How Omega 3 fatty acids help bipolar disorder – this is a fascinating topic. And it is getting more fascinating with it now posutlated Manic Depressives have lower levels of certain omega-3 fatty acids crossing the blood-brain barrier. So lower levels of these crucial lipids in the brain tissue.
I learned about the connection to a possible deficiency state of Omega 3 fatty acids in the body and mood swings many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties and very ill. I was afraid of having to be hospitalized, though was quite high a lot of the time. And severely depressed much of the other time.
Like many, I hid my illness, spent time alone so as to ‘not give myself away’ or trigger worsening of my mood states. I was the classic rapid cycler (early onset, female) though mainly wanted to ignore what was going on. Lithium in high doses over the course of a year had made me worse, I never wanted to go through anything similar again.Omega-3 Fatty Acids Have Intracellular Effects Similar to Lithium and Valproate. Click To Tweet
I wanted to just be me, move forward in life; similar to any Gen Xer twenty-something. I didn’t want to just be a psychiatric diagnosis. I’d had enough of that.
Salmon Oil to the Point of Puking
So, in classic Manic Depressive style… I bought salmon oil and took as much of the caps daily I could. I think my pee even smelled fishy… the burps were just gross. I learned to take it at night so any of the fishy body gasses that came with ingesting and digesting the fishy oil had dissipated by morning.
Continuing the erratic-style way of doing a trial run of the supplement, when I moved into a down stage and felt low, went off of it after a while. I wanted to be well – it helped, but didn’t cure me. In protest I gave up. Thought knew the effects were never meant to be a cure, just to help with severity of symptoms.
I got motivated to take it off and on over the past 30 or so years, and I do think it helped the severity of my mood states, along with thyroid medication. That’s my story, and why I think the topic is so fascinating and could be of such help to others.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Benefit Both Bipolar and ‘Unipolar’ Depression and Have Mood Stabilizer Effect
There is now much published research on the effects of fish oil on moods – back then it was some article I read from a study in Canada by Orthomolecular Psychiatrists.
When I did mention it to a psychiatrist once, I got a very long and bit sad look plus slight shake of the head back and forth.
“No, that will not help you was the message.”
I went back to taking it ‘in secret’, ignoring psychiatrists who thought it was a waste of time and money. They were wrong. My intuition to keep trying alternative ways of being well was right.
Not only have studies using fish oil versus a placebo shown to help those with bipolar illness since 1999 – now they are learning the actual biological mechanisms that may be why it has a beneficial effect.
“Omega-3’s have shown benefit in both bipolar and “unipolar” depression, and in bipolar prevention (mood stabilizer effect)…”
Wow. That’s pretty exciting stuff.
Research Finds Bipolar Patients Have Lower Levels of Certain Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Results from a November, 2015 study of 27 bipolar patients and 31 control subjects (normal folks) found that:
“Free fatty acids are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, while fatty acids bound to proteins are not. In study subjects with bipolar disorder, the ratio of a free-circulating omega-3 fatty acid called EPA to bound EPA was lower than in other people.”
The researchers then concluded that bipolar patients have less of the bioavailable form of these crucial for brain health fatty acids in their body.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Affect Mania and Tendency Towards Suicide in Bipolar Patients
From the article:
“Omega-3 fatty acids are a large component of brain-cell membranes and are important for cell-to-cell communication in the brain.”
“In the study, the ratio of free to bound EPA correlated with clinical bipolar symptoms, specifically mania and tendency towards suicide.”
See what I mean? This is seriously exciting and fascinating stuff. Earlier studies only went so far as to say that fish oil (the source of Omega 3 fatty acids used in studies) helped reduce depressive symptoms.
Some even said it (the fish oil) had little to no effect on the manic phase of Manic Depression.
Now there is evidence that Omega 3s (fish oil, salmon oil supplements) do affect mania; and mania can be one of the most terrifying and destructive aspects of the illness – for those who actually are bipolar i.e. Manic Depressive, now called Bipolar 1 Disorder.
Related post: Your Music Goes Good with a Beer and My Mania.
The effect may not be as strong as a major psychotropic medication or work as quickly to reduce symptoms – but it has an effect on mood stabilization and to prevent the illness. And there are no side effects in safe dosages.
As an added note, I don’t believe there is really such a thing as a ‘bipolar child’ – but now there never needs to be a child being drugged with harmful antipsychotic medication. They can effectively be treated using natural supplments.
Very exciting stuff. Sorry Big Pharma.