Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
If you suffer from an autoimmune condition, a central nervous system disorder, or cancer, you may want to explore the option of LDN for treatment. I am particularly fond of LDN because of its low side effect profile and affordability.
What is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone was originally approved in 1984 for the purpose of helping heroin or opium addicts. By blocking the opioid receptors, the person cannot get high when they take heroin or opium. Dosages for this effect is prescribed in the 50-300 mg range.
LDN for Autoimmunity:
In 1985, Dr. Bernard Bihari discovered the effects of much smaller doses, around 3 mg per day, on the immune system; hence Low Dose Naltrexone. He found that this low dose, taken at bedtime, enhanced a patient’s response to infection by HIV. Over the next decade, Dr Bihari found benefits in autoimmune patients as well. LDN has been useful for a myriad of autoimmune conditions and cancers (please see lowdosenaltrexone.org for a more exhaustive list):
- Autoimmune Disease
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Chronic Fatigue
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Ulcerative Colitis
As you can see, LDN treats a wide range of diseases, with a particular benefit seen with autoimmune conditions. LDN works by temporarily blocking endorphin receptors in the brain. Endorphins can be thought of as a natural pain killer, with a ‘feel good’ effect. Because the endorphin receptors are being blocked by LDN, your body reacts by producing more endorphins, and this reduces painful symptoms and produces an increased sense of well being. While the mechanism of use in autoimmune conditions is not fully understood, increased levels of endorphins stimulate the immune system and are anti-inflammatory.
How to Take LDN:
I like to begin on an ultra-low dose and gradually increase over a period of weeks until you are stable and side effect free. I tend towards a more conservative titrating schedule, and we can use a faster protocol on an individualized basis.
Many patients who start LDN do not experience side effects. Occasionally, during the first week of use, you may have difficulty sleeping or experience vivid dreaming. If this is the case, we can titrate up slower, or back down on dosage. Initially your symptoms may become worse before they improve. Please note that if you are taking opioid medications, LDN can interfere with its efficacy.
When I use LDN:
I like to prescribe LDN in patients who need immediate symptom relief. These patients will typically have an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Crohn’s. LDN is typically part of a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan targeted to address the underlying cause of your disease.