The Use of Lithium in Integrative Medicine
Bipolar disorder is a chronic disorder that typically develops in early adulthood. It is characterized by episodes of mania and depression, which may alternate.
The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown and possible causes include genetic predisposition. There is also some evidence that dysregulation of serotonin and norepinephrine may be an important factor in this disease.
Integrative medicine doctors and conventional doctors will often prescribe pharmaceutical medications to treat a bipolar disorder such as:
- Mood stabilizers e.g. lithium or an anticonvulsant, such as valproate
- Atypical antipsychotics e.g. olanzapine, aripiprazole, quetiapine, risperidone, ziprasidone
- Antidepressants e.g. fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline, bupropion
When patients do not respond to pharmaceuticals, Integrative medicine doctors often advocate ‘combination therapy’.
Natural form of Lithium
Lithium has been a widely-used therapy for Bipolar disorders. It’s possible mode of action includes:
- Modulation of the neurotransmitter receptor-mediated processes
- Modification of the production and turnover of dopamine, glutamate and GABA
Prescription lithium is in the form of lithium carbonate or lithium citrate. Another form of lithium called lithium orotate. Lithium orotate is marketed as Complementary and Alternative Medicine natural supplement and an alternative to lithium carbonate. This can be purchased from various internet sites in the US. The main selling point is that the orotate ion crosses the blood-brain barrier more easily than the carbonate ion of lithium carbonate. Consequently, it is required at a small dose of 5 mg as opposed to lithium carbonate and some propose that this is more effective but there have been no research studies that have been carried out to substantiate this.
Dangers of Lithium supplement
Even though, there are many positive testimonials for the use of lithium orotate, we must bear in mind that there is always the danger of kidney toxicity with high doses of lithium orotate and interactions with other medications such as thiazide, loop diuretics, NSAID, etc. Lithium orotate should only be taken under medical supervision and blood testing is recommended to determine its suitability as lithium has a narrow therapeutic margin of safety. Integrative medicine doctors and practitioners of Complementary and Alternative Medicine prefer to use other nutritional supplements and other more effective combination therapies.
Many integrative medicine doctors prefer to use other nutritional medicines such as omega-3-fatty acid, magnesium, N-acetyl cysteine, choline, western herbal medicines, and traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, etc. There are also many Complementary and Alternative Medicine therapies that will help treat bipolar disorders such as Lifeline technique, yoga, meditation, homeopathy, kinesiology, light therapy, acupuncture and many more. However, it is important that these combination therapies are strategically implemented with a risk management framework.