What Type of Diet Will Help Bipolar Disorder?


What type of diet will help bipolar disorder? I’ve been wondering about this for a long time, though never took the time to actually research the issue. Partly as I know how much information that presents itself as scientific and valid can be anything but… and that some of the books about bipolar illness and diet are more about making a quick buck than providing accurate information.

I Have to Eat Like This to Help My Bipolar Illness? Not a Problem and Sign Me Up!
I Have to Eat Like This to Help My Bipolar Illness? Not a Problem and Sign Me Up!

Or the information is simply one person’s experience in making diet changes and having improved mood and does not necessarily apply to others or directly to the illness Manic Depression.

Related post: Brief History of Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis: From Rare to Common.

But what if there was scientific data about a specific diet that could help someone suffering from bipolar disorder? Possibly help them get off of debillitating psychotropic medications, or at least lower the dosage of meds they are taking? So they feel better and are healthier, without suffering harmful side effects.

How awesome would that be?

Epilepsy and Bipolar Disorder

Anti-seizure medicines, the same drugs used to treat people with epilepsy, are fixtures of bipolar disorder treatment. This made researchers wonder if a diet that helps with epilepsy symptoms could also help people with bipolar disorder.

A Ketogenic Diet Could Help Heal Your Brain & Bipolar Illness and Help You Get Off Meds. Click To Tweet

Brilliant and makes good sense.

The below quote is from an article by psychiatrist Georgia Ede: Bipolar Disorder and Diet Part II: Low Carbohydrate Diets.

“In fact, it just so happens that many of the mood stabilizing medications we psychiatrists prescribe for bipolar disorder are anticonvulsants that were originally designed to treat seizures—Depakote (Valproate), Lamictal (Lamotrigine) and Trileptal (Oxcarbazepine), to name a few.”

Note: I’ve added Dr. Ede to the Ninja Docs page: Psychiatrists Who Speak Out About Psychiatry.

What’s a Ketogenic Diet?

Ketogenic diets are specially designed low carbohydrate diets that typically contain high amounts of fat, with the remainder consisting of roughly equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

Some medical sources say 80-90% fat with adequate protein and limited carbohydrates is the magic formula to get into ketosis.

The below is from a 2011 article by the National Academy of Sciences:

“Originally developed to mimic biochemical changes associated with starvation or periods of limited food availability, the ketogenic diet is composed of 80–90 percent fat and provides adequate protein but limited carbohydrates (Gasior et al., 2006).”

“The diet is meant to put the person into a state of ketosis where the body is burning fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.”

Source: Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury: Improving Acute and Subacute Health Outcomes in Military Personnel.

Why Would a Ketogenic Diet Help Bipolar Disorder?

The below is from an article on Science Direct.com:

“There are several reasons to suspect that the ketogenic diet may also have utility as a mood stabilizer in bipolar illness. These include the observation that several anticonvulsant interventions may improve outcome in mood disorders. Furthermore, beneficial changes in brain-energy profile are noted in subjects on the ketogenic diet.”

“This is important since global cerebral hypometabolism is a characteristic of the brains of depressed or manic individuals. Finally, the extracellular changes that occur in ketosis would be expected to decrease intracellular sodium concentrations, a common property of all effective mood stabilizers.”

Source: The Ketogenic Diet May Have Mood Stabilizing Properties.

People with bipolar disorder have been shown to have higher than normal amounts of sodium inside their cells. Lithium and other mood-stabilizing drugs used to treat bipolar disorder work, in part, by lowering sodium levels in cells. The ketogenic diet has the same type of effect.

Again, makes good sense.

Why Aren’t More Bipolar Patients Advised to Try a Ketogenic Diet?

Good question, no? The answer (besides the smug one I initally came up with and decided not to share) is two-fold:

1.   There’s no money to be made. Big Pharma-controlled psychiatry needs to prescribe drugs to stay afloat and keep getting massive payouts for research that keeps the Chemical Imbalance lie in action (what they use to justify prescribing brain damaging meds).

2.   There are few to no case studies, controlled studies, etc. that have been done to warrant recommending the diet as a possible treatment. Why? Re-read #1.

