Bipolar disorder, formerly known as Manic-Depressive Disorder, is characterized by swings of depression and mania.
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for bipolar disorder.
You can’t fix it and forget about it.
However bipolar syndrome is very treatable. People can manage the condition and keep it in remission for long periods of time so they can lead productive successful lives.
The trick is you need to be able to recognize the early warning signs of a bipolar phase as soon as it starts so you can treat it in the early stages before it develops into something serious.
Bipolar disorder is a changeable condition with two sides requiring different treatments.
You need to be able quickly and intuitively monitor your condition to adjust your treatment protocol.
Treating bipolar-depression naturally can be self-administered but should still be monitored by a healthcare professional.
Is it Dopamine Depression or Serotonin Depression?
Too little Dopamine can cause depression.
But so can too little Serotonin.
Dopamine depression is characterized by:
- significantly diminished energy levels bordering on being fatigued
- possibly slowed thinking and moving
- excessive sleeping
- apathy and significantly diminished levels of motivation
- inability to feel enthusiastic about anything
- the loss of the ability to feel pleasure from things that you previously found pleasurable
- diminished libido
- diminished capacity to feel love or much at all
Whereas, if you are low in Serotonin, you tend to be more negative, obsessive, worried, irritable and struggle with sleep.
To oversimplify, Serotonin gives us happiness, Dopamine gives us pleasure.
The demotivated, low energy depression caused by lack of Dopamine is quite different to the intensely painful depression caused by lack of Serotonin.
Taking the amino acids which elevate Serotonin will not alleviate the depression caused by low Dopamine and vice versa.
It is unfortunately possible, and even common, to have both deficiencies at the same time.
A severely Dopamine depressed person may wish they were dead, but they may lack the motivation or energy to do anything about it.
The tortured Serotonin depressed person, on the other hand, has more energy and may be at a greater risk of suicide.
Suddenly increasing energy and motivation in a person with Dopamine deficient depression by boosting Dopamine can significantly increase the risk of suicide, at least initially.
The suicide rate is higher from bipolar disorder than for any other mental illness.
Be aware that this side effect of initially increasing suicide risk is also observed with prescription antidepressants.
Conventional psychiatry would generally caution against the use of anything that would increase Dopamine levels with bipolar syndrome for concern that it could induce a manic state and this concern is not without foundation, says Peter Smith, Naturopath.
For some people, combining Serotonin based antidepressants (SSRI) with mood stabilizing drugs is sufficient to remedy their depression. For others, it is not.
Many people with bipolar disorder never even know that they struggle with it because they never exhibit the manic side of the disorder. Many of those Dopamine deficient people find that Serotonin based anti-depressants simply don’t work for them.
Work with your Healthcare Practitioner
As part of any treatment protocol for Bipolar disorder (or any neurological condition), you and your healthcare practitioner should evaluate the following for contributing factors:
- Heavy metal toxicity–heavy metals can affect neurotransmitter (the chemical messengers between nerve cells) production.
- Inflammatory diets–brain inflammation contributes to bipolar disorder.
- Food sensitivities/allergies–food issues and leaky gut can be an underlying trigger.
- Thyroid issues–Dopamine depression looks very similar to low thyroid.
- Low Vitamin D levels–low Vitamin D levels attribute to depression.
- Low Vitamin B12 levels–low B12 levels are common with depression.
The Dopamine deficient state can look very similar to Hypothyroidism where the thyroid gland does not produce enough Thyroxine (T4).
In fact, both the neurotransmitter, Dopamine, and the thyroid hormone, Thyroxine, are made from the same amino acid, Tyrosine. Taking Tyrosine can actually help both conditions.
If you are taking any type of psychiatric medication, it is essential to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your medications or supplements.
Suicide is a risk for bipolar disorder. Take it seriously.
Do the Opposite for Bipolar-Depression
If you read my article “Treating Bipolar-Mania Naturally“, you learned how to treat manic episodes naturally.
Since manic episodes are triggered by elevated levels of Dopamine and Glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter that increases the level of activity in the brain), it would seem to follow that depression episodes are caused by deficient levels of those two neurotransmitters.
For the most part, that is true.
The goal is to boost Dopamine (and possibly Serotonin) which is typically deficient during bipolar-depression episodes. There is really never a time that you would want to boost Glutamate.
Dopamine gives the brain energy, motivation, a switched on feeling and excitement about new ideas.
The amino acids that boost Dopamine are Tyrosine and Phenylalanine.
Peter Smith, a Naturopath in the UK recommends the following to boost Dopamine. Take special note of “OR” and “AND”.
- Tyrosine 800-1500 mg (up to 5000 with severe depression or addiction) on an empty stomach in the morning.
- L-phenylalanine 1000-1500 mg on an empty stomach in the morning.
- DL-phenylalanine 2000-3000 mg on an empty stomach in the morning
- Vitamin B Complex 50-100 mg
- Vitamin B6 50-150 mg (keep the total B6 less than 250 mg/day unless you have Pyroluria).
