Natural Mood Stabilizers

Antimanic Drugs

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that involves fluctuations between two extremes, manic episodes and depressive episodes. Cyclothymia is a bipolar disorder with frequent shifts in mood but less severe symptoms. Medications prescribed to treat mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and cyclothymic disorder are called mood stabilizers.

Natural mood stabilizers are treatments and coping methods that are used for the same purpose but are not prescription medications. Natural options may be preferred by some people with mood disorders due to some of the downsides of prescription medications, such as side effects and high costs. These alternatives may be tried before or with prescription medications.

While they are often not effective enough on their own for people with mood disorders, natural mood stabilizers do have the potential of providing some mental and physical relief of mood disorder symptoms. This article will discuss some natural mood stabilizers, the research behind them, and safety precautions to keep in mind.

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Natural Mood Stabilizers

Natural mood stabilizers can be over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, but not necessarily. They can be anything that is not a prescription medication but is used to address mood disorder symptoms and stabilize mood. There are many complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, methods as well, such as yoga, meditation, and exercise.

Here are examples of some of the most common natural mood stabilizers, and some that are less well-known, along with information about them.

Adaptogens

How It Works

Adaptogens, or apaptogenic herbs, are natural plants that are thought to help the body heal and regulate itself. There are many different types and combinations, and they are believed to work by helping the body adapt to the environment. Eleutherococcus senticosus (also known as eleuthero and Siberian ginseng) is one that has been used to treat bipolar disorder.

Other adaptogens may help with symptoms and triggers associated with bipolar disorder. For example, adaptogens are used to treat and prevent stress, and stress can trigger bipolar episodes.

Check With Your Doctor Before Taking Supplements

Always check with your doctor before incorporating any new supplements into your routine. Natural supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may interact with other medications and treatments.

Research

One 2013 study found E. senticosus to be as effective as fluoxetine, a prescription medication used to treat bipolar disorder. Additionally, it was found to be less likely to lead to a manic episode as compared to fluoxetine. However other data suggest that E. senticosus may be no more beneficial than fluoxetine in treating bipolar disorder in adolescents. Additional research around this agent’s effectiveness is needed.

Side Effects and Precautions

Some people may be allergic to E. senticosus, in which case it needs to be avoided. Additionally, herbs and supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA so the strength, purity, and safety of products cannot be guaranteed. There may be other side effects, including changes in hormone levels and blood pressure, increased risk of bleeding, and increased risk of drowsiness.

Dosage and Preparation

E. senticosus has been studied with a dose of 750 milligrams three times per day along with lithium (a mood stabilizing medication) and is taken orally. Always follow your doctor's dosage recommendations.

Exercise

How It Works

Exercise as a natural mood stabilizer depends on the ability level and the preferences of the person. Physical exercise increases serotonin, norepinephrine, and endorphins (neurotransmitters that help you feel good) in the brain. This helps to alleviate symptoms of depression.

Research

Moderate aerobic exercise has been shown in research to improve depression symptoms. There have been multiple studies of different populations. One recommendation is to exercise for 45 minutes, five days per week.

Side Effects and Precautions

It is important to talk with a healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine as certain health conditions may put you at increased risk with particular exercise regimens. Additionally, safety measures should be taken to prevent injury.

Meditation and Mindfulness

How It Works

Meditation helps to relieve stress and anxiety and boost mood by calming the body and mind. This is beneficial for both mania and depression. Similarly, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy calms the mind and body, reduces stress and anxiety, and boosts the mood. Additionally, it increases acceptance and compassion for self while reducing avoidance.

Research

Mental silence meditation and active relaxation meditation have both been shown effective in reducing stress and improving depression. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has been shown effective in helping people with bipolar disorder to:

  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Increase their abilities to regulate emotions
  • Increase mindfulness
  • Relieve depression symptoms
  • Maintain positive thoughts
  • Improve ability to complete everyday tasks
  • Improve overall psychological well-being

Side Effects and Precautions

Some people do experience side effects such as fatigue and fear when they begin to meditate. This is believed to happen because of an increase in awareness and potentially bringing up distressing past experiences. It is recommended to begin meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with the guidance of a trained professional.

Nutrition

How It Works

Nutrition plays a role in the way the body functions. Therefore, what you eat can impact mental health symptoms. For example, different foods can either increase or decrease inflammation, which impacts stress, depression, and the body and mind together.

Research

Decreasing unhealthy, processed foods and increasing fruits and vegetables has been shown to decrease inflammation and may help with bipolar disorder symptoms. Additionally, food choices have been shown to increase a sense of control and aid in coping, which improves the effectiveness of treatment.

Side Effects and Precautions

As with any new nutrition plan, it is important to talk with a healthcare professional before making any dietary changes.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Vitamin D

How It Works

It is not entirely known exactly how omega-3 and vitamin D improve bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior. However, it is believed to be because both omega-3 and vitamin D are needed for serotonin regulation, which impacts brain function in these mental health conditions.

This is especially important because many people in the United States do not get enough omega-3 and vitamin D.

Research

Low levels of vitamin D and omega-3 have been associated with mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. Additionally, some studies of supplementation with vitamin D and omega-3 have been shown to decrease symptoms from these conditions, such as depression.

Side Effects and Precautions

Possible side effects of omega-3 include abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and a fishy aftertaste. A too-high dose may increase the risk of bleeding. Too much vitamin D can lead to calcium buildup in the blood. Additionally, supplements are not regulated by the FDA so the strength, purity, and safety of products cannot be guaranteed.

Dosage and Preparation

A vitamin D dose of 2,000 international units daily was found to be effective for children and teens with bipolar disorder in one study. An omega-3 dose of 1–2 grams per day, including both EPA and DHA, is sometimes recommended for depression. Always follow your doctor's dosage recommendations.

How to Choose a Supplement or Other Natural Mood Stabilizer

Everyone is different and experiences mood disorders differently. Choosing a natural mood stabilizer may partially depend on your symptoms, your preferences, and what fits into your lifestyle. A healthcare professional such as a psychiatrist can help guide your decision by making recommendations.

Summary

Natural mood stabilizers are nonprescription treatments for mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. Supplements and other methods like nutrition, exercise, meditation, and mindfulness are examples of natural mood stabilizers. Some have been shown in research to effectively treat mood disorder symptoms, with a lower risk of side effects—which is part of what makes people want to try them.

Natural mood stabilizers may be used alone but are usually added to other methods or prescription medications as part of a comprehensive care plan. Healthcare professionals who treat mental health conditions, such as psychiatrists, can help people decide what natural mood stabilizers may be best for them.

A Word From Verywell

Navigating the diagnosis and treatment of a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder can be challenging. You may want to explore natural mood stabilizer options as part of your overall treatment plan. This may help to get symptoms better controlled and improve quality of life. Some studies have shown natural mood stabilizers to be effective, but research is limited. Talk to a healthcare professional to help decide if natural mood stabilizers are a good option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a natural mood stabilizer?

    Mood stabilizers are medications used to treat bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. Natural mood stabilizers include treatments and coping methods but are not prescription medications.

  • What are some natural alternatives to mood stabilizers?

    Adaptogens, exercise, nutrition, meditation or mindfulness, omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamin D are some examples of natural mood stabilizers.

  • What is the best natural mood stabilizer?

    The best natural mood stabilizer depends on the person and what best fits their needs. Everyone is different, and people respond differently to both prescription medications and interventions that are not prescription medications. A healthcare professional such as a psychiatrist can help create a personalized treatment plan that includes natural mood stabilizers.

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13 Sources
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