Bipolar 2 From Inside and Out

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FDA looks to ban trans fats. Exceptions made if consumed while depressed, anxious, or without anything better to do.

The Daily Show

If that were true, I could eat all the trans fats I wanted, because my bipolar 2 often leaves me depressed and/or anxious.

In fact, my friend Leslie, who is my partner in depression, invented the perfect snack for depressive times: a ruffled potato chip dipped in cream cheese with an M&M on top. My husband starts to worry about me when I ask him to get those ingredients at the store.

But there’s a reason for our peculiar snack. Leslie and I are simply self-medicating.

“Blood sugar and carbohydrate intake are very important to the brain,” according to Everyday Health. “Your brain runs on glucose and depends on carbohydrates to supply the energy it needs. Carbohydrate intake also prompts the production and release of important neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which creates a feeling of calm and well-being and reduces depression. So people with bipolar disorder may be indulging in a form of self-medication when they eat sugary snacks during depressive lows or manic highs.”

Not that self-medication is good for us. Bipolar people are more likely to have type 2 diabetes than the rest of the population. Three times more likely. One of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes is excessive weight and we all know and bitch about the weight gain from our assorted meds. Prescribing ourselves the Ben & Jerry’s treatment is not going to help, even though it may feel like it at the time.

So what are we supposed to be eating to help stabilize our moods? Of course, people will recommend turmeric, cider vinegar, or the latest “superfood.”  But every serious list I saw looked like this:

  • complex carbohydrates, especially fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • protein in the form of lean meats, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy
  • omega-fatty acids from fatty fish (such as salmon), walnuts, and flaxseeds

In other words, exactly the kind of diet that is recommended to everyone for general good health! I think this comes under the heading of self-care, which is not always easy to do. Especially when I’m so depressed I can’t even manage a microwave cup of mac-n-cheese, or when my husband brings home a rack of ribs that he bought on sale.

But if I am stable enough to shop and cook and eat properly, those recommended foods may be good for my mood disorder as well as my body. According to, eating protein “promotes serotonin and improved moods.” They also note that researchers in Italy say “increased consumption of omega fatty acids helps reduce depressive episodes and decreases the risk for suicide in patients with bipolar.” So apparently fish is brain food after all.

The other common suggestion in this realm of self-care is to keep a food journal, or I guess in this case a food and mood journal, to keep track of what you’re eating and how it affects your moods. If you’re the journalling sort, by all means, give this a try. As for me, I blog rather than journal and I know you don’t want to see a lot of “ate salmon, felt energized; ate chips with cream cheese and M&Ms, felt sad.”

The fact that food and mood are related is just one more example of how the brain and the body are intertwined, interdependent. It gives us a clue about the kinds of self-care that may do the most to help us stabilize our moods. And it gives us a chance to take more control, if we can, of our mental as well as physical health.

Comments on: "Bipolar Disorder: Mood and Food" (3)

  1. A few months ago I won a scholarship for T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate program. My six-week-long course focused on the health advantages of a whole food, plant-based diet/WFPB. Most of the material was very scientific (mainly doctors & nurses take this e-course) —to the point where I wanted to drop out! It was very hard for me to assimilate the information but I stuck with it.

    I learned about casein which is found in animal protein & dairy, and how it causes (gulp) cancer. This was something I did not want to know! But I stopped eating dairy & animal protein and most of my family has done that too, although they’re all sick of my WFPB speeches. My husband lost 30 pounds in the last 6 months but he still drinks some milk.

    We also learned why the WFPB diet prevents and can reverse heart disease and diabetes, type 2. Now I’m in the process of studying how the WFPB diet affects mental health; almost everything “out there” in this field has focused on physical health. I’ll let you know how it goes, Janet.

    If you want to know more about the benefits of the WFPB diet, visit the CNS website link below where there are tons of interesting & useful articles, or read Dr. Campbell’s book “The China Study.”


    • Thanks, Dyane. Since my husband’s heart attack we’ve been changing our eating habits (slowly). I don’t think we’re ready for that drastic a change yet, but I’ll keep it in mind for later. My doctor has me eating or drinking two servings of dairy per day, including yogurt, because of bone loss and digestive issues.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for writing back so quickly. I didn’t know about your husband’s heart attack; I’m so sorry! That’s great you’re making changes. A lot of people don’t, so give yourself credit for that.

    I apologize for the lengthy comment- I obviously got carried away (I’m technically still on my blogging hiatus, ha ha!) I figured you’d give me a “pass” just this once.

    Sorry to hear you have bone loss and digestive issues. 😦 There’s a book/protocol to consider to help your husband. Yes, it’s totally drastic, but from everything I’ve studied with the author Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, it’s what I would follow if Craig had heart disease. This is just f.y.i. – I don’t see myself as a doctor, I promise you that!


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