What is Lithium?
Lithium (Eskalith Lithobid) is natural sodium like mineral that was once used as a salt replacement but then taken off the market because people were showing toxic levels. It is one of the most researched and popular medication choices for those who suffer from bipolar disorder, mental illness and depression. It was first used in the 1800’s and then the first clinical trial was done in 1968. In fact the soda 7-UP as we know it today, 85 years ago, was called “Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda” this brand was created containing plenty of natural occurring lithium. Today, some medical experts tout the platform of adding this low dose, natural lithium to drinking water. Their focus is reducing* the incidence of suicides, etc. around the globe.
The FDA officially approved it in 1970. It has also been shown to reduce* suicide risks and health professionals tend to prescribe this for long term use to prevent manic episodes.
Lithium is not like other pharmaceutical drugs, there is not a deep financial incentive because it is naturally occurring. Some experts think that this is why it is not recognized for its benefits as much as its competitors. There also seems to be a dark stigma over people who are on lithium, like they are severely depressed and not able to function.
When I refer to Lithium in this article I am referring to natural Lithium Orotate. This is found naturally in nature. The drug companies do not prefer this one since it is natural and cannot be patented. Natural Lithium Orotate works just as well or better* than synthetic Lithium Orotate used by the drug companies. The orotate ion helps the body better* absorb the Lithium and the doses needed are much smaller. It is also less* expensive, has almost no side effects and drastically reduces* the risk of toxicity of higher doses. The synthetic Lithium used by the drug companies is bound to carbonate or citrate and is not as easily absorbed by the body. Therefore higher doses are needed which does have side effects and can cause toxicity in the body and have adverse affects on our organs such as the thyroid and Kidneys.
How Does Lithium Work?
Lithium works with the central nervous system specifically the brain and spinal chord. Research does not show exactly how the lithium helps regulate and stabilize mood but they believe that it has something to do with strengthening the nerve cells in the brain that are specifically related to mood and behavior. The molecules “neurotrophic factors” are responsible for making these cells in the brain grow and improve* the biological clocks. These molecules have been at the center of research on Alzheimer’s and Dementia prevention.
Some scientists suspect that it helps activate the neurotransmitter for the “good mood” hormone serotonin.
What To Expect If You Start Taking Lithium?
Those who take lithium will notice an improvement in a short time ( two to three weeks) to start working compared to its competitor anti depressants that take four to six weeks to start working. The doses can vary patient to patient, and some people will have additional medications that they need to take with it. Doctors recommend at least 8 glasses of water and a normal amount of sodium daily. The hydration and electrolyte balance of the body can influence how the body absorbs lithium. It is important to avoid changing brands and get regular blood work done by the doctor. Lithium can be toxic if blood and hydration are out of balance.
Lithium is a salt like substance so a mild side effect is excessive thirst and nausea if you become dehydrated. It is important to follow a balanced diet consisting of healthy fats, high fiber grains, quality proteins, fruits and vegetables. The hydration regimen should also consist of at least half your body weight in ounces of quality hydroxide alkaline water per day. Hydroxide alkaline water is the best option as it removes* acid, which causes acidosis, which causes inflammation. The CDC says inflammation adversely affects 85% of all chronic diseases, including most mental illnesses. Therefore, it is important to drink the appropriate amount of hydroxide alkaline water daily to help mitigate mental illnesses and help the lithium to work more efficiently.
Research Backs Lithium In Preventing Suicide, Depression, And Bipolar Manic Episodes
A recent study has proved lithium to be 60 percent more effective than a placebo at reducing* suicidal thoughts and attempts. This is a breakthrough for those who suffer from mental illness, because they are 30 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Side Effects Can Be Mild To Severe Including:
- Muscle tightness
- Reduced* thyroid function
- Hair Loss
- Mentally foggy
- Weight Gain
- Lithium has been linked to birth defects in some pregnant women
It is important to notify your doctor if any symptoms persist, this could affect your electrolytes and lithium levels in the blood stream.
The Benefits of Lithium
Lithium manages and prevents reoccurrences of manic episodes and depression in those who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Unlike lithium, other medications actually only work on specific symptoms of bi polar disorder not the disorder as a whole. A 30-year study trial has shown that lithium has been successful in preventing bipolar mania relapses.
The Major Long Term Possible Side effects of Lithium
- Lithium Can Damage Kidneys Beyond Reversible Repair. This is rare but a study over the course of ten years found a decline in kidney function but they contribute it to the age of the participants then the actual effects of the lithium itself. It is important to have BUN and creatinine levels checked as recommended.
- Lithium May Also Have Long-Term Effects On The Heart, Specifically the sinus node, which is the pacemaker of the heart. There are studies that have measured the sinus node and in fact a dysfunction related to lithium is rare. If your family or you have heart disease or you are over 50 years old then the risk for complications is higher. It is recommended to get extensive testing done prior to going on lithium. Tests include an EKG and a lipid panel. If the tests come back normal and you start taking lithium and become dizzy or faint then an EKG should be done at this time also.
Lithium has been around for centuries and researched for decades. Doctors are pleased with its ability to treat* the entire mood unlike other anti-depressants that only treat* the individual symptoms. The side effects are no more serious then most pharmaceutical drugs on the market today, that being said all patients need to be monitored regularly. It is a great option especially for those at risk of manic bipolar episodes and suicide.
Get regular lab work done, consume a healthy diet, stay hydrated and engage in a support* system of a qualified therapist, psychiatrist, or other appropriate professionals.