The purpose of this page is to provide an educated opinion on headaches, focusing on the mild headache I experienced when I “superloaded” with /lithium as a nutrient.
Table of Contents
- What is nutrient superloading?
- How much lithium did you take?
- Thoughts: Lithium with or without food?
- So what do you think causes headaches?
- Contact me!
- See also
- Update Log
What is nutrient superloading?
There’s a decades-old concept from the world of weightlifting that’s beginning to enter the area of nutritional supplementation. It’s well established for many vitamins and certain minerals, like zinc, for example (see examine.com’s pages on zinc or other nutrients).
It’s called “superloading.” Basically, it means that it might be safe to supplement with 200-500% (two to five times) the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of that vitamin/mineral.
This is one scientifically valid reason why many vitamin/mineral supplements contain more than 100% of the RDA in a single dose or pill: it’s almost certainly safe in the long term, and usually there’s a little research that at worst, you’ll be wasting a little money. (This doesn’t mean that you won’t risk consequences, of course. Try taking a heavy dose of zinc on an empty stomach…I’ve felt like vomiting, and unless you can eat food quickly, you may well vomit. Not fun. …for most people!)
The other scientifically valid reason for providing several times’ worth the RDA is that the RDA could be too low, but RDAs are conservative for a reason, and that’s another issue entirely. Look at certain B-vitamins in energy drinks and multivitamin pills! Are those numbers so high because the RDA is set to low, or because B-vitamins are well known to give an “energy boost” when taken at 5-10x the RDA. Yup, it’s the latter. If you can afford a reasonably healthy diet, multivitamin /pills are generally worthless.
How much lithium did you take?
How could I have a clue about lithium’s effects as a nutrient if I didn’t superload it? (Disclaimer: even at ten times the provisional RDA, it’s still an order of magnitude (another 10x) away from the 100-300mg prescribed as a drug. Plus, it’s prescribed in another molecular form entirely.) I might feel nothing and never know. I’d probably feel nothing if I only stayed within the researcher’s conservative RDA for the government. The evidence seems to show that ~3mg/day might be normal dietary intake for some human groups, “so I might as well try 10mg/day,” I thought.
I am a curious cat. [Tambien: “Soy un pingüino,” como me enseñó duolingo ;).]
That’s why I did this with lithium: I wanted to know “how safe” it was to take 10mg/day for a few days. Over three days, I took 20mg lithium orotate: two 5mg pills the first day, one the second, and a final 5mg pill on the third day. The first day, I took 5mg at two separate times of the day (spaced apart).
Actually, I had planned to take 10mg/day for 3-5 days, totaling 30-50mg: more than a month of the provisional RDA concentrated over just a few days.
However, after the first day’s 10mg, I got a headache. It was a reasonably mild headache, all things considered. Still, I don’t like headaches, and I’ve been fortunate to live most of my life with very, very few (minor) headaches. Headaches always worried me, mostly because we haven’t a clue why they happen. (The live brain is very difficult to study, since most of us do not enjoy researchers drilling into our skulls and inserting things into the gooey tissue inside.) I have never in my life experienced a migraine or anything even approaching one. So I dropped down to 5mg/day for the second and third days. As the headache continued, I decided to reduce the supplement to one 5mg pill every 5 days. After another day or two, I no longer had any headaches.
About a month later, with a burst of creativity, I realized how important the nutrient was, and knew long-term I was going to build this website. Best $9 nutrient I ever supplemented with. And that’s that.
I also experienced a bit of insomnia during this “creative” period for a few days. That’s another reason I don’t recommend more than the provisional RDA. If you’re unsure, stick with 1mg/day. 5mg every 5 days should be OK. It’s what we both do, with no negative effects.
If you have a headache while starting with lithium supplementation, I believe that’s actually a great sign.
Hence this page.
Lithium with or without food?
