The Bipolar Parent’s (Belated) Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: Keto Edition

Hello, hello! Welcome to The Bipolar Parent’s (Belated) Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: Keto Edition! Thanks for stopping by.

First, I apologize for this post being late. I completely forgot to write it on Friday, and on Saturday, I was ridiculously busy, which I’ll go into below. Sorry about that!

Secondly, how are you? How’s life treating you? Do you attend religious services? Are you on a diet, like me? How are the kids? What are you struggling with? What are your parenting challenges this week? Let me know in the comments; I genuinely want to get to know you.

The Bipolar Parent's (Belated) Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: Keto Edition - CassandraStout.com

My Week

I started the keto (extremely low-carb, moderate protein, high fat) diet with my husband to help us both shed some extra weight we’ve been carrying around.

I am currently 190.4 pounds, and have lost 2 pounds since Tuesday. But, since my weight tends to fluctuate over the day, I am not counting the loss until I lose at least 6-8 pounds.

The last time I tried the keto diet, I ended up with massive headaches and brain fog for the first week. A while back, my sister recommended magnesium supplements for headaches. As I don’t absorb magnesium through supplementation very well, I was elated to find out that pumpkin seeds, which have 0g net carbs due to their high fiber content, give me 50% of the recommended daily value of magnesium for a 1/4 cup serving.

Now, eating the pumpkin seeds, I have had very few headaches, and am snapping out of the brain fog much more quickly. It’s such a relief.

As for being busy on Saturday, I cleaned the house because my husband and I planned to go on a date that afternoon, and I wanted the house to be nice for the babysitters, a trusted couple from our church.

The whole family pitched in to clean the house, and we got it done in time for our date at 1pm. I should have spread the cleaning out over the week, but I’ve been dealing with depression/exhaustion/brain fog from the change in my diet.

But it hasn’t been a bad week, not at all. I’ve been able to maintain a positive attitude, which helps immensely. Hopefully next week will be even better.

How was your week?

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The Bipolar Parent's (Belated) Saturday Morning Mental Health Check in: Keto Edition - CassandraStout.com

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How to Manage Common Bipolar Triggers

Bipolar disorder is worsened by triggers, or events that occur in your life that may cause mood episodes. Stressful events can be positive, like a new baby or moving to a new home, or negative, like a job loss or ending a relationship. But there are other common

trigger
A picture of a fruit-and-oat granola bar with a wrapper that reads “trigger.” Credit to flickr.com user Martin Bekkelund. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

bipolar triggers as well.

Here’s some of the most common bipolar triggers (advice for minimizing the impact of these triggers will follow):

Common Triggers

  • Stressful positive or negative events, such as entering a relationship or ending one.
  • Sleep disturbances. Sleep is crucial for bipolar patients to maintain a healthy mood. A lack of a good night’s rest can contribute to manic or hypomanic episodes, and increases in sleep may increase the risk of depression. Jet lag or a new baby can cause people to miss out on their forty winks.
  • Overstimulation from external sources, such as clutter, chaos, or crowds.
  • Overstimulation from sources directly affecting the person, such as stimulants like caffeine or stimulants/depressants like nicotine, or excitement from achieving challenging goa
  • Substance abuse.
  • Unresolved conflict with others. Dealing with others can be stressful, especially if someone is angry at you and you don’t know why, or don’t know how to resolve the conflict.
  • Untreated or unmanaged illness, mental or physical.

These triggers are stressful for anyone regardless of the state of their mental health. But these events and issues are especially stressful for bipolar patients.

Here are some ways to minimize the effect of common bipolar triggers:

Minimizing the Effects of Triggers

  • Take prescribed medications and therapies for your bipolar disorder. Treating and managing your mental illness is incredibly important. Attend therapy sessions and take your meds to prevent relapse and hospitalizations. For a post on how to survive a stint in a mental hospital, click here.
  • Sleep regularly. Try to keep to a self-care routine. Take a nightly bath before bed, and stick to a regular bedtime. For advice on how specifically to get sleep with a baby, click here.
  • Maintain a basic routine. Keeping to a regular routine will help you better cope with stress, and hopefully prevent life events from impacting you poorly. Maintaining a schedule with kids is one of the best parenting strategies you can do for them. This will also help you sleep better.
  • Exercise. Working out can improve your mood and overall physical and mental health. You may also sleep better, and suffer less anxiety. For a post on how to exercise with a baby or toddler, click here.
  • Reduce stimulation. Learn how to cope with stress by attending therapy or reading self-help books. Set up quiet times between social engagements. Set realistic goals that won’t take too much out of you.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Like sleep, diet is crucial for maintaining a healthy mood in bipolar patients. Sugar harms your mental health. For a post on how to follow a Mediterranean diet to help manage your mental illnesses, click here.
  • Reduce reliance on substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or street drugs. Quitting an addiction is one of the hardest issues you’ll ever face. But your life will be better off.
  • Listen carefully to others. Resolving conflicts is sometimes difficult. But if you don’t resolve the problems, then they will eat at you. Listen to other people intentionally. Try not to think about what you’re going to say while they are talking. This makes people feel listened to and appreciated in your company. Keep in mind that this probably won’t resolve the issue on its own, but it will go a long, long way towards open communication.

