As my upcoming book, Lyme Brain, gets closer to publication, I will continue to give you sneak peeks every Wednesday into some of its content. The book talks about a multitude of options for addressing Lyme Brain, including both pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and nutritional options. The nutritional/ supplemental form of lithium can help with Lyme Brain … here’s an excerpt about its use. Remember to go to www.lymebrainbook.com to sign up for early bird news about publication and to get the first copies off the press!
Lithium Can Help With Lyme Brain
When we hear about lithium and neurological health, we often think of the pharmaceutical form of lithium, which is primarily used in bipolar disorder. There is also what we term nutritional lithium. It is a different form given in much lower doses, typically doses of 5mg to 20mg in the orotate form, while the drug Lithium (in carbonate form) can be given up to 2000mg daily.
Lithium orotate is an over-the-counter supplement, and I have seen it work very well in stabilizing mood and promoting healthy psychoemotional states. Technically, lithium is a trace mineral, so supplementing with it is no more extreme than supplementing with potassium, magnesium or iodine. All are minerals and all can benefit the body if naturally occurring levels are depleted. The orotate form has excellent blood-brain barrier penetration, and its high bioavailability is purportedly one of the main reasons it can be so effective at such modest doses.
One study from Texas of 27 state counties between 1978 and 1987 found that the counties that did not have lithium in the water had much higher rates of violent crime (such as murder and rape), suicide and drug addiction. In fact, the counties whose water contained lithium had 50% lower rates in all these variables.[i]
“Harvard Medical School has analyzed over 30 human meta-analysis studies and has determined that lithium reduces the rate and risk of suicide attempts by 80-90% in patients with major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. The overall risk of suicide was five times lower among lithium-treated subjects compared with individuals not treated with lithium.”[ii]
Lithium can act as a neuroprotectant, reducing excessive levels of various neurotransmitters that might be excitatory (such as the glutamate that we discussed in the last section or excesses of norepinephrine and epinephrine that can become too stimulating to the brain). It can also stimulate neurogenesis (production of new neurons). It stimulates stem cells in the hippocampus of the brain to prevent the loss of proliferation induced by high glutamate or high cortisol. Longer-term treatment with lithium then promoted the conversion of the stem cells into neurons.[iii]
Lithium, as well as reducing excess glutamate and norepinephrine, also supports and boosts serotonin, which is one of the key mechanisms by which it helps depression. It can also protect the brain from exogenous toxins such as heavy metals and reduces arachidonic acid in the brain, a fatty acid that contributes to inflammation. Many people have found relief from headaches and migraines using lithium orotate. Improvements in cognitive function are typical. This occurs via its ability to support healthy brain receptor function and brain signaling cascades, along with the balancing of neurotransmitters.
Lithium at such low doses (5mg to 20mg) seems to be extremely safe and very few side effects are reported. I have had a few patients get a bit zoned out/spacey if they took a dose that was too high for them. For depression, headaches/migraines, memory loss, cognitive dysfunction and post-traumatic stress disorder, lithium orotate is an inexpensive and safe supplement to trial.
[i] Schrauzer, G N, and K P Shrestha. “Lithium in drinking water and the incidences of crimes, suicides, and arrests related to drug addictions.” Biol Trace Elem Res 25, no. 2 (May 1990): 105-13.
[ii] Leucht, S, W Kissling, and J McGrath. “Lithium for schizophrenia revisited: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” J Clin Psychiatry 65, no. 2 (Feb 2004): 177-86.
[iii] Chiu, Chi-Tso, and De-Maw Chuang. “Neuroprotective action of lithium in disorders of the central nervous system.” Zhong Nan Da Xue Xue Bao Yi Xue Ban 36, no. 6 (June 2011): 461-476.