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.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Connective Tissue & Raisin Bread

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben


-Connective tissue is one of 4 main tissues in the body.  The others are nerve, muscle and epithelial tissue.

-Connective tissue is made up of cells and a matrix that is akin the raisins and bread.

-Most significant connective tissue cells are called blast cells and the manufacture the connective tissue matrix they are embedded in.

-These blast produced substances are fibers which provide structural support and polysaccharides that function as shock absorbers.

-Many health issues such as autoimmunity are manifestations of connective tissue breakdown.  So are the general signs of aging including bone fragility, muscle weakness, wrinkles, and thinning skin.


The human body is made up of 4 systems.  Biologist’s call these systems “tissues”, they’re made up of cells and they in turn comprise everything that makes up a living body.  These tissue systems include nerve tissue which forms the nervous system, epithelial tissue which forms skin hair, nails, glands and all surfaces, skin and within and muscle tissue which makes up the muscular substance of the body.

Connective Tissue & Raisin BreadThe 4th and most abundant tissue system is called connective tissue (CT) and boy is this stuff cool.  Connective tissue is not only the most abundant tissue in the human body, it’s the most abundant biological tissue on the planet.  In a sense connective tissue is like raisin bread.  It’s made up cells and “stuff” which can be thought of as analogous to raisins (cells) and bread (“stuff”).  Of course in the body we have various types of raisins/cells and a matrix that is much more complex then bread, still, simplistic as it may be, this practical kitchen pantry visual can give a rough idea of the structure of connective tissue.

Of the numerous types of cells in connective tissue by far the most important are the blast cells, which are responsible for the manufacturing of connective tissue.  These cells are called by various names, depending on where in the body they’re found.  The prototypical connective tissue blast cell is called the fibroblast. The fibroblasts are the connective tissue workhorse cells.  They produce fibers that keep epithelial and muscle tissues strong, elastic and well supported and slimy mucus-like substances called polysaccharides.  The only tissue system that does not include connective is the nervous system. While surrounded with CT on its perimeter the nervous system as its own specialized version of CT called “glia”.

Connective tissue can be though as matrix that holds the body’s structures and organs in place.  Because the vast majority of the body is connective tissue, understanding what it is and how to maintain its strength integrity is critical for keeping the body healthy and vital.  The aging process is largely marked by accelerated breakdown and sluggish repair of connective tissue.  And because connective is derived from processes that occur in blasts, feeding and nourishing and as well as detoxifying these critical hard working manufacturing cells is job #1 for healing, repair and anti-aging.

As noted above, connective tissue blast cells produce two major classes of substances that form the bread/matrix that they, in raisin-like fashion are embedded in.   Biologist’s call these two substances fiber and slime. OK, not really.  The fiber component is made up of what is called collagen along with some elastin and a smattering of a third substance called reticulin.  The gooey slimy substance is called polysaccharide whose wet mucoid nature is a manifestation of its high water absorbing capacity.  The slimy nature of polysaccharide water-trapping properties allows it function as very efficient biological shock absorber.

For most connective tissues the fibers predominate, but in the case of a very specialized type of connective tissue, fibers are scarce (or they should be, a harbinger of a disease and an early demise  is  an excessive amount of blood fiber formation) and the wet polysaccharides rule.  This specialized connective tissue is basically liquid or gel-like and it’s called the blood.  Yes, that’s right; even though it’s rarely thought of as such, the blood is a (connective) tissue.

Almost all health challenges, including arthritis, vasculitis, cellulitis and heart disease have a connective tissue connection.  CT is home to cells of the immune system, so connective tissue is often a target of autoimmune disease.  And because of its role in supporting the body, the classic wrinkling, shrinking and shriveling effects of old age as well as bone and muscle weakness and fragility are all likely to occur as blast cells slow down the connective tissue matrix degenerates.

Because of the relationship between connective tissue and the appearance of aging, collagen and other CT structures are often the target of advertising and marketing claims for various anti-aging and beauty aids such as skin firming products and wrinkle creams and cellulite wraps.  Yet unbeknownst to consumers who spend billions of dollars a year on such potions and lotions and pills in a largely futile attempt to restore a youthful appearance , the key to staying and looking young, vital  and healthy is to make sure connective tissue cells are being fed, oxygenated and kept free of toxicity.  Below are my Top 12 strategies and tools for building strong connective tissue.

Now C-1000 w/Rose Hips
Now C-1000 w/Rose Hips

– Vitamin C (as Ascorbic Acid) 1.0 g (1,000 mg) 1670%

– Rose Hips Powder (Rosae pseudofructus) (seed) 25 mg

NOW Vitamin C 1000 mg Sustained Release delivers gradual amounts of this powerful antioxidant.
Consistent cell protection and free radical fighting.

Now C-1000 w/Rose Hips, 250 Tablets

#1 Vitamin C 1000-5000mg a day – the key that turns on the production collagen fibers the strongest most connective tissue substance and responsible for its  steel like tensile strength.

#2 Glycine (1-2 grams a day)  – the primary amino acid in connective tissue, glycine provides  the firmness of CT.  While not essential (the body makes its own glycine) increasing intake through diet and supplementation can assure a steady supply.  Whey protein is a great source of glycine.  And straight glycine supplements are also easily available via health store or the internet.

#3 Hyaluronic acid (100-200mg a day) – this under-appreciated complex sugar molecule contributes to detoxification and provides building blocks for healing soothing and growth and repair of connective tissue.

#4 Sulfur (MSM1000-3000mg a day) provides key support structure element for connective tissue.  As nutritional content and consumption of sulfur veggies (onions, garlic, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower) containing declined rates of osteoporosis increased.

#5 Creatine Monohydrate (1 teaspoonful 3 or 4 times week, after workouts) – tripeptide (3 amino acids) that support blast energy and structure of bone and connective tissue.

#6 Gelatin (1 teaspoonful to 1 tablespoonful in 8 oz. of water once a day- source of connective tissue building amino acids.  Soothes digestive tract inflammation for improved absorption of nutrients.

#7 Eat protein (at least ½ gram per day per pound of body weight)– connective tissue is made up mostly of protein.  Eating enough protein assures a constant supply of these amino acids.  Look for sulfur containing protein (meat seafood, whey, egg).  Dairy and egg protein also supply growth factors which can stimulate the production of a thick robust CT.

#8 Bone soup –this delicious traditional food is a spectacular immune booster (Jewish penicillin) and it’s glycine and protein  co0ntent are substantial easy to absorb.  Eat liberally, look for the recipe on

#9 Practice deep breathing techniques – Healthy oxygenation slows down secretion of bone busting cortisol and improves energy production.  Lung muscles also propel lymphatic fluid promoting detoxification.

#10 Exercise – acute physical stress and weight bearing pressure stimulate blast cells production.

#11 Stay away from pro-inflammatory foods –This includes processed foods and refined sugar but food allergens including beans and veggies can all have anti bone building effects too. Inflammation promotes degeneration and slows down anabolic (building) activity of blast cells.

#12 Correct digestive health issues – minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc and protein all key players is connective tissue health require healthy digestive functioning.  Taking bile salts, digestive enzymes and apple cider vinegar with meals can improve absorption of connective tissue building nutrients.

Raisin bread is a bread that contains raisins. Its invention has been attributed to Henry David Thoreau. It is often classified as a sweet bread and is sometimes combined with cinnamon sugar. Served toasted or as a dessert, the bread is commonly found in the United States, Northern Europe, Germany and Australia. [Read more: From Wikipedia]

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health