Vitamins have not been proven effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder. They can, however, help treat certain symptoms related to bipolar disorder and help in your overall health and well-being.
Some vitamins have been associated with mood regulation, include the B vitamins. If you are deficient in any of the Bs, depression, anxiety, and fatigue can result. The B vitamins work together, so it’s best to take a B-complex supplement that mixes them in proper proportions along with folic acid. The Bs have a generally energizing effect and help build up the immune system. Some alternative practitioners recommend vitamin B-12 shots for depressed patients. They don’t always work, but sometimes they can have surprisingly quick mood-elevating effects. Because of that energizing effect, however, they may not be a good idea for those who are hypomanic or manic. B vitamins are used up more quickly when the body or mind is stressed, so supplementing during these times could have a preventive effect. A list of B vitamins follows:
- Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin). Alone, or in addition to a regular B-complex pill, B-1 might be a good idea for people with bipolar disorder who suffer from circulation problems, tingling in the extremities, anxiety, irritability, night terrors, and similar symptoms.
- Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine). In addition to a regular B-complex pill, B-6 might be indicated for bipolar patients who present with a great deal of irritability, and for those with marked premenstrual symptoms and/or motion sickness. If you start to experience tingling in your hands or feet, reduce or discontinue the B-6.
- Vitamin B-12. Helps your body turn food into energy, and without enough of it you are likely to feel listless and fatigued. Vegetarians may also be deficient in B-12, as it’s found mostly in meat.
Other vitamins to consider:
- Vitamin E. An antioxidant that also seems to reduce the frequency of seizures in some people who have epilepsy. Some have argued that it’s important to take vitamin E if you take Depakote, Depakene, or another anticonvulsant, as these drugs deplete vitamin E. If you have high blood pressure, monitor it carefully after starting vitamin E, and reduce the dose if your blood pressure rises.
- Vitamins A and D. These are both fat-soluble, so they are stored in the body’s fat cells for later use. Having a little socked away for a rainy day is probably okay, but if you take too much, hypervitaminosis may develop. Don’t overdo it with any fat-soluble vitamin, and also be careful with fish-oil supplements (and cod liver oil), which are high in both vitamins A and D.
Symptoms of hypervitaminosis A include orangeish, itchy skin; loss of appetite; increased fatigue; and hard, painful swellings on the arms, legs, or back of the head. Symptoms of hypervitaminosis D include hypercalcemia, osteoporosis, and kidney problems.
As with any alternative therapy (such as herbal remedies or the like), you should check with your doctor first. Just as with certain herbs, certain vitamins can interact with certain medications, causing unwanted and even harmful side effects. For instance, folic acid can counteract the effects of Depakote, Depakene, and some other anticonvulsants if taken in large amounts. It may also cause manic mood swings.
A varied, healthy diet is your best source of vitamins. Some researchers believe that people with bipolar disorders may metabolize certain vitamins differently, and therefore require either careful intake via food or supplementation.
If you plan to pursue vitamin therapies, it’s a good idea to purchasing or borrowing from your local library a basic guide to vitamins and minerals. Such guides will include information about what vitamins to take, what kinds of symptoms they may help relieve, as well as important toxicity information and symptoms. Some people metabolize vitamins and minerals differently, and may be more or less susceptible to potential toxic effects. Along with your doctor’s guidance, a good reference book can help you avoid problems.