Lithium: The Neuro-Protective Trace Mineral.
Lithium is a naturally occurring mineral nutrient, similar to sodium or potassium. Most people are surprised to learn that Lithium is an essential mineral and have a negative perception of it due to its association with bipolar disorder. In its drug form, Lithium Carbonate, it is prescribed in a near toxic dose and must be carefully monitored by blood testing. Conversely, supplementing with Lithium as Orotate, a mineral nutrient, at physiologic levels, is safe and highly beneficial.
Lithium has been extensively studied in pharmaceutical research using high dose Lithium. However, since Lithium is a mineral that is necessary in human nutrition, it is reasonable to expect that therapeutic effects of lower doses may be similar, if less dramatic, and are certainly less toxic. Clinical experience has confirmed this. Following are a number of therapeutic applications of Lithium, supplemented as Lithium Orotate. (Summarized from two articles by Jonathan Wright, MD.)
1. Lithium is an anti-aging nutrient for the brain. Lithium may enhance nerve cell DNA replication, the first step in the formation of new cells and has the ability to protect and restore damaged brain cells. Lithium is a trace mineral necessary to the function of two different brain pathways and may help repair abnormal function of brain pathways.
2. Lithium may protect the brain from damage due to exposure to environmental toxins, including external and endogenous excitotoxins. Lithium may increase the production of a brain protective protein and limit damage due to over active N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. Studies show that lithium reduces brain cell death due to ischemic stroke and lack of blood supply.
3. Lithium may slow the progress of degenerative in neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s, senile dementia, and Parkinson’s. The drug, Memantine, has been found effective in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A primary action of the drug is protection of brain cells from damage from the major excitotoxin, glutamate (think MSG). Lithium is known to protect against glutamate induced nerve cell damage. Research indicates that lithium may reduce beta-amyloid secretion and restore damage caused by existing beta-amyloid proteins. Over activation of a brain protein, tau protein, contributes to degeneration in Alzheimer’s along with neurofibril tangles. Lithium may inhibit both processes.
4. Lithium may protect against deterioration of brain cells from long-term drug therapy. Lithium supplementation should accompany any long-term drug therapy for depression, anxiety, seizures, or mood alteration to protect against toxic side effects. This list could be enlarged to include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, over-the-counter stimulants or tranquilizers, and “recreational” drugs. Lithium helps protect the brain by reducing aluminum levels in the body.
5. Lithium may improve mood and behavior. A Texas study using ten years of population data found that homicide, rape, burglary, and suicide rates were significantly lower in 27 counties with water supplies containing trace amounts of lithium (70 to 170 mcg / liter) as compared to counties with no lithium in the water. Researchers concluded that, “These results suggest that lithium at low dosage levels has a generally beneficial effect on human behavior.” Lithium may significantly improve mood and reduce cravings in alcoholics according to an article in the British Journal of Addiction.
6. Lithium may help alleviate symptoms of muscle pain and stiffness in fibromyalgia.
7. Lithium may helpful in inhibiting viral replication in Epstein-Barr and herpes simplex. Supplementation with lysine should be included. Lithium may improve white blood cell and platelet count in people with chronic infection or who are undergoing chemotherapy, by stimulating the development of bone marrow stem cells.
8. Lithium may help normalize thyroid function in hyperthyroidism (Grave’s disease).
9. Lithium supplementation may help relieve the stabbing, burning pain of gout. Lithium increases the solubility of uric acid, reducing the formation of the needle sharp crystals of uric acid in distal joints, the cause of gout pain. Vitamin C supplementation should accompany lithium to help reduce serum uric acid levels.
10. Lithium may significantly reduce the frequency and severity of cluster headaches. In one study 8 of 19 subjects with cluster headaches reported an 85% reduction in their “headache index.”
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