These 7 Things May Trigger Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, can be thought of like being on a mental and emotional rollercoaster that you can’t get off of. This mental illness is characterized by extreme emotional shifts, ranging from manic “high” episodes to “low” episodes that can plunge sufferers deep into pits of depression. This extended rollercoaster ride can be highly debilitating to all aspects of life.

What causes bipolar disorder?

While everyone has their normal ups and downs, people with bipolar disorder have this in a greatly exaggerated way, to the point where they may be unable to function at home, at work and in their relationships. This condition affects approximately three percent of the U.S. population, and it is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25.  

Currently, there is no completely known cause for bipolar disorder. Scientists and physicians do have various theories, however. Most believe that it is an imbalance in the chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine. Because people can suffer greatly with this disorder, more knowledge on how to naturally treat and manage it is imperative.

The following seven factors may not cause bipolar disorder on their own, but they may trigger the condition if someone is predisposed, or set the brain up to have a bipolar disorder creep up in the future.

1. Genes

Bipolar disorder could be triggered by a hormone imbalance.
Bipolar disorder could be triggered by a hormone imbalance.

Researchers hypothesize that there are genetic factors to the development of bipolar disorder, although results are not conclusive enough to point to causation yet. However, it has been found that people whose parents have bipolar disorder have a higher chance of developing it themselves. If both parents have it, the child’s risk increases even more. The same goes for twins; if one has bipolar disorder, the other has a higher risk of developing it, as well.

2. Hormonal imbalance

A hormonal imbalance may act as a trigger for bipolar disorder, or it may even be an underlying cause. For this reason, it is important to keep your hormones balanced. Signs of a hormonal imbalance include moderate to severe PMS, mood swings, weight gain, insomnia, depression and fatigue. If this sounds like you, check out these natural ways to keeps your hormones in balance. You can help prevent them from going askew and get them back in order if they swing about.

3. Neurotransmitter imbalance

Researchers have linked imbalances in neurotransmitters to bipolar disorder, as well as to multiple other mood disorders. Exactly how these imbalances work and contribute to bipolar disorders is still being researched, but taking steps to keeping your brain and nervous system as healthy as possible is key.

4. Stress

Bipolar disorder may be triggered by prolonged periods of stress.
Bipolar disorder may be triggered by prolonged periods of stress.

We all experience stress from time to time — it’s a natural part of life. However, if a person is predisposed towards bipolar disorder, certain types of stress can trigger a manic or depressive episode. Practicing stress relieving techniques on a regular basis can help a lot. Give meditation, yoga or tai chi a try.

Also, if you are chronically stressed, it is likely causing great harm to every system in your body. Taking steps to reduce your stress now is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.

5. Trauma

Any type of traumatic event may either trigger bipolar disorder if it is lying dormant or potentially set the stage in the brain for a bipolar disorder to develop. Life is unfortunately full of traumatic events, and there is little we can do to prevent many of them. However, if a traumatic event does occur, we can choose to take the steps to heal ourselves instead of letting our pain stew and fester.

While this may not necessarily prevent mental conditions from developing, it may help you to manage the effects of a trauma more effectively, so that things don’t spiral out of control. If you have experienced a trauma, it is a wise choice to find a therapist you can trust, so that you can start working through your feelings and heal.

6. Drug abuse

While drug abuse itself is not a “cause” of bipolar disorder, abusing certain drugs (or alcohol) could trigger bipolar disorder if an individual is predisposed to it. Also, some drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can cause manic states. So, if you have a personal or family history of mental disorders, it’s probably best to stay away from those drugs, to say the least.

7. Junk foods

Bipolar disorder can be triggered by junk foods that are high in trans fats and sugar.
Bipolar disorder can get worse from junk foods that are high in trans fats and sugar.

While there is no food (as least that we know of) that causes bipolar disorder, there is research out there stating that certain foods may make an existing case of bipolar worse or better. There is no “one size fits all” diet for bipolar disorder, but here is a very general guide. Here are some foods to avoid:

  • Processed foods
  • Refined sugar
  • Refined flour (white flour)
  • Soda
  • Excess caffeine
  • Excess alcohol
  • Foods high in trans fat
  • Excess foods with saturated fat
  • Foods that may interact with your medication (discuss with your doctor)
  • Artificial sweeteners (these may be a trigger for some people)

Foods that improve bipolar disorder

As mentioned, researchers have noted a correlation between diet and mood. Here are some foods that can help regulate mental health:

  • Whole, natural foods
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (like fatty fish)
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Lots of water

How diet impacts your mood

Everyone is different, and some people with bipolar disorder may have different food triggers. If you have bipolar disorder, try keeping a food journal and making a note if your symptoms start to act up after a certain type of meal. Sharing this journal with your doctor may help them come up with a meal plan that will work for you. Always discuss your diet with your doctor if you are on medications, to make sure there are no negative reactions occurring.

Choose a healthy, whole, nutritious diet, without all of the sugar, processed stuff and trans fat that the typical Western diet offers. What you eat can dramatically affect your mood and how you feel, no matter what health condition you may have.

— Tanya Mead

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