Low-Dose Naltrexone – a promising therapy for Hashimoto’s Disease?
A potentially promising new therapy for Hashimoto’s Disease (HD) has recently come to the attention of the Hashimoto community. Medications called Glucocorticoids (GC) are used to treat thyroid disorders, however, they also have some unpleasant side effects. Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN), when prescribed in pill form to people with moderate to severe HD, appears to offer the benefits of glucocorticoids without the side effects. It may also help people with thyroid cancer.
What is low-dose naltrexone?
It’s a way to get the benefits of opiates without the downside.
The downside, of course, is addiction. Opiates make you feel good—they make you feel better than you otherwise feel after a hard day, or when you’re sick, or when everything isn’t going quite right. And that feeling can be addictive. That’s why morphine and heroin are illegal drugs.
But if you take a little bit of an opiate—a very little bit—you get most of the benefits while avoiding the addiction. The trick is to take it at a low enough dose that it doesn’t give a feeling of pleasure but does relieve pain and other problems.
Low-dose naltrexone has been shown in trials to help people with autoimmune diseases such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis. It may reduce inflammation in the body generally and so could be helpful for a wide range of diseases such as Crohn’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
How does it work?
Low-Dose Naltrexone is an anti-inflammatory, so it is used for autoimmune diseases, tumors, and HIV. It works by stimulating the immune system rather than suppressing it. It is also used in cases of “autoimmune disease of unknown etiology,” which is to say when the cause of the problem isn’t known.
Low-Dose Naltrexone stimulates the immune system without suppressing it. It is not a “miracle cure” for all diseases but can be useful in treating autoimmune disorders, cancer, AIDS or latent HIV infection, and other conditions that may involve inflammatory processes.
Evidence for low-dose naltrexone in Hashimoto’s Disease
An immune system is a complex machine, and sometimes it breaks down. This can lead to a wide range of diseases–arthritis, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and more. Some of these conditions can be treated with drugs that suppress the immune system completely. Naltrexone is a drug that inhibits the immune system, although it is used primarily for treating addiction to opium-based drugs. It has been used in HIV patients successfully for this purpose.
In one study, low-dose naltrexone was given to 25 patients with Hashimoto’s disease. The average dose was 4.4 mg per day for 12 weeks. The treatment led to improvement in all measured parameters: lab tests showed lower thyroid hormone levels and reduced antibodies against the thyroid gland, indicating improved functioning of the gland itself.
So far no large studies have been done on this treatment, but the results so far are promising enough that it might be worth giving it a try if you have Hashimoto’s disease or another autoimmune disease that might be affected by reducing inflammation in the immune system.
Are there any side effects?
Low-dose naltrexone typically causes no adverse side effects, with the exception of occasional minor discomfort (e.g., sleep disturbance, nausea, fatigue, headache).
There are currently no scientific studies on the safety of low-dose naltrexone use by pregnant women or nursing mothers. It is also not known whether low-dose naltrexone passes into breast milk.
Also, it is important that you follow the dosage instructions provided by your doctor; if you do not swallow the capsule whole, it may be ineffective.
Could this be a safe, effective treatment for Hashimoto’s disease?
Low-dose naltrexone has been used successfully to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. These are all diseases that also appear in people with Hashimoto’s.
Research suggests that low-dose naltrexone works by blocking the action of endorphins at the level of the immune system. When endorphins are blocked, T cells become less reactive and attack autoimmune cells less aggressively.
Naltrexone itself blocks endorphin receptors, but at a dose high enough to have an effect on T cells it also would block opioid receptors. At low doses, this is not a problem, because endorphins are present in much higher concentrations than opioids throughout the body.
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Topics: autoimmune system disorders , chronic pain , hashimotos , Naltrexone , weight loss ,