Melatonin is a serotonin-derived hormone that modulates sleep patterns according to our circadian rhythm. Light exposure to our eyes determines how much melatonin the pineal synthesises and secretes. We produce less melatonin in daylight and more in the night.
However, aside from regulating our circadian rhythms, melatonin has several other incredibly important functions:
It’s essential to ensure our melatonin levels are optimal to ensure good sleep quality, a robust immune system and a well functioning body. Melatonin levels drop significantly at age 40.
With all the above in mind, it’s important to test your melatonin levels and consider supplementation. Exogenously taking melatonin doesn’t suppress endogenous melatonin production. A suppository release (over several hours) is my recommendation as it mimics what actually happens in the body. I also recommend to do this in conjunction with glutathione, another very powerful antioxidant. These are mere recommendations and you should consult personalised advice from your medical practitioner.
A melatonin headwinds refers to the environment when it’s release is inhibited. Factors that cause this include:
Block Blue Light is a great resource for more information on this topic. They also have a fabulous collection of products to help reduce blue light exposure during the day and night. Their website can be found here.
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ATP (energy produced by our mitochondria) turns into serotonin which converts into melatonin. With 90% of serotonin made in the gut, it’s no surprise then that the gut has 400x the amount of melatonin than in the brain (Bubenik, 2002).
The gut microbiome is on the same circadian rhythm as you. We are the sum of our microbiome – that is another point I’ll make at some stage.
Regardless of it’s source, melatonin has a very strong immunomodulatory effect that scavenges for free radicals, supports mitochondrial function, regulates cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) and neuroprotects.
Neural melatonin, from the pineal gland, is primarily an endocrine hormone. Enteric (gut) melatonin, which is made in the enterochromaffin cells (the same cells from which serotonin is made), protects the gut mucosa as well as the pancreas. It also suppresses bad bacteria and promotes microbiome swarming (repopulating and growing). Furthermore, melatonin increases gut motility.
To think of melatonin as just a “light/dark” circadian rhythm modulator is an antiquated way of thinking about what is now regarded as a powerful antioxidant and protective molecule. The fact that melatonin exists in such high concentrations in the gut further emphasises the brain-gut connection. In addition to improving breathing function, influencing the enteric nervous system through melatonin may have a significant role to play in the treatment of IBS and other gut-related issues.