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Is Lithium Liver Protective?

Is Lithium Liver Protective?

Is Lithium Liver Protective?

How frequently does one hear about lithium as a liver protector? When we think about liver supplements, we usually think of NAC, glutathione, zinc, selenium, and herbs like chlorophyll, turmeric, milk thistle, artichoke, and dandelion... but lithium? Believe it or not, this mineral, which is widely utilised for those suffering from mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, or even schizophrenia, has benefits for initiating natural liver cleansing. 


Unveiling Lithium: Beyond Mental Health

Lithium is a third level mineral, meaning its significance and importance in the body isn’t as crucial as our main electrolytes. Its functions come as a mood regulator by working in two different ways in the body’s neurochemistry: Repairing damaged neurons and stimulating neuronal growth. Neurons are responsible for the transport and uptake of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, oxytocin, which communicate information between brain cells. Lithium has the ability to balance an individual’s mood through the alterations of these neurotransmitters in the synapses and modulation of secondary messenger pathways that affect neurotransmission as well as potentially triggering or shutting off certain genes.


However, that’s not all. 


Lithium has also been shown to be important for the uptake of iodine. Just like our active thyroid hormone (T3), lithium is used in every cell in the body. Iodine is a halogen that is essential for thyroid health. Ironically, did you know a symptom of low thyroid function is depression? Or that hypothyroidism could lower serotonin thus lead to depression? Or that even hyperthyroidism could elevate serotonin too much and lead to mood disorders? Lithium is a co factor in how it influences the body to utilize iodine, meaning sometimes maybe it's not so much you have an iodine imbalance, but rather a lithium imbalance. 


Going a bit deeper here, lithium has been connected to acting as an element in helping detoxification at the liver. This just gets even funnier, because most of our thyroid hormone is converted to active thyroid hormone in the liver. Is lithium the connection?


Keep reading.


The liver is a magnificent sentinel of our body, performing a plethora of critical duties to preserve our general health. Its job as a top detoxification organ, persistently trying to eradicate a varied array of harmful chemicals, is at the forefront of its tasks. This important organ conducts a symphony of operations, including the shrewd storage of glycogen during times of increased glucose demand, maintaining a consistent supply of energy for our bodies' demands. It also exhibits its skill by recycling iron, which is essential for many body functions, and organizing the synthesis and transfer of bile to the gallbladder, which is an important role in digestion.


The repertoire of the liver includes the orchestration of crucial components such as bilirubin, cholesterol, and plasma proteins, all of which are important roles in maintaining overall body balance. Not content with its biochemical expertise, the liver expertly metabolizes all three of our key macronutrients - carbs, proteins, and lipids - a feat that considerably adds to our metabolic stability. The liver, a real biochemical maestro, also activates enzymes required for a wide range of physiological functions, functioning as a catalyst for several biochemical transformations. Among its various functions, the liver's power shows brightest when it carefully filters and detoxifies our internal environment, assuring the elimination of hormones, poisons, metals, and other potentially dangerous substances.


The Liver's Crucial Role in Detoxification

The liver, often hailed as the body's metabolic powerhouse, undertakes a range of fundamental functions critical for sustaining life. Among its multifaceted roles, its designation as a primary detoxification organ underscores its paramount importance in maintaining our physiological equilibrium. Imagine the liver as an astute chemist within us, diligently processing an array of substances to ensure our internal environment remains clean and unburdened.


At the heart of its detoxification prowess lies a complex and intricate process. As blood courses through the liver, it undergoes a meticulous screening process where toxins, drugs, metabolic waste, and other harmful agents are identified and flagged for elimination. The liver employs a series of enzymatic reactions to transform these hazardous compounds into water-soluble forms that can be readily excreted via bile or urine. This transformative dance not only neutralizes these toxins but also enhances their elimination from the body. Simultaneously, the liver’s detoxification efforts extend to metabolizing excess hormones, ensuring their timely removal to prevent hormonal imbalances. 

Navigating the Three Phases of Liver Detoxification

Phase 1: Activation and Transformation

Toxins, hormones, pollutants, heavy metals, and other substances enter the body as fat soluble and must be converted into water soluble molecules before they can be eliminated. We require nutrients like vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, B12, and C to activate this phase. Lipotropics, which include cysteine, methionine, choline, and inositol, as well as minerals like magnesium and iron, are another option. Some antioxidants, such as glutathione and flavonoids, also play a role in this phase. 


