Question: Is Bipolar Disorder Caused by Chronic Inflammation?
Answer: Well that’s a short and sweet question. Since I have written about my own bipolar off and on for a couple of years, I tend to get questions about the topic in the mailbag (or more commonly private message on Facebook) about the topic. They tend to be a little more directed and/or individually oriented than this one but I do actually like questions like this. Because despite the fact that I have bipolar (specifically bipolar II, the lighter form), I don’t really keep up with the developments in it. I’m medicated, I’m stable, I’m happy and, honestly, I have other things on my plate. So questions like this force me to get up my own butt and do some research and learn something new. And in this case I got up my own butt to see if bipolar was in fact and inflammatory condition.
And the short answer is yes-ish. Now here’s the long answer.
A Couple of Comments about Inflammation
Inflammation has become the new big buzzword in health and, like so many things, tends to carry the connotation of being nothing but a negative. Most of the focus tends to be on the modern diet and whether or not certain components are or aren’t inflammatory to the body with the usual focus being on things like sugar or an excessive omega-6:omega-3 ratio being inflammatory while other foods are anti-inflammatory.
I’ve addressed the omega-6:omega-3 thing previously on the site and will only say that I think parsing out specific parts of the diet in terms of inflammation is a problem for a big reason: obesity is an inflammatory condition in and of itself (fat cells are actually part of the immune system which means that increasing amounts of bodyfat are part of this inflammation).
Which means that, given commonalities in diet that tend to be present in the obese makes it difficult in mind to separate out the impact of the diet from the fact that someone is obese. That said, how studies typically do this is give some dietary component and measure the actual inflammatory response although differences are often seen between lean and obese individuals. I’d be lying if I said I had looked into this in huge detail.