Melatonin – Its not just for Sleep

couple sleeping

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland in your brain in response to the sun going down and getting dark, then melatonin production increases. In the morning when the light of day hits your eyes, melatonin production stops and you wake up. Because it is such a great natural sleep aid many people take a melatonin supplement when they go to bed to help them sleep. It is non addictive and doesn’t have any of the dangerous side effects of sleep drugs.

As we age our natural melatonin production decreases, but below are a list of other very beneficial ways melatonin can improve your health and why you may want to start taking a melatonin supplement before you go to bed.

  • Melatonin fights brain changes in Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have also shown that melatonin helps protect the brain neurons from the two proteins which damage the nerve cells that leads to Alzheimer’s. Melatonin supplementation must be begun early on as once the damage is done it can’t reverse it.
  • Melatonin fights Parkinson’s at the earliest stages. Some studies have shown that melatonin supplementation can prevent and even reverse some of the changes in behavior found in Parkinson’s patients.
  • Melatonin cuts the risk of stroke – As we age melatonin levels decrease and with that decrease there is a proportional increase in the risk of stroke.
  • Melatonin has been shown to reduce cholesterol accumulation by 42% and helps reduce blood pressure into the normal levels.
  • If you do have a stroke melatonin can reduce the amount of damage in the area of the stroke by inhibiting the production of “protein melting” enzymes which can damage the blood brain barrier in the area of the stroke.
  • It shields your brain from traumatic injury. In traumatic brain injury, like from an auto accident, it is the oxidative damage to the brain cells which causes much of the damage. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and can protect the brain cells in the area of the injury.
  • You may have heard of the benefits of calorie restriction diets which can add years of healthy life. Melatonin seems to increase the expression of the same “Longevity protein” SIRT1 which triggers the expression of a number of self-healing genes just like the calorie restriction diet does. Much easier to comply with too!

With all of the benefits you need to begin melatonin supplementation early as it won’t do much good after signs of neurological diseases begin or traumatic injury happens.

There are dangers though. Most of the readily available melatonin comes from the pineal gland of animals, typically from cattle slaughter houses.  If the cow has a viral infection, like mad cow disease, then there is a good chance that intact virus will be in the melatonin and can’t be filtered or purified out.  There are a few producers of synthetic melatonin, which is made from non-animal ingredients, which are free from these risks (and also vegan friendly). Unfortunately most of the melatonin products I’ve seen on the store shelves don’t say if they are from animal sources or the much safer synthetic sources. I do know the one I use is synthetic and safe.

 

You thought melatonin was to help you sleep, but it has many anti aging factors

Melatonin has long been though of as a hormone you can take just to help you get a better nights sleep. It is one of the regulators of your circadian rhythm, but beyond making you sleepy when the sun goes down, it does much more.