The Bottom Line

Managing these common triggers is key to helping yourself maintain good mental health. If you find yourself being triggered by stressful events, then find a way to step back from your responsibilities, if just for a brief time.

Good luck!

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How Sugar May Harm Your Mental Health

Sugar, especially refined white sugar which has been processed, inflates waistlines and contributes to obesity. But, while some studies have shown that sugar may have a detrimental effect on the mood, not a whole lot of research has been done on sugar’s effects on mental health.

In a past post, Good, Good, Good Nutrition, part II: Foods to Avoid When Managing Bipolar Disorder, we covered how sugar can cause wild mood swings in bipolar patients. And how obesity can make some bipolar medications ineffective, especially if the weight is gained around the middle. But there are other ways sugar harms mental health.

Let’s dig in.

Addictive Properties

The addictive properties of sugar have been studied in recent years, though the research is still controversial. But anyone who’s craving a chocolate fix can understand how additive sugar is. Sugar and actual drugs both flood the brain with dopamine, a feel-good chemical which changes the brain over time. Among people who binge eat, the sight of a milkshake activated the same reward centers of the brain as cocaine, according to a Yale University study. Speaking of cocaine, rats actually prefer sugar water to the hard drug. And according to a 2007 study, rats who were given fats and sugar to eat demonstrated symptoms of withdrawal when the foods were taken away.

sugar
A spoonful of sugar on a black background. Credit to flickr.com user Gunilla G. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Cognitive Effects

Sugar may also affect your ability to learn and remember things. Six weeks of drinking a fructose solution similar to soda caused the rats taking it to forget their way out of a maze, according to a University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study. In the same study, rats who ate a high-fructose diet that also included omega-3 fatty acids found their way out of the maze even faster than the controls, who ate a standard diet for rats. The increased-sugar diet without omega 3s caused insulin resistance in the rats, which leads to diabetes and damaged brain cells crucial for memory.

Depression

Countries with high-sugar diets experience a high incidence of depression. Mood disorders may also be affected by the highs and lows of sugar consumption and subsequent crashes. In schizophrenic patients, a study has shown that eating a lot of sugar links to an increased risk of depression.

The researchers behind the study produced a couple of theories to explain the link. Sugar suppresses the activation of a hormone called BDNF, which is found at low levels in people with schizophrenia and clinical depression. Sugar also contributes to chronic inflammation, which impacts the immune system and brain. Studies show that inflammation can cause depression.

Anxiety

Sugar consumption doesn’t cause anxiety, but it does appear to worsen anxiety symptoms. Sugar also causes the inability to cope with stress. Rats who ate sugar and then fasted showed symptoms of anxiety, according to a 2008 study. In a study in the following year, rats who ate sugar (as opposed to honey) were more likely to suffer anxiety. While you cannot cure anxiety through a change in diet, you can help the body cope with stress and minimize symptoms if you avoid sugar.

The Bottom Line

The good news is, people are consuming less sugar now that the risks to eating it are clearer. A decade ago, Americans ate sugar for 18% of their daily calories, but today that’s dropped to 13%. The more we learn about the human body and how our choices in foods affect us, the more we can tailor our diets to maximize the benefits to our health and minimize the risks.

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How to Follow a Mediterranean Diet to Help Manage Bipolar Depression

salm
Credit to flickr.com user Annette Young. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

As several studies have pointed out, eating a healthy diet is crucial for managing bipolar disorder. I recently linked to a study demonstrating that a Mediterranean diet helped alleviate the symptoms of depression. New research shows that following such a diet can even help prevent depression in the first place. If you eat these prescribed foods, then you may be able to alleviate or prevent bipolar depression as well.

In addition, following this diet may lower “bad”  cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and some cancers–including breast cancer, when supplemented with mixed nuts. So why not give the diet a try?

But what is a Mediterranean diet? It emphasizes:

  • Eating fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts, and whole grains as primary food sources
  • Replacing butter with healthier fats such as olive oil
  • Avoiding salt, and using herbs and spices instead
  • Only eating red meat a few times per month, and eating fish and poultry twice a week instead
  • Drinking moderate amounts of red wine (optional)

To follow the diet more fully, aim for seven to ten servings of fruits and veggies per day. Switch to whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta, and rice. Keep cashews, walnuts, and almonds around for snacking, but don’t eat too many, as they’re high in calories. Don’t eat butter; try olive oil and canola oil as a substitute. Eat healthy fats in general. Nosh on water-packed tuna, trout, or salmon once or twice a week, but avoid fried fish.

Don’t eat red meat unless it’s lean; avoid sausage and bacon. Choose low-fat cheese, fat-free yogurt, and skim milk. Avoid sugar. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of wine at dinner, but purple grape juice can be an alternative. For a sample meal plan that breaks down consumption by calories, click here.

