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Why Optimizing Melatonin Is More Important than You Realize

podcast episode, Why Optimizing Melatonin Is More Important than You Realize, cover art

Season 2 of the Science of Self-Healing Podcast has a NEW host! Please welcome Dr. James Odell, the Medical and Executive Director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years.

Dive into this episode with Dr. Odell as he unravels the mysteries of the often-overlooked hormone, melatonin. Discover the details of who is most at risk of having lower levels, the intricate process of its production in the body, and its multifaceted functions that extend beyond the sleep-wake cycle. 

But that's not all – brace yourself for the surprising potential disruptor lurking in our daily routines, threatening our natural melatonin production. It's not what you might expect, and Dr. Odell reveals this unexpected culprit.

Most importantly, tune in to discover actionable strategies you can incorporate into your daily routine to optimize melatonin levels. Dr. Odell provides practical strategies for superior overall health that might just transform your well-being!

Transcript of: Why Optimizing Melatonin Is More Important than You Realize

In this podcast I will explore some various aspects of the very important hormone melatonin, covering what it is, how the body produces it, its functions, and ways to optimize its levels. 

So let's get started with what melatonin is. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body, which regulates sleep patterns, circadian rhythms, and has many other important functions in the body. It acts as an antioxidant, helps in the detoxification of free radicals, and is involved in bone formation and protection. Melatonin also plays a critical role in the mitochondrial function – that's just the powerhouses of the cells, as well as mental health, cardiovascular health, reproductive health, and maintaining cellular health. It may also play a role in glucose metabolism and possibly numerous other vital aspects of the body. 

So how does the body produce melatonin? Melatonin is the main hormone secreted by the pineal gland. This is a little gland residing in the head and is mainly synthesized by the pinealocytes from the amino acid tryptophan. You probably know some people that take tryptophan to help them sleep. Enzymes found mainly in the pineal gland, transform tryptophan to serotonin and from serotonin to melatonin in this multistep process. 

Nearly 80% of the melatonin is synthesized at night, while lower amounts are produced during daylight hours. Light exposure inhibits melatonin synthesis and darkness enhances it. 

Light enters the retina of the eye, which stimulates the pineal gland and the hypothalamus. In humans, its secretion starts soon after sundown, reaching a peak in the middle of the night, usually between about two and four in the morning, and then decreasing gradually during the later half of the night. It is then secreted into the bloodstream and cerebral spinal fluid where it interacts with other areas of the body. 

Serum concentrations of melatonin vary with age. For example, infants secrete very low levels of melatonin before the age of three months, but increase as children develop and begin to follow a rhythm similar to adults. Recent studies indicate that melatonin rhythm is set around three months of age in a typical development at the same time that infants begin to have more regular sleep and wake cycles associated with nighttime sleep schedules of six to 8 hours. 

Later in life, melatonin secretion decreases progressively with advancing age. In other words, as we age, the melatonin levels drop, resulting in shorter sleep duration. Melatonin production is known to decrease after 40 years and this decline can be causally linked to physical and mental health issues. 

There are actually a lot of hormones that decrease as we age. Another one that's very important is DHEA dehydroepiandrosterone. This also decreases after the age of 40, as does testosterone. 

Interestingly enough, melatonin levels are also higher in the autumn, in the winter, thus following a seasonal rhythm as well. 

So where else is melatonin found? It could be found in the retina of the eye, bone marrow cells, platelets, skin, lymphocytes, the cerebrum, cerebellum and especially in the gastrointestinal tract. 

Melatonin is synthesized by cells in the epithelial lining of the mucosa of the intestine in the stomach. It's released into the circulation, and appears to be linked to food intake, especially after consuming tryptophan or foods containing tryptophan. Tryptophan again is an essential amino acid. The gastrointestinal tract is a significant source of melatonin and its release may have direct effect on various gastrointestinal issues. 

Melatonin in the gut plays a role in regulating intestinal motility, the immune system, gastrointestinal secretion, like the secretion of enzymes and acids, and the release of peptides involving energy balance. 

