The Unique, Safe Mineral with Multiple
by Ward Dean, M.D. and Jim English
Lithium is a mineral with a cloudy reputation. It is an alkali
metal in the same family as sodium, potassium and other
elements. Although lithium is highly effective in the treatment
of manic depressive illness (X4 DI), its pharmaceutical
(prescription) versions, lithium carbonate and lithium citrate,
must be used with caution. The reason for the caution with
prescription lithium is because lithium in these forms is poorly
absorbed by the cells of the body — and it is within the cells
that lithiums therapeutic effects take place. Lithium ions are
believed to act only at particular sites on the membranes of
intracellular structures like mitochondria and lysosomes.
Consequently, because of this poor intracellular transport, high
dosages of pharmaceutical forms of lithium must be taken in
order to obtain a satisfactory therapeutic effect.
Unfortunately, these therapeutic dosages cause blood levels to
be so high that they border on toxic levels. Consequently,
patients taking prescription lithium must be closely monitored
for toxic blood levels. Serum lithium and serum creatinine
levels of prescription lithium-treated patients should be
monitored every 3-6 months.
Toxic effects of lithium may include hand tremors, frequent
urination, thirst, nausea, and vomiting. Even higher doses may
cause drowsiness, muscular weakness, poor coordination, ringing
in the ears, blurred vision, and other symptoms.
There has been concern that long-term lithium treatment may
damage kidney function, but data in this regard are equivocal.
Renal insufficiency without a known cause has occurred in the
general population, and the incidence of renal failure among
manic-depressive patients not treated with lithium remains
Most patients treated with lithium are also taking other
medications, and it is just as likely that the few known cases
of renal failure in patients taking lithium were due to other
medications that they were simultaneously taking.2-5
Nevertheless, with potential side effects like this, why in the
world would anyone want to take lithium? It is because lithium
has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for
manic-depressive illness (bi-polar disorder).
Bipolar disorder is a severe mood disorder characterized by
manic or depressive episodes that usually cycle back and forth
between depression and mania. The depressive phase is
characterized by sluggishness (inertia), loss of self-esteem,
helplessness, withdrawal and sadness, with suicide being a risk.
The manic phase is characterized by elation, hyperactivity,
over-involvement in activities, inflated self-esteem, a tendency
to be easily distracted, and little need for sleep. In either
phase there is frequently a dependence on alcohol or other
substances of abuse. The disorder first appears between the ages
of 15 and 25 and affects men and women equally. The cause is
unknown, but hereditary and psychological factors may play a
role. The incidence is higher in relatives of people with
bipolar disorders. A psychiatric history of mood swings, and an
observation of current behavior and mood are important in the
diagnosis of this disorder.7
Hospitalization may be required during an acute phase to control
the symptoms. Antidepressant drugs may be given; anticonvulsants
(Carbamazepine, Valproic acid, Depakote) may also be used.
(These substances deplete body stores of L-carnitine and Taurine.
Supplementation with several grams daily of these supplements
greatly ameliorates adverse side effects of these drugs).
Lithium, however, is the treatment of choice for recurring
bipolar (manic/depressive) illness, serving as an effective mood
enhancer in 70-80 percent of bipolar patients.
Mortality-lowering, Anti-suicidal Effect of Lithium
The mortality of manic-depressive patients is markedly higher
than that of the general population. The increased mortality is
mainly, but not exclusively, caused by suicide. Studies have
shown that the mortality of manic-depressive patients given
long-term lithium treatment is markedly lower than that of
patients not receiving lithium. The frequency of suicidal acts
among treated patients is significantly lower than patients
given other antidepressants or carbamazepine. The results of
mortality studies are consistent with the assumption that
lithium-treatment protects against suicidal behavior. 8-13
In addition to its well-recognized benefits in the management of
bipolar disorder, trials have conclusively demonstrated that
lithium is also an effective treatment for recurrent unipolar
depressive illness (recurrent major affective disorder).14-16
Although physicians in Europe have successfully used lithium for
this indication for many years, American psychiatrists do not
share their appreciation of lithiums safety and effectiveness
for conditions other than MDI. Perhaps it is due to a difference
in the lithium preparations they have at their disposal.
