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Folic Acid and Bipolar Disorder

By Ashley Miller

Bipolar disorder is a debilitating mental illness that causes serious impairment to your ability to function and cope. While certain types of therapy and medication can help manage symptoms, some people prefer to try natural or alternative remedies to avoid the negative side effects of medication. Bipolar patients often have low levels of folate. Some research has shown that folic acid supplementation may help certain symptoms. However, you should not use dietary supplementation as a substitute for your doctor's advice.

About Folic Acid

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, also known as vitamin B-9, and a member of the B complex family of vitamins. As with all B vitamins, folate helps with energy metabolism, converts fats and proteins to their usable forms, and assists with cell growth and development. Folate also helps maintain proper functioning of your nervous system and brain, and helps maintain mental and emotional health, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you do not obtain enough dietary folate, you may suffer from unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue and irritability, which are also symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. Some research has shown that patients with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder have low levels of folic acid and suggest that dietary supplementation may help alleviate certain symptoms.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that causes alternations between depressive and manic episodes. Common symptoms of a depressive episode include a lack of energy, sleep problems, appetite changes, irritability, crying spells, sadness, low self-esteem and a lack of interest in previously-enjoyed activities. During these periods, some people experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors. A manic episode usually causes irritability and dangerous, erratic or irrational behaviors. Unfortunately, there's no cure for bipolar disorder. However, certain treatments, such as psychotherapy and specific medications like mood stabilizers and antidepressants, can help manage your symptoms. Additionally, certain dietary supplements, such as folic acid, may also help bipolar disorder.

Clinical Evidence

A 1989 clinical review published in the journal "Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry" states that folic acid deficiency is very common among patients with psychiatric disorders, and symptoms of these disorders tend to be more intense in patients with folic acid deficiency. The authors suggest that folic acid supplementation is beneficial for some patients suffering from bipolar disorder due to low cost and risk levels. Another review, published in the January 2005 issue of the "Journal of Psychopharmacology," suggests that supplementation with folic acid and vitamin B-12 can improve the treatment outcomes of people suffering from depression because these nutrients work together to increase levels of S-adenosylmethionine, a chemical that plays a role in the manufacturing of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The results of this review show promising benefits for those suffering from depressive episodes due to bipolar disorder, although more clinical research is needed.


While folic acid supplementation may help symptoms of bipolar disorder, you should never use dietary supplementation to self-treat your symptoms. Do not self-diagnose your condition. Consult your doctor if you think you may be suffering from bipolar disorder. Inform your doctor if you plan to use a folic acid supplement, especially if you take any medication or have a medical condition.

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