can't understand why they'd give it to you for bipolar- a questionable diagnosis in itself. It is probably about 90% iatrogenic- i.e. it is created by the medical treatment. The other ten percent? People with this diagnosis make me want to say REPENT. I don't know if you would do that to me, but since you have this diagnosis the probability is high. There was just some sort of dishonesty and social manipulation that would tick me off more than if some guy just came up and car-jacked me.

Look, how valuable is this degree? Are you really going to be able to pay it off in the end, or you going to be stuck, like me, in a job that you could have done while you were in grade school? If you have the slightest inking you might be in my boat, ditch the meds, flip off your psychiatrist, and get the whole idea of college out of your head. Find some job and focus on eating well and behaving yourself until your brain regains some semblance of normal chemistry. You will feel crazy for a while, precisely because the drugs screw up your brain. Depending on the drugs they gave you before, maybe an SSRI or something might be necessary, because once the brain remodels, you end up dependent. Now, presumably the brain can remodel again, I'm not sure about that- can receptors that are lost come back?

Oh, look I guess I am saying repent, given that repent can mean something like change your agenda.

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11986 · November 17, 2012 at 5:08 PM

I'm upvoting this even though I think it's an answer that's very closely tied to your very specific and personal experience, and may not apply to the OP's situation. It is still very thoughtful, and I agree that the bipolar diagnostic criteria (heck, even the depression criteria) are on shaky ground. We don't know what we're dealing with. Furthermore, I *love* that you're questioning the high-pressure college degree push. I couldn't agree more with your advice to get your health straight, find a job (that you enjoy), and then worry about lofty "career" goals when your head and body are better.

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11682 · August 23, 2012 at 9:29 PM

I'm not a doctor, but from my research online, Paleo-ketogenic is the way to go for most mental problems. I've written about it here: http://eugenia.queru.com/2011/11/22/paleo-ketogenic-diet-for-mental-disorders/

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:14 PM

I believe it, I did Atkins long ago and stayed VLC, like <20 grams a day over long periods and always felt fantastic. It's been harder to stick with this time around, I don't know why, but I just can't seem to cut back on the fruit and sweet potatoes. I also have way more of a sweet tooth than I used to have, I wish I could get rid of it!

Aeb34822732d3ff78a8085a71f1baebe
141 · September 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM

I think this is very dangerous advice. Paleo diets can be very helpful for many things, but don't ever attempt to treat a mental illness with diet alone. If this is not what you meant Eugenia, you should be more specific.

Medium avatar
1029 · November 15, 2012 at 10:45 PM

The drugs are lifesavers in many situations and allow many people to function.

7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6
11254 · November 15, 2012 at 10:00 PM

Laura, the advice may be dangerous, but so are the drugs. But let's face it- the danger in Eugenia's advice is that it's recipient might not be disciplined enough to actually implement it. The danger in psychiatry is inherent in it- the drugs themselves are dangerous.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · November 15, 2012 at 11:03 PM

Although there have not been clinical trials on a ketogenic diet for bipolar, there is plenty of reason to expect that it would be effective. In addition to Eugenia's post, see for example: http://diagnosisdiet.com/bipolar-disorder-and-low-carb-diets/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23030231/ (bipolar ii) and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11918434

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18671 · November 15, 2012 at 10:54 PM

Laura, first of all, the ketogenic diet has drug-like effectiveness in some serious medical conditions, without the dangerous side effects. This means that it can have a profound effect on the way the body functions that should not be confused with the kind of "alternative" dietary "therapies" that have turned up little to nothing in clinical trials.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · November 15, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Second, there is no reason one needs to consider a ketogenic diet as a strict alternative to drugs. It can be used as an adjunct under supervision, and drugs can be kept or weaned according to effect.

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1169 · August 23, 2012 at 8:01 PM

I think avoid all fasting because you need stable blood sugar levels and your body will like the certainty of good food at the same time every day.

