Managing your bipolar diagnosis can often feel quite daunting. Between challenging symptoms and the ongoing struggle that is trying to find the perfect concoction of medications to treat your illness, one might understandably start to feel hopeless and defeated.
You might think to yourself,
“Am I destined to be overwhelmed by my emotions? Or alternatively so heavily medicated that I literally feel nothing at all?”
I’ve asked myself these questions ever since being diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1, Generalized Anxiety, and OCD at the young age of 13. This was not an easy pill to swallow as I attempted to navigate my way through my varying diagnosis in addition to the hormonal changes taking place in my body.
As someone who’s been prescribed with just about every antidepressant and antipsychotic under the sun, I know first hand how debilitating the side effects of these prescription medications can be.
I’ll never forget the day I was rushing to class back in grade 8. I was notorious for skipping school and when I did finally make an appearance I was almost always late. Needless to say, my teachers loved me…
I distinctly remember grabbing my books from my locker before everything went black. To this day I’m unsure how much time actually passed before I was woken up by my english teacher.
“Keisha…Keisha! – Wake up”
Where am I? I thought to myself. What the hell happened?
Apparently I’d gone full blown narcoleptic and unexpectedly passed out. When I woke up I was consumed with a wave of anxiety trying to piece together what had happened and why I was sleeping on the hallway floor of my highschool.
Turns out the dose of my medication was so high that my body just shut down. I recall feeling extremely groggy and disoriented all day but falling asleep on my way to class was next level crazy!
How was this solution deemed healthier than my initial mood swings?
I researched the medication that my doctor had recently put me on only to discover that the side effects were quite common. And get this, suddenly passing out with zero recollection of what occurred was not the worst thing that could happen to someone taking this prescription.
It was known for increasing suicidal thoughts and causing anxiety…which ironically is what I was being treated for.
This experience was one of many that I faced throughout my course of treatment. The side effects were almost always worse than my actual symptoms! I went from manic, angsty teenager to full blown walking zombie. Zero emotions, and zero motivation or ability to function.
These medications were ruining my life and I was starting to lose hope that I would ever be able to function and live a normal, happy existence.
*Disclaimer – This is purely an example of my experience with prescription medication. I am in no way suggesting you stop taking your medication as prescribed by your doctor, psychiatrist, etc.
Fast forward to the spring of 2018 when I decided to take a more natural approach to my mental health. This process required a TON of research and trial and error.
I’d been unmedicated for 10 years and never considered an alternative route to treating my bipolar symptoms. I didn’t even know that vitamins and supplements could positively impact my mental health to begin with!
After working with a Naturopath to relieve the symptoms of my autoimmune disease, I noticed a shift in my behavioural patterns. My mood swings became less frequent and the highs and lows of my everyday life felt more manageable.
There was an internal shift taking place that I just couldn’t ignore. Were these supplements treating more than just my inflammation and physical pain?
The answer is yes!
I spent countless hours reading about the benefits of different vitamins and supplements for people diagnosed with bipolar, anxiety, and depression. Case studies, real life testimonials, the list goes on.
To my surprise, I discovered there was an entire community of holistic healers who specialized in natural remedies to treat varying mental health disorders and I felt like I had hit the jackpot!
This was the golden ticket I had so desperately been searching for. THIS was an approach and a method I could get behind.
Today the list of supplements I take on a daily basis is lengthly. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve had to invest in one of those old lady pill containers separated by days of the week (AM/PM).
I can assure you, I’m not mad about it.
If you’re interested in exploring a more natural approach to treating your bipolar, or simply curious about adding a few of these vitamins to your daily routine, I’ve broken down the supplements that I take and provided the mental health benefits of each one.
Did you know that Vitamin D can increase your body’s serotonin production? Serotonin is often referred to as the happy chemical that helps regulate our moods.
The vast majority of us are actually Vitamin D deficient due to poor diet and lack of exposure to sunlight. If living in Vancouver has taught me anything, it’s to make damn sure I never run out of Vitamin D!
For those of us diagnosed with bipolar disorder, this deficiency can cause severe depressive episodes and low moods. Incorporating this supplement into your daily routine can help prevent and combat these symptoms.
Low levels of Vitamin B can cause a number of negative side effects in the body including depression, anxiety, and fatigue. There are many foods rich in Vitamin B such as meat and leafy greens.
