“What Foods and Drinks Should People With Bipolar Disorder Avoid?
The fundamentals of a healthy diet include not just what to eat but also what not to eat. Consider skipping these choices that could worsen your bipolar symptoms:
“Stimulants can trigger mania and should be avoided,” Fiedorowicz says. “Caffeine is an underappreciated trigger and can also impair sleep,” and sleep deprivation is a notorious trigger for bipolar mood swings and mania, he says.
The National Sleep Foundation points out that caffeine can increase irritability and anxiety, in addition to affecting sleep, and recommends avoiding caffeine as you approach bedtime. Fiedorowicz adds that some over-the-counter medications — such as pseudoephedrine, which is found in some cough and cold medicines — have stimulant properties similar to caffeine and can also trigger bipolar mood swings.
Bottom line: Alcohol and bipolar disorder make a bad combination. Alcohol can negatively affect bipolar mood swings and may also interact negatively with medication such as lithium, according to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (NIHCC). People with bipolar disorder are also more likely to die prematurely if they use alcohol or other substances, according to an analysis of data that included more than 11,000 people with bipolar disorder published in the September 2015 issue of The Lancet Psychiatry.
Eating a diet high in sugar can make it harder to control weight and obesity — including related belly fat — and make some bipolar disorder drug treatments less effective, according to results of a multicenter study published in the June 2015 issue of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. If you need to satisfy a sweet tooth, reach for fruit.
If you’re taking lithium, moderating salt intake can be tricky because a change in salt intake — either a sudden increase or a decrease — can affect lithium levels, according to the NIHCC. Talk with your doctor about how to safely manage the salt in your diet to stay within a healthy range. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams (mg) a day for most adults. Equally important when taking lithium is to make sure you drink enough fluids: Dehydration can cause dangerous side effects, Fiedorowicz cautions.
Fiedorowicz suggests following the heart-healthy recommendations from the American Heart Association to limit the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in your diet. That means opting for lean protein and low-fat dairy products when choosing animal products. You might have heard that the fat in foods could alter the way your body uses medication: Generally, your medication will still be effective, but eating a lot of fried, fatty foods just isn’t good for your heart. And remember that the oils used for frying are high in the omega-6 fatty acids you want to avoid.”