Bipolar disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition characterized by shifts in mood, including manic and depressive episodes. The condition is complex and
Recently, an emerging field that combines nutrition and psychiatry — known as nutritional psychiatry — has started to associate diet and mental health conditions,
While there’s still much that we don’t know, some early research has linked certain eating styles and nutrients to improvements in BPD symptoms.
In particular, there has been a
This article discusses the link between the paleo diet and bipolar disorder, suggests whether it’s worth trying, and provides other useful tips for managing your bipolar disorder.
Currently, there is no strong evidence to suggest that the paleo diet can help with bipolar disorder.
However, adopting some principles of the diet could help boost brain health and stabilize your mood.
What is the paleo diet?
The paleo diet — short for Paleolithic diet — is an eating style based on foods thought to have been consumed by hunter-gatherers
Though the diet varies, foods usually permitted
Foods not allowed on the diet include grains, beans, lentils, soy, dairy products, highly processed foods, certain vegetable oils (eg, canola, corn, safflower), and added sugar.
The diet also
Proponents of the paleo diet suggest that because the current standard Western diet — which is often high in sugar, fat, and salt — may be associated with poorer health, the paleo diet is the way humans were “meant” to eat.
How does diet affect bipolar disorder?
Interestingly, some research has found a link between bipolar disorder and poorer diet quality.
People with BPD
That’s one reason some people think the paleo diet might benefit people with BPD.
Another theory is that the paleo diet is low in carbs and similar to the ketogenic (keto) diet, which has been
However, even though the paleo diet is also low in carbs, it doesn’t help you achieve ketosis, which is the hallmark of the keto diet. So it’s
What about other diets?
These foods tend to be high in nutrients and beneficial compounds that
Overall, people with BPD had lower Mediterranean diet scores, ate fewer healthy carbs like whole grains and vegetables, and followed diets higher in unhealthy fats and sugar than the people who didn’t have bipolar disorder.
It’s important to note that researchers aren’t sure how diet and bipolar disorder are related.
When looking at the 2019 study, for instance, we don’t know whether the people with BPD ate poorer diets due to symptoms of their condition, whether their eating styles exacerbated their conditions, or if there were other factors at play.
So for now, there is no research that directly ties the paleo diet to improvements in bipolar disorder.
Rather, evidence supports consuming a minimally processed diet that contains plenty of antioxidants, healthy fats, and nutrients important for brain health.
Though there’s no clear evidence that the paleo diet helps with bipolar disorder, you may still benefit from adopting certain eating practices that the diet encourages,
- Eating a diet rich in omega-3s: Omega-3 fats are
linkedwith improved brain health. What’s more, people with bipolar disorder tend to have lower omega-3 levels. Food sources include fatty fish, oysters, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, seaweed, and algae. You may also benefit from a supplement, but consult a healthcare professional first.
- Eating more antioxidant-rich foods: A diet high in antioxidants may help combat oxidative stress, which is linked with poorer brain and overall health.
- Limiting added sugar: Excess sugar is linked with poorer health outcomes, such as heart disease and inflammation. While it’s OK to enjoy sugary foods in moderation, it’s best to limit your intake.
- Eating zinc-rich foods: Getting enough zinc is
associated withimproved bipolar disorder symptoms. Foods high in zinc include oysters, red meat, vegetables, and dairy.
- Eating magnesium-rich foods: Adequate magnesium levels are linked with improved bipolar disorder symptoms. Some magnesium-rich foods include nuts and seeds, cooked spinach, soy milk, dairy, whole grains, potatoes, fish, poultry, and meat.
- Limiting or avoiding caffeine: It’s
recommendedthat people with bipolar disorder avoid or limit stimulants, such as caffeine, especially during manic episodes. Foods high in caffeine include coffee, some types of tea, energy drinks, sodas, and dark chocolate.
- Avoiding alcohol: Alcohol
Maynegatively interact with certain medications often used to treat bipolar disorder, such as lithium. Alcohol misuse may also trigger or worsen depressive episodes.
In addition to a healthy diet, your healthcare provider may recommend certain medications, therapies, and other lifestyle modifications to help you better manage your bipolar disorder.
Learn more about self-care practices to help you manage bipolar disorder here.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the paleo diet and bipolar disorder.
Does the paleo diet help with mental health?
To date, there is no research that links the paleo diet to improvements in mental health.
However, certain aspects of the paleo diet, such as choosing mostly minimally-processed and nutrient-dense foods, may benefit your mood.
It’s also possible that, to the contrary, the paleo diet could negatively affect your mental health. There
What are some mood-stabilizing foods?
Though no food is known to directly stabilize your mood, some foods are
These include fatty fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dark chocolate, and fermented foods.
Does the paleo diet help with depression?
To date, there is no research that supports the paleo diet in treating or curing depression.
Nutritional psychiatry is a new, emerging field of research with a lot of promise. Some evidence suggests that diet may play a role in mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder.
Though some proponents of the paleo diet say that the diet helps improve BPD symptoms, there’s little research to support this.
The diet discourages many brain-healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, and dairy, and it’s associated with a higher risk of eating disorders. People with BPD are already at higher risk of EDs, so the paleo diet may not be a safe choice for them.
However, some attributes of the diet — such as prioritizing minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods and limiting foods high in sugar — may be linked with better symptom management.
You can use these principles without following the paleo diet, though.
Right now, there’s no reason to adopt the paleo diet to treat BPD.
Instead, try to get a variety of nutrient-dense foods in your diet and work closely with a healthcare professional for personalized care.