Over two and a half percent of the adult population of the United States has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with 83% of those diagnosed as severe and average age of onset at 25. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you are more than likely trying to find ways to improve your symptoms. Although taking medications may be an important part of your treatment plan, there are also natural ways to influence your symptoms in addition to traditional medication. Alleviating or diminishing symptoms through non-pharmaceutical means may allow you to take a lower dose of your prescribed medication. Always talk to your doctor about your treatment plan, which may include going to therapy, changing your diet, exercising more, and taking natural supplements.
Method 1 of 4: Treating Your Disorder with Therapy
1Consider intensive psychotherapy. Psychotherapists assist people with bipolar disorder to find ways to manage their symptoms. Intensive psychotherapy can take the form of cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, or interpersonal and social rhythm therapy.
- Patients taking medication have been found to improve faster and stay well longer if they are also undertaking intensive psychotherapy.
2Participate in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This therapy targets and identifies negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviours and encourages changing your behaviours and reframing your thoughts and belief patterns. Your therapist will help you recognize triggers for your bipolar episodes and how to cope 
- Self-awareness, stress management, and problem solving techniques are essential skills learned in CBT that can help make your life easier, regardless of the extent of bipolar disorder you have.
- Mood monitoring, symptom and activity logs, and tracking behaviours are some of the tools used in managing bipolar disorder via CBT.
3Go to family therapy. When you are dealing with bipolar disorder, having support and understanding from your family is crucial. Family therapy will teach you and your family about the biochemical nature of bipolar disorder so everyone will understand that it is not your fault that you were diagnosed. Your family will learn ways to offer you relief and support and you’ll learn how to work together to cope with your bipolar symptoms.
- Family therapy can also help you to create a treatment plan that your family can help you to stick to. Family contracts are sometimes created outlining how your family can best help you in times of need, with hotline numbers to call.
4Regularly see friends or attend group therapy. A strong social support network and a predictable low-stress environment with established routines helps manage rapid cycling.
- Also called interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, or IPSRT, this therapy also means sleep and meal management and improving interpersonal relationships and emotional stability.
- A bipolar support group can help you feel you’re not alone and you can learn ways that others cope with and manage their symptoms.
5Go to massage therapy. Getting a massage can leave anxiety and stress, both of which can aggravate symptoms of bipolar disorder. When you get a massage, your body releases oxytocin, which can help you to feel calm and reduce your bipolar symptoms.
- Massage fits in with treatment for bipolar for many reasons. People with bipolar are recommended to keep regular schedules, take good care of themselves, and sleep well, and massage facilitates these ideals. Massage aids in the release of oxytocin, the feel good hormone, and decreases the amount of cortisol circulating in your system, thereby decreasing stress.
6Try acupuncture. Acupuncture is the traditional Chinese practice of inserting tiny sterilized needles into the skin at strategic points to balance the chi, or life force, stimulate blood flow, and release the body’s natural painkillers.
- Acupuncture is a safe practice to be done in addition to medical therapy for bipolar disorder.
- Weekly acupuncture has been found to decrease symptoms in bipolar disorder.
- Tell your acupuncturist you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder so she can target your treatment effectively.
Method 2 of 4: Making Lifestyle Modifications to Manage Your Disorder
1Exercise to increase endorphins. When you exercise, your body releases these chemicals responsible for lifting your mood and making you feel happy. Exercising to release endorphins may help with hypomania and depression.
- Depression is the dominant form of bipolar disorder and not everyone exhibits mania. In fact, hypomania, which is a milder form of mania marked by excitability, mild elation, talkativeness, and irritability, often goes with depression in bipolar disorder, especially in women.
- If you feel like a depressive episode may be coming on, go for a run, bike ride, or do other physical activities. Your body’s endorphins can help alleviate symptoms.
2Be active on a regular schedule. Create a schedule to exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week. Keeping a scheduled routine also helps with the interpersonal and social rhythm therapy.
3Choose exercises you enjoy. Staying motivated is an important part of sticking to an exercise routine. When you enjoy the exercise you are doing, you are more likely to stay motivated. Choose physical activities that you are excited about. Try more than one to see what exercises work best for you.
- Running, swimming, biking, hiking, rock climbing, playing a team sport all are effective exercise to release endorphins.
4Give yoga a try. Yoga can help to improve your mood and keep you in shape. At the same time, yoga can also help to reduce your stress levels and help you relax. Enroll in a yoga class and give this meditative practice a try.
- The combination of physical activity, meditation, and breathing techniques may help you to feel calmer and more in control of your emotions.
5Make sure to get plenty of sleep each night. When you do not get enough sleep, your body and brain have a harder time controlling cycling, stress, and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. Because of this, it is important that you try to maintain a regular sleep cycle.
- Consider keeping a sleep diary. A sleep diary can help you to track what helps you to fall asleep, and what can keep you up at odd hours. Write down things such as how much sleep you got the night before, how often you woke up, how long it took you to fall asleep, and what you did right before bed. This way, you can also target problems to fix in order to sleep better.