- Rhodiola 500 mg (3% standardized) 1-3 times per day. Rhodiola is an adaptogen herb, meaning it can can help your body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress. Rhodiola has the ability to help balance the stress hormone, cortisol and relieve depression by boosting receptors for Dopamine and Serotonin.
Additionally, Dr. James Lake discusses:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids—Dr. James Lake reports that Omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are more effective with bipolar-depression than with mania. These can be obtained from fish oil.
- NAC (N-acetylcysteine)–an amino acid with strong antioxidant properties that has been used to treat a range of inflammatory disorders. Emerging findings suggest that NAC may reduce symptoms of depressed mood but not mania.
- Phosphatidylcholine–Choline is a necessary precursor for synthesis of acetylcholine. Abnormally low levels of acetylcholine may underlie some cases of mania. Findings of a small controlled trial suggest that phosphatidylcholine (15 to 30 g/d) may reduce the severity of mania and depressed mood in bipolar patients, reports Dr. James Lake in the Psychiatric Times.
- Folic acid–Abnormally low levels of Folate (Vitamin B9) are also associated with mania. Methylated Folate, preferred over Folic Acid due to the high numbers of people who have the MTHFR gene mutation, increases the effectiveness of lithium.
- Lithium Orotate–low-dose nutritional lithium is effective for bipolar-depression as well as mania. See my discussion of lithium in “Treating Bipolar-Mania Naturally“. Lithium is a stable part of bipolar disorder treatment for both mania and depression.
Dr. Leslie Korn (Nutritional Essentials for Mental Health, Leslie E. Korn, 2016) also recommends:
- Inositol (Vitamin B8)–comes in a powder form that can be mixed with water or juice. Inositol is effective for Bipolar-depression and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
Amino Acid Questions
Which is best, Tyrosine or Phenylalanine?
That is up to you to figure out for yourself. For some, Phenylalanine causes racing thoughts, whereas for others Tyrosine has no effect on their depression.
Which form of Phenylalanine is best, the D-, L- or DL- versions?
L-phenylalanine is the common form that occurs in protein foods and is the form used as a standard building block for manufacturing proteins, hormones and neurotransmitters.
D-phenylalanine (DPA) is a synthetic manufactured form of Phenylalanine and very uncommon in nature, however it may be the best form for some people to increase Dopamine because it boosts PEA (Phenylethylamine).
DL-phenylalanine is a combination of the two. If you find that this form makes you jittery, switch to the D- formula.
When should Tyrosine or Phenylalanine be taken?
Both Tyrosine and Phenylalanine can be stimulating, so it is best to take them in the morning. Always take amino acids on an empty stomach.
Are there any Side Effects or Cautions?
- Monitor your blood pressure if you have Hypertension.
- Do not combine with MAOI or tricyclic antidepressants.
- Do not take if you have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, an overactive thyroid/Grave’s disease, or malignant Melanoma.
- Consult your doctor if pregnant or nursing.
- Do not take Phenylalanine if you have PKU (phenylketonuria).
- Boosting Dopamine may induce mania in bipolar people.
- Increasing Dopamine can give so much raw energy to the brain it can cause a surge in motivation before it relieves the pain of depression. This may temporarily actually increase the risk of suicide. This is a common phenomena with antidepressant drugs also.
- If you overdo it, taking too much Tyrosine or Phenylalanine everyday you can become ‘wired’ then crash like overdoing coffee.
How much Tyrosine or Phenylalanine should I take?
Neurotransmitters seem to ‘pool’ or accumulate in the brain. So if the first day you take Tyrosine or Phenylalanine, you get a strong effect you should probably cut back the dosage the next day because your Dopamine levels will still be elevated from the previous dose.
For example if you take 1500 mg on the first day and feel you have more energy, motivation and less depression you should probably take 1000 mg the following days.
Bright Light Therapy
Bright Light Therapy (BLT) is a therapeutic treatment for depression of all types.
Blue light is prevalent in outdoor light, so your body absorbs the most during the summer and much less in the winter.
Blue light appears to play a key role in your brain’s ability to process emotions, and its results suggest that spending more time in blue-enriched light could help prevent and/or treat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and depression, says Dr Mercola.
Keep in mind however that blue light at night should be avoided, as it can impair your sleep.
Getting outside in the sun for at least 30 minutes in the morning hours or even sitting in a sunny window can improve depression.
If the weather is not conducive or you cannot get outside, purchase a blue-light emitter like this one.
Use it for 15 minutes twice a day during the daytime. The blue light has been found to be particularly beneficial for boosting your mood.
Exercise is the Number One Best Treatment for Depression
Far and away, regular exercise is the best treatment for depression.
Doesn’t have to be intense and it doesn’t have to be a lot.
In fact, just one hour per week has been shown to significantly reduce depression.
While exercising multiple times per week is best and elevating your heart rate is also a benefit, simply getting some exercise each week can make a difference.
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Joli Tripp and Mind Blowing Wellness are not medical doctors nor licensed medical professionals. No comment or recommendation should be construed as being a medical diagnosis. If you suffer from a medical or pathological condition, you should consult an appropriate healthcare provider.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.
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