The usual treatment for bipolar disorder involves the use of medications known as mood stabilizers.Please see Bipolar Disorder for a brief summary of this disease.For more detailed information, please see the Web Links page.Here I would like to present some helpful suggestions for holistic or natural treatments that I have found to be very useful in my own life and may be of benefit to others who are struggling with this disease.These 11 helpful suggestions may be used with or without medications (use the scroll bar on the right or do a search on # to more easily find them).
Please note I am not suggesting people who have bipolar disorder do not need to take their medications.A medical doctor or health professional should be consulted before making any changes in their current form of treatment. It is possible that over time, with good health habits and the regular use of holistic treatments and consultation from your health care provider, the need for medications can be reduced or even eliminated. For more information about my personal experience living with bipolar disorder both with medication and using holistic methods to promote health and stability please see About Jay. I have been medication free since 1990.
Helpful Suggestion #1)Get a good nights sleep!
Regular aerobic exercise during the day can be a great help in reducing excessive build up in the body of the stress hormone cortisol released by the adrenal glands. Exercise relieves muscular tension and allows for those ‘feel good’ endorphins to naturally help overcome patterns of negative thought which may lead to depression.Exercise promotes a more relaxed night of sleep.Although this applies to everyone, I think it is especially important to those who have bipolar disorder. For more information about cortisol and how it is linked to stress please click here. To review recent research on exercise and its beneficial effects concerning bipolar depression click here.
My favorite form of exercise is swimming.I swim outdoors during the summer months and indoors other times of the year, normally 2 or 3 times per week.Walking outdoors is also very helpful in relieving stress.I often take a book with me with short meditations, such as The Quite Mind from White Eagle. The appreciation of nature and of natural processes of growth can add balance to ones life.During the manic or high phase, which often leads to periods of insomnia which can last for days at a time, the mind is over busy with racing thoughts which are typically exaggerated in their scope.These thought may include visions of self glory or ego inflation or huge success in some endeavor.Nature does not jump to the end result but rather is usually slow in developing the beauty of a flower, or a tree with abundant fruit.My experience has been that the creative energies inherent in bipolar disorder need to be counterbalanced with patience, wisdom, and humility to come to fruition.
Here is a quote I found recently from Eckhart Tolle in his book A New Earth that relates quite well to the topic of grandiosity and its natural antidote:
The great arises out of small things that are honored and cared for.Everybody’s life really consists of small things.Greatness is a mental abstraction and a favorite fantasy of the ego [ italics added].The paradox is that the foundation for greatness is honoring the small things of the present moment instead of pursuing the idea of greatness.
The practice of Tai Chi and Mindfulness Meditation has been very helpful for me in calming the mind and body—and honoring the small things—particularly during the high phase of bipolar. The sleepless nights if not corrected will lead inevitably to ‘burnout’, bewilderment, low energy and extreme depression. Repeated life experience over time can lead us to this realization and guide us to take corrective action to restore balance in our lives.
Reduce or eliminate the consumption of sugar and caffeine. Drink plenty of water! Filtered or bottled water is best. It is recommended that we drink half of our weight in ounces per day (for example, if you weigh 160 lbs then drink 80 oz of water per day). The effects of regular caffeine consumption in coffee, teas, soft drinks or chocolate can linger in the body for days or weeks and then add fuel to the fire of the manic high!If not full blown mania, then even a nervous restless nights sleep can be relievedby reducing or eliminating caffeine from the diet.
I recently found out from reading Andrew Weil's book Healthy Aging that green and white teas have an abundance of antioxidants that are good for you. For people like me who are very sensitive to caffeine, he recommends steeping the teas (I mix green & white fusion tea together with mint green for better flavor) for about 30 seconds in hot water and then tossing out the liquid. This will remove most of the caffiene, but not the antioxidants! A good trick. I've tried it and it works fine for me with little or no after effects from caffeine.
Another option for coffee drinkers is to try substituting cinnamon teas for coffee in the morning. Add a little milk or cream to it and it does look like coffee and it has a pleasant taste which I found helpful in getting over the coffee habit. Two brands that I enjoy are Bigelow cinnamon herb tea and Celestial Seasonings Almond Sunset herb tea (both are caffeine free).
