Don’t be afraid of Lithium for Mental Health.

The information in the post is not medical advice, please consult a medical professional before using health supplements.

“In fact, lithium isn’t a drug at all.  It’s actually a mineral-part of the same family of minerals that includes sodium and potassium. Research indicates that taking 10 to 20 milligrams of elemental lithium per day can help keep your brain functioning at peak performance. Many lithium supplements contain 5 milligrams of elemental lithium” Dr Jonathan Wright.

In low doses, lithium acts as a nutrient required for B12 and folate transport and uptake, neuromodulation, and the function of many biochemical processes in both humans and animals. Studies since the 1970s have shown the ability of lithium to stimulate the proliferation of stem cells. Recent studies have described its ability to up-regulate neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve-growth factor (NGF), which are important in neuronal function, plasticity, and repair. With its newly described antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity along with powerful neuroprotective effects, low-dose lithium therapy has largely unrealized potential to prevent or treat a wide-range of neurological disorders

Lithium Effects on Neural Tissue and Blood.

In his 2009 review, Young cited the following biochemical effects and benefits: 

• Lithium up-regulates neurotrophins, including brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), neurotrophin-3 (NT3), as well as receptors to these growth factors in the brain. 

• Lithium stimulates proliferation of stem cells, including bone marrow and neural stem cells in the subventricular zone, striatum, and forebrain. The stimulation of endogenous neural stem cells may explain why lithium increases brain cell density and volume in patients with bipolar disorders.

 • Lithium also remarkably protects neurons against glutamate, seizures, and apoptosis due to a wide variety of neurotoxins via N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA) inhibition/modulation.

 • Lithium causes granulocytosis and enhances immunological activities of monocytes and lymphocytes. 

Young concludes,

 “Lithium has been reported to be beneficial in animal models of brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal cord injury, and other conditions. A recent clinical trial suggests that lithium stops the progression of ALS.”

In 2014, Stenudd et al. demonstrated that endogenous neural stem cells restrict damage and promote repair of damaged spinal cord neurons.

Lithium’s ability to stimulate neural stem cell production may prove to be of significant benefit in individuals recovering from spinal cord injury and neurological injuries caused by severe trauma (TBI, traumatic brain injury), dietary and environmental excitotoxins (mercury, aspartame, monosodium glutamate), and substance abuse.

In a study ‘A New Avenue for Lithium: Intervention in Traumatic Brain Injury’ it was concluded that Lithium could be used successfully to treat many symptoms of Traumatic Brain injuries.

Diet and Lithium.

“Factors such as dietary sodium and caffeine intake increase

lithium excretion, and thus increase our requirement for this

essential trace mineral. Along with these prevalent dietary

factors, stress and excitotoxin exposure, which raise cortisol and

other stress hormones, influence our physiological requirement

for a variety of water-soluble nutrients (e.g. magnesium, zinc,

B-vitamins), including lithium”

Timothy M. Marshall, Ph.D.Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 

Mlyniec et al. write that the deficiency of essential elements can lead to the development of depressive and/or anxiogenic behavior, and that supplementation can enhance therapeutic effect of antidepressants and anxiolytics. To lithium and magnesium they add zinc, iron, calcium, and chromium.

Lithium is a simple salt and is similar to table salt. Salt consumption can cause fluctuations in serum lithium levels. While taking lithium, do not make sudden changes to your salt intake. A sudden decrease in sodium intake may result in higher serum lithium levels, while a sudden increase in sodium might prompt your lithium levels to fall. Discuss any changes to sodium intake with your doctor prior to making them.

Caffeine might interact with serum lithium levels. You should maintain your caffeine levels at approximately the same level, as sudden changes in caffeine intake might cause a fluctuation in lithium levels. A drop in caffeine levels might lead to a corresponding increase in lithium levels. Conversely, a sudden increase in caffeine consumption may decrease your lithium levels.

Dietary Sources of Lithium Foods

Traditionally regarded as “neurotonics,” defined as having a nourishing effect on the brain and nervous system, such as cacao, oats, seafood, seaweed, goji berries, various fruits and vegetables (depending on the soil in which they’re grown), and egg yolks are significant sources of lithium, along with other trace minerals such as iron, copper, and manganese, which are known to co-migrate along with lithium from the soil to the plant.

Safety of Lithium.

Kling and Pollack found that lithium orotate was three times more effective at raising brain concentrations of the mineral than lithium carbonate. Based on the data, the authors concluded that lower doses of lithium orotate may achieve therapeutic brain lithium concentrations and relatively stable serum concentrations.

The safety of low-dose lithium is comparable to low dose forms of other nutrients such as zinc. In fact, lithium has a much wider therapeutic and biologically compatible (nontoxic) window than zinc. 

‘Starting with a dose at Schrauzer’s provisional RDA of 1 mg for lithium with nutritional doses up to 20 mg (representing a 20-fold difference in the “low dose supplemental range” employed by functional medicine practitioners for many years now) is very safe with a very low incidence of side effects.’

Lithium and potassium are in a delicate balancing act in the human body. Both are trace elements which perform necessary functions in the body. Elevated Lithium can cause potassium levels to decline , resulting in problems such as hypokalemia (potassium deficiency). Symptoms are weakness and an impairment of cellular functions. This is why it is important to consult your physician if considering supplementing with Lithium.


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