What is Low Dose Naltrexone?

I’m often asked about Low Dose Naltrexone. These days it is used to treat everything from autoimmune disorders and cancer, to fertility and autism. I have been taking 5 mg daily of this off-label, somewhat experimental drug since approximately 2005.

How did I find out about Low Dose Naltrexone or LDN? On one of my regular visits to my mild-mannered functional medicine doctor he thrust a prescription for this drug into my hand. A month later my naturopath recommended LDN to me and I decided it was worth a try.

Many food blogs preach healing with food, and food alone. I’m here to tell you that when you feel sick the best thing you can do is listen to your body and do whatever it takes to feel good again. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Getting well is a process without any rules.

I take LDN as part of my treatment plan for multiple sclerosis. I was diagnosed with MS in 2006 and was absolutely devastated when I received the news. While I have chosen not to take the drugs that are recommended as standard care for MS, I have quite a lot of friends who do, and I respect their choice. However, the issue with many of the typical MS drugs is their side effects. Some leave you with flu-like symptoms that can be as bad as the symptoms of MS. In any event, LDN is optimal for me as I do not experience side effects from it, and from what I have read in the medical literature, most people find this to be the case.

What is Low Dose Naltrexone? First, let’s take a look at what I facetiously refer to as “high dose,” naltrexone, or the more traditional form of this drug. Naltrexone is an opiod antagonist typically given to heroin addicts in doses of up to 1500 mg upon their arrival in the emergency room. Giving this type of dose of naltrexone to a person under the influence of heroin snaps them into lucidity in minutes because naltrexone binds to the opiate receptors of the brain –the same receptors to which heroin binds. This prevents the addict from experiencing the effects of the heroin, and leads to complete lucidity.

According to the website lowdosenaltrexone.org, In 1985, a physician named Dr. Bernard Bihari discovered the effects of a much smaller dose of naltrexone (approximately 3mg once a day) on the body’s immune system. He found that this low dose, taken at bedtime, was able to enhance a patient’s response to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The use of a drug such as naltrexone in this way is called micro-dosing and can be extremely effective. It has been found that some drugs work differently (and sometimes quite oddly, more effectively) at lower levels. I find micro-dosing to be a very exciting and mostly under-explored component of traditional medicine.

According to the site lowdosenaltrexone.org LDN works in the following way:

The brief blockade of opioid receptors between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. that is caused by taking LDN at bedtime each night is believed to produce a prolonged up-regulation of vital elements of the immune system by causing an increase in endorphin production. Normal volunteers who have taken LDN in this fashion have been found to have much higher levels of beta-endorphins circulating in their blood in the following days.

While it is not completely understood yet, it is becoming apparent that endorphin secretions (our own internal opioids) play a central role in regulating the immune system. I believe that LDN works for me. I think it helps with my energy levels and also modulates my immune system so that it is more balanced. I also believe that it helps to control the neuropathy I experience.

Are wondering if LDN can help you? Here’s my advice. It may be worth discussing LDN with a DAN doctor, naturopath or functional medicine physician. In the meantime, remember that if you suffer from an autoimmune condition or any other health related issues, you may want to look into the main tenets of my healing program which include:


196 responses to “What is Low Dose Naltrexone?”

  1. I have terrible acid reflux after taking naltrexone for about a week. What should I do to eliminate these symptoms. I stopped taking it and an I started ompetxole about 5 FSU’s ago but am still struggling. Thanks Annette

      • He just prescribed omeprazole. He had previously thought it was from celebrixib; I went off the celebrixib for about a week and my symptoms continued and even worsened. So then I stopped the naltrexone….it’s been about 5 days and my symptoms continue… that’s why I wrote to possibly get some insight. Thanks Annette

        • Annette, I found that the LDN helped with my digestive issues. So sorry I cannot shed more light on your situation.

    • Acid reflux is now known to be caused by two issues – low stomach acid or Pylori (Helicobacter Pylori) infection. Have you been tested for pylori yet? If not the case, the culprit is TOO LITTLE stomach acid, not “too much”. [Antacids are a big mistake workaroud] Correct amount of acid is detected by the valve [esophageal sphincter] which closes and keeps it from splashing. Too little allows it to ‘malfunction’ and agony you feel is splashes/leaks of stomach acid that should’t ever leave it. One way to help correct it and ultimatey retrain your stomach to produce enough is by adding HCL/hydrochloride acid (ALWAYS with Betaine) in capsules before a meal or sprinkle directly on the food (especially protein). There is a huge body of research and simple articles to explain. A quick fix is to drink Apple Cider Vinegar (1-2 tbsp diluted in 6-8 oz water, preferably through a straw. Some add a bit of honey). This got my colleague from years of Prilosec and agony in a matter of days. I corrected mine with 750mg capsule HCL but it varies and there are guidelines on how to gradually test threshold/need and eventually reduce use. Beware of ‘little purple pill’ peddling doctors.

  2. At 73 I’ve been taking LDN to increase my cognition. Fast forward 30 days: I’m accessing an entirely new vocabulary — and in not one but two languages! I’m so excited about my new word-finding skills that I’m no longer groping for the right word. I’m more articulate. To a writer, this is a real bonus; by way of a footnote, I’d like to add that I’m also finding that I’ve become proficient in Hungarian! This is no joke. My native Magyar which I have not used prodigiously since childhood is back at full tilt. FANTASZTUKUS!!!

