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How Good is Low-Dose Lithium for Chronic Fatigue?

We don't have a lot of tools for chronic fatigue syndrome or dementia. Is it possible that low-dose lithium for chronic fatigue or dementia prevention would be worth consideration?
How Good is Low-Dose Lithium for Chronic Fatigue?
Alzheimer’s, dementia, white hair

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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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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