How Omega 3 Fatty Acids Help Bipolar Disorder + My Story

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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.

How Omega 3 Fatty Acids Help Bipolar Disorder + My Story
Research Shows Bipolar Patients Have Less Free Fatty Acids Available in the Body

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.

Related post: Salmon Oil, Fish Oil or Krill Oil – What is Best for Bipolar Disorder?

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)…”

Source: PsychEducation.org.

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.”

Source: ScienceDaily.com.

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.

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4 Comments

  1. Greg Marlow said:

    By adding calcium in addition to omega-3, I was able to cure my bipolar disorder. The omega-3 allows higher blood levels of calcium and the calcium lowers neuron excitability.

    September 14, 2017
    Reply
    • Molly said:

      That is excellent Greg – I wish you’d do an interview and share your story.

      I hesitate to support the word ‘cure’ – unless, and sorry if I am hammering this point to death but it is valid – unless you were suffering primarily from depression, and given a ‘bipolar lite’ new bipolar spectrum diagnosis (BP-2, cyclothymic, etc.).

      Someone who is Manic Depressive, has had a manic episode, etc. has some genetic vulnerability. And that does not go away. So the word ‘cure’ is really not applicable.

      But you have successfully treated your mood issue, and that is absolutely awesome, congrats. That’s what this whole blog is about – to have more folks end up like you (and me), and not made sicker to the point they are given ECT, or dead.

      I hope your recovery continues. I’ve actually just added calcium (with malic acid) to my vitamin regime for fibromyalgia issues. I wasn’t thinking of the above, will research and try to write about it.

      Stay well, best of luck and thank you for sharing your story.

      September 14, 2017
      Reply
    • Greg Marlow said:

      It looks like I have hypoparathyroidism with psychiatric symptoms.

      October 19, 2017
      Reply
      • Molly said:

        I am glad you’ve identified what (or at least some or most of…) what is causing your symptoms, whatever that may be. That is excellent and it doesn’t make healing necessarily easier (we all want to just take a pill and be well but that doesn’t always happen) but you have a chance to heal and be well. Awesome 🙂

        I did have to look it up, lol. Here is a definition of ‘hypoparathyroidism’ for anyone else who didn’t know offhand:

        “Hypoparathyroidism is an uncommon condition in which your body secretes abnormally low levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH is key to regulating and maintaining a balance of your body’s levels of two minerals — calcium and phosphorus. Supplements to normalize your calcium and phosphorus levels treat the condition. Depending on the cause of your hypoparathyroidism, you’ll likely need to take supplements for life.”

        “Signs and symptoms of hypoparathyroidism can include: Tingling or burning (paresthesia) in your fingertips, toes and lips, muscle aches or cramps in your legs, feet, abdomen or face twitching or spasms of your muscles, particularly around your mouth, but also in your hands, arms and throat fatigue or weakness, painful menstruation, patchy hair loss, dry skin, brittle nails, depression or anxiety”

        Source: Mayo Clinic – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoparathyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20355375

        Sounds very similar to hypothyroid symptoms. Excellent you figured it out, hope you are able to moderate symptoms and feel better.

        October 19, 2017
        Reply

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