Secondly have a look at radiantrecovery.com which is similar to paleo eating except for a bit of brown carbs.

Do keep up the medication for now. Only come off it if the doctor says so. Also get therapy and exercise and sunshine as well as the healthy diet and regular meals. Avoid alcohol and all processed foods.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:12 PM

I'm hypoglycemic as well, so stable blood sugar levels definitely helps with my levels of irritation LOL, the other thing I'm worried about with the Zyprexa is that is can cause hyperglycemia and even type II diabetes (probably with longer term use though which hopefully won't be the case). I haven't checked out the link yet but definitely will, thanks.

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5201 · August 23, 2012 at 7:32 PM

There are lots of different meds used to treat bipolar disorder and not all of them are antipsychotics. Unfortunately, they all have different side effect profiles. But just because a side effect has been reported doesn???t mean that you will experience it. The most important thing right now is to get your symptoms under control so you can finish school. Check with your doctor about all of your options and don???t be afraid to follow her advice. I sympathize with your anxiety over this, but if one med doesn???t work there are others you can try. I also found a study using light therapy here that looks promising. Good luck to you.

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724 · August 26, 2012 at 4:11 PM

The light therapy sounds neat and probably wouldn't be too hard to set up. Being a college student it is hard to stick with the going to bed early etc. but I'm down to give it a try. Thanks for the link.

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165 · November 16, 2012 at 3:40 AM

If you haven't heard of pyroluria, you should read up on it and complete a questionare to see if you might have it. It's a genetic condition which causes low levels of zinc and b6, and is very prevalent in people with anxiety, depression, bipolar, and other mental problems. I recently learned about it, and based on the questionare, it's very likely I have it, and it may partially explain the anxiety I've had most my life and the off and on depression. You can read up on it here

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0 · November 15, 2012 at 9:25 PM

I empathize with ya, i've struggled a long time with eating disorder, social anxiety,ptsd and bipolar disorder. medications and their horrible side effects do suck, it's good to be proactive and get all the info you can cause the doctors, with all their good intentions don't seem to offer much in the way of alternative therapy information so ya get more drugs. I have read lots about sleep deprivation therapy for depressive phases, a night or two of restricted sleep really helps me. I take topamax with methylphenidate, which wasn't helping with my rapid mood cycling, anxiety and depression until i introduced nicotine. I had never smoked but i read alot about potential benefits of nicotine for people with mental illness and alot of other health problems and there is tons of amazing information. Nicotine gum at 6mg a day for the last 6 months has been miraculous in combination with my other meds.It's always a personal choice, and there's dangers with any route you decide to go, but i have had some really bad scares with medication and ended up in the hospital because of side effects. I haven't had any ill side effects myself with the nicotine gum, and i've never craved any more than the usual amount i use to control my anxiety and depressive symptoms. check out http://www.gwern.net/Nicotine, there's much more out there though. The topamax has given me some terrible side effects, like hair falling out be the handful and eyepain. I used to do a ketogenic diet which was also pretty good for me, i felt pretty calm and stable and slept well, but they don't recommend doing that diet on topamax.hopefully you find something helpful, it's hard dealing with all the chaos mental illness brings.

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141 · September 16, 2012 at 6:20 AM

Sorry for your struggles. I can relate. Have you tried topomax? I am sorry to say that the Paleo diet will not fix your problems. How do I know?

If you haven't tried topomax, I highly recommend trying it or another similar mood stabilizer combined with an antidepressant. Trying to deal with bipolar through diet is extremely dangerous. Don't do it.

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2387 · August 23, 2012 at 8:05 PM

There is no "Paleo" approach to disorders of the "mind" and giving advice regarding it is even more dangerous than the same regarding physical health.

Although I will be amongst the first to say that most such disorders, like physical health, are likely due to the complex interplay of nutrition, genetics, and environment, such is perhaps the final frontier when it comes to Paleo, and the boat hasn't hardly sailed to get there yet.

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