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Melatonin is critical for optimal regulation of sleep and circadian rhythm, but researchers are finding that it’s much more than just a sleep aid. It plays a complex role in the maintenance and regulation of the endocrine system, and thus offers a number of underappreciated benefits, including antioxidant activity, inflammation control, immune system support, and disease resistance.

For example, studies show that melatonin exhibits an extraordinary brain antioxidant capacity—one study even acknowledged how undervalued it is by stating that melatonin “under promises but over delivers” with regard to oxidative stress protection.[1]

Another study found that melatonin outperforms amitriptyline, the leading pharmaceutical drug for preventing the onset of migraine headaches—and that it does so without any side effects.[2]

Due to the wide-ranging therapeutic potential of melatonin, scientists are examining what aid it may offer for one of the leading health issues of our time: the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Melatonin, hormone health, and the development of cancer

Melatonin is an endogenous hormone predominantly produced by the pineal gland, which acts as a sort of “master control system” for the body’s endocrine processes. It influences nearly every cell in the human body, and has even been shown to safeguard mitochondrial function (mitonchrondria are the “powerhouses” of your cells that regulate energy metabolism and healthy cell growth).[3]

We’ve written before about the myriad health consequences of endocrine dysfunction, most notably in the context of chemical-induced endocrine disruption. Imbalances in melatonin levels can lead to similarly disastrous consequences (we’ll discuss some of the most common causes of melatonin deficiency later in this article).

The mechanisms behind endocrine function, cellular health, and cancer development are enormously complex, but we do know that insufficient levels of melatonin are linked with a higher incidence of cancer.[4]

And the anti-cancer benefits of melatonin aren’t just indirect; this miracle molecule is also classified as a directly cytotoxic hormone and anti-cancer agent. Studies have referred to melatonin as a “full-service anti-cancer agent” due to its ability to inhibit the initiation of cell mutation and cancer growth, and to halt the progression and metastasis of cancer cell colonies.[5]

Researchers attribute these incredible benefits to the fundamental mechanisms mentioned above: protection against oxidative stress, optimization of cell detoxification, regulation of mitochondrial function, and endocrine system maintenance.

How to optimize melatonin levels

Melatonin may have benefits that extend far beyond sleep, but its regulation of circadian rhythm is still central to its therapeutic potential.

It’s important to note that “disruption of normal circadian rhythm” and melatonin deficiency are inextricably tied to one another.[6] Researchers believe that sleep issues undermine health because they lead to melatonin deficiencies—and yet melatonin deficiencies can make it even more difficult to correct sleep patterns (thus maintaining a vicious cycle that increases the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases).

The obvious first step to optimizing melatonin levels, then, is to ensure that you’re getting proper sleep. You can check out our past article for more details on optimal sleep hygiene, but here’s the basics.

  • Any less than seven hours per night is technically considered sleep deprivation by leading sleep researchers.
  • While everyone’s circadian rhythm will vary slightly, it’s generally best to be in bed by 11:00pm. If you’re still awake much later, the endocrine system initiates a cascade of “alert” hormones, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Consistency is key; the less radical variation in your day-to-day sleep schedule, the easier time your body will have falling into an optimized melatonin production schedule.

Another critically important (and often overlooked) element of sleep hygiene is proper interfacing with devices that produce blue light and electromagnetic fields (EMFs), both of which can disrupt the production and release of melatonin.

If at all possible, avoid contact with any such devices a minimum of an hour before bed. Try to ditch the electronics a maximum of two hours after the sun sets, and you’ll find yourself getting sleepy much earlier. Last but not least, remove all sources of blue light and EMFs from your bedroom, and sleep with an eye mask.

If you already struggle with insomnia (despite all attempts to integrate the above sleep hygiene practices into your everyday life), it’s often possible to break the cycle by supplementing with melatonin.

If you choose to take this route, though, remember that it’s very important not to take melatonin everyday for an extended period of time (doing so can cause a dependency on exogenous melatonin, which further decreases natural, endogenous melatonin production). Always take a break after a maximum five nights of taking melatonin supplements (taking a two-day break at least every three nights is ideal).

Use plant-derived (rather than synthetic) melatonin, which is more easily implemented by the body, less likely to cause dependency, and highly effective.

Remember that the goal should be to boost internal melatonin production, so that you can maintain an ideal sleep schedule without supplemental melatonin. Optimizing your body’s own melatonin production not only promotes deep, restorative sleep, but also protects the body against cancer and other serious chronic diseases.

 


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27500468

[2] https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2016/05/10/jnnp-2016-313458.long

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3100547/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4233441/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412427/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4233441/

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melatonin-migraine

The mainstream aversion to natural medicine runs deep. The successes of modern medical science are certainly not to be underestimated, but there are many shortcomings and failures as well…

Our medical system is overrun with corruption, and profits are prioritized more highly than real innovation. For this reason (among many others), countless individuals bear the burden of drugs and interventions that often create more problems than they solve—all so that the status quo can be preserved for those who profit richly from it.