Take natural supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acid to ease depression and irritability and to help promote a good nights sleep!A good starting point is to read The Omega-3 Connection by Andrew L. Stoll, M.D. (published in 2001).This book offers a review of research on the many health benefits of Omega-3s found in fish oil, flax oil or seeds,and in some other foods such as walnuts.Omega-3 aids in the prevention of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.The recommended dosage is 1 to 2 grams per day for health, mood or cognitive enhancement.Usually 2 to 5 grams per day (or more) is required for mood elevation (for depression) or stabilization (for mania).Omega-3s can be taken along with medication.A recent study has demonstrated reduced irritability for bipolar patients who have added Omega-3 to their daily nutrition (click here to see Nutrition Journal Feb 2005).A health-care provider should be consulted for anyone who may be taking anticlotting agents, high doses of aspirin and related drugs.
An excellent source for high quality soft gelcaps of Omega-3 essential fatty acids (fish oil) can be found at the OmegaBrite website. They also have a new formula made especially for children! Another product I like, more economical yet also a very good source for Omega-3 comes in a bottle (1 teaspoon supplies 800 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA). The name of this product is Carlson, The Very Finest Fish Oil and can be found at this link. When shopping around for a quality fish oil product, look for those made in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices. For recent research on Omega-3 and other complimentary treatments please see the Web Links page.
As a natural sleep aid I have found it helpful to use Valerian, Passion Flower extract or Melatonin (I use half tablets) as needed.These are herbal supplements and are relatively inexpensive. Additional doses of Omega-3 occasionally during times of high stress, combined with meditation, can be a sleep aide as well. During the daytime, since I no longer drink coffee or tea (after 25 years of having a morning cup of coffee I finally decided to try living without it !) I will often use Eleuthero root (or Ginseng), Ginkgo or Rhodiola for mental stimulation and memory enhancement.As noted before, a health-care provider should be consulted before using herbal remedies as each one’s body may react a little differently.Please do not stop taking medications based upon the information presented in this web site.These helpful suggestions can be utilized along with your current treatment plan after consultation with your physician and family members.
Another option is to search for a board certified psychiatrist who is also trained as a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. I have been fortunate recently to have found a person of these qualifications near Dayton, Ohio. There are a growing number of alternative over-the-counter natural remedies available which can be a very real help with insomnia and adrenal fatigue during periods of high stress loads. Click here to find a holistic practitioner from the American Holistic Medical Association .
Adrenal fatigue occurs when poor nutrition, physical or emotional stress weaken and deplete the adrenal glands. For more detailed information about adrenal fatigue please click here.
Many people have found help with individualized nutrient therapy for bipolar disorder offered at the Health Research Institute and Pfeiffer Treatment Center, a non-profit organization based in Illinois (near Chicago). They also have services in Minnesota, Maryland, Arizona and California. Founded in 1989, the Pfeiffer Treatment Center has treated more than 20,000 people (not just for bipolar but also for autism, ADD, depression, schizophrenia and other conditions). Click here for their website.
Please visit my web page link to access a free MP3 version (used with permission) of a 30 minute interview with Dr Robert Hedaya. He offers a comprehensive overview or description of bipolar disorder and offers advice regarding its diagnosis and treatment (based upon his years of experience in working with bipolar patients). There is also a discussion of how children are increasingly being treated with medication for mood disorders. I have found the ideas presented her to be very close to my own experience in living with bipolar disorder and I highly recommend the reader take the time to listen to the entire interview. Can bipolar disorder be treated without medication? Under what conditions? Please take the time to educate yourself and you will be glad that you did!
On a personal note, I admit that sometimes I feel like a walking laboratoryfor natural remedies!Try a little of this, and a little of that and see how I feel! Fish oil capsules, for example, just after eating a spicy pizza doesn’t work well at all for me. In recent years I have found that during high stress times or periods of insomnia it does help to increase the dosage of fish oil. I can take up to 3 softgels (4 is pushing it, 1 or 2 is my usual dose) at night if needed (EPA 400 mg DHA 200 mg per softgel). This does have the effect of upsetting the stomach most noticably in the morning. A workable solution has been found, however! Nature's Way organic coconut oil works for me. This has helped immensely with calming my digestive processes during stressful times. It certainly is beneficial to have a qualified health care professionalto consult with periodically when the need arises.The Internet can be useful for additional information and for price comparisons for supplements.
