Lithium is found in trace amounts in all soils primarily in the clay fraction, and to a lesser extent in the organic soil fraction. It is not yet known what particular function of lithium may make it an essential nutrient. It is thought to stabilize serotonin transmission in the nervous system; it influences sodium transport; and it may even increase lymphocytic (white blood cell) proliferation and depress the suppressor cell activity, thus strengthening the immune system. There is also speculation that lithium is in some way involved in cancer genesis or prevention.
Lithium is a naturally occurring trace element that is found in water, soil and a number of fruits, vegetables and other plants. In the early 1950s, psychologists discovered that very large doses of one form of lithium could help control and/or prevent episodes of mania that occur in bipolar disorder. Lithium is taken up by all plants, although it appears not to be required for their growth and development.
Many nutrition and health experts believe that daily consumption of up to 2 mgs of lithium may be necessary for a number of important cellular interactions. At those levels, lithium seems to carry no risk of side effects, and several major studies in the 1970s suggest that there may be some very important benefits.
Uses and Benefits of Lithium
- Reduces aggressiveness, violence and self-destruction.
- The biochemical mechanisms of action of lithium appear to be multifactorial and are intercorrelated with the functions of several enzymes, hormones and vitamins, as well as with growth and transforming factors.
- Lithium appears to play an especially important role during the early fetal development as evidenced by the high lithium contents of the embryo during the early gestational period.
- Helps regulate nerve impulses by regulating sodium and potassium
- Increases lymphocytic production
- Influences distribution of sodium and potassium
- Influences sodium transport
- Possible cancer suppression
- Stabilizes serotonin transmission in the nervous system
- Suppresses some cells within the immune system thus enhancing the immune system
- Possibly helps increase brain matter (grey part)
- Possibly protects the brain and nerves against glutamates
Deficiency Symptoms of Lithium
- Depression, manic depressive disorders, mania, suicide, spousal and child abuse.
- Joint pain
- Nervous disorders
- Paranoid Schizophrenia
Toxicity: Tremors, drowsiness, headaches, confusion, restlessness, dizziness, psychomotor retardation, lethargy, coma.
Rich Food Sources of Lithium
- Among plants, lithium is retained most easily in foods of the nightshade family of plants, which include tomatoes and cucumbers and mushrooms. Seaweed and kelp often contain high levels of lithium.
- Apples, asparagus, bananas, cauliflower, cinnamon, cucumbers, lemons, lentils, marjoram, pepper, plant ash (shale), red cabbage, sea vegetable, sugar cane, tomatoes, tobacco plant, mushrooms, whole grain foods, white cabbage and seeds.
- In general, diets rich in grains and vegetables may be expected to provide more lithium than diets rich in animal proteins. However, due to the uneven distribution of lithium on the earth’s crust, a predominantly vegetarian diet is not necessarily lithium rich.
Lithium May Help Alzheimer’s
Three research studies in 1999 and 2000 from Wayne State
University of Medicine found that low levels of lithium used
to treat manic depression were also effective in protecting
the brain against Alzheimer’s disease. A key protein needed
to protect the brain against Alzheimer’s is Bc1-2 (related to
the B-cell lymphoma/ leukemia-2 gene). Lithium is the first
substance found to increase the concentration of Bc1-2 in
Alzheimer’s is characterized by the existence of
neurofibrillary “tangles” in the brain. These tangles are
enabled by a destructive protein called glycogen synthase
kinase 3b (GSK-3b). Lithium has been found to decrease the
supply of destructive GSK-3b in brain tissue.
The Wayne State researchers also found that the gray matter
of patients treated with lithium over time grew by
approximately 3%, regenerating even after loss of brain cells
due to injury or disease.
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