I originally wanted to get back into doing a research piece on vitamins and their role in treating or maintaining bipolar disorder (or other disorders). So I did my usual PubMED route and started looking. To my surprise, there isn’t really anything out there from a credible source. There are no Lancet publications, or New England Journal of Medicine articles that remotely show any benefit from taking supplements on mood stabilization. There is, at best, a little of back and forth on fish oil, but nothing to really break through the barriers and land in a major publication. Why do I start out like this? Saying that there isn’t any major findings? Especially when there must have been studies conducted. It’s that this points to a gap in the literature. One that is there because there is nothing found worthy of attention. I put some faith in these journals that they are looking for the best articles, and if someone were to find something cheaper and more readily available than lithium to help mental illness, that would make the headlines of Nature. It would be a brilliant break through in treatment and also some understanding of bipolar disorder. After all, a study connecting urban living to increased rates of mental illness made it into Nature. I’m sure that the surprise effects of vitamin D3 would warrant something. I start off with this because there just isn’t a whole lot of evidence that says that vitamins are cure alls or significant.
But I still take them. I have my B-complex, my multivitamin, and I take 2000IUs of D3 everyday. And it is perfectly reasonable to take them.
For starters, I was told by my previous psychiatrist that I ought to take a B vitamin. This isn’t because I’m bipolar, it’s because lamictal, according to him, can lower certain B vitamins. And I have noticed that when I do not take it, I feel a little off, mentally speaking. Not enough to make me dysfunctional or destabilized. Instead, I’m just not at my A game. This could also be because B vitamins help boost metabolism and processing of food. Or it could even be a placebo, but either way, it does help. I’ll take a placebo effect if it’s cheap enough.
The other two I take because of general health. There is a vast distance between being specifically helpful to being bipolar, and to helping general health which then helps promote better moods. So I take a mulitvitamin simply because I might not get all the essential nutrients in the course of my daily eating habits. I eat as well as I can, but I have many bad days where I don’t get everything I need out of laziness or apathy. I don’t believe that there is harm in taking a pill to help, and I stress help not replace normal means, get all the basic minerals and vitamins that I need.
And finally D3. I haven’t done much research into the kook fest that happens over this one. I’ve only come across it on message boards where people claim that it cures depression, bipolar disorder, and a host of other things. All one needs to do is take massive doses of it and voila, you’re cured. If I was feeling brave and not easily enraged, I’d dredge up the people peddling this idea. But after reading about all the ways that women are having protections removed around the country, I’m not in the mood to deal with much more nonsense. Additionally, D3 (and all D vitamins) can cause kidney stones in high doses. So unless you’re chugging 2 gallons of water a day, like me, you might be in for a painful surprise after your D experiment. Still, I take it. Why? Because I live in Wisconsin where it can get frigid cold after 80 degree weather and I don’t get out nearly as much as I should.
As such, I take a really basic approach to vitamins, it’s in terms of health. Based on my habits, I know that in slumps I’ll need to supplement nutrients, and that B vitamins help with metabolism, and D is just because I live in the north and even when the sun is out, it can be hard to tan it has so little oomph this time of year. Together, they help improve my overall health, and that might make a difference in some way. But as for having any direct connection in helping mental illness, there really isn’t anything that’s made a splash. And in the mean time, I try to eat healthy and get a few fruits and vegetables in there as well. Good health depends on more than a pill or two, but they can’t hurt for when we’re not taking good care of ourselves.