Lithium

Background

Lithium is a mineral which is naturally found in mineral compounds and in mineral water. Lithium carries out a lot of functions in our bodies, especially in our brains. Lithium is one of the most widely used and studied medications for relieving bipolar disorder as well as bipolar depression. It also helps reduce the severity and frequency of mania. Lithium works with other elements, drugs, enzymes, hormones, vitamins, and growth factors in the body in many different ways.[1]
Different forms of lithium are found in the market. Lithium Citrate may be the first salt to be used as a medicated supplement in humans; however, it has been largely surpassed by lithium carbonate. The two supplements – Lithium orotate and lithium aspartate may be more recent discoveries. Lithium is a nootropic supplement and very low-dose of it can provide some amazing anti-aging benefits. Such low-dose of it can also help slow the development of some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.[2]

Benefits

Evidences show that lithium confers a range of neuroprotective and neurotrophic (growth stimulating) effects not just in people with psychiatric disease and neurodegenerative conditions but also in perfectly healthy people. Because of our natural levels of lithium consumption having fallen, some scientists have begun to advocate its use as a supplement. It appears to protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. A 2013 review reported “Observational and case registry studies have shown that chronic lithium is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease in subjects with bipolar disorder.” It improves mood and reduces the risk of suicide. It appears to increase longevity.
The common health benefits of lithium include:

  • Improves cognitive performance [3]
  • Stabilizes mood [4]
  • Relieves bipolar disorder [5]
  • Helps people who have Alzheimer’s disease [6]
  • Helps people who have Parkinson’s disease and dementia [7]
  • Reduces suicide risk [8]
  • Has efficacy in bipolar depression [9]
  • Helps with schizophrenia [10]
  • Helps people with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [11]
  • Helps with diabetes [12]

Lithium is backed by a lot of scientific literature with a lot of health benefits. It can significantly reduce suicide risk. Lithium also helps inhibit future manic and depressive episodes. Thus it may be prescribed for long periods of time (even between episodes) as maintenance therapy. Lithium acts on human central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is thought to help strengthen nerve cell connections in brain regions that are involved in regulating mood, thinking and behavior. Lithium is also used for headache, alcoholism, epilepsy, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disorders, arthritis, a skin condition called seborrhea, and overactive thyroid. Other uses include treatment of asthma, Huntington’s disease, Graves’ disease, herpes simplex.[13]

How it works

The actual mechanism of action of lithium is unknown. However, it might help mental disorders by increasing the activity of chemical messengers in the brain.
Evidence suggests that the direct involvement of classic pharmacological targets affecting neurotransmission and signal transduction. These include the modulation of cell-surface receptors, the release of second-messengers and downstream signaling molecules, and the subsequent effect on the activity of important regulatory systems, with an impact on the release of transcription factors and gene expression. Lithium may also protect neurons against the neurotoxic effects of Aβ by favoring other neurotrophic and/or neuroprotective responses. Lithium treatment enhances the mitochondrial respiratory rate, reduces oxidative stress, protects DNA against damage from oxidative stress, and modulates calcium influx in the mitochondria. The modulation of inflammatory processes by lithium is relevant in light of the prominent role of inflammation in neurodegenerative and mood disorders.[14]
Lithium is also known to influence the expression, production and action of a wide variety of functional proteins in the brain and thereby protects neurons processes that promote cell death. Lithium also affects the flow of sodium through nerve and muscle cells in the body.

Considerations

When you take lithium properly with careful monitoring by a physician or a healthcare provider, it appears to be safe for most people. Some of the forms of lithium have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The side effects that lithium can cause are nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, muscle weakness, fatigue, and a dazed feeling. However, these uninvited side effects often improve with continued use. Fine tremor, frequent urination, and thirst can occur and may persist with continued use. Weight gain and swelling from excess fluid can also occur. Lithium can also cause or make skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, and rashes worse. [15]
If you are breast-feeding or pregnant, you should avoid taking lithium. However, it is wise to consult your doctor before using lithium.

Recommendations

The dose of lithium varies among people and as phases of their illness change. For acute manic episodes, you are suggested 1.8 g or 20-30 mg per kg of lithium carbonate per day in 2-3 divided doses. Some healthcare providers begin therapy at 600-900 mg per day and gradually increase the dose. Again, for bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions, you are recommended to take 900 mg to 1.2 g per day in 2-4 divided doses of lithium. Though lithium may be given as a single daily dose, it is usually given in divided doses to lessen side effects.
Remember, stopping lithium therapy suddenly may increase the chance that symptoms of bipolar disorder will return. Consult your physician or healthcare provider for appropriate dose for you or any changes.

Sources