Melatonin production declines as we age. Researchers  believe that this may contribute to the aging process and the general decline in health.  So popping a melatonin before you go to sleep may help you sleep better and turn back the clock. 
Below are seven key benefits of melatonin:
  1. Antioxidant Defense – Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant. It is 200% more powerful than vitamin E and is superior to vitamin C.  In post menopausal women melatonin has been found to inhibit lipid per oxidation which in turn helps prevent heart disease.
  2. Fights Heart Disease – There is research showing that melatonin can protect the heart muscle from oxidative damage and decreasing the levels of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. It also helps with blood sugar management. Tame these and you’ve greatly reduced your risk of heart disease.
  3. Cancer Prevention – Melatonin has been shown to exhibit anti-carcinogenic properties and can also induce cancer cell death – apoptosis. For those undergoing conventional cancer therapy it has been shown to slow the cancer progression and lessen the side effects of the chemotherapy.
  4. Diabetes – Diabetes like cancer and heart disease all have one thing in common – Free radicals. These free radicals can cause damage to the cells, damage to your DNA, oxidation of lipids, and many other cellular defects. The high blood levels in diabetics causes a hire rise in oxidative stress and the release of free radicals. Melatonin comes to the rescue by quenching many of these damaging free radicals. Melatonin has also been shown to protect the pancreatic beta cells, kidney’s, eyes, and heart from the damages caused by the side effects of diabetes.
  5. Alzheimers – Another unique property of melatonin is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier. It not only crosses the blood brain barrier, but has also been shown to protect it. Melatonin has been shown to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and protecting delicate internal cellular structures. Melatonin also exhibits profound neruoprotective effects against the beta amyloid plaque, one of the suspected causes of Alzheimer’s.
  6. Combat Obesity – Obesity has been found to be correlated with stress, emotional eating, and sleep deprivation, and hormonal changes later in life. Melatonin’s basic function of aiding in sleep can reduce stress, cortisol, and emotional eating – We all know how much better we feel after a good nights sleep.
  7. Osteoporosis – Research has also found that melatonin has beneficial effects on bone repair and rebuilding. In a recent double-blind placebo controlled study with peri-meanopausal women found that melatonin improved sleep and increased the bio markers of indicating bone formation and decreased the levels of makers indicating bone depleting.  Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of bone depletion exceeds the rate of bone formation.
So with all these benefits is there any reason you shouldn’t be taking extra melatonin?  Melatonin has been shown to be safe with no side effects when taken in consistent dosages of less than 10 mg/day.
We all make melatonin naturally, but as we age we produce less and less. Also our life does all it can to combat melatonin production.
Melatonin is produced primarily in the pineal gland in the brain and in the retinas of the eyes. remember when you were out camping. The sun goes down and the sky and gets more red. It is that shift from the bluish bright day light to the reddish dusk light that starts the melatonin production. When it is finally dark melatonin production is at its height and you fall asleep.  Then when the sun comes up in the morning your eyes see the light and the light, especially more more blueish morning light quickly shuts down melatonin production and flushes the melatonin in your system out. 
So knowing now melatonin production works, now look at our typical life. When the light goes down we flip on the lights. When we finally go to bed, we are looking at our phones, iPads, and watching TV. All are bright bluish light. Then when the light is finally off you have an assortment of little lights on your chargers, phones, alarm clocks, etc. You also have street lights shining through the window. So without total darkness, you don’t sleep well because you are sabotaging your melatonin production.
So leave the TV in the bedroom off, cover all the little blinking lights, and close the blinds. That will help, but pop a very inexpensive melatonin tablet under your tongue and hour before you go to sleep and enjoy better sleep and better health.
One word of caution, not all melatonin is created equal. Most of what you’ll find on the store shelves comes from the pineal glands and eyes of cattle. It is very difficult to purify and live viruses from the cows brain, like mad cow disease, can survive intact in the tablets. This is why many countries have outlawed melatonin sales.  The product I use and recommend is pure 100% bio-identical melatonin, but synthesized in a lab so that there is no risk of viral contamination. So chose your melatonin wisely.

How stress & bad food Wreak Havoc on Your Skin – and What to Do About It!

The Holidays are just barely behind us, but now comes the stress of the Christmas bills, we may still not be eating the best either. Stress is the last thing your body, and your skin, needs this time of year. Besides stress, there are other factors that can cause your skin to be dry, blemished, and dull.

Lack of sleep.

Sleep is very important to skin health, because it’s the only opportunity your skin gets to repair itself. No matter how many tasks you have to do, make sure you allow at least 7-8 hours for your skin to rejuvenate and heal from the barrages of the day.

