Is it just for sleep?
I am always looking for the nutrients that are going to give me the most bang for my buck. The body is so complex and it is hard to pinpoint what works and why. We might think that one nutrient is working is a certain way only to find out later that it is effective for an entirely different reason. Melatonin is one of those hormones that affects many areas of the body.
We know that melatonin is useful when you need help sleeping. Research shows that there is even a stronger effect in the gut. Melatonin might be helpful in treating a multitude of conditions related to digestion.
Melatonin is one of the hormones that regulates the circadian rhythm. Most of us think of it as helping us with sleep; but in reality, it helps to set your sleep/wake cycle. It is not a sedative, so it is unlikely that taking it will make you sleepy. Instead, it helps to signal the body that it is nighttime and time to be asleep.
Melatonin and the GI tract
Melatonin is also present in the GI tract. In fact, concentrations of melatonin are 400 times greater in the gut than in the brain. In the gut, it acts as an antioxidant and in this way helps to prevent ulcerations. It also enhances immune function, modulates acid production, improves blood flow, and heals the lining of the GI tract.
Melatonin helps to control the movement of the GI tract and, depending on how much is present in the gut, may actually cause either diarrhea or constipation. It can also help to control acid reflux, as it will help to carry the contents of the stomach through the intestines at a more appropriate rate.
Interestingly, increased melatonin at night can help lower insulin levels and improve fasting glucose levels in type 2 diabetics.
Additionally, melatonin may be protective against damage caused by aspirin and proton-pump inhibitors, and is helpful in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, gastric ulcers and IBS.
Melatonin and Serotonin
Melatonin is made from serotonin, another hormone that is largely produced in the cells of the GI tract. Serotonin plays a major role in the motility of the gut, vascular tone, and pain perception in the gut. Over seven different serotonin receptors have been discovered in the gut!
The significance of melatonin and serotonin in the gut is huge! If you struggle with gut issues, come and see me at the Vail Valley Pharmacy. We can talk about whether melatonin and/or serotonin might be right for you.