There are a couple of downsides to the Mediterranean diet, however. One is the high cost. A personal finance blog, The Simple Dollar, posted a detailed breakdown of the costs of switching from butter to olive oil, and red meat to salmon, as well as other foods. According to the breakdown, salmon is almost twice as expensive as ground beef, so if you have a large family, then you might want to change over to ground turkey instead.

The other downside of the diet is its complexity. Not only is overhauling your regular eating patterns hard, balancing your intake of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates over several different meals is difficult. I know that when I’m depressed, I choose to make one of these twenty-two easy, delicious meals, most of which are carb-heavy. Those are great, but if you’re trying to follow the Mediterranean diet, then that link is not for you.

But don’t let the cost or complexity of the Mediterranean diet throw you. In-season produce, the backbone of the diet, is generally cheaper than meat, be it red or fish or poultry. And switching from butter to olive oil is easy. You don’t have to follow a diet to a T to get some of the benefits.

By following this diet, you may be better able to manage bipolar depression, which can take all the help you can get. The bottom line is, just do what you can. Eat more fruit. Swap ground beef for ground turkey. If eating more vegetables or switching some unhealthy fats for healthier ones is all you can do, that’s still great. You’ve got this.

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Good, Good, Good Nutrition, Part I: Foods to Eat to Help Manage Bipolar Disorder

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Credit to flickr.com user jrsnchzhrs. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Food is important. That’s undeniable. While there’s no specific diet that helps manage bipolar disorder, studies have shown that an unhealthy diet can trigger manic episodes. New research shows hat depression symptoms decline with a Mediterranean-style diet. So, what you put into your body is crucial. Although the foods that follow won’t cure bipolar disorder, they can help you feel better, making it easier to cope with mood episodes.

Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are largely used to manage heart disease, though some studies have suggested that they can help with mental health as well. According to a recent review by Peet and Stokes, “Epidemiological studies indicate an association between depression and low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and biochemical studies have shown reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cell membranes in both depressive and schizophrenic patients.” This basically means that people who eat fewer omega-3 fatty acids tend to deal with more depressive symptoms. This is a big deal!

Other results have been more mixed, showing that there’s a lot more research that has to be done before omega-3s can be used to definitively treat bipolar disorder or depression.

Omega-3s can be found in:

  • fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, halibut, and sardines
  • flax seeds and their oil
  • eggs
  • soybeans
  • walnuts
  • wild rice

Magnesium

Preliminary studies suggest that magnesium is useful for reducing the symptoms of mania. Still others report that the vitamin is good for warding off depression and migraines. There’s a whole host of other dietary benefits for magnesium as well, such as keeping muscles and nerves functioning, regulating blood sugar, and treats hypertension. The recommended daily amount (RDA) is 420 milligrams (mg) for adult men and 320 mg for adult women.

Magnesium is found in:

  • almonds
  • avocado
  • beans
  • bran cereal
  • brown rice
  • cashews
  • chocolate
  • cereal (Shredded Wheat)
  • edamame (immature soybeans)

Selenium

Selenium is a trace element that’s essential for smooth brain function. The element helps stabilize moods. Deficiencies in selenium, of which adults need at least 55 micrograms (mcg) daily, have been linked to anxiety and depression.

Selenium is found in the following foods:

  • Brazil nuts
  • tuna
  • halibut
  • sardines
  • ham
  • shrimp
  • steak
  • turkey
  • beef liver

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps make melatonin and serotonin, which help you sleepy and happy, respectively. A recent study–the same one that showed magnesium can reduce mania symptoms–showed that tryptophan, too, can help mania. 

Tryptophan is often associated with Thanksgiving dinner, specifically turkey, but in reality, turkey only boasts as much of the amino acid as chicken. A pork chop has more, as does soybeans. Tryptophan can also be found in eggs, tofu, and cheese, so don’t worry if you don’t like turkey; you have plenty of options.

Probiotics

Probiotics are foods that contain live bacteria that is healthy for your gut. Research about the biome of our intestines is a hot topic. The microbes there have been shown in studies to release serotonin, which helps keep bipolar people on an even keel.

Probiotics can be found in:

  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • kombucha
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • miso

Dark Chocolate

One-and-a-half ounces of 70% dark chocolate daily is the recommended dose to lower stress hormones, according to a recent study. And who doesn’t like dark chocolate? However, be careful with your dose of chocolate, as cacao beans contain caffeine, and chocolate itself contains sugar, both of which are foods you want to avoid (see Part II).

Saffron

Saffron is a red spice shaped like a thread found in dishes from India. Studies have shown that saffron extract is as effective an antidepressant as Prozac. The spice is expensive on its own, however, so take care when filling the shopping cart and cooking with it. A little goes a long way.

In short, while there is no specific diet for bipolar disorder, incorporating these foods may help manage your manic and depressive episodes. However, foods are no replacement for a comprehensive treatment plan from your doctor. Experiment with diet, but keep to your psychiatrist’s recommendations. Happy eating!

Keep an eye out for Part II: Foods to Avoid.

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