The only study I found is this one “The Ketogenic Diet for Type II Bipolar Disorder”. It is a case study of two women with BP-2, both had positive responses to the diet after years of ill health and psych care.

“Two women with type II bipolar disorder were able to maintain ketosis for prolonged periods of time (2 and 3 years, respectively). Both experienced mood stabilization that exceeded that achieved with medication; experienced a significant subjective improvement that was distinctly related to ketosis; and tolerated the diet well. There were no significant adverse effects in either case.”

Source: US National Libray of Medicine.

NO ADVERSE EFFECTS. That’s key here. That alone should have prompted a massive National Institutes of Mental Heath (NIMH) effort to put more of the millions being diagnosed as bipolar or with depression on the keto diet. Sigh. Dream on.

Trying to Go Low Carb

For me the problem in trying a ketogenic diet is primarily cost. Fancy fats and steak are not cheap. And I live a mobile lifestyle so no kitchen to convert into a ketogenic diet haven i.e. remove unhealthy foods, stock fridge with protein and allowed veggies, cupboards full of recommended cooking and other fats, etc.

Maybe sometime soon. I have little doubt it will help me improve. I still have mood cycling, at times making me concerned about a possible manic episode though I have not been manic – or hospitalized – for more than 24 years. I’d like to keep it that way.

I avoid processed sugar, try to consume more protein and veggies than carbohydrates and am unfortunately a salt-a-holic if there is such a thing… I love salty foods! That’s my downfall. I take a Green Food supplement to get a higher level of nutrients my body may need that would be difficult to get by diet alone. And salmon oil for my BP-1.

Related post: How Omega 3 Fatty Acids Help Bipolar Disorder + My Story.

Now the goal is to cut out the carbs I’m so fond of and replace with accepted foods for a keto diet. Even if I don’t get into ketosis, I’m sure lower carbs, better elimination of gluten and more healthy fats will be health promoting.

I’d love to hear about others experiences and about diet changes that have helped them improve or heal their mood issues.



  1. Emile said:

    What dosage of omega 3 fish oil capsules a day for bi- polar is enough.Thanks

    September 17, 2017
    • Molly said:

      Hi Emile, I found some resources for you. I now take 1000 mg daily, in just one pill. You definitely can take more to increase the potential effect, just start out a bit slow, let your body adjust (so don’t get unwanted side effects). I am not sure if you want to go over 2000 mg – I’ve read that is the highest recommended daily dose… but would need to do more research. You just gave me an idea for a new blog post so thank you 🙂

      Here is an article on a bunch of different brands, that were tested by Consumer Lab – https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/fish_oil_supplements_review/omega3/.

      Here are two brands you can try, there are many more available… just buy a quality supplement, and not at Walmart!

      1. https://www.iherb.com/pr/MRM-FreshOmega-Pure-Extra-Virgin-Norwegian-Salmon-Oil-90-Pesco-Veggie-Softgels/47731

      2. https://www.iherb.com/pr/Natural-Factors-Omega-Factors-Wild-Alaskan-Salmon-Oil-1-000-mg-180-Softgels/2711

      Don’t buy ‘fish oil’ (that could be from many different sources) buy ‘salmon oil’ 100% product.

      Make sure the source is not farm-raised salmon – you want a product that uses wild salmon.

      Know that it is not a quick fix type of solution, but a long-term treatment that could help to lessen severe mood states, both depression and mania. And it has been PROVEN to be effective, so just buy it, take it daily and stick with it. It may take a month or more to notice any change but regardless you are helping many different things in your body (heart health, inflammation, etc.).

      best of luck, Molly

      September 17, 2017
    • Molly said:

      Emile I wrote this post after researching your question – and it seems no more than 3g (3000 mg) is recommended. So you can take up to 3 gm, but some say that better results are seen with 2g (2000 mg).

      New post: How Much Salmon Oil to Take for Bipolar Disorder – http://www.bipolar1survivor.com/much-salmon-oil-take-bipolar-disorder/.

      Thanks to you I am now going to take two capsules per day instead of just one. That ups my dose to 2000 mg daily.

      Hope you are doing well, Molly

      November 2, 2017

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