What is Low-Dose Naltrexone?

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: Clinical Therapies
Last Reviewed 03/28/2014

What is Low-Dose Naltrexone?

Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) is a safe, inexpensive, yet underused drug that is extremely beneficial for people with conditions marked by immune system dysfunction.

Naltrexone has been used in 50 mg doses for decades to help patients recover from addiction to alcohol, heroin and other opiate drugs. However, more than 20 years ago it was discovered that very small doses of this drug—3 to 4.5 mg—have profound effects on the immune system.

How Does Low-Dose Naltrexone Work?

LDN works by boosting levels of endorphins (peptides produced in the brain and adrenal glands) that are best known for relieving pain and enhancing your sense of well-being. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner's high” brought on by strenuous exercise. These natural peptides are also powerful modulators of the immune system.

When you take LDN at bedtime, it attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and in all types of immune cells, which temporarily blocks endorphins from attaching to them. This signals your body to increase endorphin production. The increased endorphin production helps orchestrate the activity of stem cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, T and B cells and other immune cells.

It also prevents immune system overactivity, which is the crux of autoimmune disorders, and blunts the release of inflammatory and neurotoxic chemicals in the brain.

What Does Treatment With LDN Involve?

LDN requires a prescription and is available only from compounding pharmacies. (Regular pharmacies typically carry only 50 mg capsules.) The suggested dose is 3–4.5 mg per day, taken orally at bedtime.

The only contraindication is narcotic drugs. Low-dose naltrexone blocks the effects of narcotics and could cause withdrawal symptoms, so it should be started only after those drugs are completely out of your system.

LDN is safe and well tolerated. You may have vivid dreams at first, but sleep disturbances are rare. To avoid this, start with a dose of 1.5 mg and build up slowly over two months.

What Conditions Is LDN Good For?

  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Anti-aging
  • Autism
  • Celiac disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Ulcerative colitis

Learn more about low-dose naltrexone uses at the Whitaker Wellness Institute.

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