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Melatonin and Health

© Eric P. Durak MSc

Introduction
Melatonin is a ubiquitous natural hormone-like compound produced in the pianeal gland (embedded deeply in the brain) and by other tissues, for instance, in the gastrointestinal tissues. This hormone is involved in numerous aspexts of general circadian and physiological regulations. It sets and maintains the internal clocks governing the natural rhythms of body functions. Experimentally, melatonin modifies immunity, the stress respoinse and some aspects of the aging process. Clinically, melatonin has been used in rhythm distrubances, sleep disorders, and cancer. It possesses multifaceted and far-reaching biological effects. Melatonin was released into the general and naturaet in the spring of 1993. In the area of sleep disturbances, malatonin has been shown to effective in treating a condition known as delayed sleep phase syndrome and in corecting the disordered circadian rythms of jet lag and shift work. Researchers have studied the anticancer effects of melatonin, and it appears to work closely with vitamin B-6 and zinc in opposing the immunologic decline which normally accompanies aging.

A recent report described the use of melatonin to treat sleep disorders in hyperactive and neurologically compromised children: small nightly doses corrected the sleep problems, and investigators noticed improved mood and more stable and sociable dispositions tended to accompany the use of mleatonin with these children.

Melatonin also has exciting potential roles in ameliorating women's health problems, such as osteoporosis, premenstrual syndrome, even birth control. As one of the body's primary anti-stress hormones, it performs what are referred to as tonic and adaptogenic functions.

The Chemistry of Melatonin
Melatonin stabilizes the electrical actvity of the central nervous system and causes reapd synchronization of the elecytrical activity of te brin as well. In contrast, loss of the pineal gland predisposes animals to seizures. It has been proposed that the pineal, activn mostly but not exclusively through melatonin, is a "tranquilizing organ on behalf of homeostatic equilibrium", and that it acts as a general synchronizing, stabilizing and moderating organ. This suggests that melatonin may have many applications for stabilizing and harmonizing aspects of brain function and chemical production.

Contraindications
If there is a weakness in our knowledge of the long terms effects of melatonin, it is in the area of this hormone's indirect influences on the body. Individuals must find their own optimal dose. Starting doses are recommeded at 3 milligrams per day. Be sure to take melatonin in the evening. You might use it somewhat earlier than bedtime (5-8 pm). The optimal dose can vary widely in persons, apparently on account of drastic differences in the rate of which the liver metabolizes meltonin. The rate of metabolism is key to the increasing of doses over time.

Recent reports link the use of high levels of melatonin with sleep disorders, especially nightmares. These reports have been published mainly as case studies, but should be taken to heart with persons who are thinking of taking melatonin and are absolutely sure that there are no side effects. With any type of medication, there are always side effects if the dosage is not correct for individual needs.

Sports Performance
One of the most important aspects of proper performance (and one of the least practiced) is the concept of regular sleep patterns. Athletes are notorious for working their bodies extremely hard, and not getting the required sleep they need for proper performance. This is seen in a multitude of high school athletes who never make it through intercollegiate sports, and college athletes who do not continue after university sports. Dancers, and some professional athletes who have hectic travel schedules, who disregard the importance of sleep also limit their longevity in their sports.

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About The Author
Eric Durak received his Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1986. His research experience is in the application of exercise for special population groups, such as diabetes, high risk pregnancy, cancer, and metabolic disorders. He has published scientific articles in journals such as: The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Diabetes Care, The......more
 
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.