It also protects the colon in different conditions and influences regeneration and function of the gut's epithelium. That's the lining of the gut. The presence of melatonin in the gastrointestinal tract is believed to be about ten to 100 times higher than its levels in the blood, and it may act as an endocrine or autocrine hormone, affecting the regeneration and function of the gut and reducing the tone of the gastrointestinal muscles. 

Melatonin is also found in human breast milk with high levels during the night and undetectable levels during the day, indicating that circadian rhythms of melatonin may be passed on to the baby. Interesting side note is that baby's formula does not contain melatonin, thus another benefit for breastfeeding. 

Well, now let's move on to the functions of melatonin in the body. Melatonin's primary function is to regulate the circadian rhythms, such as the sleep and wake cycles. Circadian rhythms are natural internal processes that regulate the sleep wake cycle and repeat roughly every 24 hours. 

In addition to regulating these sleep patterns, melatonin also influences physiological and behavioral processes such as body temperature fluctuations and the release of other hormones. Melatonin is often referred to as the sleep hormone because it helps signal the body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. The increase in melatonin's levels in the evening promotes feelings of drowsiness and assists with falling asleep. 

Melatonin's production is highly sensitive to light. Exposure to bright light, especially blue light, inhibits melatonin's release, while darkness stimulates it. This sensitivity to light helps synchronize the circadian rhythm with the natural day night cycle and is the main reason why we are told to stay away from our phones, tvs, and computers that emit blue light before going to bed. Disruptions in circadian rhythm can increase the risk of metabolic, cardiovascular and other types of mental diseases, as well as result in poor health outcomes. 

Melatonin is also an antioxidant and detoxifier in several ways. To begin, melatonin directly neutralizes free radicals by donating electrons to reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species, thereby stabilizing them and preventing them from causing cellular damage. Some experts claim that it's even more powerful than vitamin C as an antioxidant in certain cellular environments. 

Melatonin also has the ability to break down harmful free radicals, thereby neutralizing them. Furthermore, melatonin replenishes intracellular glutathione levels. This is important because glutathione is a key antioxidant molecule in the body, which is involved in protecting cells from oxidative stress, and it assists in the detoxification process, particularly in the liver.

Lastly, melatonin is helpful in protecting the mitochondria from oxidative damage since mitochondria are particularly vulnerable to free radical injury. 

There are probably many, many other functions of melatonin yet to be discovered. 

Melatonin not only protects the mitochondrial DNA from damage and mutation, but also helps the mitochondria to repair and recycle damaged components. It also plays a role in maintaining the normal functioning of the mitochondria by reducing their division and increasing their fusion. 

Additionally, it is believed to be primarily produced in the mitochondria and acts as an antioxidant specifically targeting to these cellular structures. 

Since melatonin's main function is to facilitate sleep and circadian rhythm, it works against irritability and stress and mood associated with lack of sleep.

There is also evidence suggesting that melatonin may have an antidepressant property, possibly modulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, and it may regulate memory function by directly affecting the hippocampal neurons. These are neurons in the brain in the hippocampus. 

Interestingly, in many psychological disorders such as major depressive disorders, bipolar schizophrenia or autistic spectral disorders, studies indicate decreased nighttime melatonin secretion. 

You probably aren't aware that melatonin plays a role in the formation of bone. This increases bone mass by promoting the osteoblastic cells to differentiate and inhibit bone reabsorption. Add to bone regeneration.

 Melatonin influences reproduction and sexual maturation through its effect on gonadotropin releasing hormone gene expression impacting luteinizing hormone and the follicle stimulating hormone secretion LH and FSH. 

Other promising uses of melatonin seem to be that melatonin supplements, widely used for sleep issues and jet lag, show promise in a variety of applications for neuroprotection from the brain injuries, Covid-19 treatment, cardiovascular health, pain relief, potential antitumor uses and so much more. 

Deficiencies in the production or synthesis of melatonin have been found to be associated with the onset of many disorders, particularly breast cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. 

Current research is exploring the important roles of melatonin in protecting the nervous system, particularly in studies of stroke injury and animal models. When melatonin is given after a stroke, it reduces the amount of tissue damage and decreases inflammatory reactions. 

Studies looking at the delayed use of melatonin also show positive effects on the survival of the nerve cells, the creation of new nerve cells and the recovery of motor functions.

