Melatonin is a hormone which is naturally produced by the body. It is an antioxidant that helps to protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals can change cell structure and lead to life threatening diseases such as cancer. In addition, melatonin helps to regulate your body clock and is frequently used to treat insomnia. Melatonin is said to have a greater range of effectiveness than vitamin C and vitamin E (source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Balch, James F., Balch, Phyllis A.).
How Melatonin Helps the Body
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is more readily produced in early life and begins to decline with advancing age. In addition, melatonin is produced in response to the body’s perception of light; more melatonin is produced in the dark than in daylight hours. Melatonin helps the body to maintain its natural rhythm and maintain a natural cycle.
Melatonin for Insomnia
One of the greatest uses for melatonin is in the treatment of insomnia. Melatonin supplements are often taken by people who have difficulty sleeping in an attempt to stimulate more production of melatonin and aid in sleep. People who suffer with disrupted body clock cycles or low melatonin levels include the elderly, travelers who suffer from jet lag and night shift workers.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, clinical studies have demonstrated that melatonin is more effective than a placebo treatment when taken over a short period of time to help with insomnia. One study in particular, which was carried out on people aged 55 and over, found that sustained-release melatonin supplements helped to improve the quality of life of insomniacs, in addition to improving the quality of sleep and the ability to sleep.
Melatonin for Breast Cancer
Some clinical studies have shown that women with low levels of melatonin were more susceptible to the risk of breast cancer. Evidence also suggested that the use of melatonin in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment strengthened the effect of chemotherapy drugs used to treat breast cancer (source: University of Maryland Medical Center).
Other Uses of Melatonin
Melatonin is believed to have other benefits too; these include:
- helps to prevent harmful oxidations that may lead to hypertension and heart attacks
- helps to stimulate the immune system
- helps to relieve insomnia associated with the menopause
- helps to promote sleep in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- may help to reduce the symptoms of digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Natural Ways to Regulate Melatonin
In addition to melatonin supplements, melatonin can be naturally regulated in the body through a daily routine of:
- regular meals to stabilize the body’s natural rhythm
- avoid the use of stimulants such as coffee and other caffeine products
- do not eat a heavy meal late at night as your digestive system has difficulty processing it.
Cautions for Using Melatonin Supplements
Consult your medical practitioner before taking melatonin supplements, particularly if you are pregnant, a nursing mother, taking a prescribed medication, have a severe allergy or suffer from an autoimmune disease. Do not give children melatonin supplements without consulting a medical practitioner too.
Melatonin supplements are not evaluated by the FDA, so find out as much information as you can about a particular brand or supplement before taking it. However, if you suffer from sleeping difficulties, a melatonin supplement may be the answer to a good night’s sleep, leaving you refreshed and alert to face the day ahead.
- Balch James F, Balch Phyllis A, 1997, Prescription for Nutritional Healing, US: Avery
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Melatonin
- Mayo Clinic: Melatonin Evidence
- Drugs.com: Melatonin
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