Can Low-Dose Naltrexone Improve Fertility?

Can Low-Dose Naltrexone Improve Fertility?

Finding myself in a lot of pain over the years spurred my interest in science and medicine. I was always searching for ways to ease my endometriosis and adenomyosis pain and it's one of the reasons I started Agent. I wanted to create toxic-free products and educate others on the latest research and treatments I have used in my personal journey. 

I've heard many of your stories about fertility and know how draining this can be on both women and men. Did you know that infertility affects 10 to 15% of couples in the US and infertility in women makes up 30% of these cases?

I'm constantly reading medical journals on how to improve fertility and there's one drug that's super interesting to me thanks to its positive impact: Naltrexone. In today's article, I dive deeper into Naltrexone, more specifically low-dose Naltrexone, and its benefits.

The History of Naltrexone / Low-dose Naltrexone (LDN)

Naltrexone is a widely-researched drug and was initially approved in 1984 by the FDA as a treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Known as an “opiate antagonist,” it works in the brain and blocks opioids by attaching to the opioid receptors without activating them. It also prevents other opioids from binding to receptors. 

That said, according to Dr. Bernard Bihari, Naltrexone has proven successful in helping people with addiction and benefits immune function. Dr. Bernard Bihari (1931-2010) carried out a clinical trial for HIV/AIDS patients in 1985-86 and discovered that LDN was effective at protecting the immune system of those infected. He went on to further discover that the application of Naltrexone in this way could aid several autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia, endometriosis, adenomyosis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Low-dose Naltrexone (LDN) & Endorphins

Low-dose Naltrexone (LDN) therapy has opened doors in successfully treating symptoms for chronic illnesses such as Hashimoto’s, PCOS, PMS, endometriosis, and fertility. This research has more recently been carried out at great length by Dr. Phil Boyle (MB BCh NUI, MICGP, MRCGP, CFCP Director of the NaPro Fertility Care Clinic in Dublin, Ireland, and President of the International Institute for Restorative Reproductive Medicine), who has linked that the role of endorphins has to play on our immune system. He also noted “endorphin-deficiency states” as a possible driver for infertility. 

Endorphins create happiness and joy in most cells in the body and they play an important part in regulating cell growth and the immune system. Dr. Phil Boyle hypothesizes that “this drug [Naltrexone] is aiding in getting happiness back into the immune system, which results in healing." This can be ideal, especially living in a world that tends to be in a constant state of stress. I now like to think of Dr. Bihari as a pillar in connecting how happiness creates a physical reaction to aid our immune system. 

By taking Naltrexone at one-tenth of its usual dose (c.10-4.5mg daily), studies have indicated an increase in the production of endorphins and opioid receptors by blocking this pathway temporarily. Usually, endorphin levels are highest between 2 am and 4 am, forcing the body to compensate by producing its own natural opioids and increasing overall levels of endorphins and enkephalins (The Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine).

Research has also shown LDN to have very few side effects with no potential for abuse. Plus, only a small amount is needed making it a cost-effective treatment, a welcome change to the high cost of traditional fertility treatments.

Infertility & Dr. Phil Boyle's Research

If you are struggling to conceive for at least a year, you may be diagnosed as infertile. For women, it could be due to ovulation disorders, endometriosis, or early menopause. For men, it could be due to abnormal sperm production, toxins, or cancer. 

In his practice, Dr. Phil Boyle, used LDN to treat many patients with autoimmune disorders as an "off-label" medication and was intrigued to find that many of his infertile patients were able to conceive while taking LDN. He deduced via his clinical observation that this was an indicator of a deficiency in endorphins, as LDN is known to stimulate endorphin production. He noted, "I've put about 2500 people on Naltrexone. At this point, I find it's clinically appropriate to try LDN in up to 50% of my subfertile patients. Of those, about 80% experience a positive response to LDN."

Dr. Phil Boyle has utilized LDN for 19 years with great success and has successfully prescribed LDN to women with endometriosis and observed fewer cases of miscarriage and healthier pregnancies. However, it's important to assess the patient's endorphin levels before starting treatment; if somebody's endorphin levels are already pretty good. You can over-boost endorphins with LDN when you don't need it and end up feeling unwell. Your fertility can also be impaired. More research is yet to be done, but there is huge potential to be found in prescribing LDN as a treatment for those with infertility.

If you are struggling to conceive, it may be worth talking with your doctor about endorphin deficiency and how LDN could potentially help with fertility. As always, I'll keep you updated on any new research on low-dose Naltrexone and its benefits.