WHAT IS LITHIUM?
Lithium is a micromineral or trace element that promotes good mental health. In this article I discuss the role of lithium in the body in greater detail.
WHEN WAS LITHIUM DISCOVERED?
The first records of lithium date back to 1800 when the Brazilian scientist Jozée Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva discovered the mineral petalite (which contains lithium) in Switzerland. In 1817 Johan August Arfwedson started to study petalite and realised he could not identify 10% of the mineral. He concluded that this 10% was a new element which he named lithium. Arfwedson was unable to isolate lithium but a year later in 1818 both Swedish chemist William Thomas Brand and English chemist Sir Humphry Davy managed to extract it.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE LITHIUM?
An average human body contains approximately 7 milligrams (mg) of lithium. The most well known function of this nutrient is in the treatment of mental disorders such as bipolar disorder. However, it also has a number of other roles in the body. The list below outlines the main functions of lithium:
– Assisting in the absorption of vitamin B9 and vitamin B12.
– Assisting in the distribution of iodine throughout the body (which can help treat thyroid diseases).
– Breaking down excess uric acid in the blood and kidneys.
– Controlling and preventing episodes of mania (elevated mood at all times) that occur in people suffering from bipolar disorder.
– Controlling glucose metabolism.
– Enhancing the replication of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (which contains important genetic information that is used in the creation of new cells).
– Increasing the grey matter nerve cells in the brain (which support hearing, memory, muscle control, speech and vision).
– Preventing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (by reducing brain damage and promoting new neural growth).
– Protecting against the negative effects of mood altering drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, marijuana and tobacco.
– Reducing aggressive, self destructive and violent behaviour (based on a number of different research studies).
– Regulating the production of serotonin (a hormone that regulates mood levels).
– Supporting the transmission of messages over neurons.
HOW MUCH LITHIUM DO YOU NEED?
Currently there is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for lithium. The American College of Nutrition have suggested a minimum intake of 1mg per day but research suggests the body may require between 2mg and 3mg of lithium per day. Most studies suggest people get an average of 2mg of lithium per day from their diet which is adequate for the body’s needs.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN LITHIUM?
Dairy products are an excellent source of lithium with cheese, eggs and milk all good choices. Drinking water also contains trace amounts of lithium. Mineral water from springs can also contain high levels of lithium depending upon their location. Herbs and vegetables are another excellent source of lithium with peppers and tomatoes being particularly rich foods.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH LITHIUM?
Consuming excess levels of lithium can have a number of negative side effects. There is no specific upper limit for this nutrient but research suggests that consuming 100mg per day or more can have adverse effects. Doses of 5 grams (g) per day or more can be fatal.
Since most foods only contain trace amounts of lithium it is almost impossible to overdose on this nutrient through your diet. However, taking too many lithium supplements can lead to the potential overdose symptoms that are listed below:
– High blood pressure.
– Kidney failure.
– Muscular weakness.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH LITHIUM?
Lithium deficiencies are very rare because only small amounts of this nutrient are required in humans. In the rare situations where a deficiency does develop it can lead to:
– Joint pain.
– Nervous disorders.
– Manic depressive disorders.
Whilst lithium is mainly used to treat mental disorders it also helps the body with various processes. I hope this article has helped you learn a bit more about the importance of this nutrient to your health.
Now I want to hear from you. Did you know about all the potential health benefits of lithium? Were you aware of the potential dangers associated with getting too much? Let me know by leaving a comment.
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