Walter Strachan, M.D.
Lifestyle: The very first thing the patient should do is to have the very best possible lifestyle. That includes fresh air, sunshine, regularity, cleanliness, and orderliness about the premises, trust in Divine Power, and especially diet and exercise intervention. Apart from trust in Divine Power, the next most beneficial thing is exercise. I like to see bipolar people occupied at hard physical labor such as gardening or horticulture several hours a day, at least two, and preferably three or four. All daily activities should be put on a very strict schedule - eating, sleeping, arising, exercise time, study time, etc.
Botanicals: Then there are some botanicals that they should use. St. John's Wort is very effective for simple depression, and I always use it in bipolar cases. Licorice root is also a very effective herb, having more antidepressant compounds than any other herb. You will be interested to know that at least eight licorice compounds are monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. As these occur in the licorice root they are potent antidepressants. I should give a word of caution, and that is with large amounts, more than four cups a day, there can be sodium and water retention with loss of potassium.If the patient has anxiety along with depression, St. John's Wort has hypericin, which has excellent abilities to curb those feelings. I have found both licorice and St. John's Wort to be more powerful than some pharmaceutical drugs used for depression. What is more, these have far fewer side-effects, and some say they have no side-effects at all. Sleeplessness should improve with these herbs.
Folic Acid: Ginger, purslane, rosemary, ginkgo, ginseng (Siberian), okra, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, Brussels sprouts, peas, radishes. These and many other foods have folic acid.
Phenylalanine: Patients may also try adding foods with high content of phenylalanine to their diet - sunflower seeds, black beans, watercress, and soybeans.
Lithium: In spite of the apparent remissions that occur with the use of Lithium, it must be remembered that all psychotropic drugs achieve their effect by the impairment of one or more functions of the nerve cell. Irritability of the nerve cell is suppressed or excited, and eventually the cell ceases to function and hence respond to the stimulus. If the insult continues, it will eventually die. In clinical practice each time an individual is restarted on lithium, it is less effective and eventually becomes ineffective. Side effects including thyroid and kidney toxicity are major problems in almost every patient that continues with the drug. As noted above, we urge a strict lifestyle program with adequate supervision.
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