Is There an Ideal Bipolar Diet?

Yes there as an optimum bipolar diet: a healthy one.

Children and Teens and the Bipolar Diet

I am constantly amazed by what parents feed their children. I often find fast food wrappers in my waiting room, or see six and seven year olds with cans of coke, candy bars or bags of chips. The truth is, sometimes I am the one giving kids these snacks!

Common sense tells us that this is unhealthy for any child, and even more so for a child with a medical condition like bipolar disorder. Parents are responsible for regulating the food that their children eat, and healthy eating habits are shaped at an early age. Meal time can also be a peaceful time to communicate and de-stress, and doesn't have to be done on the run.

Unfortunately life can be hectic and it is hard to make a commitment to a healthy eating style, but especially worth it with children who have mood disorders. Also, it can be especially challenging. Carb and sugar cravings during mood swings make it hard to resist giving in to their demands, and sometimes you have to pat yourself on the back for not letting them have  an entire bag of cookies for breakfast.


Sugar, Caffeine, and The Crash

When children become teens they adopt any unhealthy eating habits they have been taught from an early age and take it to the extreme.

My bipolar teens do not seem to understand the connection between a healthy diet and their mood stability. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them if they want to manage their illness, then they need to eat healthy foods, at regular intervals, on a schedule. I always think this will motivate them because they feel so powerless and communicate to me constantly how they wish they had more control.

Instead of following this advice, they do everything they can to abuse their bodies. It is not uncommon for some of these kids to ingest massive amounts of caffeine, sugar and unrefined carbohydrates. Many of my young adults or teens with bipolar disorder drink those energy drinks which are loaded with sugar and caffeine. Caffeine and sugar both cause you to crash and that will exacerbate mood swings.

At a minimum the bipolar diet should consist of :

  • Healthy food at regular intervals on a schedule
  • Limited caffeine
  • Limited sugar
  • Limited unrefined carbohydrates.
  • Special Issues in the Bipolar Diet

    Omega 3

    There is some evidence that Omega 3 can be helpful in the bipolar diet. Click here and scroll down to the omega section for more information

    Vitamins and Minerals

    The uncomfortable symptoms and unknown long term side effects of mood stabilizers cause many to be on a quest for a natural alternative, especially for children.

    Click here and scroll down for more information

    Carbohydrate Cravings

    Unfortunately one of the things that exacerbate mood swings in EVERYONE are cravings for carbohydrates and sugar. Indulging in these cravings, as any dieter can tell you, will result in an addictive pattern.

    Children who are bipolar have a certain brain chemistry that causes them to crave carbohydrates and sugar. If a child is unstable then a parent can be on shaky ground when they deny a child a food they are craving. I have known families that have indulged their child in any craving they have had at any time of day for fear of the child escalating into an uncontrollable rage.

    The best advice to parents is to limit the amount of carbohydrates you child has access to. If this is impossible because your child is unstable and dangerous, do the best you can. Determining whether your child is stable enough to handle no, and then beginning to build on their ability to abstain from what they want at any given moment is important in their long term emotional growth and ability to manage their illness. You don’t, however, want to risk a suicide attempt or trip to the hospital in developing this skill.

    Learn to use your good judgment when limiting food by reading the signs of your child’s illness.

    Food Allergies

    Anything that makes a child who is bipolar uncomfortable, physically or emotionally has the potential to effect their mood and in turn their energy attention and ability to function. Statistics say 5- 8 percent of kids have food allergies and certainly food allergies could cause symptoms of discomfort. Although I don’t know of any researched evidence of this, I know several families I work with have sworn that by altering their child’s on the basis of common food allergies, such as gluten or red dye, their bipolar kids have improved dramatically. If you are interested in learning if your child has food allergies, just ask your doctor to check your child .

    Click here for more information about bipolar disorder medications.

    Click here for more information about nutrition and serotonin.

    Check out our online facebook support community for parents of kids with mood disorders 

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    Medical information obtained from our website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.