Method 3 of 4: Managing Your Diet to Reduce Symptoms
1Avoid skipping meals. Eating enough food is an important part of managing bipolar symptoms. When you skip meals, your blood sugar levels drop which has a negative effect on your mood. Try to eat at least three meals a day.
- If you do not like eating three big meals, you can eat six small meals throughout the day.
2Eat more omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to depression. Both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), omega-3 fatty acids, and work to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain.
- Increasing omega-3s has not been shown to decrease mania or rapid cycling.
- Have one serving of fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, or sardines, one tablespoon of olive, canola, or soybean oil, or one handful of flax seeds or walnuts a day to get enough omega-3s.
- To take omega-3 as a daily supplement, fish oil containing 6.2 grams of EPA plus 3.4 grams of DHA is recommended. When purchasing fish oil, make sure to read the label and see that both of these ingredients are present so that you can more effectively combat symptoms of bipolar disorder.
3Avoid self-soothing and activating brain reward centers with food. People with bipolar disorder have lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that not only impacts your mood, but can spark a craving for carbs and sweets.
- Eating sweets activates reward centers in the brain, releasing dopamine, which makes people feel good.
4Consume healthy carbohydrates instead of sweets. Carbohydrates are an essential part of your diet. However, there are some carbs that are better for you than others. Try to avoid carbs with refined sugars, as they can make your blood sugar levels spike dramatically then crash, making you feel tired and depressed. Complex carbs release energy in a more sustainable way and can impact our serotonin levels.
- Eat more complex carbs like sweet potatoes and whole grains. Eat less refined sugar carbs like white bread, white pasta, and white rice.
- Add lean protein to fibre to get the nutrition you need in a healthy way. Have peanut butter with apple or hummus and carrots, for example.
5Eat to get magnesium. Magnesium works similarly to lithium to decrease mania and rapid cycling. Magnesium also supports healthy sleep.
- Eat black beans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, spinach, soybeans, cashews, and chard to get more magnesium in your diet.
- Adults should have up to 200 milligrams of elemental magnesium per day, though this value changes when the magnesium is in a combined form, such as magnesium chloride. Check with your doctor to be sure you are getting the right amount if you take a supplement.
6Up your intake of whole fruits and vegetables. Whole foods are foods that have not been cooked or processed in any way. Fruits and vegetables are whole foods that contain many of the nutrients you need to stay physically healthy. Vitamin C can help to control your cortisol levels, thereby keeping your stress levels down. Vitamin B9 is essential to prevent increased homocysteine, a hormone prevalent in depression. Folates (B vitamins) have been shown to be lower in both depressive and manic states.
- Get vitamin C in citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers, kale, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower. The recommended dose of vitamin C by supplement is 75-90 milligrams per day.
- Get your B vitamins in beans, spinach, asparagus, mango and whole wheat bread. If you take folate supplements, 200 IU per day is recommended in bipolar disorder.
7Stay away from caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can both affect your mood, stress levels, and depression. Because of this, it is important to stay away from both of these substances as much as possible.
- This is particularly important if you are taking medications for your bipolar disorder. You can end up with severe drug interactions, sleep disorders, and mood swings.
- Have tea or sparkling water with lemon instead.
8Keep comorbidities at a minimum. Comorbidities are additional illnesses or disorders you have in addition to the main one being discussed. People with bipolar disorder have potential numerous comorbidities including diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, migraines, back pain, asthma, ulcers, and more.
- By eating well to manage your symptoms, you will also be decreasing the effects these comorbidities have on your life.
- People with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop obesity due to sedentary lifestyles, illness–related physiological mechanisms, and medication side effects.
Method 4 of 4: Taking Natural Supplements
1Take lecithin supplements. Lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) is a healthy fat that may reduce the severity of both manic and depressive states.
- Both lecithin capsules and granules are available and should be kept refrigerated.
- The choline in lecithin helps regulate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, shown to be active in emotional regulation and often low in people with mania.
- Another component of lecithin is inositol, also active in acetylcholine and serotonin regulation.
- 15-30 grams a day of lecithin, or phosphatidylcholine, is recommended.
2Try ginseng supplements. Ginseng has been shown to increase energy levels and improve overall health. It can also increase your ability to concentrate, remember things, and pay attention.
- In particular, you can take ginseng supplements during depressive episodes to reduce symptoms such as fatigue and lethargy.
- Take up to 2,000 milligrams of pure, ground ginseng root.
3Do not take St John’s wort. Unless you have talked to your doctor first, avoid this flower supplement. St. John’s wort is marketed as an antidepressant but it can actually trigger a switch to mania. Additionally, it may render other medications you are taking less effective.
4Explore other supplements. Calcium, black cohosh, and licorice root may be helpful in women with bipolar disorder, as these help stabilize hormones during the menstrual cycle. Talk to your doctor before adding any of these supplements to your intake and to get a suggested dosage.
- Getting your calcium naturally through dairy products is a safe way to see if it helps stabilize your mood.