Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) is one of the few allopathic medicines that seems to be rather popular in functional medicine circles.
I have heard of people taking it for interstitial cystitis and therefore wanted to investigate the why and how it could be used and whether its use makes sense for this condition.
What is LDN?
Naltrexone is a drug belonging to the class of opioid antagonists. This means it blocks opioid receptors in the body.
It was first developed to be used in the treatment of morphine or heroin addiction as it can lessen cravings for these drugs.
For this purpose it is used at a higher dose between 50-300 mg.
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) refers to a very low dose (around 0.5-10 mg) of the drug Naltrexone.
LDN for chronic disease
The theory behind using LDN for chronic disease is that inhibiting opioid receptors at low doses may stimulate the body to produce endorphins (anti-pain neurotransmitter), upregulate the immune system and reduce the production of inflammatory compounds.
It is believed that at the standard high dose, opioid receptors are overwhelmed and therefore it does not have the same positive effect on the immune system.
Moreover, LDN may inhibit the activation of glial cells in the central nervous system. These cells are responsible for releasing chemicals that cause nerves to fire, resulting in pain.
Long-term, it is thought that LDN may improve well-being, reduce pain and depression and help function for those in chronic pain  (although it should never be taken along opioids or synthetic narcotics).
According to the LDN Research Trust ‘the main goal of LDN is to slow or halt the progression of disease’ .
Because of its potential effect on the immune system, LDN is most commonly used for autoimmune diseases where the main aim is to stop the body attacking its own tissues.
LDN and Interstitial Cystitis (IC)
I’ve heard some reports of people taking LDN for IC.
Unfortunately, there is not an awful lot of research into LDN and no research into LDN and IC.
Of the anecdotal evidence I’ve come across LDN may help some sufferers with the pain but generally seems most useful when IC occurs along other conditions, such as fibromyalgia.
One study has concluded that LDN used for fibromyalgia may lead to improved pain, mood and satisfaction with life .
There is not much evidence so far pointing to the use of LDN for IC.
However, it may be worth looking into for those with an autoimmune component, those who are also suffering from autoimmune conditions such as Sjorgen’s, which may affect the bladder.
Otherwise, the question remains why the bladder is inflamed – more and more evidence is pointing to microbial imbalances or chronic infections. That doesn’t mean LDN couldn’t potentially be used for symptom management but I doubt it would necessarily address the underlying issue.
LDN is a prescription medication, so anyone considering its use will need to work with an experienced doctor who can prescribe and knows how to dose it.
Have you got any experience with LDN? Let me know in the comments!
Pin it for later:
Wikipedia Naltrexone accessed Sept 2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naltrexone
Wikipedia Low Dose Naltrexone accessed Sept 2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-dose_naltrexone
LDN Research Trust How Naltrexone Works https://www.ldnresearchtrust.org/how-naltrexone-works
- Noon, K. et al A novel glial cell inhibitor, low dose naltrexone, reduces pain and depression, and improves function in chronic pain: A CHOIR study Journal of Pain [April 2016Volume 17, Issue 4, Supplement, Page S79] https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(16)00425-9/abstract
- Chopra, Pradeep Low Dose Naltrexone and Chronic Pain LDN Research Trust https://www.ldnresearchtrust.org/content/low-dose-naltrexone-and-chronic-pain-pradeep-chopra-md
- Carey, E. Pharmacological Management of Chronic Pelvic Pain in Women Drugs (2017) [77: 285.] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40265-016-0687-8#citeas