I’ve had a few people with autoimmune thyroid conditions ask me about the benefits of taking low dose naltrexone (LDN), and so I figured I’d put together a brief post discussing this. Naltrexone is a prescription medication, and it was originally approved by the FDA as a treatment for heroin and opium addicts, as it blocks the effects of these drugs. 50mg was the typical dosage used for this, but in 1985, Dr. Bernard Bihari discovered that lower dosages of naltrexone helped to enhance the person’s immune system.
Fast forward to today, and LDN is used to help people with different types of conditions in order to modulate the immune system. This includes HIV, cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, and autoimmune conditions, including Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I’ve heard some stories from people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis who received great results when receiving LDN treatments. On the other hand, I’ve also come across some people who received this treatment and claimed it didn’t help.
How Does Taking Low Dose Naltrexone Help?
This drug blocks the opiate receptors, which increases the levels of endorphins, and this in turn will modulate the immune system. This should result in a reduction of thyroid antibodies. So the goal is to restore the body’s levels of endorphins, which is commonly depleted in people with autoimmune thyroid conditions, and doing this will essentially help to suppress the autoimmune response in people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
What Are The Pros and Cons of LDN?
Well, the benefits of taking this medication is that it potentially can suppress the autoimmune response, thus lowering the thyroid antibodies, and eliminate the person’s symptoms. It also is relatively inexpensive. Since the dosage is very small (around 3 to 4.5 mg) side effects are rare. These are three great reasons to consider giving this treatment a try.
However, there are some disadvantages to this treatment. One of them is that that not everyone who takes LDN will respond. Of course the same can be said with other types of treatments as well. After all, not everyone will do well when taking thyroid medication or receiving radioactive iodine treatment, and not everyone who follows a natural treatment protocol will restore their health back to normal. Another downside is that the person supposedly will need to take this medication for the rest of their life. Of course if it doesn’t come with any long term side effects then this might not be a problem. And while it doesn’t seem to have immediate side effects, the long term effects are still unknown.
The biggest problem with relying on low dose naltrexone alone is that it still doesn’t address the underlying cause of the condition. Yes, it will help to control the autoimmune response, which is causing the thyroid gland to malfunction. But it won’t do anything for the cause of the autoimmune condition. In other words, taking LDN won’t address the factor or factors which triggered the autoimmune response in the first place, which is why you will need to take it on a permanent basis. So it will do absolutely nothing for weak adrenal glands, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, digestive issues, toxic metals, imbalances of the sex hormones, etc. So while it might be a better option than taking synthetic thyroid hormone forever or receiving radioactive iodine treatment, LDN is not a cure for any autoimmune thyroid condition.
Combining LDN With A Natural Treatment Approach
I’m not opposed to people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis taking low dose naltrexone. However, for those people who choose LDN I recommend combining it with a natural treatment approach. Of course part of a natural treatment protocol involves giving supplements and herbs which help suppress the autoimmune response, but if someone wants to incorporate LDN then I have no problem with this. Even though LDN doesn’t seem to have any serious side effects, I’m still not thrilled about people taking any type of drug, especially on a permanent basis, and so I would of course prefer for someone to follow the natural treatment protocol alone at first, and then perhaps incorporate LDN later on if the person isn’t responding as expected.
In summary, although low dose naltrexone can help some people with the immune system component of Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, this treatment isn’t a cure for these conditions. While people with autoimmune thyroid conditions may benefit from taking this medication, it doesn’t do anything for weak adrenals, mineral deficiencies, gut issues, toxic metals, hormone imbalances, and other health issues that might act as triggers for Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.