When I was diagnosed with my autoimmune disease a couple of years ago, I discovered a laundry list of foods my body is intolerant to. Red meat, dairy, grains, and leafy greens (to name a few) which meant I needed to supplement this vitamin in order to avoid becoming deficient.
Not only did this increase my energy levels, but it prevented me from sleeping excessively which only fuelled my depression.
Depending on the state of your physical health and whether or not your body can tolerate certain foods, I strongly suggest incorporating a B vitamin into your daily routine in order to reap the benefits.
Iron is another supplement I just can’t live without!
During my early twenties my doctor informed me that I was anemic as a result of my plant based diet. I felt tired and weak ALL the time and my energy levels were rapidly declining as the days went by.
I was also just really sad and had zero motivation to succeed or build a life for myself. My lifestyle definitely contributed to these feelings and I could intuitively sense that something wasn’t right.
After some extensive research, I discovered that our body requires iron in order to produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects our mood and cognitive function. It plays a major role in our ability to absorb information and maintain a positive, happy mindset.
Without my daily iron supplement, I notice I’m more sluggish and my mood tends to be quite low.
Fish oils (Omega-3’s) play an important role in brain development and cognitive function. They have been proven to decrease inflammation throughout the body and improve depressive symptoms in people struggling with their mental health.
If you’re unable to incorporate fish products in your diet, then supplementing Omega-3’s is an excellent alternative!
I definitely notice an immediate difference in my mood when I run out of fish oil (even if it’s just for a couple of days). I’m less alert, sluggish, and more inclined to spend the day in bed and surrender to my low moods rather than work through them with intention.
Omegas = brain food
I stumbled upon this supplement a few years ago when my life was at an all time low and I was unable to manage my stress levels effectively. My adrenal glands were completely shot and my body was very quickly depleting due to such high levels of constant anxiety.
Ortho Adapt helps to repair fatigued adrenal glands and restore the body’s natural energy stores. Our adrenal glands are responsible for managing our stress levels, metabolism, and immune system.
This supplement was created by Advanced Orthomolecular Research (AOR). They are one of my favourite brands and I have yet to find another product quite like this one.
Porcine adrenal gland cortex is one of the main components in this supplement. It is extracted from the adrenal glands of animals and helps to repair damaged or strained adrenals in humans.
90% of our body’s serotonin is created in the gut!
So it only makes sense that taking probiotics daily, supports healthy gut flora and helps to elevate your mood and alleviate symptoms associated with depression.
Incorporating meals high in probiotics is another great alternative! Fermented foods such as, kombucha, yogurt, and sauerkraut help to support healthy gut bacteria.
In terms of supplements, there is an abundance of probiotics to choose from! Some strains may work better than others which is why I encourage you to do your research and consult with a natural health practitioner.
I use AOR’s Probiotic-3 which you can find online or at your local health food store.
Curcumin is a micronutrient derived from the root vegetable turmeric. It is commonly known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain associated with arthritis and various other diseases that cause inflammation in the body.
Did you know that it also has antidepressant effects and can help reduce anxiety and depression in individuals diagnosed with mood disorders such as bipolar?
Pairing turmeric with black pepper extract increases absorption in the body and enhances its healing properties. I like to check the ingredient list as a lot of companies already add black pepper to their curcumin formula for this exact reason. This means one less supplement to add to your list!
Golden milk is another option if you’re someone who enjoys the taste of turmeric. It usually consists of ground turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, a milk alternative (I use coconut or cashew) and your choice of sweetener.
If I’m experiencing inflammation or overwhelming anxiety, I’ll make myself a golden milk in addition to my daily curcumin supplement. Pairing the two together instantly provides me with relief from my symptoms and prevents my mood from decreasing any further.
Taking these supplements on a daily basis has increased my quality of life tenfold!
It’s allowed me to take control of my mental health and support myself naturally without having to battle the debilitating side effects caused by prescription medications.
Living with Bipolar depression can be difficult at times. Some days it feels like we’ve got a handle on things, and others, we are just barely scraping by. I get it.
But there is hope! There is an abundance of alternative resources available to us.
Remember, it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to advocate for yourself and your needs. It’s OK to not be ok 24/7.
Lifestyle plays a major role for those of us looking to manage our mental health and regulate our moods. Incorporating supplements into your daily regimen, may just be the missing piece to your puzzle!
Beautiful Train Wreck