Lithium is a soft and silvery-white metal that falls under the alkali group.
Lithium enters the food chain when it is naturally present in soil and water in small ratios.
Lithium is a micronutrient found in grains and vegetables, a part of our healthy diet.
Lithium Is The Most Widely Effective Treatment For Mood Disorders
What Are The Benefits of Lithium?
Lithium has various applications in different fields.
They include construction, electronics, pharmaceuticals, automotive, etc.
- Lithium is helpful in the manufacture of ceramic bodies, frits, glazes, and heat-resistant ceramic cookware.
Lithium helps increase the strength of ceramic bodies by reducing thermal expansion and firing temperatures.
- Greases made of lithium-complex chemicals have good stability, high temperature, and water-proof qualities.
- Lithium is best known for its use in batteries for smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles (EVs).
Lithium allows a high electrochemical potential for all metals because of its lightweight.
- Lithium is the most potential augmentation drug for treatment-resistant depression. It has well-established anti-suicidal properties.
Some lithium salts are prescribed for mental health conditions, particularly bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.
The U.S. FDA has approved lithium carbonate and lithium citrate as prescription medications for bipolar disorder.
What Conditions Are Treated With Lithium?
Lithium helps to rectify chemical imbalances in the brain.
That is why lithium is significant in treating depression and manic disorders.
Lithium works as a mood stabilizer and treats mania and hypomania (less severe than mania).
Mania is being over-excited, hyperactive, or distracted.
Lithium supplements treat people with alcohol addiction, Alzheimer's disease, and many stages of psychological disorders.
Lithium For Bipolar Treatment
Lithium stands to be the first-line treatment for bipolar disorder despite the availability of other mood stabilizers.
It is not possible to buy lithium over the counter.
Unlike other mood stabilizers, lithium tackles both mania and depression in bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness).
Lithium helps people with bipolar disorder by preventing manic episodes (frenzied, abnormally excited moods).
Reports suggest that lithium helps the brain in three different ways.
- It assists in maintaining gray matter in the brain, which is vital for cognitive functioning (memory and concentration). It also protects numerous brain regions responsible for emotional functioning.
- Lithium reduces dopamine and norepinephrine stimulation and increases GABA inhibition, the two neurotransmitter functions beneficial for preventing mania.
- It alters specific brain chemicals, such as AC/cAMP and BDNF, which control depression and stress levels in the body.
Do Bipolar Medicines Cause Weight Gain?
Bipolar medicines reduce excitatory neurotransmitters and increase inhibitory neurotransmitter levels.
It works through a complex network of interconnected mechanisms in the brain.
During this process, bipolar medicines cause changes in the metabolism leading to weight gain.
The side effects vary from person to person and do not impact everyone.
Does Lithium Cause Weight Gain?
Undesired weight gain with lithium medication occurs in the initial treatment.
According to a review, about 25% of people who take lithium gain weight.
People who encounter this distressing side effect gain up to 10 to 26 pounds.
Three key aspects are associated with weight gain while taking lithium:
Your Initial Body Weight
You are more likely to gain weight if you weigh more when you start treatment.
Lithium Dosage Or Lithium In The Blood
You are more prone to put on weight if your dose of medication or lithium in the blood is high.
Multiple Psychotropic Drugs
Taking other psychotropic drugs with lithium medication simultaneously can put you at risk of weight gain.
Your doctor will change your medication in some circumstances.
Why Does Lithium Cause Weight Gain?
Lithium causes metabolic changes in the body and results in excessive weight gain.
Lithium-induced weight gain is due to extreme hunger, increased thirst, food cravings, hormone imbalances, constipation, and fatigue.
Lithium therapy increases appetite in 1 in 3 bipolar patients.
People always feel hungry to eat something which adds on calories and puts on weight.
A strict diet with limited calories is to be maintained.
People experience extreme thirst due to water or sodium retention, known as polydipsia.
It stimulates a person to drink more water or fluids (high-calorie beverages).
This results in bloating or edema (swelling), known as water weight gain.
Lithium-treated people have a lot of food cravings as their taste gets altered.
This tempts people to consume more salty, fatty, or sugary foods, leading to weight gain.
During these cravings, a high-salt diet causes sodium retention, resulting in water weight gain.
Lithium causes hormonal changes in leptin, ghrelin, estrogen, testosterone, insulin, cortisol, and thyroxine.
These hormonal fluctuations lead to a reduced metabolic rate (changes in carbohydrate and fat metabolism).
This increases the fat storage in the body, causing weight gain.
Fatigue makes our mind and body lazy with low energy levels.
Decreased energy levels tend to make fewer body movements or nil physical activity.
Lack of physical exercise leads to weight gain.
Alterations In Gut Microbiota
Lithium therapy modifies gut bacteria, which leads to constipation, water retention, and fat accumulation in the body.
Any of these factors leads to weight gain in lithium-treated people.
Other Side Effects of Lithium
Lithium has several serious side effects.
- Low blood pressure
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Loss of consciousness or fainting (syncope)
- Coma (state of prolonged unconsciousness)
- Seizures (sudden electrical disturbance in the brain)
- Ventricular arrhythmia (rapid heart rate)
- Severe bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Brugada syndrome (abnormal electrical signals pass through the heart)
- Metabolic disorders like goiter, hypothyroidism, or nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.
- Eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS), a severe autoimmune drug reaction
- Pseudotumor cerebri ("false brain tumor" due to the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid)
- Raynaud phenomenon (decreased blood flow in fingers, toes, ears, etc.)
- Serotonin syndrome (elevated serotonin levels cause muscle rigidity, sweating, dilated pupils, and agitation)
3 Science-backed Ways To Manage Your Body Weight When On Lithium
- A case study proves that metformin reduces body weight in people who experience lithium-induced weight gain.
- Controlled carbohydrate cravings and a low-calorie diet can help manage your body weight when on lithium.
- According to the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, a drug called topiramate helps bipolar patients on lithium lose weight.
**Do not take any medications or make changes to your diet when on lithium without consulting your medical practitioner.**
Summary: Does Lithium Cause Weight Gain?
- Lithium acts as a mood stabilizer for bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness).
- Weight gain is the major side effect of lithium-based treatments.
- Factors causing weight gain are extreme hunger, increased thirst, food cravings, hormone imbalances, constipation, and fatigue.
- Other side effects of lithium include coma, seizures, Ventricular arrhythmia, Raynaud phenomenon, Serotonin syndrome, etc.
- The use of metformin and topiramate and a low-calorie diet helps manage lithium-induced weight gain.