A fellow wrote in at BipolarWorld to endorse omega-3's. With no intent to endorse any particular approach, but wanting to convey others' experience without too much editing, here is my follow-up question, and his reply:
JP: Would you write to me please and give dose/type of omega-3 fatty acids; how long it took before you saw benefit, as best you could tell; side effects if any, now; and cost?
TD: Thanks for answering my question regarding metabolic problems and weight gain. I believe you are right on target with your suggestion that metabolic syndrome may be to blame. My doctor was horrified this summer to discover that my blood pressure had shot up to 150/110 not to mention my weight gain. He was insisting that I get on medication and that even if I lost 50 pounds and ran 5 miles a day I could never correct it without taking pills. I never took the pills but decided to really put my heart into cutting out fat and upping me exercise regimen. Nothing happened and that's why I asked you the question regarding lithium and long-term weight gain. Well three weeks ago I started the Atkins Diet. Guess what? I've lost 13 pounds, my mood has been pleasant and even, sleep (a problem for me at times) has been great, and my blood pressure came in at 125/80! I've still got a ways to go before I'm down to a decent on-camera weight (I'm an actor/spokesperson) but at least I feel there's hope now.
Regarding the Omega-3's I take, I started with an expensive health food store brand that had the worst fishy burps YLACK! I then tried the Sam's Club brand and very rarely came upon the fishy burps. I think they sell so much of it that the capsules don't have a chance to oxidize. Taking them right before meals seems to help with this also. Sam's Club sells 300 soft gels for $6.99. Each capsule contains 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA. They recently started selling Extra Strength Omega 3 with 240 EPA and 200 DHA. They're a little more expensive. I personally take nine Extra Strength capsules per day giving me just under 4 grams of Omega-3. Add to that some daily ground flax seed and omega 3 rich eggs and I'm probably up to 5 or 6 grams. I've gotten my whole extended family taking omega 3s now. I really should invest in a salmon farm :-) A friend of mine takes TwinLab Mega Twin EPA Fish Oil. It's a bit too expensive for me but it does cut down on pills one must take. 600 mg EPA and 240 mg DHA. Vitacost.com sells a bottle of 60 for about $17.
As far as how long it took for me to notice a difference, it's hard to tell. I weaned myself off Eskalith over three months going from 1350 to 0. [This approach is not recommended and Mr. D' himself does not recommend it to others; work with your doctor, don't make such changes on your own -- JP]. At the same time I was taking the omega 3's. Now I could say that I felt this clearing of cobwebs from my brain as a result of taking the fishoil but I realize that had more to do with a rebound from lithium withdrawal. The credit I do give the Omega 3s is helping me avoid subsequent periods of depression or mania. [Similar to the woman's experience presented via Bipolar Network News -- JP] Perhaps a lot of that is a placebo effect but as you know, the placebo is one efficacious "drug". I do notice a difference however if I forget to take them for a couple of days. I become much more stressed and anxious. I've been taking fish oil supplements for 2 1/2 years now. I sure wish I would have know about it back in my late 20s when I had my first round of depression/mania. That was ten years ago.
Side effects? Besides an occasional fishy burp 15 minutes after taking them, I would say everything else is good. The mental stability is of course why I started taking Omega 3 but I have also noticed that it helped clear up a lifelong eczema problem. My Mother's psoriasis has never been better and she was able to stop using steroid cream. [There are two case reports of this same phenomenon in that same issue of BNN -- JP] My Wife's PMS which used to be astronomical is barely noticeable since she started supplementing. And several of my friends who previously had suffered through Postpartum depression, supplemented with their most recent babies and came through happy as can be.
I know I probably sound like a snake oil salesman Doc, but I just can't tell you how fortunate I feel to not be caught on the psychotropic drug roller coaster. I wish Omega 3 and other natural alternatives were being studied more aggressively, but without a profit motive for big Pharma that's just not going to happen. It's a shame.
Thank you so much for asking about my experience with Omega 3 supplementation and also for answering my question regarding weight gain. Obviously, I love spreading the good word :-)
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