(NaturalHealth365) Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, a pine cone-shaped gland in the brain. Melatonin is well-known for its role in maintaining our sleep rhythm and new studies have confirmed their role in our brain function.
How does melatonin improve brain function?
Melatonin supports brain function via its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Melatonin has the ability to readily pass through the blood-brain barrier and is present in high concentrations in the central nervous system.
Research shows that melatonin exhibits strong neuro-protective properties under conditions such as oxidative stress or inflammatory conditions. Many animal studies have shown the neuro-protective effect of melatonin especially in conditions of Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and chemical toxicity issues.
Melatonin also demonstrates many health benefits such as immune support, decreased risk of degenerative conditions, relief from fibromyalgia, and reduce menopausal symptoms.
What factors affect melatonin secretion?
Being exposed to too bright light in the evening, receiving very little day light, poor consumption of vegetables, high intake of caffeine, over consumption of alcohol, low physical activity or sedentary lifestyle and jet lag are some of the many factors that negatively influence the production of melatonin by our brain.
Natural ways to boost melatonin production
Avoid bright visuals before bedtime: Avoid watching TV, using the computer and other electronic devices – a few hours before going to sleep or at least an hour before bedtime.
Get ample sun exposure during the day: The amount of melatonin produced by our brain is roughly proportional to the amount of sunlight received during the day. Another possible factor could be that sunlight triggers vitamin D production, which again is a hormone that generates many biochemical processes – including melatonin production.
Try meditation: The benefits of meditation in improving sleep has been supported by many studies. Practicing meditation or simple breathing techniques have been shown to significantly improve melatonin secretion and thereby improve brain function.
Decrease your stress: Stress is known to inhibit melatonin production. De-stressing by pursuing a hobby or taking time off from a hectic routine will help you create optimal secretion of melatonin.
How does diet help to improve melatonin production?
Enjoy cherries: Cherries are more than just delicious berries, they are an excellent source of melatonin. Many studies have shown that consuming dried or fresh cherries help in decreasing the disturbed sleep pattern during travel especially, jet lag.
Consume nuts: An ounce of nuts provides an ample amount of an amino acid called tryptophan – that is responsible for producing melatonin. Almonds contain 60 mg or tryptophan per ounce, cashews provide 80 mg per ounce, walnuts (English) provide 47 mg per ounce.
Eat lots of organic greens: Kale, spinach, watercress, turnip greens and Swiss chard are some of the many delicious greens to include into your diet.
Sprinkle seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds and chia seeds are some of the great ways to boost your dietary intake of tryptophan.
Non-plant sources include milk, turkey and chicken. While choosing food from animal sources be sure to choose organic and grass-fed meat. Other strategies include cutting back on processed foods, especially sugar and caffeine consumption.
A word of caution about melatonin supplementation
There are many melatonin supplements available over-the-counter, but the best and safest way to boost your melatonin levels is through your diet. Generally speaking, supplements should never be considered a ‘substitute’ for a healthy diet.
In addition, if you overdose, melatonin supplements can create negative side effects such as, disturbed sleep cycles, hallucinations and nightmares as opposed to restful sleep.
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