older woman hand to head looks confused

Lithium is a mineral that is ubiquitous in the earth’s crust. Chances are pretty good that you get some lithium in your food and water just as you get some iron and calcium. Legumes, vegetables, fish, meat and dairy products often have trace levels of lithium. There is intriguing preliminary data to suggest that this element may be helpful against a number of conditions. Is it possible that there could be benefits of low-dose lithium for chronic fatigue syndrome? This reader has an interesting story to share.

Q. I read about low-dose lithium a few months ago. The article said it might help prevent dementia and improve memory.

So being old, with the usual forgetting where I put things and all that, I started taking 5 mg a day, a very low dose. To my amazement, after just a few days I found myself free of the chronic fatigue that had plagued me for more than a year after I had shingles.

I haven’t seen this kind of result mentioned in any of the articles I found. I thought I was going to have to live the rest of my life at 25 percent energy, so it feels like lithium saved my life, or 75 percent of it anyway.
Low-Dose Lithium for Chronic Fatigue:

A. Your story is intriguing. There is a new theory about chronic fatigue syndrome (Clinical & Experimental Immunology, Feb. 2017).  Immune cells may become impaired after infection, childbirth or trauma. Calcium channels that normally increase in number drop instead.

While it is not clear how lithium might affect fatigue, basic research shows that it does change how some brain cells handle calcium (Bipolar Disorder, Nov. 2016).  Researchers believe this may help explain how lithium works for people with bipolar disorder, but it also might tie in to your experience.

Lithium vs. Dementia?

The article you read about dementia might have been a study showing that in Denmark, people are less likely to develop dementia if their drinking water contains more lithium (JAMA Psychiatry, Oct. 1, 2017).  We hope that further research will clarify this connection.

Make sure your doctor knows you are taking low-dose lithium. You should ask to have kidney and thyroid function monitored periodically, since at high doses lithium can harm these organs.

Share Your Own Lithium Story:

Have you found low-dose lithium helpful for anything? Have you developed side effects? Please share your story below in the comment section. We are particularly interested to learn whether there could be a benefit of low-dose lithium for chronic fatigue syndrome.

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  1. John

    It would be great if some form of lithium helped alleviate fatigue, but you shouldn’t confuse chronic fatigue with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME), an illness with many symptoms (although the exhausting unrelenting fatigue is one of the most notable). Most people with CFS/ME are very aware of their memory and concentration problems, often having lived with them for decades. As we age it’s tempting to blame old age, but after 35 years of memory and concentration lapses (since age 39), I’m not ready to blame dementia for any of it.

  2. Mel

    Lithium orotate is the natural form and is not synthetic . It does react very differently in the body than synthetic prescription forms, which require a prescription for your doctor. The major difference is that Lithium orotate dosage is is very low because it is pure and the body absorbs it fully. This being the case, the comparison dose or orotate is drastically reduced. It also has a short life in the body so can be flushed out quickly.

    The mistake often made by the medical profession is not knowing how to low does the two and many times they are overdosing the patient. I have had this experience myself. I had to teach my own doctor about orotate and how to dose change. To say it was a life saver would be a understatement! I did not have to stay on it for life. One year and off and there are NO more episodes of mental disorder.

    Which I truly believe is a fall back to the mental health as the drugs are not needed full life, but a period of time to work through the issues. For me it was a better alternative to and for Fibromyalgia pain. This is worth the try, and may take you so time and research to find the doctor of natural therapy to find. Or adventure out and as all supplements are a medicine, use caution to not mix and match without your guidance from a qualified trained practitioner.

  3. Paul

    I was misdiagnosed as bipolar, but I am highly allergic to metals; hard and soft, lithium is a soft metal. It worsened all my symptoms, my body temperature is impossible to regulate, I broke out in hives and the doctor REFUSED to admit he was wrong. I have many health and mental problems because of it.

  4. Dee
    Buffalo N. Y.

    I never heard of Lithium for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I might be interested in finding out about others experiences. I have been considering CFS as a possible diagnosis for a long time now and actually have a doctor appointment to address it. Any input of others experiences will be greatly appreciated.

  5. ECS

    Lithium had a devastating effect on my Severe ME and Systemic Lupus..worsening Liver , kidney issues and inflammation in brain was worse not better.. more dementia-like symptoms and tremors (parkinsonian tremors ceased on stopping)

    Use with great caution, balanced cbd+thc oil is much more effective than any medication and has gotten me off 1000mg morphine and 30 pharma meds.. still deteriorating rapidly due to ME and Lupus and Fibro , but i can eat and drink again and breath without assistance thanks to medical cannabis 💞

  6. William F. W

    I looked on Amazon for lithium orotate and found several products that said they contained 5 mg, and others which contained 120 mg.

    I have never seen anything like this – dosage differing by a factor of 24!!

    Will you do some followup and find out what is going on, because I can’t find anything that explains this difference.

  7. Patti

    My son was told he had bipolar and put on lithium but refuses to take it because it makes him very tired. The prescription is a lot more of a dose than is the supplement, such as Bio-tech Pharm…

  8. CPT Mac
    Bloomingdale OH

    The usual dose of Lithium when treating bi-polar disease is in the range of 1800 mg/day. A 5 mg dose as noted above is 1/300 to 1/400 of the usual clinical dose/day.

  9. Sara

    When you say “low dose lithium” what form of the lithium are you talking about? There are quite a few different forms, so I’m curious how the different forms work for people.

    • Terry Graedon

      Many people using low-dose lithium are taking lithium orotate.

  10. Kathryn

    I was prescribed low dose lithium as an adjunct for both depression and chronic fatigue. It didn’t seem to help either. What did happen is that it exacerbated my essential tremors terribly. What was manageable before was hindering me to eat or drink without spills, or to write legibly. Come to find out, that’s a well known side effect. Just be aware

    • Susan

      Kathryn, thanks for the heads up re side effect of tremors. I planned to discuss low dose Lithium with my physician. Unfortunately, I have essential tremor too, and it’s already affected my handwriting, and occasionally, disrupts my meals. I don’t need any more of that.

      Thanks again.

    • Fatima B

      Being bipolar, I have been on lithium for 20 years. Initially I did feel a little shaky but that disappeared over time. It’s probably one of those side effects that you only get initially.

  11. Marcia

    My only connection with lithium has been via my son who suffers from bipolar disorder. While on lithium his cycles were largely controlled. His blood tests revealed, however, that his kidneys were becoming adversely affected by the lithium so he had to stop taking it. Now he has damaged kidneys and some renal failure due to his intake of lithium. The choice was his sanity or his kidneys: both lost. He was hospitalized because of cycling, lost important aspects of his pre-cycling life (marriage, business, etc) and now has kidney damage.

  12. K

    Seems odd that lithium would prevent dementia when it can cause memory loss. If that is the case, naturally occurring lithium must function differently than the pharmaceutical form.

    • Larry
      Ferndale, WA

      A terrible tragedy indeed. Would you be so kind as to tell me the amount and form he was taking to help me avoid such a fate.

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