This response doesn’t really belong on this page, but I haven’t yet dedicated a better one for it. It certainly doesn’t belong on the /lithium page, since this information is only anecdotal:
I’ve now taken the 5mg lithium orotate (and 5mg of the other forms, although I don’t recommend lithium aspartate) on an empty stomach with no effects. Nothing felt, good or bad. This makes total sense, as lithium is contained in certain water supplies on earth at levels of up to 3mg/L, so humans around those areas might well consume 3- or 6- or 9-mg in a day through water alone. But again, I don’t recommend those numbers.
Still, if you’re nervous about taking a massive
Like many minerals, it may be shared by the transporter responsible for calcium and magnesium.
So, for example, don’t take lithium if you’re binge-eating a whole bucket of ice cream, yogurt, cheese, or otherwise supplementing that meal with 200-300mg+ of calcium or magnesium.
CAUTION: ONCE AGAIN, I DO NOT RECOMMEND TESTING 5MG/DAY LITHIUM OROTATE FOR MULTIPLE/CONSECUTIVE DAYS.
I’ve been physically fit since 2008, eating a consistent diet since 2010, supplementing with nutrients since 2015, and am a healthy white male, stable financially, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I hate how pretentious this paragraph is, but I must say it: I am an extremely healthy adult male. The “male” portion is more important than anything, as most of modern human science and medicine is based on studies on males. Therefore, FEMALES HAVE EVEN MORE REASON TO BE CAUTIOUS.
I chose to “superload” knowing the risks, and knew lithium might be related to something I’d experienced a few years prior: I was “crazy” for a short period after moving to Arizona, probably from lithium in the food/water supply (perhaps a blog post or essay someday…). My fiancée also takes 5mg every 5 days with no negative effects, but again, she is extremely healthy.
I recommend 1mg/day, and a single 5mg dose once every 5 days is probably safe for most people. If you experiment on yourself like I did, know that you PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK. At the very least, inform your family and friends.
So what do you think causes headaches?
I believe a headache may be some sort of healing process in the brain.
I’m not at all saying headaches are good. However, in general, pain alerts the brain to a problem. The symptom of the problem is very often inflammation (swelling, redness, heat, etc.). But the cause of the pain is not directly the inflammation, something else caused some form of damage to the body/tissue/cell. Inflammation is not some evil biological process to be fought and exterminated at all costs. Anti-inflammatory foods and molecules can be good in balance, and where necessary. But the body needs adequate inflammation to be healthy. Better said: the body needs the ability to quickly and effectively “inflame” an area in order to be healthy.
(This is also the reason why it may be dangerous to supplement with high doses of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamins. Many American baby boomers simply do so seeking a fountain of youth… but I digress…)
So inflammation isn’t bad. It’s just a process.
Now, sleep: it’s been shown that when we sleep, the immune system rushes in to “clean” neurological cells and tissues in the brain. I haven’t seen it discussed like this, and I may be technically inaccurate, but we can reasonably assume that the brain is safely “inflamed” and swollen, in a sense, while we sleep. That’s good. The brain is being cleaned, in a sense.
How does this relate to headaches?
A headache may be the brain using nutrients (like lithium, highly important for neurological development) to swell, inflame, and “clean” the brain. Only it’s not happening at night, while we’re happily imagining ponies and sex and flying around metropolis with spiderwebs: it’s happening during the daytime. Inflammation and swelling during the daytime when we’re trying to consciously use our brains?
Ouch. That hurts.
Let me put that more technically. For some people, certain short-term headaches experienced during the daytime may be due to a sudden burst of nutrients necessary for neuronal growth and repair.
Now, on the rare occasions I have a mild headache, I’m always analyzing what I’ve eaten in the past day or two, my exercise, etc.
If you suffer from migraines, feel free to print the /lithium page and bring it to your doctor. It may or may not help, but when enough Americans start doing it, fewer and fewer doctors will ignore the nutrient.
The /hypotheses page has many, many other ideas, including a theory.