What you can do – Ambian, Lunesta, and other sleeping pills aren’t the cure as they are addictive to one degree or another. Alcohol also doesn’t help as it may help you get to sleep, but then you wake up a few hours later from the sugar. Some things which do help and are healthy are:

  • Don’t eat within 3 hours of going to sleep. If you have a full stomach your body is putting energy towards digesting the meal, not repairing your body. You’l find you may sleep well, but you may not really feel refreshed.
  • Don’t consume caffeine in the afternoon or evening as it can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Even if it has been a hectic day, try to spend 30 minutes letting your brain wind down: Read, meditate, listen to soothing music, etc.
  • Dim your bedroom. The light from at TV or computer monitor is very harsh and stimulates your brain. Bathe your bedroom in soft warm light, think of a candle light. Your brain associates the reddish lights, like sunset, with approaching night and begins to produce melatonin. The harsh white/blue light from a TV, computer, laptop, tablet, and cell phone resembles daylight and tells your brain to stop producing melatonin and to wake up!!
  • Speaking of melatonin, it is the sleep hormone and take 0.5 to 2.0 mg and let it dissolve under your tongue and hour before you go to bed and you’ll find you’ll fall quickly to sleep. Melatonin is a strong antioxidant and is actually good for your skin too. Just use caution with over the counter melatonin as most of what is available comes from the pineal glands and retinas of cows and because they can’t get it 100% pure they have found fully intact viruses, like mad cow disease, in melatonin tablets. This is why melatonin is illegal in many countries. The brand of Melatonin I use and recommend  have developed a process to synthesize natural human melatonin in the lab so that it is 100% pure and no chance of any bovine viruses.

Bad food.

Although there is still debate on whether or not diet is linked directly to acne breakouts, the general consensus is that certain foods to certain people can trigger acne flare-ups, and that eating more healthy foods will only help your skin. However, remember that a pimple, papule, or cyst takes days, if not weeks to form and surface. So the results of an overload of candy, chocolate, fatty and salty foods that may contribute to a breakout will appear later in the month. If you want nice, clear skin during, and after, the holidays, try to balance your diet as much as possible, drink plenty of water, and avoid dairy if you can (it is the largest culprit of acne flare-ups). However, don”t be afraid to indulge every now and then; as long as you generally eat well and follow a skin care regimen, your skin will be fine.

In general foods which are High Glycemic, meaning that the rapidly raise your blood glucose levels, will also cause general inflammation which will show in your skin and can cause other damage in your body you can’t see. In general avoid white foods. For example, white flour, sugar, white rice, potatoes, etc. These foods are typically highly refined and in the case of flour and white rice, all the fiber and the nutritional parts have been stripped away and all that is left is the starchy part which is very quickly digested, absorbed, and turned to sugar. Not only are these foods bad for your skin, they also cause you to gain weight.

Exposure to the elements

Whether your winter vacations are white and cozy or sandy and sunny, the weather – heat and cold – affects your skin, especially sensitive areas on your face. Cold weather strips your skin of moisture, while hot weather can bring about an overproduction of oil in your skin, as well as too much sun exposure. Both of these problems can be solved with one product – a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher. Your skin will be hydrated and protected from any type of weather that comes your way this winter.

Sleep Makes the Body Leaner

From MedPage Today:

Diet and exercise are important factors in a healthy lifestyle, but a third factor — sleep — may be the real key to eliminating fat, according to a small study.

Middle-age, overweight patients who slept 8.5 hours burned more fat than those who slept just 5.5 hours, according to Plamen D. Penev, MD, PhD, of the University of Chicago, and colleagues, who reported their findings in the Oct. 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

By contrast, those who were sleep deprived burned more lean muscle mass. They also found participants in the sleep deprivation group were hungrier and expended less energy to compensate for reduced sleep.

