Dr. Mercola – Low-Dose Naltrexone and Dietary Changes for the Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases
by John Bauer – August 12, 2016
The prevalence of autoimmune diseases
I have written previously about autoimmune diseases and how they seem to be increasing, potentially as a result of our modern western diet and lifestyle. If you are interested you can read more in this post titled The Cardiovascular Disease – Autoimmune Connection.
I am linking to two articles by Dr. Joe Mercola, osteopathic physician, author, and creator of mercola.com which discuss a novel treatment for some of these autoimmune conditions: low-dose naltrexone. Naltrexone was originally developed to treat heroin addiction as it is an opioid receptor blocker – of course that means it also blocks seratonin and all our naturally produced “feel-good” hormones which interact with these receptors.
It turns out that naturally produced opioids have a beneficial supportive effect on immune system function. Science has discovered that immune system deficiencies are linked to development of autoimmune disease – which seems counter-intuitive since autoimmunity is your immune system being somewhat over active and attacking itself by mistake. This seems to be brought on however by the imbalances in an immune system not functioning as well as it should.
The hormetic effect of LDN
Low-dose naltrexone is the ingestion of only a small amount of the normal opioid receptor dose for heroin overdose. This does still block the receptors, but in a limited way that creates hormesis – the situation where a “poison” in a small dose has the beneficial effect of stimulating production of the antidote.
In the case of LDN, the temporary blockage of the receptors signals the body to increase production of natural opiods such as seratonin in an attempt to activate them. It has been found to be very successful at accomplishing increased blood levels of these natural opiods.
This then has the added effect of helping to support and normalize the immune system as well, potentially lowering the tendency in autoimmune conditions for the immune system’s aberrant behavior in attacking our own cells.
How diet can assist
In the article it is also noted that both gluten and dairy also contain opiods, which may result in enough long term binding to receptors to cause the down-regulation of your natural opiods and the resulting immune system dysregulation. Of course, gluten has long also been suspected of causing “leaky gut” by damaging the intestinal lining and allowing foreign material into the bloodstream, thereby creating a chronic immune response against the foreign invaders.
I have written before about the benefits of eliminating most grains from your diet, and this is one more reason to consider doing so if you have not already. There are numerous other posts which you can refer to on this, such as how gluten grains damage your health.
It would appear that LDN side effects are almost non-existent, and so it also has an excellent safety profile. The Mercola article gives some resources to assist in finding physicians who are familiar with this novel treatment if you are interested.