It’s uncommon to find a pharmaceutical medication that improves health at a root-cause level. Certain antibiotics and other antimicrobials (such as those used in Lyme disease treatment) are technically root-cause medications because they address underlying infections. However, most other drugs in the conventional medical compendium treat symptoms, not the underlying causes of those symptoms. There is, however, one medication that is an exception to this rule – low-dose naltrexone, or “LDN” for short. Read on to learn about what LDN is and how it can help individuals with Lyme disease.
In This Article:
What is Low-Dose Naltrexone, and How Does it Work?
Naltrexone hydrochloride is a medication traditionally used in addiction treatment to help reduce cravings and feelings of euphoria in people dealing with substance abuse, thereby helping people overcome their addictions. It works by acting as an antagonist at opioid receptors in the nervous system, blocking the reinforcing effects of drugs and alcohol on these receptors. Typical doses of naltrexone for addiction treatment range from 50-100 mg per day. Low-dose naltrexone (LDN), on the other hand, is a low dose of naltrexone. It has a very different mechanism of action and c, including chronic Lyme disease.
LDN is typically administered in a 1.5-6.5 mg dosage range per day. At these lower dosages, naltrexone no longer acts as an antagonist at opioid receptors; instead, it modulates the immune system, helping to reset the immune dysfunction that can occur in chronic Lyme disease and thereby promote healing. (1)
LDN appears to reduce pain and inflammation by functioning as an antagonist at toll-like receptors (TLRs), which are involved in the body’s inflammatory response. When LDN antagonizes TLRs in the brain, it can reduce neuroinflammation, a physiological process that occurs in certain types of autoimmune diseases and in Lyme disease. LDN also modulates the immune system by stimulating the release of endogenous opioids within our bodies; these endogenously-produced opioids stimulate cellular renewal and have immunoregulatory effects. (2)
What Conditions Does Low-Dose Naltrexone Treat?
Since the 1980s, doctors have experimented with the use of LDN for various disorders involving the immune system and neurological system. Scientific research suggests that LDN may be beneficial for treating the following conditions:
Autoimmunity: LDN modulates multiple immune system pathways, making it helpful in treating certain autoimmune diseases. Several small, randomized studies indicate that LDN is beneficial for multiple sclerosis. (3) It may also induce remission in individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease. (4)
Fibromyalgia: LDN taken for 8 weeks at a dosage of 4.5 mg per day has been found to reduce markers of inflammation in women with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue that often coincides with chronic infections such as Lyme disease. (5, 6)
Chronic fatigue syndrome: Several case reports suggest that LDN may be useful for individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) (7, 8), another nonspecific diagnosis that, like fibromyalgia, may stem from chronic infections such as Lyme disease. (9)
Chronic pain: Emerging research suggests that LDN may act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the central nervous system and, therefore, be helpful for the management of chronic pain disorders. (10) Chronic pain is a common symptom experienced by individuals with chronic Lyme disease.
Depression: LDN has been found to reduce depression severity in individuals with major depressive disorder. (11) Its mechanism of action isn’t completely clear but may involve modulation of dopamine signaling pathways in the brain.
Parkinson’s disease: In a small open-label study, LDN improved fatigue in individuals with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that causes tremors, muscular rigidity, and impaired movements and is associated with changes in dopamine levels. (12)
Low-Dose Naltrexone Shows Promising Results for Lyme
Low-dose naltrexone is a promising therapeutic agent that demonstrates beneficial effects in multiple chronic conditions, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic pain. Interestingly, the conditions for which LDN has shown efficacy are often associated with Lyme disease. The clinical experience of numerous clinicians on the frontlines of Lyme disease treatment suggests that LDN is indeed beneficial for managing immune dysregulation in Lyme disease, making it a potentially useful component of Lyme treatment protocols.