Answers to Questions on Bi-Polar Disorder

It is quite controversial to diagnose Bipolar disorder in children.

Only a very small percentage of individuals diagnosed prior to age ten have been found.

However, it is important to mention that adolescents treated for bipolar disorder between 1993 through 2003 increased forty-fold during that time, and the numbers of those diagnosed continues to increase.

This increase in children diagnosed with mood disorders creates much concern. Is this due to the guidelines being better defined along with greater pharmaceutical intervention? Is diet, nutrition, and toxicity that causes changes in the body the issue? Bi-polar, like many newly defined diseases, is receiving greater attention than ever before while also raising many unanswered questions.

Wikipedia describes Bipolar disorder as “a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders. They are thus defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated moods clinically referred to as mania or, if milder, hypomania.”

Doctors are now offered a list of psychotherapeutic medications for treating bi-polar disorder, and one of the most widely prescribed is Lithium. It requires constant monitoring because there is a fine line between an effective dose and a toxic one. Also, the potential for side effects is always present.

Finding safe drugs for children and the elderly is also a challenge. Other prescribed drugs include Valproate, antidepressants such as Zoloft, and benzodiazepines, even though the predictability of the drugs to address the core reason for the disorder is not clear. Research continues to try to isolate new drugs.

Dr. Leia often receives questions on Bi-polar disorder. One question offers guidance on natural approaches for Bi-polar disorder. Another is a parent seeking herbs for bi-polar and mood disorders for their child who is having some severe symptoms.

Holistic Alternatives for Bi-Polar Disorder

Question for Dr. Leia: I am seeking natural choices to taking the drug Risperdal. I am currently taking Risperdal I have been for about five years now. I am told I have bipolar tendencies. I really don’t like the idea of taking drugs and pharmaceutical medicines due to their side effects and short history treating mood disorders. I feel like there are better alternatives such as herbs, proper food, natural meditations, etc. I am very interested in learning more about holistic healing and therapy. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for more natural approaches and alternatives for bi-polar disorder rather than taking this drug.

Dr. Leia’s Answer: There is really no substitute for the drug, Risperdal. It is given for manic-depressive or bipolar disorders. Usually when one has bipolar tendencies, there are imbalances in the brain chemicals and these imbalances can cause rapid swings from feeling down and depressed to feeling manic or excessively agitated. You should not take yourself off this drug without your doctor’s permission because it could cause some severe problems for you. Only your doctor can withdraw you from this drug.

However, in addition to your regular doctor, you might want to see a Naturopathic doctor in your area who has expertise to test you for any toxic metals or imbalances in your nutrient minerals. One way to do this is using a hair mineral analysis.

A hair mineral analysis can check for heavy metal toxicities which could affect brain function. Also lacking essential minerals can also cause this problem. Many bipolar patients have also been helped with amino acid therapy, and there are many doctors around, including psychologists, who utilize these therapies by testing for and supplementing their patients with balanced amino acids. So yes, there are other options to consider when treating bi-polar and mood disorders.

Minerals such as magnesium and calcium are especially important to help to relax the body, the muscles, the nervous system, and even help with insomnia and constipation. So, if it is okay with your doctor, you can take some calcium and magnesium right before bedtime.

I recommend a product called CALM powder, which is a magnesium fizzy drink. It is best taken before bedtime and can help you relax and sleep better and deeper. You can also take this supplement during the day when you are feeling agitated or annoyed.

I sincerely hope that you can find a Naturopathic doctor who can give you an additional perspective so you have more information to help you with your self-care and do the hair testing for you. Good luck in your search.

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Helping Children with Mood Disorders

Question for Dr. Leia: Our daughter is 13 and we suspect she is suffering from a mild bipolar disorder. She is taking medicine that makes her sleepy, if we cut the dose she has melts downs. Lately she has extreme melt downs even with higher doses. When this happens she sometimes scratches her face and hits her head on the walls. Then when the episode is over, it is like nothing ever happened. She is sorry that she reacted this way, but soon forgets.

Can you recommend an herb or a natural treatment for children’s mood disorders that may help her? I am fearful for her safety and possibly our own some day.

Dr. Leia’s Answer: Thank you for reaching out to better understand what is transpiring with your daughter. You mention that she is thirteen and is taking some unspecified medication from her doctor which sedates her and makes her drowsy.

Hopefully, you are not cutting down her dosage without her doctor’s advice. It sounds as if you do not have a definitive diagnosis, but are assuming or suspecting that it is a bipolar disorder, where the child’s emotions can vary from one extreme to another, from being depressed to manic or hyperactive.

You did not mention whether this behavior has been on-going since infancy or toddler hood, or whether it is a relatively new behavior. The behaviors which you mention, such as head banging and self-inflicting wounds are not normal for a thirteen year old child.

It may be surprising to learn, though, that head banging can be present, and even normal, in about 20% of small children, from infancy, but this behavior stops at about four years of age. Head banging beyond this age is abnormal and deserves a complete work-up by her doctor to check for brain dysfunction, neurological diseases, brain tumors, autism, brain damage, Tourette’s syndrome, and other problems, both physical and emotional. Inflicting self wounds is never normal at any age.

It is not enough to just “assume” that your child has a bipolar disorder without further in-depth testing. Along with both thorough emotional and psychological testing, brain scans, EEGs, electroencephalograms, and MRI’s are important tools which should be utilized to thoroughly test your child for a definitive diagnosis.

If her doctor is not a specialist, you would do well to get your child evaluated with a medical doctor who specializes in abnormal behavioral problems in children and adolescents, including second or third opinions from various specialists.

Sometimes, there can be toxic heavy metal or chemical poisoning which may affect your child’s behavior. So, after thorough testing with the above mentioned tools, you might consider having your child tested for heavy metals with a hair mineral analysis.

This is a simple procedure which involves snipping a small amount of your child’s hair from the back of the nape of her neck and sending it in to a reputable laboratory for analysis. A Naturopathic doctor would be able to order and interpret the results for you, and offer a suitable treatment protocol for your daughter.

Toxic chemicals and metals can affect brain function. Causes for these toxins could include exposure while in utero or during your child’s growing phases, or even vaccinations and food allergies or sensitivities. A Naturopathic doctor will be able to order and test for these problems.

Neuromins Supplement by Natures WayOne type of natural substance which will not interfere with any medications which her doctor prescribes is a product called Neuromins, which contains DHA or a form of Omega-3 fatty acid from seaweed.

This product helps to modulate brain function, but does not rid the body of toxins if they are present. It is a harmless substance without any known side effects or drug interactions. I do not recommend just any Omega-3 supplement for her case, because a lot of fish oil capsules may contain toxic metals, PCBs, or hormones.

An alternative could be fish oil capsules which are pharmaceutical grade which means that they are pure and contain no toxins. Herbs are not indicated in her case, because they can interact with her medication. Before taking any added supplements, please ask her doctor if it is applicable.

I sincerely hope that you can see that a simple “herb” will not be the answer to your child’s problems. Other things to consider would be to look at your family interaction dynamics, and if her physical tests come back completely normal for all of the causes mentioned above, then you might want to consider family counseling and therapy.

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