Last week, my integrative physician recommended several new supplements to remedy nutritional and physiological deficiencies. I pulled out my wallet and said, “Take my money!” because, right now, it feels like the most empowering thing I can do for my health. Along with addition of glutathione (protects cell mitochondria by eliminating free radicals) and calcium d-glucarate (inhibits beta-glucuronidase, allowing my body to excrete recirculating toxins), she prescribed a low-dose of a something generally used to ween people from their drug-dependence. I listened carefully as the doctor explained the mechanism behind low-dose naltrexone and I’m certain my jaw dropped as my eyes grew wider. To say I was wary of her option would be an great understatement.
My boyfriend filled the prescription at the compounding pharmacy for me while I waffled in indecision. He insisted that I give it a try for a few weeks. It’s only 2.5% of the normal dosage, and there are no side effects and no risks.
Two nights ago, I took my 1.5mg dose with an overwhelming concern that the opioid antagonist would somehow lead to a lifelong addiction to a substance I’ve never even been exposed to. Then, the following morning, I woke up feeling the best I’ve felt in literally years. I woke up early, didn’t require caffeine to get moving and survive the day, didn’t require a nap and stayed up hours past my usual bedtime (which is the same as most 3-year-olds).
This morning, I woke up feeling just as amazing. All I can say is, “Wow!” I forgot how good it feels to feel good. I had become so accustomed to my “new normal” that I completely lost touch with the experience of not being constantly tired, foggy and sore. I feel like a new person. No, I feel like myself–the “me” from five years ago, before valley fever went on a rampage and left my body in disarray. I’ve been managing for the past few years, but I’m only now realizing that I have been nowhere even close to thriving.
Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) is a short-term solution to offer some relief as we address the root cause of my increasingly-less-mysterious ailments. My responsiveness to this treatment, literally overnight, suggests that we may be looking at autoimmune disease. Thankfully, it seems we’re moving closer and closer to an answer.
LDN is a relatively new treatment option with limited research and a low cost (meaning it doesn’t benefit pharmaceutical companies to promote). One hypothesis behind the drug’s mechanism of action is that inhibiting opioid receptors at low doses might cause the body to increase production of endorphins and upregulate the immune system. It may antagonize TLR4, leading to an anti-inflammatory response. Since this particular receptor is involved in recognizing glycosylated coccidioidal antigens and initiating an immune response, it’s possible (as proposed by my infectious disease doctor) that my LPS/TLR4 pathway is not functioning, thus inhibiting the release of critical proinflammatory cytokines that are necessary to activate potent immune responses. Basically, valley fever “broke” my immune system and this drug encourages it to get back to work.
Scientific jargon aside, I am immeasurably happy! I feel like I have accomplished more in the last 48 hours than I have in the last year (the house is clean, meal prep is done!), and for that I am so grateful. I can’t say how my health story will play out, but today I am celebrating the itty bitty prescription that just changed my life!