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ARE YOUR DAYS BRIGHT
It is often surprising when my patients bring in articles from
the popular press which are replete with misinformation & instill
fear. Some of the confused information relates to melatonin. So
let's look at it.
Proper production of melatonin is related to both light & dark.
For optimum melatonin levels you need at least 30-60 minutes of
outdoor light daily, preferably in the a.m. & you need a very dark
room at night. Indoor lighting is about 100 lux & outdoors is about
50,000 lux. If there is no way for you to be outside or you live
in a dark gloomy climate, full spectrum indoor light can help..
Proper light & dark can improve melatonin production by 50-200%.
If you cannot darken your bedroom, use a sleep mask.
WHAT ELSE CAUSES LOW
Melatonin declines rapidly with aging & levels are generally minimal
by age 70.. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, beta-blocker medications,
some anti-depressants, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, & chronic
stress deplete melatonin. Chronic stress causes the production
of too much cortisol which lowers melatonin. Melatonin can be stress
protective by keeping down the hyperproduction of cortisol (the
stress hormone) Since melatonin can help control excess cortisol
production those with low adrenal function & low cortisol need
to be careful about taking too much melatonin. It can make them
even more tired. In summary, too little or too much melatonin will
impair stress tolerance.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS
OF LOW MELATONIN?
Low melatonin is evidenced by a history of light, anxious, restless
sleep, & poor dream recall. Low melatonin levels are found in those
with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Reversed levels are found in
those who are bipolar. They have low levels at night & high levels
in the morning, the reverse of what it should be. The anxiety of
PMS or anxiety in general can be associated with low melatonin
levels. When I test for melatonin I find low or reversed levels
in most of those I test no matter what age they are. Granted, they
are being tested because abnormality is suspected. Schizophrenics
also tend to have low melatonin. Is this caused by their medications
of does it have other implications? Those who suicide in the night
have lower levels of melatonin than those dying in the night from
other causes. This should be no surprise because low trytophan
levels are associated with a higher incidence of suicide & tryptophan
is a precursor to melatonin. Low melatonin levels are also found
in those with breast & prostate cancer, decreased blood flow in
the heart, Alzheimers & other dementias.
WHAT ARE OTHER BENEFITS
We all know about melatonin's benefits for jet lag. The protocol
for this can be found at http://www.thewayup.com. Use the search function
to find melatonin to read what to dofor jet lag. It does work! Melatonin
is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants in the brain & can be helpful
to gradually slow chronic degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinsons.
It generally protects against toxin induced free radical damage to any part
of the body. It can help with pain reduction. It improves the quality of
sleep. It helps to restore more useful metabolism & to reset the metabolic
clock disarranged by aging. It has a specific positive effect in repairing
capillaries (your smallest blood vessels) Melatonin helps to decrease total
& the "bad" LDL cholesterol. It is an immune enhancer & modulator. In cell
cultures it slows HIV replication & inhibits breast cancer cell growth.
Those with rheumatoid arthritis or autimmune diseases should use melatonin
only in very low doses. It extends the life span in animal studies
WHAT HELPS MAKE MORE
Other than proper light/dark, the nutrients tryptophan, 5-hydroxytryptophan,
pyridoxal-5-phosphate, calcium, magnesium, & niacinamide support
IS MELATONIN SAFE?
Melatonin is non toxic as demonstrated by animal & human studies
& use. In one experiment a man took 6,600 mg daily for 35 days
with no adverse effects. The usual dose is 0.25-3 mg. Though non-toxic,
melatonin can have some side effects if you take a dose which is
too high for you. If you decrease the dose, the side effects should
disappear. The most common side effects would be grogginess, hangover,
or headache in the a.m. or intense dreaming. Doses over 10 mg daily
can decrease ovarian activity & suppress sex hormone function.
However these higher doses also decrease the activity of the estrogen
binding receptors in the breast & may be protective against breast
cancer & a useful adjunct in treating breast cancer.
It is arguable whether melatonin is technically a hormone, though
it has been called such. I won't go into the technical arguments
here. However, it is an endogenous modulator & effector substance
which helps to regulate the hormones, your metabolism, & your body's
biorhythms, as well as numerous other functions. It interacts positively
with other hormones so that lower doses may be required. Melatonin
helps with the conversion of the inactive thyroid (T4) to the active
thyroid (T3). If you are on thyroid & start to regularly take melatonin
you may need to adjust your thyroid dosage.
WHAT IS THE BEST FORM
Generally the sublingual form is preferable when used to help with
sleep or anxiety. It is faster acting, better absorbed & doesn't
remain in the system as long so there is less likelihood of a morning
hangover. However I use the regular form for jet lag & when I am
treating someone with very low evening & midnight levels. Then
I give a regular melatonin at 7-8pm & sublingual at bedtime.
HOW CAN YOU TEST MELATONIN?
Saliva testing is the current most avaible test. Several labs offer
it. I use the one provided by Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab. If
you want such a test look at the labs in the links section at http://www.thewayup.com.You
can go to their web site. Then you can tell your Dr what you want
& where to get it.
TIMES ARE CHANGING--AT
Having been in the Alternative Medicine field long before it was
popular & accepted, it does my heart good to open a traditional
publication,"The Journal Of Depressive Disorders" (Second Quarter
l998) & to find the first few pages relating to natural treatments.
Data was pooled from 23 randomized trials which compared the benefits
of St John's Wort with placebo ( 15 studies) & with standard antidepressants
(8 studies). Outpatients with mild to moderately severe depression
responded as well to St John's Wort, 300 mg three times daily as
to antidepressants. For more comprehensive information on this
herbal treament I refer you to Dr Hyla Cass's book, "ST. JOHN'S
WORT: Natures Blues Buster". We do have an Amazon.com search on
our web site so you can look for any book. Her book is also in
our list of recommended books. The second article in this journal
revealed a study in which Omega-3 Fatty Acid levels were 40% lower
in the red blood cell membranes of depressive patients than in
controls. This was particularly so with docosahexanoic acid. (see
Cerebral DHA at http://www.thewayup.com for details on this) Similiar
findings have been noted in schizophrenics. Also smoking lowers
omega-3 fatty acids & schizophrenics tend to be heavy smokers.
Goodbye for now!
Priscilla Slagle M.D. "To see the preciousness of all things, we must bring our full attention to life" ----Jack Kornfield, "A Path With Heart"
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