Course Description:


Whenever the word “lithium” is mentioned in medical or psychiatric circles, it tends to inspire more questions than answers.  Is it safe, or toxic?  Is it a medicine, a nutrient, or both?

As with so many other substances found in nature, lithium possess a dyadic association with human biology.  At certain concentrations, lithium is toxic to us; at others, it is a miracle medicine celebrated since the early 20th century for its ability to stabilize mood.  And yet this is not the end of lithium’s story, for a growing body of research literature and clinical evidence suggests that this humble mineral may in fact be one of the most promising treatments available for a range of psychiatric and neurologic disorders.  More, this body of literature underscores an increasingly robust rationale for the existence of a lithium deficiency state in susceptible individuals.  The closer we look at lithium, the more essential it reveals itself to be for human health.

This two-part course, designed for healthcare practitioners, will take registrants on a fascinating journey in search of the truths and clinical therapeutic potentials of lithium.

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1. Mineral: From the Big Bang to Modern Medicine

An overview of lithium’s natural history will be followed by the presentation of empirical research and case evidence supporting a lithium deficiency hypothesis and revealing powerful associations between lithium and psychiatric illness.  The biologic pathways through which lithium confers its mood-stabilizing effects will be elucidated and linked mechanistically to clinical presentations for which lithium is utilized in functional medicine practice.  Recommendations for the incorporation of lithium testing through hair analysis and the evaluation of symptoms potentially indicative of a lithium deficiency state will be reviewed, with an emphasis on the diagnostic and treatment implications of irritability.  Dr. Greenblatt will discuss the importance of exploring the medical, psychiatric, and familial histories of patients in whom lithium deficiency is suspected, and how information gleaned from such inquiry can inform integrative interventions.  The delineation of specific dose ranges according to physical response will also be explored, refining actionable parameters for “pharmaceutical” vs. “maintenance” vs. “nutritional” lithium.

2. Medicine: Lithium for Bipolar and Beyond

Amidst a frenzied and as-yet unsuccessful race to procure a ‘fix’ for neurodegenerative illness, the mineral lithium stands apart from other pharmaceutical treatments, and is arguably the most promising intervention in modern medicine for the neurologic decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other forms of dementia.

This module will begin with an objective assessment of the established Alzheimer’s therapeutic model, and treatment options available to today’s patients which, despite significant advances in our understanding as to the etiologic basis of Alzheimer’s, have changed little over the last several decades.  Next, the implications of studies revealing a lengthy prodromal period in Alzheimer’s pathogenesis will be discussed and will underscore an empirically substantiated argument for shifting the therapeutic paradigm away from reaction and towards prevention.  Lithium’s viability as a component of integrative Alzheimer’s prevention strategies will be established with an in-depth examination of biologic mechanisms through which it exerts neuroprotective effects and combats tau and amyloid aggregations.

Finally, lithium’s potentials as a treatment for neurodegenerative illness will be expanded with a look at Lyme disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS, and etiologic pathways common to these diseases upon which lithium exerts pharmacodynamic effects.

Upon completion of this course, registrants will be able to safely incorporate low-dose nutritional lithium into functional medicine protocols for a variety of psychiatric and neurologic ailments.

Learning Objectives:

  • Substantiate the clinical utility of low-dose nutritional lithium as part of an integrative approach to support patients with psychiatric and/or neurologic illness
  • Safely and effectively incorporate evidence-based lithium augmentation strategies into therapeutic protocols
  • Discuss the diagnostic and treatment implications of irritability as a symptomatic presentation
  • Describe specific clinical indicators and symptomatic presentations potentially indicative of a lithium deficiency state
  • Provide an empirically supported rationale for the lithium deficiency hypothesis, and identify intrinsic and environmental factors that might precipitate a higher maintenance lithium requirement
  • Describe the quantitative and functional differences between pharmacologic and nutritional doses of lithium
  • Elucidate the biologic mechanisms through which lithium exerts neuroprotective and mood-stabilizing effects, as well as the mechanisms via which lithium inhibits processes leading to amyloid and tau deposition
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