Could Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) be a Silver Bullet for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis Patients?

This is a short post to introduce a medication that is being investigated and is being very actively used by a large number of thyroid patients to calm down immune system responses.

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that has been used and approved to treat opioid addiction and alcohol addiction - at high doses.

When naltrexone is taken in low doses it is known as low dose naltrexone or LDN. LDN has been shown by researchers to work in a different way to naltrexone. LDN stimulates the production of more endorphins, which modulate the immune system and re-balance any excessive immune system responses. Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist, which modulates the immune system through its effect on opioid receptors.  It is claimed that any side effects of LDN are minor.

LDN is usually used with a starting dose of 1.5 milligrams, rising to 4.5 milligrams at the most. Although, extensive clinical trials have not been done specifically on LDN there is extensive information available on the safety of the much higher dosage naltexone, which is an approved medication.

Low dose naltrexone (LDN) is currently being used to treat some autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. Other autoimmune conditions may also benefit from LDN treatment. Research teams are continuing to investigate the potentially very important benefits that LDN is alleged to bring.

I've communicated with many Hashimoto's thyroiditis patients who have told me that LDN has made their Hashimoto's autoantibodies drop to lower levels and has relieved many of their symptoms including fibromyalgia. Some claim that LDN has fixed their fibromyalgia or brain fog. I've also spoken to patients with other autoimmune conditions who have told me that LDN has made a significant difference to their lives and in many cases has eradicated their symptoms.

It is also claimed that LDN promotes healing and reduces sensitivity to gluten and casein as well as reducing or stopping autoimmune reactions.

LDN is clearly not a cure for gluten intolerance. LDN will not change the chemical structure of gluten and make it more a non-issue for those with gluten intolerance. If gluten or any other food is a significant issue for a patient then they would be well advised to remove these problem foods from their diet and heal their digestive system before starting to use LDN. Candida in particular should be addressed prior to commencing the LDN protocol to prevent an outbreak once the treatment with LDN begins. 

It is important to be absolutely clear that full clinical trials resulting in approval to use LDN for a wide range of autoimmune thyroid conditions have not been done yet. Campaigners are in the process of trying to get approval for these trials.

There is extensive information regarding LDN and its use available on the Internet and via patient based forums.

I do not know if LDN might be the silver bullet that many Hashimoto's thyroid patients have been hoping for but at least for some it appears to be helpful.

One thing caught my eye though and that LDN is thought to interact with the microglia cells within the central nervous system. This interaction on microglial cells results in a reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines as well as neurotoxic superoxides. This really got my attention because in my book 'Recovering with T3' I discuss the possibility of cytokines from the immune system interfering with thyroid hormone and leading to what I refer to as 'impaired cellular response to thyroid hormone'. It is precisely this impairment that leads some people to require T3 on its own. So, I am very interested in whether LDN be help to reduce or even remove this problem and also improve symptoms such as 'brain fog' in some thyroid patients.

I can still not answer the question of whether LDN is truly a silver bullet for Hashimoto's thyroditis patients and other thyroid patients but I am intrigued by LDN. I am personally continuing to investigate LDN and I am very hopeful that some thyroid patients will derive great benefit from it. 

Here are some resources for thyroid patients who want to find out more about LDN

The main website for low dose naltrexone: http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org/

The LDN Research Trust website: http://www.ldnresearchtrust.org/

Dr. Mercola wrote on LDN recently: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/19/one-of-the...

There are also several  Facebook groups where patients are discussing LDN - just join Facebook and search on LDN for patient groups that discuss LDN.

This site discusses the potential modulating effect on pro inflammatory cytokines of LDN: http://www.allergycenter.com/low-dose-naltrexone.html

Here are two great links to videos that explain more about LDN and how it works: 

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv...  and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVpjsDK0LPA&feature=related

I am grateful for the help from Deb Eastman Anderson for providing some of the information and links for this short article.