Lithium may cause hypo-thyroidism and weight gain

Hypothyroidism is a condition that already occurs in approximately 20 percent of women, with increasing prevalence as we age.

by Dr. Tara Peyman — 

Lithium, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for bipolar disorder, can help stabilize mood and reduce symptoms of mania. However, it is important to understand the risks and potential side effects of taking this medication.

A frequent side effect of most mood stabilizers, including lithium, is weight gain. This can be attributed to changes in the patient’s metabolism and a decrease in the production of thyroid hormones, which leads to hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones).

Hypothyroidism is a condition that already occurs in approximately 20 percent of women, with increasing prevalence as we age. When a medication such as lithium is introduced into the body, the chance of developing hypothyroidism increases.

While hypothyroidism is a well-known potential side effect of lithium, not all doctors proactively test for and treat this condition. If you are taking lithium, it is recommended that you have your thyroid hormones tested.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid)

  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Constipation and digestive discomfort
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities

Treatment for hypothyroidism

When tests show that thyroid hormones are low, the first step is to start thyroid replacement hormones. Symptoms of hypothyroidism usually will start to improve within a few days of treatment.

A naturopathic physician may also prescribe homeopathic medicine. This natural, nontoxic treatment can replace the need for lithium by providing better mood stability, without unwanted side effects. Once the mood is stabilized, the lithium dose can be tapered and even discontinued for many patients, without a problem. In some cases, the thyroid resumes normal functioning and thyroid replacement medication is no longer necessary.

 

Dr. Tara Peyman is a licensed naturopathic physician with an expertise in the homeopathic treatment of bipolar disorder and mental illness. She practices at Arizona Natural Health Center in Tempe, Ariz. www.aznaturalhealth.com or 480-456-0402.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 5, Oct/Nov 2011.

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