The cytochrome P 450 enzyme system is one of the primary enzymes that breaks down these compounds and subtracts molecules from each other to break them down into smaller bits. When breaking down toxins, the activities of this enzyme system might create free radicals, which can harm cells. Ironically, having a proper number of certain antioxidants throughout this process can help avoid this type of damage. These are the intermediate metabolites that neutralise free radicals. Vitamins A, C, and E are among them, as are minerals such as selenium, copper, zinc, and manganese, as well as antioxidants such as coenzyme Q10, thiols, bioflavonoids, silymarin, and pycnogenol.


Phase 2: Conjugation Pathway

Then there's Phase 2, which is known as the conjugation route because it turns fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins that may be eliminated through physiological fluids. This phase's nutrients include amino acids such as glycine, taurine, glutamine, n-acetylcysteine, cysteine, and methionine. Sulfation, glucuronidation, glutathione conjugation, acetylation, amino acid conjugation, and methylation are all processes that occur in order for this to happen.


Phase 3: Waste Removal and Excretion

After then, we reach Phase 3, which most people do not recognise as a third phase because it does not occur in the liver. This is known as the waste removal and excretion phase, in which waste is delivered to the gallbladder to be converted into bile, which is subsequently ejected through the intestines or sent to the kidneys to be released as urine.

The Role of Lithium in Liver Protection

While further study is needed, lithium appears to operate as a mineral that appears to catalyze specific enzymes to preserve the liver. Here are three noteworthy studies demonstrating its prospective treatment for liver health. 


In this study, it was discovered that lithium orotate specifically improved both liver and cardiovascular function, reduced migraines/headaches, and alleviated Meniere's syndrome (all of which are associated with liver congestion), reduced swelling and ascites in those with liver cirrhosis, improved hyperthyroidism in some of the patients being tested, and increased white blood cell count. 


Next, despite the fact that this study here was conducted on rats, it is vital to underline the effects of what was discovered inside the study, which was that lithium demonstrated protective mechanisms against hepatic ischemia/reperfusion. "Chronic lithium treatment protected against liver ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury, as indicated by lower serum aminotransferase levels, fewer I/R-associated histopathological changes, lower hepatic inflammatory cytokine levels, less neutrophil infiltration, and lower hepatic high-mobility group box expression and serum levels," according to the researchers. The capacity of lithium to suppress glycogen synthase kinase 3 activation, alter mitogen-activated protein kinase activation, reduce liver apoptosis, and promote autophagy appears to be its mechanism of action."


The third study here demonstrated how lithium was beneficial in a protocol to heal individuals with Graves' Disease who had ATD-Induced Hepatic Injury or Leukopenia, with the results being that hyperthyroid and liver function improved, white blood cells returned to normal, and nearly a quarter of patients in the trial were considered in remission, which is significant. 


The Path Ahead: Exploring Lithium's Potential

Although the exploration of lithium's impact on mental health has taken center stage, intriguing glimpses into its potential broader benefits have begun to emerge. Recent investigations suggest that lithium's influence might extend beyond its established role and encompass unexpected advantages for our hepatic system. While further research is warranted to comprehensively understand the mechanisms at play, these preliminary findings hint at a multifaceted nature of lithium, prompting a reevaluation of its potential contributions to overall health, particularly in bolstering the protective mechanisms of our liver.


In conclusion, the evolving narrative surrounding lithium's multifaceted role casts a new light on its potential therapeutic applications, extending beyond its traditionally recognized significance in mental health. As we delve deeper into the intricate workings of this mineral, we uncover a promising link between lithium and the protection of our liver. While the exploration is still in its nascent stages, emerging research suggests that lithium might catalyze specific enzymes to fortify the liver's resilience, potentially shielding it from the repercussions of toxins and metabolic stressors. While further studies are imperative to unveil the precise mechanisms at play, the prospect of lithium contributing to the preservation of hepatic health adds a compelling dimension to our understanding of this essential element. This newfound perspective ignites a sense of curiosity and anticipation, inviting us to embark on a journey of exploration into the potential therapeutic frontiers that lithium may unveil in the realm of liver protection and overall well-being.

Whether you want to check your lithium status, purchase a hair mineral test now by following the link here and discover whether supplementing is correct for you!

Barbara Madimenos
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach

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