In recent years, melatonin use has grown in popularity, largely among people trying to regulate their sleep cycle. However, there is more to melatonin than simply improving your sleep pattern. The following takes an in-depth look at melatonin, including what it is and what it does, as well as what foods it can be found in. In addition, we’ll explore the relationship between melatonin and glutathione.
Melatonin is actually a hormone that is produced and secreted by the pineal gland, a pea-sized endocrine gland located deep within the brain, as well as other tissues in the body. The production and release process follows a specific circadian rhythm (essentially, a 24 hour internal clock that determines when we fall asleep and wake up), with the highest levels being let loose during the nighttime hours. Unfortunately, melatonin production tends to decrease with age, though it can be supplemented.
While it is primarily known for its ability to promote sleep, melatonin has a variety of important functions, largely due to its status as an antioxidant. It is because of its role an as an antioxidant that melatonin plays such a major part in the protection of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. However, its primary job within the body is to regulate night and day cycles, also known as sleep-wake cycles.
While darkness increases melatonin production and serves as an internal signal to get ready for sleep, light decreases the production and serves as a warning sign to the body that it is time to get ready to wake up. In addition, melatonin is able to influence skin pigmentation by controlling the collection of melanin within the skin’s melanocytes. This is why people tend to become paler as they age and is also why people who struggle with insomnia are often pale.
In 1993, scientists determined that melatonin was a very powerful antioxidant that had the ability to cross the blood brain barrier and the cell membrane. After extensive research, scientists have also determined that melatonin benefits everything from cardiovascular health to bone health, as well as protects against the development of diabetes and obesity. Studies performed at the N. Pretrov Research Institute of Oncology in St. Petersburg, Russia found that melatonin can increase the life span of animals by as much as 20% and may help combat the signs of aging. Other studies have determined that melatonin plays a significant role in fighting free-radical diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and complications resulting from diabetes, such as kidney, retinal, and vascular damage.
Additional research indicates that melatonin may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by protecting important cellular structures from oxidative decay and damage, which can both prevent cognitive impairment and decrease the restlessness and confusion that Alzheimer’s patients often suffer from at night, known as sun downing. This may also prove to be beneficial for individuals suffering from Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Finally, a small study conducted in 2012 indicates that melatonin may help prevent osteoporosis from developing by restoring bone imbalances and curtailing bone loss.
In addition to being produced by the pineal gland and being available in the form of a nutritional supplement, certain foods include high levels of melatonin and as a result, naturally enhance melatonin production in the body. Individuals who are trying to increase their melatonin levels usually do so to reset their circadian rhythm and promote sleepiness. However, too much melatonin causes extreme drowsiness and decreased core body temperatures. In extremely high doses, melatonin can negatively affect the reproductive system.
Fruits including bananas, pineapples, red grapes, concord grapes, pomegranates, strawberries, and tomatoes. Vegetables including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cucumbers, green olives, black olives, asparagus, and corn. Grains including barley and rolled oats. Additional options include walnuts, peanuts, mustard seed, sunflower seeds, and ginger root. The food sources with the highest concentration of melatonin are tart (sour) cherries and tart cherry juice concentrate.
Before examining the relationship between the two, it is important to have a complete understanding of what glutathione is. Glutathione is considered by many in the medical profession to be “the mother of all antioxidants” because of the important role it plays in maintaining your health, preventing aging, dementia, heart disease, and cancer, and treating everything from Alzheimer’s disease to autism. While the body does produce glutathione on its own, it can easily be depleted by anything from aging, trauma, infections, and medications to poor diet, toxins, pollution, and radiation.
The primary link between the two powerful antioxidants is melatonin’s ability to effective increase the level of glutathione in the body, specifically within the brain, blood serum, liver, and muscles. This is because glutathione tends to take on the primary responsibility of eliminating free radicals when the body lacks antioxidants, which leads to decreased levels. However, when melatonin is produced, it takes over for glutathione and allows glutathione to perform other tasks, such as supporting the immune system by getting rid of toxins or pathogens that may have inhabited the body. As a result, enhanced melatonin production leads to increased levels of glutathione in the body, which ends up speeding up the healing process when you are injured or sick.
While the body does produce its own melatonin, it may not be enough, especially as you get older. A variety of melatonin supplements are available on the market without a prescription, but they may not be necessary. Keep in mind that there are plenty of healthy foods to choose from that include melatonin and can enhance its production in the body. One of the primary signs of a melatonin deficiency is insomnia. If you suffer from this condition, it may be time to increase your melatonin intake.