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 and junkies 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:

Comments

188 responses to “What is Low Dose Naltrexone?”

  1. Thank you everyone that shares its helps others so much!! Elana I have been following you for several years now have all your books and can’t thank you enough you started this blog and that you have stayed true and real. It’s so appreciated. I am a celiac hashi fibromyalgia girl who has been tested for MS more times then I would like to remember myelin sheath damage still “isn’t bad enough” to get the diagnosis. I just started LDN 3 1/2 weeks in and was feeling pretty good then boom anxiety and leg weakness kicked in I am on 1.5mg. I just didn’t take first one last
    Night and feel little better today. I too am in FB groups that suggested I skip one to let it clear also have call in to my doctor. Anyways glad to read everyone stories. Happy thoughts prayers and hope for all in our ongoing healing endeavors. I always say I might be broken but I refuse to break!! I love my life my family and that’s what keeps me keeping on. Never
    Gonna let the pain or food issues stop me from being. :) thank you again Elena!! Making your chicken with the olives and pruned tonight completely just blanked on the name opps. But it’s one of our weekly favorite meals!! Since I know the recipe by heart now name has completely escaped me! Time for a bone broth protein powder shake! Lol what I really want is a triple chocolate cupcake ha ha waiting on my Lily’s chocolate chips to come in from
    Amazon!! Where is that UPS man!!!

    • Lisa, thanks so much for sharing your health journey with me. Sorry it’s been such a challenge, but love to hear that you’re hanging in there! I’m so happy to hear that you have my books and that you are enjoying them :-)

  2. This is quite the interesting read, I had never even heard of this ldn medication until my brother-in-law mentioned it the other day at dinner. It definitely seems like it could be useful in helping deal with a lot of pain. If it can help you with your multiple sclerosis as you point out in the article, then I might have to talk to my doctor about it the next time I see him.

      • Has anyone had good LDN results taking it in the morning. My sleep is disturbed if I take it at nolight. My functional medicine doctor says medical community says morning or night will work. I’ve taken it in the morning with some good results. May increase dose. Seems my thyroid works better on ldn and i may need to reduce armour somewhat because I have a hard time getting to sleep. Any chat on this is appreciated. I live in the Hygeine/Longmont area, Elana. Curious to know who your docs are? Is that OK to ask? Thx. Jean

        • I was reading some responses and wanted to add one. LDN has really helped Me with My symptoms of Fibromyalgia. But, I too have to take it in the morning. Insomnia if I try at night. Also, I take a much smaller dose due to trial and error. 2mgs. And even this small amount keeps Me comfortable and My sleep is great. Every time I try to increase My dose, which has been two years now, makes Me so ugly, it’s like having pms all day. I am so glad I trusted My pain Dr. when he suggested it.

  3. I have a disorder that is characterized by chronic pain. If that’s not enough for one person, I’had cancer 20 years ago, Dx osteomalacia, was Dx’d w/ Hashi’s , Atrophic Gastritis (assumed auto-immune) and tumors that go along with that, and became intolerant of gluten(no postive biopsy but they are going to look at the slide from 2011 …pre GF….to see if there is indication of celiac since I have the celiac gene). Oh and throw the normal stuff in like allergies, asthma, & dermatology issues: eczema, lichan planus, psoriasis Hx.Let’s just say I have a very active immune system.

    My LDN Experience (it’s rather funny):

    I would not go to a pain doc until I could find a good one. I finally found one who is just lovely.. By this time, I had daily fatigue and pain. He prescribe 3 mgs of LDN.

    At the same time, my husband asked if I wanted to go on a 2 week business trip to Hawaii. I thought I’d stay home because the weather was going to be wonderful. Well, boy did I ever have a result with LDN! I literally was numbed by it. But it was more like being drunk and not being able to feel your feet. And literally I felt like I was drunk. I stopped driving for 2 weeks because I was so unsteady and ate nearly nothing because I wasn’t hungry nor did I have the time. That’s right, I did not have the time because for the first week, I would sleep 15 hours a day. I slept a long night and was force to nap 2 times a day. I had no vivid dreaming. I usually don’t ever remember dreaming and I started to vaguely remember dreaming while on the LDN. My GI track slowed until I got used to it. it was all odd but a great relief of the pain I was having.

