This is my final installment of my 3 part series on Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) therapy
Benefits for healthy people
If you currently suffer from any of the types of immune system related ailments I discussed in my last segment you may find LDN of interest, but even if you don’t there still is a lot to be excited about in my opinion. Although pretty much untested for in use by healthy individuals who wish to become more healthy, I think we may find LDN offers some pretty cool potential.
Certainly being able to keep your endorphin system in tip top shape is going to lead to better, more enjoyable workouts as well as provide psychological benefits outside of the gym. More endorphins during a workout means more activation of the dopamine reward system and that means positive reinforcement every time you work out (gym addicts know what I am talking about). On top of that, the positive influence on immune system competence and inflammatory responses might help keep overtraining and chronic injury flare-ups at bay.
There are widespread reports of increased energy and improved quality of sleep (with more vivid dreams) from people on the internet who have reported their experiences using LDN to treat various diseases. Another interesting phenomenon reported by men is an increase in morning erections, and although the cause of this is not exactly known it may have something to do with an increase in testosterone levels.
I am not sure if there is a substantial connection between LDN therapy and testosterone, but naltrexone definitely has the potential to influence the hypothalamic pituitary testicular axis (HPTA). Many studies have shown increases in testosterone levels in animals (including humans), as well as increases in sexual activity and libido with administration of naltrexone. Naltrexone increases the release of GnRH from the hypothalamus, and GnRH is the signal that causes the pituitary to release LH and FSH, which of course then increases testosterone and sperm production in the testes. Opiate receptors have an important regulatory role in GnRH production, and apparently receptor blockade results in increased output of GnRH. Of course LDN therapy only results in temporary opiate receptor blockade, so any up-regulation of the HPTA is probably also transient. Whether this nighttime spike in HPTA activity is enough to cause an increase in morning “wood” is debatable, and its possible that some other neuroendocrinological phenomenon is at play.
Practical aspects of LDN therapy
The protocol for LDN is pretty simple. A small dose (anywhere from 1.5 to 5mg) of naltrexone is taken at night before bedtime. This will result in an opiate blockade of a few hours while you are asleep. Side effects are pretty rare, but initially there may be a little bit of insomnia in the early part of the night and over-stimulation during the day. Heartburn has also been reported. One important thing to take note of is that naltrexone should never be taken if one is also taking a narcotic analgesic medication (codeine, hydrocodone, methadone etc) as it will block its effects. This is especially critical for people addicted to such drugs, as naltrexone will precipitate severe withdrawal symptoms in these individuals. Naltrexone is a relatively non-toxic drug but it has been associated with elevated liver enzymes. At the dose used in LDN therapy hepatotoxicity is unlikely to be an issue though.