One of the most important things to understand about psychiatric disorders, is that they induce metabolic stress on the brain that can be significant enough to induce degeneration. An important treatment goal for any psychiatric disorder is to pursue balance and deter this process as much as possible.
Sometimes, as is the case with lithium, the treatment can be as deleterious as the disorder. In the process of stabilizing mood, lithium can also reduce the activity of several antioxidant enzymes. Antioxidants are chemicals that delay and prevent degeneration and aging. These enzymes promote chemical reactions that help to preserve brain tissue.
One very powerful tool that can slow down this process, is nutrition. Researchers in India were able to demonstrate that zinc supplementation given to rats who were also being given lithium, helped to restore antioxidant enzyme activity.
Zinc is required for many reactions occurring in the brain and nervous system so I'm not surprised at this. I also would venture to guess that other antioxidants would have been helpful as well. The message is not to load up on zinc, but to be sure that if you have bipolar disorder, that your nutritional choices include a wide variety of foods from all food groups. I'm always surprised at how little nutrition information is given to people for their psychiatric diagnoses. It's a powerful little strategy that can go such a long way!
Bhalla P, Chadha VD, Dhar R, Dhawan DK. Neuroprotective effects of zinc on antioxidant defense system in lithium treated rat brain. Indian J Exp Biol. 2007 Nov;45(11):954-8.
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