Could Nutritional Lithium Benefit or Hurt Hashimoto’s?

Article originally written and medically reviewed by Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP on Thyroid Pharmacist. Article preview below.

I first became fascinated with lithium in 2005, during my fourth year in pharmacy school while I was on a clinical rotation at Dr. William Walsh’s clinic The Pfeiffer Treatment Center, outside of Chicago. This rotation was my first insight into using nutrition (more specifically, ortho-molecular medicine) for health conditions that were deemed either incurable, or only treatable with heavy duty pharmaceuticals.

Why was I so interested in lithium? As a pharmacy student, I had learned that lithium was one of only two drugs that had been shown to reduce suicidality, but there’s a lot more to my passion on this subject. The unfortunate reason for becoming interested in suicide came as a result of losing someone I loved, to suicide in 2004, while still in pharmacy school.

Pharmaceutical lithium has a lot of supportive evidence for reducing suicidality and leveling out the extreme mood swings in bipolar disorder. However, lithium is a widely known thyroid-toxic drug — in fact, I always recommended screening for new-onset thyroid issues for anyone taking lithium, when I was working as a clinical pharmacist.

Research conducted in the 1970s found that lithium orotate ended up in larger concentrations in the brain than the equivalent dose of lithium carbonate, suggesting that this compound could offer similar effects at lower doses. (This happens because it can move through cell membranes/the blood-brain barrier more efficiently.)

Moreover, studies have found that lithium orotate allows more lithium into the brain than lithium carbonate, and remains there longer. In pharmacology, this is an excellent situation, where the compound goes where it’s supposed to, and the rest of the body is spared from excess.

I was excited to be introduced to the work of Dr. James Greenblatt, a psychiatrist who has been in practice for 30 years and is an expert on nutritional lithium, through our work as key opinion leaders for Pure Encapsulations. Dr. Greenblatt wrote Nutritional Lithium: A Cinderella Story, which I was excited to dive into to deepen my own understanding of this topic.

Beyond mood and suicide, nutritional lithium may offer other benefits, including slowing dementia and improving cognition.

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