The Bipolar Diet -- Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid

Even though many doctors and psychotherapists prescribe medication to patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there are several ways to self-manage the symptoms of the disorder and keep its effects under control. Eating certain foods and taking certain types of supplements can help to reduce the risk of severe mood swings and other symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, and even though there is no specific “bipolar diet”, patients can improve their lifestyle and enjoy a better quality of life by optimizing their nutrition plan.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, set up a consultation with a psychotherapist or physician to discuss dietary recommendations. Your doctor may recommend you to a nutritionist or dietitian that specializes in diets for patients with bipolar disorder. Your dietician can create a customized eating plan and provide you with a summary of foods to eat and foods to avoid.

Foods to Eat on the Bipolar Diet

Certain foods and supplements have been shown to be effective for stabilizing the mood and improving overall quality of life in patients with bipolar disorder.  Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can help to reduce the occurrence of mood swings, depression and manic episodes associated with the disease. Recommended foods to eat on the bipolar diet include:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Lean meats
  • Cold water fish
  • Soy products
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Low-fat dairy products

Fish oil and fatty fish can be especially beneficial for people with bipolar disorder because omega-3 fatty acids have such a positive effect on brain functioning.

Foods to Avoid on the Bipolar Diet

There is a strong link between food and mood, so it’s important for people who are bipolar to eat a moderate and nutritious diet, and make sure they are not overeating or consuming too much sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Stress can cause cravings for sugar and carbohydrates, so finding ways to reduce stress in your daily lifestyle can be important for maintaining a stable mood each day.

Some of the foods to avoid on a bipolar diet include:

  • Very salty foods
  • Processed foods
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • High-fat foods, including red meat and food that is high in saturated fat
  • Foods that are high in tyramine, including fermented cheese, champagne, bananas and soy sauce

Certain types of herbal supplements can interact negatively with medications prescribed for bipolar disorder, so it’s important that the doctor is aware of any supplements a patient is taking. For example, eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice with bipolar medication can cause toxicity or excessive impairment.

Learn more about managing bipolar disorder in our information guide, or talk to a psychotherapist in your area to discuss your options. Your psychotherapist may recommend you to a dietitian or nutritionist that specializes in treating patients with bipolar disorder, and can create a diet plan that will help you keep the symptoms of the disorder under control.