And there’s a deeper problem with conventional medicine too: it creates more problems than is solves. Antibiotics, the poster child of allopathic medicine, are breeding antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria, chemotherapy kills more healthy cells than cancer cells, antidepressants completely miss the point of what actually causes depression…and so on.

All of this amounts to a simple and unfortunate truth: many pharmaceuticals just aren’t particularly effective, and even when they are, their usage causes a dizzying array of side effects.

Natural substances are simply more sophisticated healing tools, and they carry out their healing without damaging side effects.

Recent research on migraine prevention highlights this concept perfectly.

Melatonin vs. migraine drugs

Despite the desperate and debilitating nature of migraine (its ranked as the eighth most disabling illness in the world), conventional medicine has yet to develop an effective solution for this neurological condition, which is the third most prevalent illness in the world.[1]

The leading migraine pharmaceutical, amitriptyline, is far from perfect—it’s notoriously inconsistent in its ability to prevent the onset of migraine headaches, and it carries a huge list of side effects.

These side effects—some of which can be as debilitating as migraines—include confusion and disorientation, hallucinations, dizziness and lightheadedness, erratic thoughts and behaviors, seizures, racing heartbeat, nausea, chest pain radiating down the arms and into the head, painful urination, severe constipation, sudden weakness or feelings of illness (complete with fever, chills, sore throat, mouth sores, swollen gums, and even trouble swallowing), blackened mouth and tongue, itchiness and rashes, changes in weight or appetite, breast swelling in both genders, decreased libido or impotence, and even more worrying symptoms.[2]

Doesn’t this sound much more like the effects of a poison than those of a medicine?

Luckily, researchers have discovered that melatonin, a natural chemical produced within the brain, is more effective than amitriptyline for preventing migraines—and it does so with zero side effects.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (the gold standard of rigorous medical research), researchers pitted 25 mg of amitriptyline against 3 mg of melatonin. Despite the drastically smaller dosage of melatonin, it outperformed amitriptyline, particularly “in the percentage of patients with a greater than 50% reduction in migraine frequency.”[3]

The researchers also reported that melatonin was “more tolerable” than amitriptyline—a diplomatic way of noting that patients given melatonin weren’t made to endure the litany of side effects brought on by Big Pharma’s solution to migraines.

Why you need more melatonin in your life

This study is a huge win for natural medicine.

Advocates of conventional medicine would like us to continue believing that “natural remedies just don’t work—the side effects that sometimes accompany the usage of pharmaceuticals are a small price to pay for their effectiveness.” But data like this demonstrates that all the doubting and demeaning of natural medicine just isn’t based in fact.

Sure, the natural health world is full of snake oil salesmen and products that don’t deliver what they claim—but the fact remains that Nature has provided us with an abundance of natural medicines that perform on par with pharmaceuticals without any deleterious side effects.

And melatonin in particular is good for more than just migraines (though, if you suffer from migraines, this single benefit is surely enough to make it feel like a godsend). As we discussed in another article, melatonin also balances circadian rhythms and helps you to go to sleep and stay asleep, calms chronic inflammation, boosts the immune system, and is one of the most powerful brain antioxidants known to man.

How to Optimize Your Melatonin Levels

  1. Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Normally your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process.
  2. Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can’t appreciate he difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
  3. Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your biological clock and your pineal gland’s melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades.
  4. Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light inthese bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
  5. Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms).
  6. Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
  7. Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.
  8. Be mindful of electromagnetic fields in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well.

Should You Supplement with Melatonin?

Supplementation may be beneficial but it is BETTER to optimize your body’s own melatonin production!  This way you will get the “perfect” melatonin dosage for you, because your body will produce just the right dose!

If you do need to supplement,  keep in mind that only a very small dose is required — typically 0.25mg or 0.5mg to start with, and you can adjust it up from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so adjust your dose carefully.

Do THIS 1-hr before bed to get PERFECT sleep & balance your hormones (Cuts your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc)


References

[1] https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/

[2] http://www.drugs.com/amitriptyline.html

[3] http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/early/2016/05/10/jnnp-2016-313458.long

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melatonin-benefits

If you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, chances are someone recommended melatonin as a remedy. This makes good sense, as melatonin works wonders when you need a little help resetting a jet-lagged schedule or turning off your overactive brain at bedtime.

In fact, melatonin plays a central and indispensable role in your body’s entire “sleep system.” It’s produced and secreted by the pineal gland, which acts as a sort of “master control system” for the body’s regulation and detoxification processes. Melatonin, through its own action and by regulating the levels of other hormones, helps maintain the body’s circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock that dictates when you sleep and when you wake up).

