How does LDN work?
> LDN boosts the immune system, activating the body's own natural defenses.
Up to the present time, the question of "What controls the immune system?" has not been present in the curricula of medical colleges and the issue has not formed a part of the received wisdom of practicing physicians. Nonetheless, a body of research over the past two decades has pointed repeatedly to one's own endorphin secretions (our internal opioids) as playing the central role in the beneficial orchestration of the immune system, and recognition of the facts is growing.
Witness these statements from a review article of medical progress in the November 13, 2003 issue of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine: "Opioid-Induced Immune Modulation: .... Preclinical evidence indicates overwhelmingly that opioids alter the development, differentiation, and function of immune cells, and that both innate and adaptive systems are affected.1,2 Bone marrow progenitor cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, immature thymocytes and T cells, and B cells are all involved. The relatively recent identification of opioid-related receptors on immune cells makes it even more likely that opioids have direct effects on the immune system.3"
The brief blockade of opioid receptors between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. that is caused by taking LDN at bedtime each night is believed to produce a prolonged up-regulation of vital elements of the immune system by causing an increase in endorphin and enkephalin production. Normal volunteers who have taken LDN in this fashion have been found to have much higher levels of beta-endorphins circulating in their blood in the following days. Animal research by I. Zagon, PhD, and his colleagues has shown a marked increase in metenkephalin levels as well. [Note: Additional information for Dr. Zagon can be found at the end of this page.]
Bihari says that his patients with HIV/AIDS who regularly took LDN before the availability of HAART were generally spared any deterioration of their important helper T cells (CD4+).
In human cancer, research by Zagon over many years has demonstrated inhibition of a number of different human tumors in laboratory studies by using endorphins and low dose naltrexone. It is suggested that the increased endorphin and enkephalin levels, induced by LDN, work directly on the tumors' opioid receptors — and, perhaps, induce cancer cell death (apoptosis). In addition, it is believed that they act to increase natural killer cells and other healthy immune defenses against cancer.
In general, in people with diseases that are partially or largely triggered by a deficiency of endorphins (including cancer and autoimmune diseases), or are accelerated by a deficiency of endorphins (such as HIV/AIDS), restoration of the body's normal production of endorphins is the major therapeutic action of LDN.
LDN has demonstrated efficacy in thousands of cases.
Cancer. As of mid-2004, Dr. Bihari reported having treated over 300 patients who had a cancer that had failed to respond to standard treatments. Of that group, some 50%, after four to six months treatment with LDN, began to demonstrate a halt in cancer growth and, of those, over one-third have shown objective signs of tumor shrinkage.
Autoimmune diseases. Within the group of patients who presented with an autoimmune disease (see above list), none have failed to respond to LDN; all have experienced a halt in progression of their illness. In many patients there was a marked remission in signs and symptoms of the disease. The greatest number of patients within the autoimmune group are people with multiple sclerosis, of whom there were some 400 in Dr. Bihari's practice. Less than 1% of these patients has ever experienced a fresh attack of MS while they maintained their regular LDN nightly therapy.
HIV/AIDS. As of September 2003, Dr. Bihari had been treating 350 AIDS patients using LDN in conjunction with accepted AIDS therapies. Over the prior 7 years over 85% of these patients showed no detectable levels of the HIV virus — a much higher success rate than most current AIDS treatments, and with no significant side effects. It is also worth noting that many HIV/AIDS patients have been living symptom-free for years taking only LDN with no other medications.
Central Nervous System disorders. Anecdotal reports continue to be received concerning beneficial effects of LDN on the course of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease), and primary lateral sclerosis. Dr. Jaquelyn McCandless has found a very positive effect of LDN, in appropriately reduced dosage and applied as a transdermal cream, in children with autism.