Low-dose Naltrexone, better known as LDN, is a recent addition to the repertoire of autoimmune patients. The claim is that it “can normalize the immune system”. There is an extensive page of information found here which catalogs the list of diseases for which it has been useful.
I wanted to know exactly how it works, but it turns out that the best we can do is know “how it is BELIEVED to work”.
In general, in people with diseases that are partially or largely triggered by a deficiency of endorphins (including cancer and autoimmune diseases), or are accelerated by a deficiency of endorphins (such as HIV/AIDS), restoration of the body’s normal production of endorphins is the major therapeutic action of LDN.
I didn’t find the literature very satisfying from a scientific standpoint, and I found the description’s given by those that had taken it even less so. “A significant improvement in mental health quality of life” was identified as the result of this study. They “felt better”. I’m all for feeling better, but what does that mean? Can’t we come up with something more concrete than that? Given the dose was so low at 1.5-4.5mg (therapeutic dose of Naltrexone is typically 50mg), I decided to try it.
The low dose requires that the drug be specially made or “compounded” by a pharmacy. My functional medicine doc called the Rx into Belmar Pharmacy, and I received my low-dose Naltrexone within days. The first thing I noticed within several days is that I just “felt” better. Here we go with the nebulous descriptions and unscientific nature of our findings. I disliked the fact that I couldn’t come up with better wording, but I believed I now understood WHY low-dose Naltrexone users had described it the way they did. The next thing I noticed is I found myself walking across the expanse of a room without even thinking about my balance. There are side effects: vivid/disturbing dreams, insomnia, headaches. I experienced all of them, of course. My functional medicine MD suggested I take my dose in the AM rather than the PM to get around the dreams and insomnia issues. She said it made no matter when I took it even though the info page specifically says it needs to be taken in the evening such that opiate receptors are blocked at a very specific time (instead of all of the time which is the case with the therapeutic dose used for heroin addicts). I switched when I took LDN. It alleviated the side effects, and the benefits were not diminished. I did continue to have headaches off and on, but not enough to stop LDN.
I went up to 3mg after a month to see if we could find my particular therapeutic dose. I noticed that my legs seem to cramp more after about a week. I had also taken note of the below information before taking LDN:
People who have multiple sclerosis that has led to muscle spasms are advised to begin LDN treatment with just 3mg daily and to maintain that dosage.
This information from the LDN info page. I wanted to know why increased doses caused spasticity, but I’ve yet to find an answer. I continued with the 3mg to see if the tightness in my legs persisted. Soon my partner noticed that my appetite had seriously declined. I googled “LDN & appetite” and found that LDN is also used for weight loss. Whoops. This is definitely not sustainable. Eating close to nothing is not healthy. This side effect was not mentioned in any literature I had read. I guess I had thought I wasn’t eating as usual because my headaches had increased. Headaches often cause nausea for me, and nausea doesn’t promote normal food consumption. I stopped taking LDN to regain my appetite.
For whatever reason, I tend to react very strongly to medications/supplements. I plan to return to my 1.5mg LDN dose as soon as I have fully recovered from my recent experiences.
NOTE: As of February 12, 2015, I have returned to the 1.5mg daily dose. 🙂
A “Must-See” Video of Dr. Bernard Bihari, LDN Pioneer and Champion. Click here
Transcript of Dr. Bihari video.