Beyond stroke, melatonin demonstrates potential in treating prenatal brain injury, epilepsy in children, and autistic spectral disorder.

Other studies are looking at melatonin as a potential analgesic drug and diseases associated with pain as well as anticancer capabilities. All of these findings strengthen melatonin's diverse and evolving roles regarding a variety of health conditions.

Next, I want to talk a little bit about fluoride and its effect on melatonin. As you know, we're being inundated with fluoride in our public water sources. Recent research has explored the potential effects of fluoride on sleep in the pineal gland. Studies have suggested that chronic exposure to low doses of fluoride may impact sleep patterns and daytime sleepiness in adolescents. Additional findings from animal studies have indicated that fluoride accumulation in the pineal gland could lead to a decreased melatonin production, potentially affecting sleep and causing oxidative stress. While human studies have not definitively established a link between fluoride exposure, pineal gland calcification and disrupted melatonin production are the topics that warrant further investigation to clarify its potential impact on sleep and overall health. 

In the meantime, it is certainly best to avoid fluoride products. Fluoride toothpaste in the water. Don't drink public water if it's fluoridated, it's probably not a good idea to drink public water anyway.

Another issue is that boron helps detoxify fluoride. Now, boron is in the same category in a periodic table as aluminum, and aluminum binds to fluoride, and boron can help to detoxify the fluoride in the body, particularly in the pineal gland. Usually, the dose of boron is anywhere from about five to ten milligrams a day.

Melatonin is an extensively studied molecule and its significance will continue to broaden across various aspects of health. As expected, meta-analysis of controlled human intervention studies indicate that supplementing with melatonin has a statistically significant effect on sleep quality in both normal sleepers as those with primary insomnia. 

There's been numerous studies on melatonin and sleep. In addition, another small study of healthy adults aged 55 and older found that five milligrams of melatonin increased total sleep time compared to placebo, indicating that a higher dose may be more effective for improving sleep in older adults. More meta-analysis is needed to determine if the sleep quality improves in patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, but it seems to be a very useful therapy for many, many different things, including neurodegenerative disorders. Normally, people start with about three milligrams of melatonin and work up depending on how they're responding to it. But it's not inordinate to take up to ten milligrams at night. 

So there's different ways to correct melatonin deficiencies and optimize its levels. These are a few examples of how you can do that. One would be light exposure, getting exposure to natural light during the day, like going outside and getting your eyes exposed to the light. Minimizing exposure to artificial light at night can also regulate the body's melatonin production. It is also recommended that you get at least 15 to 60 minutes of bright light upon wakening. 

Some people in the wintertime need bright light in order to decrease what's called SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. Other kinds of healthy habits is maintain a regular sleep schedule, create a sleep environment, practice relaxation techniques and exercise earlier in the day can also enhance melatonin production. 

There's also some dietary considerations. Some foods, such as cherries, grapes and walnuts, contain melatonin in very small amounts and may support its production in the body. 

Additionally, a balanced diet that includes nutrients important for melatonin synthesis, such as tryptophan, magnesium, and vitamin B-6, can also be helpful. Avoid eating before bed and consuming alcohol and caffeine before bed. 

There's also red light therapy. Consider using a red light instead of a white or blue lights in the hours preceding bedtime, and this helps to promote natural production of melatonin. I personally purchased a little red light, like a nightlight that I keep at my bedside, and I turn it on in the evening and let my body kind of acclimate to the red light, and then afterwards it's on a timer, it just automatically turns off. 

Consider avoiding fluoride products to protect the pineal glands calcification and reduce melatonin production. With supplementation. In some cases, melatonin supplements may be recommended, especially for individuals with sleep disorders or low melatonin levels. But usually the dosage is anywhere from three to ten milligrams. Melatonin supplements are really generally safe for short term use, particularly at these low levels or appropriate doses, by anywhere from three to ten milligrams. 

In addition, it's crucial, though, to use melatonin supplements under the guidance of a health professional and follow the recommended guidelines.

This concludes this podcast, and we hope that you benefit from this information and invite you to tune in in two weeks for another science of self-healing. Thank you and be well.

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