    So there I was, beautiful weather and lots of plans. And I did nothing but sleep for the most of 2 weeks. I don’t know anyone who reacted the same way as I did.

    Last year, I had some stress and my pain broke through. So my doctor raised me from 4.5-6 mgs. I was desperate because I couldn’t sleep due to the pain. I crossed my fingers and took the extra 1.5 mgs. And poof! pain gone with no other effects. I expected something like before and I just felt great. I’m unable to get back to the 4.5 mg. I start to feel the pain again so I guess I will just stay where I am.

    I think it is difficult to tell how each person will react. In hindsight I should have started on .5 or 1.0 mgs. I don’t know why they don’t start out that way with everyone. In the end, I ppreciate being able to take the LDN. It has given me my life back and improved my gut. (There were so many foods I couldn’t digest before LDN!)

    • You mentioned having some stress. Did increasing the dose help with the pain break through? I have taken ldn since jan 2016 and was doing great. Have been extremely stressed for a while now and pain has increased tremendously i was taking 2.25 ldn wondering if maybe i should increase my dose.

  4. My doctor prescribed LDN for hair loss and other symptoms ( weight gain, fatigue) I was having ( based on a low normal free t3/reverse t3 ratio). She ordered 4.5mg to be taken in the morning. Has anybody seen any improvement in these types of symptoms ( particularly hair loss) with LDN.

    • Hi Sheryl,

      I’m actually meeting with my doctor next week to discuss starting LDN for the same thing, hair loss and some recent fatigue. The hair loss is my biggest concern though. Im so ready to stop the madness and wondering will this therapy help this or not?

  5. I really appreciate your website and articles Elana. I just want to offer another experience and a dangerous side effect of LDN. My doctor prescribed it for me for my neurological condition believed to be a form of MS ( although not for sure).

    I was on it for a week, I had to try looking for something that would help. My doctor said this was essentially side effect free “other than some weird dreams for a few days”.

    I always had an issue with low back pain, at the time of trying the LDN it wasn’t particularly bad. About 3 days after getting on it my back pain skyrocketed I ended up in the hospital on opiates. Turns out, that LDN turns OFF endorphins production in the brain until the brain start to produce extras by itself so any small pain will skyrocket. Bad idea for someone with chronic back pain. Be careful when experimenting with this drug, it is not always side effect free.

  6. Excellent article!

    My Naturopathic Doctor handed me an Rx for 3 mg of Naltrexone. As I hate taking drugs I held off for 3 weeks then decided to try it.

    I have an autoimmune disorder that affects my heart and has ruined many days in the last 2 1/2 years. Plus, after a car accident, I have had a lot of issues with neuropathy that affect everything from my heart to ability to eat or drink to being able to drive.

    After my first dose of LDN I had the best day I’ve had in years! It was a little much for me at first so I take 1.5 mg each night. I feel like I am getting my life back again.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Kat, it made my day! I’m so happy we are on this healing path together :-)

  7. Such a helpful article. A friend just suggested LDN for my husband’s ankylosing spondylitis. He is in chronic neck and back pain, and has lost nearly all vision in his right right eye as a result of the inflammation. He will have surgery early next year on his eye to hopefully restore the vision. We have followed a low-inflammation diet for almost a year and he’s lost 40+ pounds and wasn’t overweight to begin with! His rheumatologist has been pushing us straight to biologics and we’ve not had peace with that option. We’ve been trying EO’s along with the diet with minimal results, and are hopeful to find a treatment between NSAIDS (he’s been on meloxicam, which offers minimal pain relief but aggravates his stomach) and biologics. If anyone has a recco for alternative NSAIDs that would help other than meloxicam, as well as any success with LDN or IGG’s that are not biologics, I’d love to hear your story. Blessings, and Merry Christmas!