It’s a pretty ingenious setup: as the sun begins to set and your body is exposed to a lesser degree of light, your pineal gland is “turned on” by an area of the brain called the superchiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and begins to produce more and more melatonin. Increased levels of melatonin create a complex hormone cascade that tells your whole body that it’s time to start preparing for sleep. As long as everything is working properly, your melatonin levels remain elevated throughout the night until about 9am, by which time your hormonal state has shifted into “wakefulness” mode.

Much more than just a sleep aid

So, it should be apparent from this brief description that melatonin is much more than a sedative. Rather than having a simple and direct relaxation effect (like central nervous system depressants, some GABA agonists, or other substances that cause sedation), melatonin regulates a complicated system of hormonal processes throughout the body that end up promoting restfulness in a holistic, systems-oriented way.

For this reason, it should come as no surprise that melatonin has lots of other powerful health benefits besides being sleep-supporting. Because it’s been pigeon-holed as a sleep aid for so long, it remains an incredibly underrated substance.

Let’s take a look at some of melatonin’s other talents…

It’s one of the most powerful known brain antioxidants. The human body is almost incomprehensibly intelligent. Not only does melatonin coax the body into its sleep state; it also actively detoxes and rejuvenates the brain and body while you sleep.

Through its nightly antioxidant action, melatonin slows down brain aging, prevents cognitive decline, and even helps prevent Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders (cognitive degeneration has been strongly linked with chronically low levels of melatonin).

It’s strongly anti-inflammatory. Melatonin delivers a powerful 1-2 punch by quelling acute and systemic inflammation in the body while scavenging free radicals. And because inflammation is rightfully referred to as the root of all disease, melatonin protects against many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.[1]

It boosts the immune system and prevents disease. All the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action generated by melatonin leads to a natural and dramatic boost in immune function. Perhaps this is why healthy levels of melatonin are correlated with decreased incidence of general infection and illness, as well as a 30-60% decreased risk of developing certain types of cancer.[2]

The takeaway (and how to optimize your melatonin levels)

Inflammation, oxidative stress, and hormonal imbalance are arguably three of the greatest contributors to disease and lack of well-being—and as discussed above, melatonin powerfully combats all three of them. So whether or not you routinely have trouble sleeping, working to keep your melatonin levels healthy and happy is always a good idea.

If you do suffer from insomnia or otherwise feel that your melatonin levels may be sub-optimal, there’s plenty of helpful measures you can take.

First off, it’s always better to support your body’s natural production of melatonin, rather than supplementing with it (taking melatonin supplements for too long can actually make your body dependent on it).

Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and normal circadian rhythm (sleep at night, wakefulness during the day), and avoid bright, blue light after sunset, which tricks your body into thinking that it’s still daytime (and thus suppresses melatonin production). This means that you should minimize your use of electronic devices after dark, or use applications like f.lux, which automatically adjusts the light frequencies of your devices to the red end of the spectrum as the sun goes down (I use it on every one of my devices, and it really is a game changer).

Ensuring that you’re not vitamin and mineral deficient (especially in B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium) will also help your body keep its melatonin production up to snuff—you can get these nutrients either through supplementation or by eating foods like bananas, oats, turkey, chicken, coconut oil, leafy greens, tomatoes, cherries, and walnuts.

Lastly, research has shown that daily moderate exercise helps maintain healthy melatonin production. And healthy melatonin levels improve physical performance,[3] so it’s a virtuous cycle!

If you do feel that supplementing with melatonin is necessary for you, try to use plant-based melatonin products, which are easier for your body to process and don’t cause dependency as quickly (still, you should never take melatonin for more than three consecutive nights, especially if you’re taking 3 milligrams or more per night).

By following these simple guidelines, you can reap all of melatonin’s many underrated health benefits.

Speaking of getting both MORE sleep, and better QUALITY sleep (we’re
talking blissful sleep where you wake up refreshed and feeling amazing every day), you have to read this:

Do THIS 1-hr before bed to get PERFECT sleep & balance your hormones (Cuts your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc)



[1]
http://www.thealternativedaily.com/how-to-increase-melatonin-production/References

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12959621

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pineal-gland

The importance of the pineal gland has been acknowledged for many millennia. For nearly every ancient civilization throughout the world, it occupied a prominent position not only in their systems of anatomy and medicine, but also their systems of philosophy, cosmology, and spirituality.

While Western science looks upon this vital gland as simply another part of the endocrine system (albeit an important part), the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, Indians, and Chinese all regarded it as a point of immense spiritual importance within the body.

In many cases, it was referred to as the third eye (a term that modern spirituality has inherited). According to many spiritual lineages, the third eye is the interface between the physical and the spiritual worlds, and thus the “opening of the third eye” is the gateway to spiritual progress.

