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Melatonin is More than a Sleep Aid

Melatonin is More than a Sleep Aid

Everyone knows that melatonin is a great sleeping aid. If you have insomnia or if you just want a good night’s sleep using this natural and non-toxic, uber-gentle supplement at bedtime can help you fall asleep fast and get you some pretty cool dreams too. But melatonin is way more than a sleeping aid. It’s one of the most powerful antioxidants made by the human body. It’s strengthens the immune system and has anti-aging properties too. And it’s even been shown to help improve some of the systems of autism.
GERD X-ray - Melatonin

X-ray of the abdomen and chest in a patient with a gastrostomy. By Steven Fruitsmaak, via Wikimedia Commons

Melatonin, which is largely manufactured in the pineal gland, is released into the blood in a daily, rhythmic “circadian” fashion. This accounts for its role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Upon its secretion into the blood stream in response to evening reduction of sunlight, body temperature drops, drowsiness ensues and the body prepares for sleep. Conversely as the light of day reaches the pineal gland which is centrally located in the brain, melatonin manufacture and release slows down signaling and initiating wakefulness. According to a January 2010 article in the Journal of Pineal Research, studies have suggested that circadian disruptions caused by exposure to nighttime light may be associated with higher risks of cancer. In essence, 21st century, 24-hour lighting can disrupt rhythmic secretion of melatonin resulting in lower blood levels. Because it has significant anti-tumor properties, it’s thought that these lower levels may result in an increase the incidence of carcinogenesis. Interestingly this circadian cycle of secretion and cessation has been exploited by oncologists who use it to dose anti-cancer medication in a process called “chronotherapy” which can be defined as a “the timely administration of chemotherapy agents to optimize trends in biological cycles”. By dosing chemotherapeutic agents in association with nighttime surges of melatonin release, medication potency and effects can be maximized. One of the most functional benefits for melatonin involves improving the symptoms of gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease (GERD) which show up as an inflamed esophagus following backing up of acids and digestive juices from the stomach. Not surprisingly melatonin, which inhibits the secretion of stomach acid, and has significant protective effects on the stomach lining is not especially effective for nighttime acid reflux. In one study, published in 2007 in the Journal of Gastroenterology, this one done on chronic indigestion and heartburn, nearly 60 percent of patients who took a daily 5mg dose of melatonin for 12 weeks, were completely symptom free and required no further treatment while another 30 percent of patients reported a partial response Melatonin plays a very important role in the functioning of the esophagus. And because heartburn can be cause by activation of the stress nervous system, the so-called sympathetic nervous system, melatonin’s relaxing effect may also play a part in improving the symptoms of acid reflux. Melatonin also reduces the production of gasses that relax the esophageal sphincter specifically something called nitric oxide. Other researchers attribute melatonin’s protection from GERD symptoms to its anti-oxidant properties, but whatever the reason if you’re dealing with chronic heartburn, using melatonin is at least worth a shot. Try taking 6 to 9 mg at night and giving it about 4-6 weeks to see if it helps. Melatonin is cheap and readily available. The sublingual form which is dissolved under the tongue can be particularly effective. Recently melatonin containing creams have become available. Although these may not increase melatonin levels or help you fall asleep, according to dermatologists they may allow consumers to take advantage of melatonin’s anti-oxidant properties for protecting and improving the health of the skin.

About the author

Ben Fuchs I'm Ben Fuchs, a nutritional pharmacist from Boulder CO. I specialize in using nutritional supplements where other healthcare practitioners use toxic pharmaceutical drugs. I look at the human body as a healing & regenerating system, designed divinely to heal & renew itself on a moment to moment basis. "Take charge of your biochemistry through foods and supplements, rather than allow toxic prescription drugs to take charge of you."

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