By Liam Puknys, guest blogger for ZEGO
I generally distrust anything claiming to be a “wonder drug”. They are incredibly rare, and even seemingly miraculous “wonder drugs,” heck, even vitamin supplements, often have harmful side effects that we only discover years after widely using them. The smallpox vaccine drove its target, which used to kill one-fourth of all humans, to extinction in the wild, but also caused a mild sickness. Antibiotics, perhaps the greatest wonder drugs of all time, decimate opportunistic infections and have saved millions. But even with antibiotics there is trouble, as antibiotic resistance has become a real threat to the ability this class of drugs to continue protecting us.
Even still, antibiotics have been very successful over time in repressing once fatal infectious diseases. The problem rising in its stead is autoimmune disease. It seems for many of us, our immune systems are malfunctioning. In fact, over 23 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases today, such as Chrones, Colitis and Celiac Disease and that number is rising. That does not count other diseases like depression and diabetes that can also have autoimmune causes. In comparison, cancer affects about nine million.
We are still developing ways to fight this new pandemic. There is no proven wonder drug yet. However, recent research has pointed to a new drug, low dose naltrexone, as possibly being the revolutionary remedy that could help curb our “autoimmuning.” Naltrexone is an FDA-approved drug that you may have heard of because it stops heroin and opioid overdoses (it saved the artist known as Prince a few years ago). What does this have to do with your immune system?
It turns out that endorphins, your body’s natural opioids, play a vital role in regulating your immune system. They signal your T cells, which are the coordinators of your body’s immune system. Naltrexone blocks your brain’s opioid receptors.
In a large dose, this stops an opioid overdose. But, taken in small doses over a period of time, naltrexone causes your brain to send a signal to your body to make more endorphins. The extra endorphins help better coordinate your T cells and improve your immune system’s response to just about everything. By improving the functioning of your immune system, low dose naltrexone, or LDN, has the potential to enable your own body to cure these otherwise incurable autoimmune diseases.
We still do not understand the full potential of LDN> We need to do more research on it. The preliminary results are promising. A recent clinical study showed 65% of Chrones and Colitis patients participating showed marked improvement in symptoms, even without any dietary changes. Other studies have shown that taking LDN results in reduced inflammation, but much of the evidence supporting this is anecdotal or has not had rigorous review
Still another recent study by affiliates of St. George’s University in London suggests that LDN may even help your body fight off cancer. We need to do more research on this drug to learn more about its benefits and its side effects. However, the side effects so far seem to be minimal.
One of the most interesting parts of LDN is that patients are reporting very few negative side effects. The most severe seems to be moderate trouble sleeping in the first week, though this tends to fade quickly and is easily solved by lowering the dose. In fact, patients are told they may see an improvement in their mood over time from the increased production and uptake of endorphins—what a welcomed change of pace on a drug warning label!
And, in addition to the minimal side effects, LDN is cheap, ranging $45-$90 for a monthly supply, though it needs to be purchased from a compounding pharmacy, which can be hard to find. There is a benefit to using a compounding pharmacy, though, if you have food allergies. You see, the LDN dose is so small they need to use a filler, like lactose or cellulose, to make the pills a size that is easier to keep track of. So if you have allergies, a compounding pharmacist can use a safe filler for your medication.
Low dose naltrexone has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat autoimmune diseases and possibly cancer. What I like most about is is that, unlike many other drugs, it doesn’t try to overwhelm or supercede your immune system. It addresses to root of the problem via your T cells and encourages your body to fix the disease itself.
While we still need to conduct more research surrounding the drug, if you have an autoimmune disease, or multiple (my doctor rejects the diagnosis of numerous autoimmune diseases and just say that you are “autoimmuning”), ask your doctor. Many doctors are not aware of LDN treatment, so you may need to give them time to research it. It is prescription only, though, so you’ll definitely need your doctor’s support.