Monday, March 3, 2008

Mania and free fatty acids

Plasma free fatty acids (primarily omega-3's) have gained much attention for their therapeutic potential in many psychiatric diagnoses--including depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder. Now researchers are discovering that the level of these fatty acids in the blood may actually influence the symptom severity of these illnesses.

In this particular study, done in patients with bipolar disorder, medication-free patients who were seeking help for a manic episode had their blood tested for free fatty acid levels. These levels were compared to those in individuals who did not have bipolar disorder. In the manic individuals, the lower the levels of arachidonic acid (AA) or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the worse the manic symptoms were. The greater the AA/EPA ratio, the worse the manic symptoms were.

In plain English? While the diets of these individuals were not analyzed, it is well-established that a diet high in fish and omega-3's promotes good EPA levels. A diet high in meat and pro-inflammatory oils (those "S" and "C" oils I like to refer to), the higher the AA levels. a lot of meat and processed foods with the wrong kinds of fat, and your bipolar disorder stability might pay the price. Focus on fish, flax, and nuts...and you might not need as many emergency room visits.

It's kind of a catch-22. In working with bipolar disorder, it seems that the very foods that cause trouble are the very foods these individuals seem to crave. It can take a concerted effort to stay on track with nutrition. However...what I do notice is that if these individuals DO stick with the plan and pull their nervous systems back into balance, the cravings eventually lessen and appetites for healthier food begin to surface.

I've been in the presence of a client in the middle of her mania. At least from my shoes, on the outside looking in, knowing what danger her state put her in, I'd highly recommend making the effort and minimizing the manic episodes.

Sublette ME, Bosetti F, DeMar JC, Ma K, Bell JM, Fagin-Jones S, Russ MJ, Rapoport SI. Plasma free polyunsaturated fatty acid levels are associated with symptom severity in acute mania.Bipolar Disord. 2007 Nov;9(7):759-65.

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