Naltrexone sold under the brand names ReVia and Vivitrol was approved in 1984 by the FDA as an “opiate antagonist” for drug and alcohol addiction. An opiate antagonist is a drug that works in the brain and blocks opioids by attaching to the opioid receptors without activating them as well as preventing other opioids to bind to the receptors. These receptors are meant to respond to your bodies endorphins which are the “feel good” chemicals. Although it has been successful in keeping people out of addiction and used as an emergency aid for those who have overdosed, a man by the name of Dr Bernard Bihari discovered the role it played in immune function when taken in low doses.
When naltrexone is taken in low doses (1.0-4.5 mg daily), it causes an increased production and utilization of endorphins and opioid receptors by blocking this pathway temporarily (usually when endorphin level is highest between 2-4 am), which intern forces the body to compensate by producing its own natural opioids, increasing overall levels of endorphins and enkephalins. These increased endorphins and enkephalins are the heroes in the healing process. Endorphins are found in the human body originating from the amino acid L-tyrosine and the methyl group, L-methionine. These endorphins help manage pain, help regulate cell growth, immunity and much more according to The Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. Opioids in other parts of your body serve to regulate function of the pancreas and liver, glucose metabolism and insulin resistance which is may be present in many illnesses.
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) therapy has opened doors in successfully treating symptoms for chronic illnesses such as:
- HASHIMOTO'S: You can go into remission through modulating your immune system with LDN. The medication will help you move towards an appropriate immune status, and once the immune system is in balance again, you may be able to get off the LDN.
- PCOS: has shown to improve in women who are trying to get pregnant. It may decrease BMI, improve periods by 80% and decrease testosterone, cortisol and weight levels.
- PMS: alleviates symptoms and may be an effective treatment according to Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Mayo Clinic 1988.
- Endometriosis: is an imbalance of hormones, immune system, pain and inflammation, most all symptoms improved if not eradicated. Because Endometriosis has been shown to have similarities with various other autoimmune diseases by also presenting with elevation in inflammatory markers, LDN has been successful treatment due to its anti inflammatory agents.
- Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: significantly reduced pain, fatigue, stress levels, mood, and inflammation according to Stanford University. When other areas are addressed such as nutritional deficiencies, hormones, infections, environmental toxins, heavy metals with the addition of LDN therapy, both of these may be reversed if not significantly reduce the symptoms.
- Infertility: linked to hormonal and immune system imbalance has shown positive results in LDN therapy pre and post pregnancy. Fertility clinics in Europe have published reduction of miscarriages, safety in use during pregnancy up to 27 weeks as well as reduction in postpartum depression under treatment of a well versed health care provider.
- Auto Immune: diseases such as Lyme, Celiacs, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and much more have all shown to have a positive reaction to LDN therapy. One of the documented reasons of its success is due to LDN blocking the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (cells secreted by immune system) this modulates T-cell (hunts & destroys microbes) production and shifts the immune response from an allergic response to a compound that reduces the infectivity of microbes.
- Arthritis/Joint Pain/Pain: There is no single pain in the body. The nervous system (brain and spine) controls how the body processes and feels all pain. Opioid antagonist appear to work in pain management by reducing the force of pro-inflammatory response initiated by the release of cells called Microglia in the brain. Microglia are glial cells that aid the nervous system in oxygen and cleaning up. When there is an “assault” on the central nervous system via pain, the microglia are activated and release an inflammatory substance to destroy the invaders. LDN suppresses that inflammatory (inflammation) response of the Microglia according to an article released in 2014 by Stanford.
- Crohns Disease/ Ulcerative Colitis: an inflammatory condition afflicting the digestive tract with a connection that is known to signal opioids that long affects secretion and motility in the gut. In a study published by Journal of Gastroenterology in 2007 showed a 89% response to treatment while rectal imaging showed healed lining, ulcers resolved, and a healthy mucosa.
- IBS: up to 76% improvement of abdominal pain, stool urgency, consistency, and frequency according to a study published in Israel in 2006.
- Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s: when treatment is begun as early as possible, LDN has been successful. However, higher doses may be necessary for more progressive patients. Better mood and behavior, less confusion, reversal of behavior and lost function has been shown for both illnesses.
- Autism: behavioral improvements, increased verbal production and decreased autistic stereotypes according to study done in 2006.
- Multiple Sclerosis: 99% of Dr. Biharis MS patients showed improvement with 90% of MS symptoms, while 3 mg a day showed improvement to muscle spasms. Many studies now show that LDN is more effective than interferon in treating MS and reduces the inflammatory response.
Research has shown that the success in subsiding the symptoms of most illnesses listed above has been due to the 3 distinct receptor mechanisms and elements of LDN therapy:
- 1) action on opioid receptors to increase release of B-endorphins which are proteins synthesized by the pituitary gland in response to pain that function through both the central and peripheral nervous system to relieve pain when bound to opioid receptors.
- 2) ability to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and increase anti-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are chemical messengers, often made by immune cells, that increase or decrease immune function.
- 3) regulation of the opioid growth factors which may decrease tumor growth.
Because all body tissue and every cell in the immune system has receptors for these endorphins, LDN therapy has been proving itself to be one of the most advanced therapies available today. Even with lack of research, it may still be a viable form of treatment for a number of different cancers such as brain, bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, pancreatic, ovarian, uterine just to name a few.
Cancer: In a study having approximately 450 cancer patients directed by Dr. Bihari, nearly a quarter of his patients had at least a 75% reduction in tumor size, and nearly 60% of his patients demonstrated disease stability. It may be effective for cancer because it increases the number of opiate receptors within the tumors themselves, which makes them more responsive to the “tumor-shrinking” effects of endorphins. For example, the 2 published reports of long-term survival using LDN and infused alpha-lipoic acid in patients suffering from pancreatic cancer.
With all that said, those looking to use LDN therapy should seek the help of a well versed medical practitioner as there are precautions for individuals taking thyroid hormone replacement, opiate drugs and immunosuppressive drugs. It can be obtained by a regular compounding pharmacy and taken orally or in cream form in the evening while adjustments can be made according to mild symptoms that may arise.
To my surprise, in all of my years studying health and natural medicine, LDN has been one of the most astonishing therapies that I have had the pleasure of learning about. My philosophy is mind body soul awareness and how it affects our health in general, and this drug seems to definitely display a connection. When I think about the role an endorphin plays in our body, it is essentially a high vibrational, positive energy, “feel good” mechanism that is produced when the human is doing something that creates joy and happiness. That positive “happy adrenaline” can be created by a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual practice such as dancing, meditating, exercising and laughing. This drug is aiding in getting happiness back into the immune system which then aids in healing. This can be ideal, especially living in a world that may feel like its in a constant state of being stressed and sick. I now like to think of Dr. Bihari as a pillar in connecting how happiness creates a physical reaction that aids our immune system in healing through a drug.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.