Naltrexone is a medication used in traditional medicine to help individuals through narcotic withdrawal because of its effect on the opioid receptor. However, we use it in functional medicine at a much lower dose with a different outcome to help with numerous autoimmune and complex diseases.
At a low level, Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) is a safe and effective drug that helps to modulate the immune system. Doctors began using much lower doses of naltrexone in the 1990s. With this use, it was found that it was possible to help normalize the immune system and decrease inflammatory and neurological disorders.
Today many individuals suffer from immune dysfunction, complex health concerns, and autoimmunity. Low Dose Naltrexone may be an excellent option for many of these people suffering from these immune system disorders because of its effect on the nervous system, immune system, and cellular receptors.
It works at the opioid receptors of each cell to help to calm the body down at the cellular level. When the body is in pain or has complex dysfunction, these cells are overstimulated, and it is hard to have proper communication with the cell receptors. Low dose naltrexone can calm the cells through the opioid receptors and restore appropriate cell signaling.
And therefore, activating the cell receptors has a positive effect on the entire body. This is because opioid receptors mediate the human body's response to most hormones, neurotransmitters, drugs and are involved in the sensory perception of vision, taste, and olfaction. They also play a vital role in how hormones, neurotransmitters, and other peptides communicate. Therefore, by affecting these receptors, we can better control the different pathways along with the nervous and immune systems.
Low dose naltrexone works by binding to the endorphin receptors in your brain. This makes your body produce more endorphins which then can control the body's immune system and slow the production of unwanted cells that cause various medical conditions.
Therefore, there is a wide range of conditions that LDN has shown to help alleviate symptoms. Some of these conditions include:
The way that low dose naltrexone signals the cell is unique and promising. Research cited in the Internal Journal of Oncology in August 2016 showed that LDN seems to possess anticancer therapy and suppress tumor activity. The mechanism for suppressing tumor growth seems to be by LDN interfering with cell signaling and modifying the immune system.
Another condition that is often studied with LDN is active Crohn's disease. Studies have shown that LDN seems to help decrease the inflammation and pain associated with Crohn's disease and help with healing.
Studies have also been done for LDN and fibromyalgia. One study evaluated the use of LDN for eight weeks. After the administration of LDN, multiple inflammatory cytokines were significantly reduced, including interleukin-6 (IL-6), transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-b), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a). Additionally, pain associated with fibromyalgia decreased after taking LDN.
LDN is also a good option for individuals dealing with chronic Lyme. Many symptoms associated with chronic infections and toxic load are due to a persistent immune response. Successful treatment of late-stage Lyme disease requires treatments directed at both the infection, co-infections and improving the immune response. Therefore, LDN can be a perfect treatment option with other modalities.
Low-dose naltrexone partially blocks opiate receptors, which in turn increases endorphin production. Endorphins help to regulate the immune system.
LDN has become an important therapy for inflammatory conditions and chronic infections because immune system dysregulation is a hallmark feature. Moreover, endorphin levels tend to be low in autoimmune diseases. Therefore, by increasing endorphins with LDN, it is possible to decrease the processes that lead to autoimmune conditions.
LDN also binds to a class of immune system receptors called toll-like receptors (TLRs). When bacteria, viruses, or other foreign substances bind to TLRs, an inflammatory cascade is triggered. LDN works by blocking toll-like receptors to inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. This leads to a decrease in inflammation and autoimmunity in the body.
If you are dealing with a chronic pain condition, inflammation, autoimmune disease, or any other chronic medical condition, it would be worth talking to a functional medicine provider to see if LDN is a good option for you.