Low dose naltrexone (LDN) is an emerging therapy for autoimmunity that is safe and cheap, but many doctors will not prescribe it for this off label use.
If you have an autoimmune disorder, you know that the conventional medical treatments are seriously dangerous. They generally consist of high doses of corticosteroids or biologics. Both of these are powerful immune suppressors that may work, but are dangerous to use for the long term management of a disease.
The key phrase here is management. You want to have something that can help you manage the disease and the inflammation in order to avoid tissue damage and, of course, symptoms.
Obviously, I am a major proponent of using diet and nutrition to help manage any autoimmune disorder.
Grab my Getting Started series of emails that will show you how to start eliminating the proinflammatory foods and replace them with real food.
However, there are times when medications are indicated and if you are having trouble managing your autoimmune disease with just diet and nutrition – it’s time to start searching for a medication that will not harm you.
It’s possible that LDN may fit this bill. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if you are one of the lucky ones it does work for, it can make your life a lot easier.
Even if it helps only 15 or 20%, that may take enough of the edge off, for you to be successful with diet and nutrition as the main management strategy for your autoimmune disorder.
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) Affects the Immune System
Low dose naltrexone is derived from a medication called naltrexone that is used at a much higher dose for opiate and heroin addiction. The higher dose of 50 mg works by blocking the reception of opioid hormones. What this means is that you don’t feel any urge to use drugs (or alcohol) but you also do not feel any pleasure because the receptors for this are blocked.
However, Dr. Bihari (NYC in the 1980’s) discovered that a low dose of naltrexone, between 3 mg and 4.5 mg, had beneficial effects on the immune system. He found that when someone uses the low dose at night (at bedtime), the opioid receptors could be temporarily blocked. When this happens, the brain/body reacts by producing more opioids for a limited amount of time with a net increase of opioid production for that day.
More opioids help to damp down an over-active immune response in people with allergies, asthma, and many different autoimmune diseases. We know that people with autoimmunity have low levels of these opiods.
Additionally, white blood cells (the cells that over-react in the case of autoimmunity) have receptors for opioids.
It turns out that LDN promotes the T regulatory cells (Tregs) that moderate an immune response in the body. In other words, LDN supports the Tregs and keeps the immune system in balance.
LDN Affects the Central Nervous System (CNS)
Another mechanism for LDN is that it also reduces inflammation in the central nervous system. This translates into use for conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain and depression. LDN blocks a receptor that’s found on special white blood cells in the CNS called microglia.
The microglia are central nervous system immune cells that produce inflammation, pain sensitivity, fatigue, sleeplessness, mood disorders, and cognitive problems. When the microglia are over-reactive, it results in neuro-toxicity, which results in the various symptoms.
LDN blocks the receptors on those CNS cells and prevents the over-activation of microglial cells, thus making it a treatment modality for these disorders as well as autoimmunity.
So we have two basic mechanisms of actions of LDN – one is balancing and regulating the immune system and the other is reducing central nervous system inflammation. LDN is being studied in several countries for diseases, such as, MS, Crohn’s and others.
LDN is Safe and Cheap
The beauty of naltrexone is that it has been around for many years with a low toxicity/side effect profile even at the higher doses. At the low doses, the side effects are transient and the toxicity very low. It is also extraordinarily cheap, at $25 – $40 a month.
It should be compounded to the low dose, at pharmacies that are familiar with how to do this. It can be compounded as a pill or a cream which makes it useful for children. (It is used for children with autism).
Studies aside, there are numerous testimonials on internet forums of people who have been helped by LDN.
Finding a Doctor Who Will Prescribe LDN
Some doctors have heard about LDN and understand how safe it is, so they are comfortable prescribing it in the low doses for patients with autoimmunity.
If your primary care doctor is hesitant, you need to really own the information about LDN that you can get at lowdosenaltrexone.org and join forums to talk online with folks who have been taking it. If you walk into your doctor’s office armed with research and are confident that you understand how this can help you, it may help the doctor to feel comfortable with prescribing it for you.
To get more information:
lowdosenaltrexone.org – This website is updated periodically and gives you all the information you need to get started with LDN.
Do you already use LDN? How is it working for you? Leave a comment and let me know!