      • LDN was/is my hero in dealing with devastating crippling Rheumatoid Disease. I started with 3mg but now take 4.5 mg every evening for the last 3 years. Bonus in LDN’s use is that it heps heal leaky gut, often the root cause of many autoimmune diseases (molecular mimicry’s the devil).
        My initially skeptical GP refused to prescribe it. After I found other means and shocked him with results he now takes it himself and prescribes to many autoimmune disease patients, crohn’s and pain management. Key is ALWAYS ask for PURE (no fillers which often cause the side effects like lacto-based fluff or magnesium form in capsules) and IMMEDIATE (not extended ) release.

  3. I have been taking LDN since 2011. I was Dx with M.S in 1996. My first MRI that finally showed no active lesions was in 2012. My parents health was declining in 2015 and ran out of my LDN and did not get it refilled. I lost both parents one week a part and my 31 yr old brother-in-law 2015. January 2017 I restarted my LDN after my best friend asked me if I was still taking my LDN(I was under so much stress I truely forgot to refill my prescription). In 2018 my MRI showed an increase in lesions but no enhancing(active) lesions. I know the stress of dealing with the death of my parents, brother-in-law and not being protected by LDN allowed my M S. to go haywire . I was on 3 mg at the time but my spasm have decreased significantly I had the dose increase to 5 mg. This TRUELY is a miracle medication and I encourage every M.S’er to demand your doctor to prescribe LDN.

  4. I’m looking into starting LDN for psoriatic arthritis but struggle with acid reflux. I have heard that LDN can cause acid reflux is this true?

    • I’ve been on LDN 0.5mg for 3 days and I am having terrible acid reflux. I actually feel like I have burning in my throat when I wake up. I am trying a few things to help alleviate because I am on such a low does and want to work my way up to 2mg. I took it earlier tonight, split the capsule open and took it with some food. Sat up straight for 3 hours after taking. This seemed to help. If this doesn’t I will start taking it in the morning which I have read some testimonials and spoke to some people who do this. The acid reflux can be from the filler used to create LDN, which is why some don’t experience or even the type of capsule it’s put in. So don’t give up just keep exploring options with your compound pharmacy. I hope reading this helps others so they know if they experience server indigestion and acid reflux it’s not in their head.

  5. Have you heard about the Coimbra protocol for MS. Dr Coimbra in Brazil is curing people from their MS. That may sound fantastical but it is true. Search Coimbra Protocol. I’ve got nothing to do with him by the way.

    • Thank you for mentioning this. I have vitiligo, an autoimmune disease attacking the melanocytes in the skin so you lose pigmentation. I had not heard of the Coimbra protocol, but it sounds promising not only for MS, but vitiligo and other autoimmune disorders. I also have Hashimoto’s and Low Dose Naltrexone and have read on Thyroid Pharmacist/Izabella Wentz’s site that it can be very helpful for that too. Thank you, Elana!

      • Hi! I cannot refill my LDN for the next couple days is it safe to just stop abruptly like today and then start back up once I fill up again? I was panicking thanks!

      • Hi Cate,

        Vitiligo started to show up on me around mid-February. I started seeing a DO around the end of April and with a prescription, started microdosing LDN, 1mg the first 2 weeks, then 2 mg and I am now on 3 mg. While the Vitiligo still exists, I can see huge improvements on my chest. My hands are not progressing as quickly but it is also not spreading as it was prior to the LDN. I have also been doing ozone treatments which I know are helping but I feel incredible on the LDN.

  6. Just a tiny request here– It would help so much if you could make your webpages printable. I have the same problem with the Healthy Home Economist’s website. If you could talk to your webmaster about this, it would be great!

    • Sarah, thanks for your comment! The website used to be set up that way but so many people requested that I make only the recipes printable to save paper that I changed it :-)

  7. Hello Elana, Are you still taking LDN? I’m curious to know if it’s still working for you? I have MS and am in between drugs right now. I was taking Aubagio for nearly 4 yrs and ended feeling an increase in neuropathy which is a side effect. I had to basically detox after that, the drug stays in your system for two years so before another is used you must be rid of it. After taking the detox drug for 30 days I felt awful, lethargic and heavy definitely worse than I did on the Aubagio, scary. ( I’ve also have been gluten/dairy free for 10 yrs and for the past few years have been following The Wahls protocol) Anyway, I visited my naturapath and was told to try Lion’s Mane mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) and in about 2 weeks everything turned around, I feel great. Lion’s mane is neuro-protective, has many positive attributes, I suggest you research it. If you’d like to read the white paper, I can send you a copy. Anyway, my neurologist has a drug in mind for me to try and I just do not like the potential side effects. A nurse practitioner I know suggests I try LDN, she gave me some literature on it, I’m amazed at how many illnesses it can ameliorate. I’m thinking of using the LDN and the Lions Mane, just afraid I may end up too euphoric, they both counter depression (which I have not been experiencing) Also, thank you for all your articles and recipes. I refer to your website often, make many of your recipes and really enjoy it!

    • Hi Elana,

      Thank you for sharing this with your followers. It is very helpful. I just read some research about LDN and one study revealed MS symptom free until they went off the LDN. What I am curious about is if we are treating with diet exercise toxin free etc. and if the body starts producing endorphines on it’s own then why do symptoms return when the individual goes off the LDN? I am just starting to research this, so I don’t know much, but I am so thankful people are able to use it as a tool.

      Thank you,


      • Kim, thanks for your comment! It would seem that even with diet and exercise, endorphins while increased, are not produced endogenously at the therapeutic levels required to put the body into MS remission :-)

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