Bipolar disorder (BD) is a neurological disease that intrigues me to no end. There have been multiple mechanisms proposed and some groups seem to be on promising tracks to a definitive answer, but as far as I can tell, people are still just grabbing at straws. The treatment thusfar for this disorder has largely been developed in a guess-and-check manner, which really makes me give an eyebrow raise. Drugs are developed, tested, and if they give the desired result in regards to symptoms expressed, they can be approved for treatment without having a good grasp on what chemistry is actually going on in the brain. Nothing like popping a fistful of Tylenol to get rid of that particularly nasty headache, not realizing its harmful effects on the stomach. We should strive for the ideal of fully understanding the processes involved with using a drug before implementing them – otherwise, we may be slowly killing ourselves.
The best explanation scientists have come up with involves arachidonic acid (AA) and its effects and regulation in the brain. Although multiple alleles have been linked to the development of BD, the heart of the action of the disease is hypothesized to stem from an overexpression or overactivation of AA, leading to neuronal damage via inflammation and excitotoxicity which eventually results in apoptosis and cerebral atrophy. This overexpression could be due to a number of dysregulations, including increased activation of neurotransmitter receptors that use AA as a second messenger, or a decrease in regulatory compounds such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – an omega 3 fatty acid. Researchers have come to the conclusion of AA involvement by examining the similarities and differences between different BD drug treatments’ mechanisms, although these drugs’ mechanisms are not fully understood either.
Although the ideal is the goal, as in all situations reaching the ideal is admittedly difficult, if not impossible to attain. In the time it takes to carry out research to fully understand a disease, treatments are necessary to help those who need help now and can’t wait for scientists to make a breakthrough. My issue with the treatments researchers have come up with is that they almost all focus on medication, many of which have nasty side-effects. If scientists have an idea of what may be happening in BD, why not look just as hard into homeopathic treatments, which could potentially be more synergistic with our bodies and with less side-effects? Diet has a tremendous effect on the well-being of our bodies, including the development of neurological diseases. In the case of BD, an abundance of AA and perhaps a lack of DHA seem to be to blame, both of which are attained through one’s diet, either directly or through the acids’ precursors. Sure, it may take more work on the patient’s part, but this seems like a method to get closer to the crux of the problem, rather than giving patients almost literally a cocktail of medications with a boatload of side-effects. Call me crazy, but I believe the diet to be a very powerful thing.