Bipolar with a “junky” diet


From previous blogs we all know just how powerful the food we eat really is.  We have discussed so many different things, but yesterday I was remembered of something that may be of interest to you.  I had a young patient who suffers from bipolar disorder, so one day or even minute they were happy the next not so much.  The doctor requested that I see this patient and discuss their diet.  Now, seeing as they were young the parents were of course included into this discussion.  As I began to talk and ask questions the father kindly said “excuse, but I do not understand why we are discussing my child’s diet.”  No one had told the parents that I would be stopping by.  So I explained to them that food plays a role on one’s mood as well and that it is now suggested to include nutritional counseling/therapy with prescribed medications to those who suffer from bipolar disorder.  To which the mother said “I would much rather have my child eat a healthy diet with foods that help, then try to force them to take medication they don’t understand why they need.”  At this point she was not only overwhelmed but excited to try something new (just to see how it would affect her child).

Of course there is no specific “bipolar diet” that is prescribed but suggestions are made to help the person with their behavior and mood.  When I meet with a bipolar patient I recommend that they reduce their caffeine and sugar intake of course, but also supplement meals with vitamin B, omega-3, and magnesium (B, 3, M).  Foods containing high amounts of B, 3, M (which are also high energy foods/brain foods) will help regulate brain activity which deals with or controls behavior and mood.

This doesn’t mean you need to go out and get a pill for B, 3, and M, it just means to try and eat foods that are rich or have high volumes of each present.  Omega-3 (fatty acid/fish oil) has become very popular in recent years and is known for its health benefits.  In those who suffer from bipolar disorders many doctors recommend this because it helps with a patient’s mood and behavior.  So a balanced diet is important in order to have not only healthy body function but also a healthy mind!

However, be aware that some foods do counteract and interfere with medications.  It is best to discuss this with your physician who may send you to a dietitian in order to get a meal plan/diet that is right for you!  There are some common foods however that do interfere with the treatment of bipolar disorder.  I have provided a list with a little information just as to why these foods interfere the way they do.



  • Caffeine à we all know caffeine affects most people.  Whether it makes them hyperactivity for an hour or affects their sleep for days.  Caffeine can also affect one’s mood and interact with medication (benzodiazepines) that is used to treat anxiety and mania in patients.
  • Salt à the amount of salt in the diet affects medication (lithium).  Having too much or too little in the body will have an effect, it is important to get just the right amount in the diet.  This may be very difficult, but it can be done (with patience of course).
  • Grapefruità grapefruit is also a culprit of interfering with medications (benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants).  This is a more serious interaction as it may cause toxicity or impairment.
  • Fatty foods à meals that are very high in fats may delay the effects that some medications give to patients (the beneficial effects that is).
  • Tyramine (amino acid)à foods containing tyramine have the ability to cause hypertension in patients who are on MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors.  MAO’s are the antidepressants medications in this case.

Many people do not know which foods contain tyramine unless you have studied it, been informed about it, or know from experience.  So, a few foods that contain tyramine that may have an effect on the MAOs include: liver, soy sauce, bananas, fermented cheeses, alcohol, and sauerkraut just to name a few.  Today there is so much research on the internet that you could become an expert overnight; however you may be reading false information.  It is best to discuss this with your physician and/or a dietitian.

Young Children, Junk Food, and Mental Illness


As an adult you know that you feel much better when you eat healthier.  Think about it, how do you feel after you munch out at McDonalds or Burger King vs. having a home cooked meal of grilled skinless chicken breast, steamed veggies, and a whole wheat roll with a dab of butter.  Hopefully everyone said they feel much better after a home cooked meal in comparison to McDonalds or Burger King.  Or what about a nice crisp apple vs. a bag of sour and cream chips?  Hmm…
All those high energy, healthy foods we have been discussing really are key, aren’t they?!  But who else is your diet affecting?  Ever think about how your diet is affecting your unborn or young children?

Junk Food

Junk Food

A new study from Deakin University in Australia suggests that children who are exposed to “junk food” have an increased risk of developing mental health problems.  This includes when a child is still in the womb as well as a child’s first few years of life.

Researchers of the study found that those who consume a high quantity of unhealthy foods during pregnancy and provide an unhealthy diet to their children during the first few years of life increase a children’s risk.  Risk to what you ask?  Children exposed to an unhealthy diet early in life have been linked to having higher emotional and behavioral problems such as anxiety and/or depression.  If you are a parent, you know that your children look up to you as a role model.  This includes their food choices as well.  If you tell your child that they are not allowed to have cookies or cake but then they see you sneaking these foods, they will think it is okay.  Why do you think it is so important during the first few years of childhood?  Once a child reaches the age of nine or ten it will be more difficult to try and change their habits when it comes to eating.

When counseling young children, many parents comment “well I don’t let him/her have that anyways because it makes him/her hyper.”  Did you know that it is a myth that one becomes hyper from eating too much sugar?  What a dirty little trick parents play on their children. J But, if you didn’t know, now you do.  However, too much sugar can lead to it being stored as fat and possibly diabetes.  Most kids run around enough that a treat aka “junk food” every now and then won’t necessarily hurt them so don’t be ‘that mom or dad’.

What do I consider “junk food” anything that is package or pre-made that has a low nutritional value.  This means things that are high in fat, sugar, salt, and calories.  Don’t get me wrong some of these things are delicious, but only every once in a while.  I like to think of them as special occasion treats! This means a few times a year, just because you got an A on a paper doesn’t mean it’s a special occasion.  Okay, maybe but treat yourself with something other than junk food.  Now, you are more than welcome to make homemade items and “health” them up like I do!  No one ever said you couldn’t eat healthy junk food!