Your thyroid, though weighing less than one ounce, is a metabolic powerhouse, orchestrating essential functions like calorie burning, heart rate, and temperature regulation. Surprisingly, 60% of the estimated 20 million Americans with thyroid diseases are unaware of their condition, emphasizing a need for spreading more awareness.
Patients often seek our assistance for thyroid disorders, making it the most common reason for consultation. The use of LDN in managing thyroid disorders may be lesser known, but its potential benefits are gaining attention. Drawing from our extensive experience, we've observed that the overwhelming majority of patients with thyroid issues experience positive effects from low-dose naltrexone (LDN) and choose to continue its long-term use. Many have successfully lowered their reliance on thyroid hormone medications and even cut out thyroid hormone medication altogether.
In this blog, we'll delve into the basics, shed light on anecdotal evidence, and discuss considerations for those curious about this alternative path.
Before we dive in, let's grasp the basics.
Thyroid disorders fall into two distinct categories:
- Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid (which can be caused by Hashimoto’s).
- Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid (which can be caused by Grave’s disease).
Understanding crucial thyroid hormones—T3 and T4—is key to managing thyroid disorders. T4 (thyroxine), the primary thyroid-produced hormone, is inactive and must be converted into the potent T3 (triiodothyronine) hormone, influencing metabolic processes and energy use. Thyroid disorders result in an imbalance in the production of these hormones, which can lead to further imbalances in bodily functions.
Think of T3 and T4 as messengers from your thyroid, controlling energy production and calorie burn. Conventional treatments involve medications like methimazole and levothyroxine, but managing thyroid disorders can be challenging due to fluctuating T3 and T4, necessitating constant adjustments. And these medications often come with a bunch of side effects.
Your body is unique and requires personalized care. It’s vital to monitor your thyroid hormone production through regular blood tests—like snapshots revealing whether your T3 and T4 levels are on track. Many clinicians do not monitor thyroid antibodies due to insurance or financial limitations. However, monitoring thyroid antibodies offers us a lot of important information and is a critical part of managing thyroid optimally. Based on the results, we can adjust your intake for optimal thyroid health.
Where does Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) come in?
Originally developed and approved at high doses for opioid addiction, low-dose naltrexone offers new applications in treating autoimmune conditions like Crohn's, colitis, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disorders, chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia, psoriasis, as well as viral illnesses including long COVID.
While the precise mechanism in autoimmune conditions is yet to be fully revealed, LDN is believed to influence thyroid inflammation and autoimmune reactions positively. By suppressing certain substances that trigger these reactions, LDN may contribute to restoring the thyroid to a normal state (euthyroid). As thyroid inflammation diminishes, there's often a natural surge in hormone production, potentially allowing for a reduction in thyroid hormone supplementation. Here it becomes essential to closely monitor your thyroid hormone levels in order to make timely decisions about lowering your thyroid medications.
What are the Potential Benefits of LDN?
Patient-reported results demonstrate frequent positive outcomes, from improved energy levels to enhanced overall well-being. Patients often notice rapid improvement in brain fog, reduction of bloating, and loss of excess weight.
For autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto's, LDN can also elevate endorphin levels and has shown promise in addressing common symptoms like fatigue and pain often associated with autoimmune conditions.
Possible Side Effects
Most individuals tolerate LDN well. Fortunately, reported side effects of LDN are rare and generally very mild. They can include headaches, stomach upset, insomnia, and anxiousness, but these are usually transient. This is why we often begin patients on a very low dose and gradually increase your dosage as your body adjusts to the benefits of LDN.
Considerations for Trying LDN
If you are considering LDN, we are here to offer you personalized guidance. We usually provide a three-month prescription for LDN with one refill to last a further three months. LDN may be used as a complementary therapy alongside traditional thyroid medications, but dose adjustments to those medications may be necessary.
We now offer you the choice of complete thyroid care, which includes prescribing LDN, thyroid hormones (T4 or T3), and monitoring through regular blood tests. If deemed appropriate at your first appointment, we will provide three-month prescriptions for thyroid hormones with follow-up blood tests. You will then need to book a shortened appointment to review your test results and determine the correct prescription of thyroid medication for ongoing use.
While extensive clinical studies are still pending, numerous published small-scale clinical studies on LDN and the firsthand experiences of individuals exploring LDN provide valuable insights. Nothing matches the experience of thousands of thyroid patients using LDN. Every thyroid management journey is unique, emphasizing the importance of decisions made in consultation with healthcare professionals.
Many of our patients succeed in lowering their thyroid hormone dosage, and many no longer need thyroid hormone. Essentially, our goal is to allow your thyroid to come back to life with vigorous vitality. Stay curious, stay informed, and empower yourself to make choices that contribute to your well-being.
To book an appointment with Dr. Handler for complete thyroid care, click here.