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What is low dose naltrexone?

Naltrexone in its common dose and form was approved by the FDA in 1984 for blocking the effects of opioid drugs and medications. Naltrexone also blocks the reception of the opioid hormones that our brain and body produce.  Most cells in the body including every cell of the body’s immune system have receptors for these naturally occurring substances.


In 1985, Bernard Bihari, MD, researched the effects of using a very low dose of naltrexone on the body’s immune system. He found that using a dose of only 3mg, taken at bedtime, was able to enhance a patient’s response to infections.


Dr. Bihari later found that patients in his practice with cancers such as lymphoma or pancreatic cancer could benefit from low dose naltrexone or LDN for short.  In addition, people who had an autoimmune disease often showed prompt control of disease activity while taking low dose naltrexone.


In practice, the physicians at Oregon Natural Medicine have used low dose naltrexone to help with the symptoms related to most autoimmune conditions including lupus, hashimotos thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis (UC), and rheumatoid arthritis.


How does low dose naltrexone work?

Although it is not clearly understood how low dose naltrexone works it is believed that it may boost the body’s own natural defenses.  Much research has pointed our own opioid secretion as important factor in helping regulate our immune systems. Researchers at The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania believe that low dose naltrexone exerts a profound inhibitory effect on cell proliferation.


According to The New England Journal of Medicine, opioids alter the development, differentiation, and function of immune cells . Bone marrow progenitor cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, immature thymocytes and T cells, and B cells are all involved. Recently opioid receptors have been identified on on immune cells makes it even more likely that opioids have direct effects on the immune system.


The brief blockade of opioid receptors that is caused by taking low dose naltrexone at bedtime each night is believed to produce a prolonged up-regulation of increase in endorphins.  These endorphins are normally deficient in patients with autoimmune diseases.  This deficiency of endorphins can be restored . This restoration of the body’s normal production of endorphins is thought to be the major therapeutic action of low dose naltrexone.


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