Lithium: A Little Goes a Long Way in Cognitive and Emotional Health

Supplementing with low-dose lithium aims to support the body’s daily nutritional need for lithium. This is very different from the dosage of lithium as medication. Lithium has numerous health benefits, particularly for brain health and overall mood.

By Blair Cuneo, PA-C

What is Lithium?

Popular nutrients that make the major headlines for supporting cognitive wellness include magnesium and zinc, but do you know how your lithium levels are?

Lithium is an essential micro-nutrient with chemical properties similar to calcium and magnesium. It is present in all organs and tissues of the body.

Studies continue to accrue demonstrating improvement in mood and cognitive performance for patients with ADD, depression and Autism Spectrum Disorder. More recently, studies highlight the role lithium can play in prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, by inhibiting plaque formation and aiding in growth and repair of damaged neurons.

- Blair Cuneo

Sources & Dosage

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the daily lithium intake of an average adult ranges from 0.65 mg to 3 mg. Foods higher in lithium include grains, vegetables, eggs and milk. The most frequent source of lithium is tap water. Depending on where you live, there can be lithium deficiencies in your soil and with increased bottle water and home filtration use, we are filtering the lithium right out of our water.

 

Supplementing with low-dose lithium aims to support the body’s daily nutritional need for lithium. This is very different from the dosage of lithium as medication. Lithium carbonate is a well-established, effective medication therapy for mood disorders like bipolar disorder. Whereas lithium carbonate dosing can be in the hundreds of milligrams, low-dose lithium can range from micrograms to low milligram amounts.

How does Lithium Benefit Brain Health?

  • It is NEUROPROTECTIVE, shielding neurons from biological stress and toxins.

 

  • It promotes NEUROGENESIS, leading to increased numbers of neurons and brain volume.

 

  • It regulates NEUROTRANSMITTERS, helping to balance the mood.

 

Studies continue to accrue demonstrating improvement in mood and cognitive performance for patients with ADD, depression and Autism Spectrum Disorder. More recently, studies highlight the role lithium can play in prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, by inhibiting plaque formation and aiding in growth and repair of damaged neurons.

 

Screening for nutritional lithium deficiencies can be performed by hair trace mineral analysis, as blood testing is not sensitive enough to detect nutritional levels.

 

Talk with your functional medical provider about your cognitive and emotional health and find out if low dose lithium can further support your wellness goals.

Blair Cuneo, PA-C, is a Physician Assistant and Functional Medicine provider, certified through the NCCPA and the Institute of Functional Medicine. Before joining the Raleigh-based functional medicine practice, Carolina Total Wellness, she provided Family Practice and Urgent Care services in the Triangle for a decade. She has a B.S. in Radiologic Science from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies from East Carolina University.

At Carolina Total Wellness she works with patients ages 3 years and older, especially enjoying when she is able to care for multiple members of a family. This partnership in the family dynamic emphasizes open communication, knowledge sharing and cultivation of individual and family strategies to create paths to wellness.

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