Lithium is a naturally occurring mineral that is most well known for it’s use in treating bipolar disorder. However, research has shown that low dose lithium supplementation can provide a range of benefits for those without the condition. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of low dose lithium supplementation, the recommended dose, the conditions it may benefit, and possible risks.
High Dose Lithium Use
Lithium is well-known in psychiatry for managing bipolar disorder. It is also widely used for suicidal ideations, major depressive disorder, mood stabilization (helpful in a range of conditions from borderline personality disorder to PTSD and more). Dose in conventional medicine will range, commonly between 600-1200mg, and sometimes as low as 150mg per day (not in the realm of “low dose” but lower than what is normal).
At a high dose, lithium can be toxic and needs to be monitored periodically with a blood test to ensure it is in a safe range. It can be damaging to the thyroid and kidneys, cause tremors, nausea and vomiting, headaches, and more.
Benefits of Low Dose Lithium Supplementation
Lithium is naturally found in the environment, and correlations have been found between places with higher lithium in the drinking water and lower suicide rates and dementia.
Several studies have suggested that low dose lithium supplementation may have numerous health benefits. Here are some of the most promising benefits:
- Improved mood and cognition: One of the most well-known benefits of lithium is its ability to improve mood and cognitive function. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers found that low dose lithium supplementation significantly improved cognitive function and reduced depressive symptoms in people with mild cognitive impairment. Lithium can also be supportive for symptoms of suicidal ideations, anxiety, depression, and severe tantrums.
- Reduced inflammation in the body: Lithium has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to a range of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. By reducing inflammation, lithium may help prevent these conditions.
- Reduced inflammation in the brain: Lithium reduces neuroinflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and increasing the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. This helps to reduce inflammation in the brain and protect neurons from damage. It may be helpful for a variety of disorders associated with neuroinflammation including ADHD, autism, PMDD, OCD, Anxiety, Depression, and more.
- Protection against neurodegenerative diseases: Low dose lithium supplementation has been shown to protect against the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Lithium may work by reducing inflammation and protecting neurons in the brain.
- Improved sleep: Studies have shown that low dose lithium supplementation can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia. This is likely due to lithium’s ability to regulate neurotransmitters in the brain that are involved in sleep regulation.
Mechanism of Action
The exact mechanism of action is unknown. Lithium appears to reduce glutamate and dopamine activity (both can be excitatory and stimulating), and increase calming factors like GABA and serotonin. It stabilizes the mood via an enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3). Lithium’s ability to reduce inflammatory cytokines and increase anti-inflammatory molecules is likely key, and why it can help such a large range of conditions regardless of the exact root cause.
The recommended dose of low dose lithium supplementation varies depending on the individual and the condition being treated. However, most studies suggest a dose ranging between 1-20 mg of lithium per day is sufficient to provide the benefits listed above. It’s important to note that lithium can be toxic in high doses, so it’s important to follow dosage recommendations carefully.
Children rarely need more than 1-5mg per day, and adults can often take up to 15-20mg daily.
Lithium can interact with some medications, so it’s good to talk to a prescribing doctor before starting it.
It’s important to note that low-dose lithium is not a substitute for pharmaceutical lithium medication, and that treatment for bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses needs to be managed by a healthcare provider.
Conditions that may benefit from low dose lithium supplementation
Several conditions may benefit from low dose lithium supplementation, including:
- Depression and anxiety: Studies have shown that low dose lithium supplementation can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Mental health impairment caused by viruses or other chronic diseases: low dose lithium can be helpful in reducing neuroinflammation and symptoms that began following an infection such as Covid-19.
- Tantrums: Lithium can be very helpful for children experiencing explosive tantrums, difficulty regulating their mood, and impulsive behavior.
- Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease: Low dose lithium supplementation may help protect against the development of these neurodegenerative diseases.
- Insomnia: Studies have shown that low dose lithium supplementation can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.
Although low dose lithium supplementation is generally considered safe, there are some risks to be aware of. These include:
- Toxicity: Lithium can be toxic in high doses, so it’s important to follow dosage recommendations carefully.
- Side effects: Some people may experience side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, and dizziness when taking lithium. Typically symptoms only occur with high doses, but let your doctor know if you experience any of these symptoms.
- Interactions with medication: Lithium may interact with certain medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before starting a lithium supplement.
In conclusion, low dose lithium supplementation may provide a range of health benefits, including improved mood and cognition, reduced inflammation, and protection against neurodegenerative diseases. However, it’s important to follow dosage recommendations carefully and talk to