My goal is to increase my overall energy level during the day, improve memory, and sleep well at night.Not an easy task for anyone living with with bipolar karma. For a closer look at reincarnation and karma as it applies to the bipolar personality, please see Bipolar Karma.
Certainly the hypo-manic state is enjoyable—sure, who wouldn’t want that feeling of confidence, great energy flow, and spontaneous sense of humor!Self awareness of energy states and the avoidance of a manic high are paramount to success in using natural remedies in living with (or possibly healing) bipolar disorder.Some periods of minor depression are normal… they will pass if we allow them to come and go.My personal belief is that if I truly do my best, God will do the rest.We will get the help we need.
Here is a link to an excellent resource (published in 2003) called The Natural Medicine Guide to Bipolar Disorder by Stephanie Marohn. There are 2 more recent publications regarding natural healing which can be found on my Web Links page (please see the 2 links just below Marohn's book).
Meditation is a very powerful tool in creating a healthy mind and body.Through regular practice we can learn greater self awareness enabling us to recognize the onset of the high phase or manic state before it becomes too late to do anything about it!Starting out with just 5 or 10 minutes per day is a good way to go.Sitting with a group is very helpful if you can find one in your area, although it is not essential to learning.Meditation tapes and videos may be very useful aides in getting started as well.I strongly recommend what is known as mindfulness meditation for anyone who struggles with bipolar disorder.Over the years of living with this illness, I have spent many a night meditating at 3 or 4 am in order to calm my mind and emotions in an effort to see things more clearly. At certain times during the day, practicing simple breath awareness can help to calm my anger or anxiety if I am faced with a difficult situation. A daily meditation practice is most helpful for those serious about using meditation as an aide in controlling the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
In a recent article which appeared in Newsweek (May 26, 2008) by Mary Carmichael I found the following description:
Scientists now know that bipolar children [ adults too i suspect ] have too much activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which regulates emotions, and not enough in the prefrontal cortex, the seat of rational thought.
Meditation can be a huge help in bringing about greater balance in brain functioning. It is certainly worth a try! Mindfulness meditation in particular can be very useful in seeing things more clearly and with less emotion. This helps immensely in making better decisions on a day to day basis. Mindfulness refers to living in the present moment, paying full attention to the here and now, calmly and without judgment.Paying close attention to the full cycle of each breath in meditation is a good example of mindfulness practice.The mental discipline of focusing on this moment, rather than projecting into the future or worrying about the past, is highly beneficial.For more specific instructions on simple meditation exercises, please see Meditation.
To listen to free MP3 Guided Meditations, or simply to the soothing natural sounds of ocean waves or a stream of water see Guided Meditations.
You may also enjoy a beautiful multimedia presentation about meditation called The Gift of Inner Peace with soothing nature photos and peaceful music.
Helpful suggestion #3)take a class in Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a pleasant and enjoyable way to relax the mind and body simultaneously through gently, slow moving exercise. For more general information about Tai Chi please click here.
Tai Chi relates specifically as a benefit for bipolar people in that it can help to restore a middle ground, easing the high energy states with regular, abdominal breathing and soothing motions which require concentration on this moment of activity.So much of the manic energy is about impulsivity, wanting to get somewhere fast!Usually some idea or another about the future, some creative endeavor or possibly something of huge importance (or so it seems).Just be in the moment, allowing the natural energy flow to work itself through the mind and body (or the energy channels known as meridians in Chinese medicine).Forget your thoughts for a little while at least and enjoy simply being in motion, in complete harmony with the natural world.
For depressed states, Tai Chi is not as beneficial since it tends to relax us and this may not be as good as perhaps a brisk walk or a swim.I normally do a little less Tai Chi if I am feeling depressed (just enough to keep in practice) and a lot more if I am in a relatively high energy state.
Helpful suggestion #4) Spend time in Sunlight and enjoying Nature
Lack of full-spectrum light (preferably natural sunlight but full spectrum light bulbs can also be of help) can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia and a host of other problems!Many people are affected by the change of seasons and it appears that bipolar people especially are often susceptible to extreme changes in mood as the amount of sunlight varies particularly at the change of seasons. Whenever possible, it is a good idea to spend some time outdoors everyday (30 minutes to an hour at least) and to catch up on sunlight absorption when it is available during the winter months.I have found that sitting near a window or even in my car during my lunch hour is quite helpful in alleviating depression and the winter blahs.Any time of year we do need moderate amounts of sunlight to keep our bodies serotonin levels at a healthy level.Serotonin is one of the primary neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood.Low serotonin levels in the brain are widely considered to be a significant factor in insomnia, irritability, anger and depression. For a detailed explanation of the four major neurotransmitters please click here.