Superiority of Lithium Orotate
The lithium salt of orotic acid (lithium orotate) improves the
specific effects of lithium many-fold by increasing lithium
bio-utilization. The orotates transport the lithium to the
membranes of mitochondria, lysosomes and the glia cells. Lithium
orotate stabilizes the lysosomal membranes and prevents the
enzyme reactions that are responsible for the sodium depletion
and dehydration effects of other lithium salts. Because of the
superior bioavailability of lithium orotate, the therapeutic
dosage is much less than prescription forms of lithium. For
example, in cases of severe depression, the therapeutic dosage
of lithium orotate is 150 mg/day. This is compared to 900-1800
mg of the prescription forms. In this dosage range of lithium
orotate, there are no adverse lithium side reactions and no need
for monitoring blood serum measurements.17
Other Uses for Lithium Orotate
Lithium orotate has also been used with success in alleviating
the pain from migraine and cluster headaches, low white blood
cell counts, juvenile convulsive disease, alcoholism and liver
disorders.18 Nieper also reports that patients with myopia
(nearsightedness) and glaucoma often benefit from the slight
dehydrating effect of lithium on the eye, resulting in
improvement in vision and reduction of intraocular pressure.17
source of nutrients and supplements.
did we qualify them ?
1. Aronson JK, Reynolds DJM. ABC of monitoring drag therapy:
lithium. BMJ. 1992;305: 1273-1276.
2. Schou M, Effects of long-term lithium treatment on kidney
function: an overview. J Psychiat Res, 1988;22.,287-296,
3. Waller DG, Edwards TG. Lithium and the kidney: an update.
Psycliol Mod. 1989; 19:825-83 1.
4. Gitlin MJ. Lithium-induced renal insufficiency., J Clin
Psychopharmacol. 1993) 13:276-279.
5, Kallner G,.Petterson IJ. Renal, thyroid and parathyroid
function during lithium treatment: laboratory test in 207 people
treated for 1-30 years. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1995;91:48-5 1.
6. Baastrup PC, Schou M. Lithium as a prophylactic agent: its
effect against recurrent depressions and manic-depressive
psychosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1967; 16:162-172.
7. Goodwin FK, Jamison KR. Manic-Depressive Illness. Oxford,
England: Oxford University Press; 1990.
8. Mueller-Oerlinghausen D, Ahrens B, Volk J, Grof P, Grof E,
Schou M, Vestergaard P, Lenz G, Sinihandl C, Tlau K, Wolf R.
Reduced mortality of manic-depressive patients in long-term
lithium treatment, an international collaborative study by IGSLI.
Psychiatry Res. 1991;36:329-331.
9. Ahrens B, Mueller-Oerlinghausen 3, Schou M, Wolf T, Alda M,
Grof. E. Grof P, Lejiz G, Simhandl C, Thau K, Vestergaard P,
Wolf R, Moeller H. Cardiovascular and suicide mortality of
affective disorders may be reduced by lithium prophylaxis. J
Affect DI-Y, 1995;33:67-75.
10. Mueller-Oerlinghausen B, Mueser-Causemam B, Volk J. Suicides
and parasuicides in a high-risk patient group on and off lithium
long-term medication, J Affect Dis. 1992;25: 261-270.
11. Felber- NV, Kyber A. Suizide und Parasuizide wachrend und
aubetadserhalb einer Lithiumprophylaxe. In-,
Muclicr-Oerlinghausen B, Berghoefer A, eds. Ziele und Ergebnisse
der medikagivitoeseyi I-i-opiiylaice affektiver Psychoseii.
Stuttgart, Germany, Thieme; 1994:53-59.
12. Thies-Flechtner K, Seibert W, Walther A, Greil W, Mueller-Oerlinghausen
B, Suizide bei rezldlvprophylaktisch behandelten Patienten mit
affektiven Psychosen. In: Mueller-Oerlinghausen B, Berghoefer A,
eds. Ziele und Ergebnisse der medikamentoesen Prophylaxe
offekliver Psychosen. Stuttgart, Germany. Thieme; 1994,61-64.
13. Schou M.. Mortality-lowering effect of prophylactic lithium
treatment, a look at the evidence, Pharmacopsychiatry. 1995;28:
14. Souza FGM, Goodwin GM. Lithium treatment and prophylaxis in
unipolar depression: a meta-analysis, Br J Psychiatry. 1991;
15. Johnstone EC, Owens DGC, Lambert MT, Crow TJ, Frith CD, Done
DJ. Combination tricyclic, antidepressant and lithium
maintenance medication in unipolar and bipolar depressed
patients. J Affect Dis, 1990;20:225-233,
16. Prien RF, Kupfer DJ, Mansky PA, Small JG, Iuason VB, Voss
CB, Johnson WE. Drug therapy in the prevention of recurrences in
unipolar and bipolar affective disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry,
17. Nieper HA The clinical application of lithium orotate.
Agressologie 14(6). 407-411, 1973,
18. Sartori HE, Lithium orotate in the treatment of alcoholism
and related conditions, Alcohol 1986 Mar; 3 (2): 97-100.
19. Nieper HA The curative effect of a combination of Calcium-orotate
and Lithium orotate on primary and secondary chronic hepatitis
and primary and secondary liver cirrhosis. From lecture Intl
Acad of Prevent Med, Washington, DC March 9, 1974.
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