Melatonin – more than a solution to jet lag.
Melatonin is a neurotransmitter which is released from the pineal gland and helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. Release is triggered by darkness, conversely bright lights reduce its production. Clinically the use of melatonin has been limited to insomnia, overcome jet lag or for shift workers syndrome.
Over the last decade there is good bit of research indicating number of other benefits of melatonin.
- Low melatonin levels are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes – Nurse’s health cohort study Melatonin secretion and the incidence of type 2 diabetes suggests independent association. Women with lower urinary melatonin metabolite were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
- Helps relieve acid reflux – Chronic acid reflux is typically treated with proton pump inhibitors (side effects of proton pump inhibitors is topic for another post.) Study published in British medical journal showed melatonin can be used a first like therapy to effectively treat acid reflux. Relieved both epigastric pain and heartburn.
- Fibromyalgia – Journal of pharmacology and toxicology published a study from Brazil which suggests melatonin can reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia. Study compared melatonin to amitriptyline. Subjects who took melatonin reported lower pain levels.
- Prostate cancer – men with higher melatonin levels have been linked to lower rates of prostate cancer. Melatonin levels above 17.1 nanogram per milliliter had 30% lower overall risk and 74% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer. There are laboratory studies indicating melatonin levels affect the rate at which the cancer grows in both men and women (breast cancer.)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – IBS is a common cause of abdominal pain pain. Melatonin plays a large role in gi motility, its release in the gi tract is trigged by food. Infact there is higher concentration of melatonin in the gut vs blood or brain. It remains unclear how melatonin aids in gi motility.
Side effects of melatonin – At a lower dose it can be used safely however some patients report vivid dreams, nausea, grogginess.
As we continue to learn more about melatonin and its complex role in human physiology it is important to note the cause and effect relationship is not linear, it’s rather circular. Health and wellness are complex issues and include all aspects mind, body, spirit and lifestyle.
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