    • I have Ankolsing spondylitis and LDN has helped do much. Went off of it and 6 months later in lots of pain and very tired again. I had changed my diet and wanted to see if diet alone could work. My pain is much less when I don’t eat what triggers me, but it’s not able to keep me pain free and function. I have to many things going on wit AS. So back on LDN with all my diet changes.

  8. Hi Elana, I’ve just started LDN for some immune disfunction. I’ve followed your blog for years, been gluten free for going on 6 years myself. It’s great to know that others are having success with it. I have a private question to ask you, if you can contact me, I would appreciate it. Keep up the great work!

    • Hi JGC, thanks for your comment! I would love to help, unfortunately there are many people that want to speak to me privately each week and it’s not feasible for me to take on this type of work. I do however, answer brief questions here for the benefit of all of my readers. If you feel comfortable leaving your question here, please do so, if not I understand. Thanks for stopping by :-)

    • JCS,
      I just took my first pill tonite. Would love to hear about your experience with this. I was started at 1mg and will go up another 1mg in 2 weeks. Praying for good results.
      Cheri

  9. Saying this is “used to treat cancer” is misleading at best, inaccurate and irresponsible at worst. It is being in tested in a few clinical trials, ie it is far from proven as effective against any cancer.

    And don’t get me started on “when you feel sick the best thing you can do is listen to your body and do whatever it takes to feel good again.” The comments above again apply. So “if it feels good do it?” Really? If smoking a cigarette makes me feel good I should do it then? Good grief.

    I won’t hold my breath about this comment being approved. But I ask you to consider what you’ve said above might need a little editing, or at least think a little more carefully before posting such things.

    • Bill

      Before you shoot your mouth off, do the research and see what this “Old Drug” is doing. Go to the LDN Research Trust sites and other LDN reports and see if you want to retract your rude comments.

      • congratulations Elana on your success with LDN …

        agreed Russell, Bill seems like a “level one thinker”…

        After much reading on LDN (lots of studies done at Penn State Hershey…) we have had great results with LDN as part of an intensive protocol for colon cancer for my dog.

        you can read more at: http://dognasalcancertreatmentforlucy.blogspot.com.br
        thanks to Gary Tippner for his tireless efforts…

    • OMG

      ELANA IS NOT A DOCTOR

      BUT YOU ARE ON HER SITE

      SHE DIDNT SAY IT CURED CANCER

      ONLY THAT SOME ARE USING IT FOR TREATMENTS

      THIS IS GOOD TO KNOW IF YOU ARE LOOKING

      FOR HELP

    • Bill, I think you owe Elana an apology. You are probably well meaning but ignorant of what is happening with LDN (with alpha lipoic acid) in cancer treatment. Bert Berkson MD is quite respected. And he is not the only respected, well trained MD who knows about it. In my conservative area (known for its healthcare, internationally), MDs know about it and some quietly prescribe it because they don’t want to be chastised by peers.

      You should do some research on him:

      http://drberkson.com/2015/08/about-dr-burton-berkson/

      Back in the late 60’s, he was on rotation at the NIH and saved some lives by administering alpha lipoic acid intravenously to patients who had liver poisoning (mushrooms were a “thing” in those days) after being told by his attending to provide palliative comfort (which means keep comfortable until the die). He was chastised for having kept them alive and curing them with the alpha lipoic acid.

      Sometimes that’s how conventional medicine works. I can mention many ways things like this happen today in the USA.

      So please, try to be a little open minded. Look on Pub Med and you will find stuff. And understand there is not a lot of interest in LDN research because there is “zero” money to be made on it. It is almost as cheap as dirt. That’s why you don’t know much about it. It certainly won’t be advertised on prime time during commercials.

      • C, thanks so much for pointing out the deficiencies in our medical system and how drugs are brought to market. Yes, it is a shame that LDN has not reached more people who need it.

        • It is also a shame that my insurance will not pay for it. It was prescribed for Chronic Reginal Pain Syndrome, CRPS.

          • Mary, agreed. After we revolutionize our food system we will need to change our insurance system and health care!

  10. “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.”

    This is one of the most balanced and unpretentious things I have read on a website in a long time. Thanks for the fair and true statement.

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