Low-Dose Naltrexone & Hashimoto’s

Among conventional medicine practitioners, levothyroxine is the most commonly prescribed medication for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. It’s a synthetic version of the hormone thyroxine (T4) — a hormone produced by the thyroid gland — and is used to replace thyroxine in the body when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough of it. 

However, while levothyroxine can be a game-changer for individuals with hypothyroidism — an underactive thyroid gland — additional interventions are necessary for those with Hashimoto’s disease — an autoimmune condition. The reason for this is pretty straightforward: Hashimoto’s is a disorder of the immune system, not the thyroid gland. 

Hashimoto’s can damage the thyroid gland over time and prevent it from producing enough T4, but treating hypothyroidism won’t necessarily address Hashimoto’s — the root cause. Instead, the immune system component must be addressed. For some Hashimoto’s patients, this could mean trying low-dose naltrexone (or LDN): an opioid receptor antagonist and immune system modulator

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of using low-dose naltrexone in treating Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other autoimmune conditions.

Low-Dose Naltrexone: what is it used for?

Naltrexone was initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1984 as a treatment for opioid addiction; however, it’s been used off-label at very low doses in recent years to manage Hashimoto’s disease and other medical conditions. Standard doses of the medication are also FDA-approved to treat alcohol use disorder. 

At the standard naltrexone dosage of about 50 to 100 mg daily, the medication reduces cravings for opioids (e.g. heroin, codeine, or morphine) and alcohol by:

  1. Blocking endogenous opiates produced by the brain and adrenal glands.
  2. Inhibiting the pleasurable effects of recreational drugs and alcohol.

In contrast, low-dose naltrexone — as the name implies — is used at very low doses between 0.5 to 4.5 mg daily.

At these low doses, LDN’s effect has nothing to do with drug or alcohol dependence. Rather, low doses of naltrexone help to increase the body’s endogenous (internal) production of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that relieve pain, enhance mood, and promote feelings of calm — and levels tend to be lower among patients with immune-related disorders such as Hashimoto’s. 

How Low-Dose Naltrexone works

When low-dose naltrexone is taken at bedtime, the medication blocks opiate receptors in the brain and tricks the body into thinking it’s low in endorphins. This blockade of opiate receptors typically occurs between 2 and 4 a.m. when LDN is taken at bedtime (for example, around 9 or 10 p.m.).

As a result of this blockade of opiate receptors, the body increases its endogenous (internal) production of these feel-good hormones. This is hugely beneficial for individuals with Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases, as endorphins play an important role in modulating the immune system and enhancing immune function! It’s just one of the reasons why I use low-dose naltrexone in my naturopathic functional medicine practice.

Low-Dose Naltrexone for pain, inflammation, and more

Though low-dose naltrexone is used off-label for the treatment of Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases, numerous benefits have been reported among patients and their physicians. For instance, along with managing autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, LDN may benefit those with cancer, late-stage Lyme disease, mold toxicity, emphysema (COPD), fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), multiple sclerosis (MS), endometriosis, depression, and many other conditions.  

I’ve personally observed the positive effects of using low-dose naltrexone in my naturopathic functional medicine practice, and it’s just one of the few invaluable medications I prescribe.  

Potential benefits of taking Low-Dose Naltrexone for Hashimoto’s may include:

While low-dose naltrexone doesn’t work for everyone who takes it, it’s generally deemed safe for most people to try. It’s affordable, halal, and has minimal side effects, with the most common ones being temporary (less than 14 days) changes in sleep quality and vivid dreams. Rarely, side effects may include headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, anxiety, and vomiting. When LDN side effects do occur; however, they tend to subside within a few days of starting treatment. 

Furthermore, since low-dose naltrexone is a pure antagonist — meaning it’s not a narcotic, controlled substance, or an opioid — patients experience no narcotic or euphoric effects from taking low-dose naltrexone. In other words, LDN is not addictive. However, anyone currently using opioids should avoid taking LDN as the opioids and LDN will negate each other’s effects.

Should you try Low-Dose Naltrexone for Hashimoto’s?

If you have Hashimoto’s; another type of autoimmune disease; or a complex chronic illness such as mold toxicity, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), or Lyme disease, it could be worth trying low-dose naltrexone. Book a naturopathic functional medicine appointment with me and we’ll assess your current health concerns and goals, discuss whether LDN could be an option for you, and design a comprehensive treatment plan that identifies and addresses the root causes of your symptoms.

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