Nature refreshes!My most comforting moments in dealing with bipolar issues have come during hours of solitude spent outdoors in a quiet, peaceful setting.There is a balancing energy in the trees, flowers, fresh air, green meadows and crisp blue sky.Lets not forget about the healing qualities of large bodies of water, or even a gently flowing stream.Ask for help—pray with humility—and be thankful for the many ways that God can restore us to health when we are feeling low.
Helpful suggestion #5)use Visualization and Positive Thinking
Consider that our thoughts over time do create our reality.Believe that good will come, and it will.With patience (maybe a LOT of patience), love and wisdom all problems can be solved.
What we choose to focus upon will influence our brain chemistry moment to moment, as well as our long and short term goals in this life.The use of imagery can be very helpful in meditation combined with breath awareness.I usually begin with my focus upon the breath, then gradually allow a healing image to take shape in my mind along with the sensation of breathing calmly in and out.As I mentioned in About Jay, I was a patient on the absent or distance healing list with The White Eagle Lodge from 1995 to 2001.This was most helpful to me, and I truly believe I would not have become a stress management trainer (nor would this web site have come into existence) without the continual loving-kindness and the spiritual and physical uplift thatI received from this healing.For a beautiful selection of encouraging thoughts and peaceful visual images from the White Eagle web site please click here.
Helpful suggestion #6) consider Spiritual Healing
I have tried to make this website a balanced presentation of personal experience and useful information. I feel it is important for me to emphasize that the spiritual healing has been, and continues to be, a major componet of my living a healthy life medication free. In June of 2008 I requested additional healing for myself through the White Eagle Lodge. I think it is essential to ask for help when it is needed, and that help can come in many forms. For me, personally, the distance healing continues to restore my body and mind to its true center during times of need. God's love is truly infinite... humility is a key ingrediant in our being receptive to its power.
There are many forms of spiritual healing available today which can be very beneficial in bringing about harmony in our minds, bodies, and souls. Sincere prayer or energy healing from other people can help us to counteract the negative thought patterns associated with bipolar such as anxiety, doubt, fear, and depression. Over time, our depleted energy field can become rejuvenated by the loving thoughts, prayers and energy focus of healers. In addition, a daily affirmation that speaks to our heart can be very helpful in combating negative influences. What we think, what we eat, our environment... all of these effect our vibrations in one way or another. Let's align ourselves with the most positive and healthy vibrations that we can manage on a daily basis. Prayer and help from spiritual healers can make a huge difference in one's energy field! For more information on different types of spiritual healing, please click here.
What about bipolar disorder and creativity? It is true that there are many famous people, artists, writers, actors, and political leaders who had bipolar tendencies. Is there a creative side which can perhaps be enhanced by positive thinking, visualization, and spiritual healing? I believe there are ways to enhance our creativity and to channel positive energies for good while minimizing the destructive energies of mood swings. Please see Creativity for more details on this important topic!
Helpful suggestion #7) maintain Good Relationships
Love is the great healer. There is no doubt in my mind that having good honest communication with your loved one, your family, friends, a support group, psychological counselor or physician adds to your ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Especially in moments of pain, anxiety or despair are supportive relationships needed. For people with bipolar disorder, too much time spent in solitude or withdrawal can easily result in problems either on the high end (leading to unrealistic fantasies or visions) or the low end (depression and self-doubt). I can assure you that I have been to both extremes in my life and have learned the hard way to seek a middle path of moderation and balance. I have also been blessed with loving, supportive relationships in my marriage of 20 years and also with psychological and spiritual counseling during times of need. Friends and close family ties definitely help to create a more joyful and stable life.