Even Rene Descartes—the philosopher who we have to thank for the scientific method, algebra, and many other foundational aspects of modern scientific inquiry—believed that the pineal gland was the seat of the soul.

Needless to say, modern science isn’t exactly on board with this theory—and third eye vernacular is still confined to yoga studios, retreat centers, and a small vanguard within the natural health community.

Nevertheless, scientists and spiritualists alike can agree on one thing: the pineal gland is vitally important to the health of the physical body.

Your brain’s built-in detox system

The pineal gland is part of the endocrine system’s master hormone control system. Through hormone secretion, it is able to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, metabolism, and sexual development. The proper functioning of the entire endocrine system (and even the entire body) rests on a healthy pineal gland.

The gland’s main secretion is melatonin, which regulates sleep-wake cycles (more melatonin = more sleepiness), as well as sexual development (melatonin production slows down during puberty).[1] Melatonin is also one of the most potent brain antioxidants in existence, so in this sense, you can also think of the pineal gland as part of the brain’s built-in detox system.

According to recent research, there may be other little understood chemicals that the pineal gland secretes too. For example, scientists discovered an exceedingly mysterious chemical called dimethyltryptamine (DMT)—a strongly psychoactive compound that may be implicated in dreaming and out-of-body experiences—in the pineal glands of rats.[2] DMT is often called the Spirit Molecule.

While this area of study is still in its infancy, such discoveries offer great hope for bridging the gap between the scientific and spiritual understandings of the pineal gland.

Regardless of what side of the argument you fall on, though, it’s essential that you keep your pineal gland functioning optimally.

Your pineal gland needs your help

We’ve talked in past articles about the many burdens that modern living places upon your endocrine system. Environmental toxins are chock-full of endocrine disruptors, and iodine deficiency is a rampant problem (iodine is essential for proper endocrine function). All of this means that the pineal gland is under constant attack.

On top of these issues, the pineal gland is very prone to calcification by fluoride, mercury, and other toxins that are omnipresent in our society. The pineal gland has the highest levels of fluoride in the body. As a calcifying tissue that is exposed to a high volume of blood flow, the pineal gland is a major target for fluoride accumulation in humans.

a

Calcified pineal glands show up as solid-looking objects on brain scans. The worse the calcification gets, the more the gland’s functioning is inhibited.

So how can we help keep our pineal glands free of calcification and functioning in peak condition?

Detoxification is the name of the gameand all the usual rules apply.

Detox practices. Integrating fasting, juice cleansing, and oil pulling into your life will all help give your body’s natural detox systems a leg up. Doing so is especially important if you’ve lived a relatively sedentary lifestyle or consumed an unhealthy diet in the past (but even if you’re an active, healthy-eating person, your body is still prone to the onslaught of environmental toxins).

Stay active. Vigorous exercise helps supercharge your body’s detoxification processes—lots of toxins are excreted when you sweat, and increased heart rate and circulation helps push toxins out of tissues. Adding cold showers, cold plunges, and sauna sessions will make your exercise regimens even more detoxifying.

Detoxifying foods. The easiest way to turn your body into an unstoppable, detoxifying machine is to continuously eat a detoxifying diet. Turmeric, coconut oil, kale and other dark greens, raw cacao, chlorella, spirulina, probiotics, apple cider vinegar, beet juice, and oregano are all excellent choices. Read more about how to build the perfect detoxifying diet here.

Supplement properly. As I mentioned above, most people are deficient in iodine, so you’ll want to supplement in order to maintain optimal levels (kelp extracts are the best source). Vitamin C and glutathione also work wonders, as they simultaneously support the immune system, lower inflammation, and boost the body’s ability to take care of its own detoxification.

Ditch the bad stuff. Lastly, it should go without saying that you should avoid consuming fluoridated water, mercury-contaminated fish and dental fillings, and all industrially processed products laced with health-disrupting chemicals. It’s impossible to avoid all the toxins to which you’re subjected, but consciously staying away from as many as possible is immensely beneficial.

By making these practices a part of your everyday life, you’ll be able to keep your pineal gland working in tip-top shape.

Once you begin to feel the effects of living a detoxifying lifestyle, try throwing some meditation into the mix (simply focusing the awareness on the third eye can catalyze some incredible experiences).

Even if you’re skeptical about the spiritual possibilities of the pineal gland, you’ll be pleased by what happens when you take special care of this extraordinary organ. At the very least, you’ll be keeping your endocrine system nice and balanced (which translates to better sleep, more energy, greater immune function, balanced mood, and more). And who knows…an experience of third eye opening just might catch you by surprise and turn you into a believer.

 


References

[1] http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/what-is-the-pineal-gland/

[2] http://www.cottonwoodresearch.org/dmt-pineal-2013/

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