Low dose naltrexone or LDN is the prescription medication that every doctor has heard of, but never prescribes. Regular naltrexone (not low dose) is used for heroin addicts, alcoholics and opiate withdrawal. The low dose version of the same drug has undeniable applications for autoimmune conditions, chronic infections and pain syndromes. Consider it an affordable adjunct especially because Remicade, Imuran, prednisone and other immune drugs come with hefty side effects and outrageous price tags.
LDN has two functions in your body:
- It helps you tolerate your self.
- Reduces inflammation in your nervous system.
Let's start with number one, tolerating yourself. Even if you can't tolerate your annoying brother, you still need to tolerate yourself! I'm being facetious, but seriously, you must have the ability to tolerate your self, otherwise your immune cells attack your self. We call that an autoimmune disorder, and it means you've lost self tolerance. Think of rheumatoid, Hashimoto's, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's, and others. When you take LDN, you better tolerate "self." It happens because LDN turns on "T regulatory" cells and those smack down your immune system.
T reg cells have their own job which is to make sure that inflammatory chemicals are secreted appropriately to help you when injured, and then to stop that inflammation after you're healed. If you don't stop production of inflammatory chemicals (termed cytokines), then your body starts attacking everything in sight, pollen, dander, mold, dust mites (then you lose self tolerance) now it's attacking your thyroid, your joints, adrenals, heart or myelin sheath around nerve endings. Again, LDN acts like a referee and blows the whistle on this attack.
Now, number two on my list is how LDN reduces Inflammation in your nervous system. This is a huge advantage if you suffer with thyroid disease, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, Lyme or neuropathic pain. Several papers written on this topic have shown that LDN blocks microglia in your central nervous system. These microglia are just immune cells in your brain and spinal cord that, when hyperactive, produce pain-causing chemicals, fatigue, unstable mood, insomnia and cognitive dysfunction. To your microglia, LDN feels like a cold compress does to a sunburn.
LDN works by blocking receptors on your cells that allow natural endorphins in. Endorphins are compounds you make when you feel good, eat chocolate, experience a runner's high or have sex. Endorphins increase your pain threshold. You want them inside the cell. With LDN blocking the cells, they become short on endorphins and send a chemical signal to your brain to say, "Hey, crank out more endorphins because I have none!" Your body generates more endorphins in response to the perceived deficiency. You probably get more endorphins in that moment, than a Black Friday sale at DSW! Emerging studies regarding dosage suggest that lower is better, such as 1 to 3mg at bedtime. Side effects are minimal and may include vivid dreaming or sleep disturbance which improves if you reduce dose or take during the day.