Researchers concluded that sleep loss while dieting, “amplifies the pattern of ghrelin-associated changes in human hunger, glucose and fat utilization, and energy metabolism.”
The study measured fat and fat-free body mass loss, as well as secondary endpoint measures of caloric use, energy expenditure, hunger, and 24-hour metabolic hormone concentrations in 12 sedentary nonsmokers. The average age was 41 and at baseline the participants slept an average of 7.7 hours each night. Body mass indices ranged from 25 kg/m2to 35 kg/m.
Only 10 of the 12 volunteers completed the study (seven men).
Patients were randomly assigned to sleep for either 8.5 or 5.5 hours each night over 14 days and then crossed over for a second 14-day period at least three months later. Sleep was recorded nightly and patients were not allowed daytime naps.
Those in the study were given the same diet with calorie counts based on 90% of resting metabolic rate. Actual consumption was measured by weighing food before and after each meal.
Patients’ energy expenditure, hunger scores, respiratory quotients, body water changes, and body composition were measured. Additionally, the researchers measured metabolic hormone levels, including acylated ghrelin, which acts as a switch to control energy expenditure, hunger, and fat retention, as well as regulate glucose production in the liver.
Regardless of sleep duration, patients lost about 3 kg, but the weight loss came from mostly lean mass in the sleep deprivation group — 2.4 kg versus 1.5 in those who slept for 8.5 hours. Conversely, those who slept for more than 8 hours lost an average of 1.4 kg versus just 0.4 kg of fat loss in the sleep deprivation arm.
Also, patients in the sleep deprivation group were hungrier and 24-hour acylated ghrelin levels increased from an average 73 ng/L pretreatment to 84 ng/L group versus a decline in acylated ghrelin levels (81 ng/L to 75 ng/L) in the normal sleep group, which was statistically significant (P=0.04).
Alternately, resting metabolic rates were significantly higher in the better rested arm and 24-hour plasma epinephrine concentrations were lower, (P=0.005 for both).
There were no significant differences in the measures of the fractional thermic effect of food and 24-hour norepinephrine, cortisol, growth hormone, and thyroid hormone concentrations at the end of study between conditions.
The study was limited by its small sample size and short duration. The authors suggested, however, that the findings supported a larger trial with longer follow-up to examine long-term effects of reduced sleep on body composition, and energy metabolism.

Primary source: Annals of Internal Medicine
Source reference:
Nedeltcheva, AV. “Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity” Ann Intern Med 2010; 153: 435-441.

For those who have problems falling asleep, or staying asleep melatonin can be helpful. If you look for melatonin be sure it is synthetic and a pharmaceutical grade supplement. “Natural” melatonin is extracted from animal pineal glands, eyes, and digestive tract tissue. In this extraction it is common for viruses and other bio-products to contaminate the melatonin. This is why a number of countries have banned melatonin products. What I use is a bio-identical melatonin synthesized by a Swiss pharmaceutical company which is 100% pure melatonin and does not contain any biological contaminants.

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There really is Beauty Sleep.

When the lights go out our body begins to produce Melatonin – Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone. In humans, melatonin is produced in several tissues, including the brain (pineal gland), retina, and GI tract. In the brain, melatonin synthesis is stimulated by darkness. Once synthesized, it enters the blood stream and acts as an endocrine hormone involved in sleep regulation and a number of other cyclical physiological functions. Daily biological rhythms thought to be influenced by melatonin include activity/sleep, core body temperature, immune function, antioxidant defenses, blood pressure, feeding, and glucose regulation.

We’ve all heard of taking melatonin to help with jet lag or to help fall asleep. As we age we produce less melatonin which could be one reason why it seems to be harder to get a good nights sleep as we age.

Besides helping us sleep melatonin plays a key role in rejuvenating the skin through its interactions with major skin cells such as keratinocytes and fibroblasts. Melatonin protects keratinocytes against cell death, while stimulating the growth of fibroblasts. Fibroblasts produce the essential proteins collagen and elastin, which provide structural support for the skin. As we age, these fibroblast cells start to develop dramatic mitochondrial dysfunction, rendering them less able to produce enough energy to fulfill their role in supporting the skin. This is borne out in animal research showing that a deficiency in melatonin reduced skin thickness, increases lipid peroxidation, and induces skin degenerative changes – all of which have been shown to be improved with melatonin.

Oral melatonin passes from the small intestine to the liver where most of it is processed and becomes inactive. I recommend a brand of pharmaceutical grade melatonin which is dissolved in the mouth where it is absorbed directly into the blood unaltered by the liver.

Most of the commercially sources of melatonin are from animal sources and the product quality is very inconsistent. The brand I recommend is not from animal sources and of exceptionally high quality.