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Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings—from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.
A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.
A mild to moderate level of mania is called hypomania.
Sometimes, severe episodes of mania or depression include symptoms of psychosis (or psychotic symptoms). Common psychotic symptoms are hallucinations (hearing, seeing, or otherwise sensing the presence of things not actually there) and delusions (false, strongly held beliefs not influenced by logical reasoning or explained by a person’s usual cultural concepts). Psychotic symptoms in bipolar disorder tend to reflect the extreme mood state at the time.
To understand why various health problems can cause the symptoms such as mood swings, you need to understand how imbalances in body affect the function of the brain.
Brain Inflammation: Inflammation is a significant factor in Bipolar Disorder; inflammatory conditions such as periodontal disease, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease can trigger the excitatory neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, to become over stimulated.
When the immune system is activated by inflammation, it triggers the production of regulatory proteins known as cytokines. These peptides activate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA), creating a stress response.
Cytokines also increase the activity of the enzyme IDO, which acts to decrease serotonin and increase glutamate – often seen in patients with bipolar mood swings. The cytokine interferon is often used in treating immune disorders such multiple sclerosis and hepatitis; immune therapy is a well-known cause of mood imbalance.
A variety of other health problems are known to trigger cytokine reactions, which ultimately result in mood swings:
Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Mood Swings can result from imbalances in the levels of chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters. The emotions we feel are based on the release of neurotransmitters.
Nutritional Deficiencies: Our brains depend on a variety of nutrients, among them the B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and the Omega 3 fatty acids, to produce the neurotransmitters that regulate the way we think and feel. When we fail to get enough of these vital nutrients, whether in the food we eat or through supplementation, this can have a tremendous negative effect on our emotions, energy levels, ability to concentrate, sleep patterns, and many other important functions.
Impaired Methylation: Methylation is a vitally important metabolic process which occurs in every cell of the body. This process, by which a methyl group (consisting of 1 carbon and 3 hydrogen atoms) is transferred from one molecule to another, is important to the manufacture of DNA and RNA.
Methylation also enables cell detoxification and hormone production; it helps to regulate neurotransmitters and synchronize neural networks, ensuring optimum nervous system function, cognition, and modulation of mood.
Hormone imbalances: Improper levels of thyroid hormones, adrenal, sex hormones, and insulin can affect the way we feel and behave.
Street Drugs and Certain Prescription Drugs Can Cause Depression: Prescription drugs, such as antihistamines, anti-hypertensives, anti-inflammatory agents, birth control pills, cholesterol lowering medications, corticosteroids, tranquilizers, sedatives and antidepressants, have all been found to cause mania and depression in susceptible individuals. Alcohol is a depressant, increases adrenal hormone output, interferes with many brain processes, and disrupts normal sleep cycles. Nicotine stimulates adrenal hormone secretion, including cortisol. Caffeine causes anxiety, panic disorders, depression, nervousness, palpitations, irritability and recurrent headache in sensitive individuals. Drugs like Ecstasy damage the serotonin transporters.
In order to properly treat your depressive symptoms, it is important to know exactly which cause, or causes, are responsible. Lab testing can narrow down the source of the problem and help to determine the course of treatment which will most effectively address your individual needs.
Treating the Health Problems that Cause Mood Swings
Once you have determined the contributing factor or factors causing Bipolar symptoms, your health care adviser can work with you to design an individualized treatment which focuses on correcting deficiencies and imbalances, removing allergens, detoxifying the body, and increasing digestive health.
Your care regimen may consist of one or more of the following elements:
If you suffer from Bipolar or any other mental health complaint, adopting a healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward achieving a natural cure for depression by relieving your symptoms and improving your overall sense of well-being.
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