“People with bipolar disorder have, in general, poor diets and are not good at planning healthy diets with appropriate foods,” McInnis explains. One particular problem is fast food, which is a primary food source for a good number of people with bipolar disorder, he says. “It’s convenient, cheap, and provides satisfaction — albeit short-term.”
Other factors that could lead to poor dietary choices include medication side effects, inadequate exercise, smoking, and lack of access to care, explains psychiatrist Jess G. Fiedorowicz, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the departments of psychiatry and internal medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City.
Your first step? “While there’s been some speculation regarding specific diets for bipolar disorder, simply eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important start,” Dr. Fiedorowicz says.
Foods and Drinks You Should Ditch
The fundamentals of a healthy diet include not just what to eat, but also what not to eat. Consider skipping these choices that could worsen your bipolar symptoms:
“Stimulants can trigger mania and should be avoided,” Fiedorowicz says. “Caffeine is an underappreciated trigger and can also impair sleep,” and sleep deprivation is a notorious trigger for bipolar mood swings and mania, he says.
The National Sleep Foundation points out that caffeine can increase irritability and anxiety, in addition to affecting sleep, and recommends avoiding caffeine as you approach bedtime. Fiedorowicz adds that some over-the-counter medications — such as pseudoephedrine, which is found in some cough and cold medications — have stimulant properties similar to caffeine and can also trigger bipolar mood swings.