Helpful suggestion #8) Forgiveness
I would like to share with you one of my favorite quotes about forgiveness which comes from a White Eagle audio tape titled The Gospel of Love (the words were actually spoken by Grace Cooke on Jan 26, 1969... White Eagle being her spirit guide or teacher):
"Although you fall many times and you feel disappointed with yourself, forgive yourself. Have you ever thought what forgiveness means? That you, your own self, your own personality needs your forgiveness. Your personality is a little less than your spirit. Your spirit is divine and until you have overcome all things your personality is human and needs the forgiveness of your spirit.
As you forgive, as your spirit forgives your personality, so you will forgive your brother man for all his seeming errors."
Helpful suggestion #9) Keep a Journal
I have kept a journal since my son Ethan was born in 1994. Mostly it is about my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences over the years. I also include memories of family outings and special events in Ethan's life, like when he first started walking at 1 year of age!
In relation to bipolar disorder, journal writing is a very valuable tool. I can look back over my thoughts, feelings, struggles and dreams and get a real accurate picture of what really happened compared to what I was thinking!! This helped me tremendously to move away from the 'manic high' type of thought process with my mind racing into a more stable and healthy manner of approaching life. The journal reflects both the creative energies which may truly be of value and those which are extreme and illusory (either on the high or low end of the spectrum). It has helped me to find a middle ground, more trustworthy, in my thoughts and aspirations. It has helped me to develop greater trust in God as well, in my prayers and the many sources of inspiration and guidance from books over the years. I would often include a meaningful quote from a book, such as one of the White Eagle publications like The Quiet Mind, along with my circumstances at the moment. Looking back, I could see how valuable the advice or teaching was in that situation. In sum, a great learning tool! I would also advise purchasing a lock box of some kind. I have a Brinks Home Security unit (about the size of a drawer in a file cabinet) that cost me about $50. I keep all my old journal notebooks in there and pull them out from time to time to review past lessons. People often say that life experience is the best teacher and I have found this to be true. Of course we can still learn from others in books, web sites, and through counseling, for example, but this is no substitute for walking the path ourselves up the mountain.
Helpful suggestion #10) Maintain Positive Thought or Belief
Here I would like to add another short quote from a White Eagle book titled Heal Thyself:
Remember...that your habitual thoughts either create or destroy. Lack of harmony in your thoughts or in your life brings disease; harmony brings health. Therefore let go all resentment, fear and criticism. Hold only the positive thought of all-good, God, and light will flow into you.
The importance of this advice cannot be overestimated. Our bodies, in time, reproduce our thoughts (and subsequent actions) either in sickness or in health. In order to modify our habitual ways of thinking, a certain amount of dedication is needed, perseverance, and lots of practice! This is not to say that we have to do all of this on our own, that is by our own efforts. For there is 'help from above' if we are open to receive it! Many times I have asked for help, for guidance, for inner strength when feeling weak or close to despair. Yes, the help is there when we are ready to receive. Sometimes there is nothing else we can do but surrender to God's mercy and love.... having made every effort on our own power to straighten out our life, trying to keep the balance, and yet to have (seemingly) failed. Underneath all of the struggle of living with bipolar disorder we may find that there is a slow growth taking place, much wisdom gained through experience.
I have found the use of affirmations to be helpful in breaking down negative patterns of thought. One of my favorites is "perfect love overcomes fear" from the New Testament, 1st letter of St. John. I often use this in my meditation along with the breath to restore calmness and trust when I am feeling anxious. Another one I have used for quite a long time is "healing breath of God". For a look at scientific research on the role of belief and its effect on health and disease, please see the book Timeless Healing, The Power and Biology of Belief by Herbert Benson, MD.
It may have become clear by now that in choosing a holistic path to treatment for bipolar disorder, many options are available. If, after careful consideration and consultation with your doctor or a health professional, a person chooses not to take medication, or perhaps plans upon reducing his or her reliance upon medicine for mental and emotional stability, one is choosing a more difficult path. A lot of effort and commitment is required! Is it worth it? I believe so... definitely for myself and I hope for many others as the knowledge and support for holistic treatment for bipolar disorder continues to grow in the 21st century.
Helpful suggestion #11) Practice Stress Management
Click below for a detailed (PDF file) step by step holistic approach for stress relief.
I have found an excellent website which includes natural remedies for bipolar. It is quite detailed! Please be sure to look at the section called Final Word towards the bottom of the page. Click here to see John McManamy's award winning website.
More to come as time allows…. thanks for your interest and may God bless your journey to good health!