Your body has an inner physician... Know more about it

Melatonin has some incredible roles to play



By Luke Coutinho

Published: Thu 7 Jul 2022, 7:52 PM

Melatonin, also nicknamed the ‘sleep hormone’, is a beautiful and fascinating hormone that has some incredible roles to play. Secreted by the pineal gland, this hormone helps a major function in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. In simple terms, it is the wakefulness and sleepiness we experience during the day and night respectively.

The release and suppression of melatonin are primarily regulated by light. As the sun sets and in the absence of light, our body starts secreting melatonin, which helps prepare our body to sleep and slow down processes like digestion. It is our body’s natural way to put us to sleep. As the melatonin secretion peaks, we start experiencing sleepiness, and that’s how we get into a deep state of slumber.

Now, as the morning approaches and the sun rises, there is an increase in the intensity of daylight. When this daylight first hits our eyes (retina), it is a signal for our body to now start secreting cortisol (stress hormone), thereby suppressing melatonin because it’s time for us to wake up and get going with our day. Even though cortisol is touted as a stress hormone, its secretion in the right amounts is important for us to go about our day-to-day tasks and to help us wake up in the morning.

Now, this is an ideal scenario of sleep and wake, where our life is dependent on natural light, which was actually the case during ancestral times. Fast forward to today, we usually do not shut down as the sun sets. Instead, we turn on bright artificial lights that can keep us wide awake by suppressing melatonin secretion. Not to forget blue lights emitting from phones, television, laptops, and other electronic devices, including LED lights. Yes, you read that right. Even a tiny LED can disrupt melatonin release at night. All of this coupled together can slowly start to disrupt our sleep because it doesn’t give a chance to our body to secrete enough melatonin so it can put us to sleep. So, if you have been asked to switch off your gadgets a few hours before sleep and keep your bedroom as dark as possible, know that it was due to melatonin’s sensitivity to light. In short, darkness stimulates melatonin, and brightness suppresses it. Yes, some foods contain or stimulate the production of melatonin, like tart cherries, pistachios, cashews, bananas, rice, and milk, but nothing can match up to what your own body is capable of producing.

So many people today find sleep such an elusive goal, and it makes me wonder why because sleep is such a natural part of our life. Sleep is supposed to set in nature and we ideally never have to take things to stimulate sleep. It is precisely our bodies that aren’t secreting as much melatonin as they should due to the lifestyles we live. And then we chase sleeping.

Melatonin and digestion

It’s interesting to study how melatonin functions in our body besides putting us to sleep. Researchers have found that there are melatonin receptors present on cells throughout the body. This means when melatonin is being secreted, it has a rippling effect on several other functions in the body, including digestion.

Several studies have shown that the pancreas also has a melatonin receptor, indicating that on the release of melatonin when it gets dark, it binds to the receptor on the pancreatic cells, thereby suppressing its function. This speaks volumes about why a late-night meal can mess up your digestion, and sugar levels, and you may even wake up feeling acidic and heavy. Melatonin, upon its release, blocks the pancreatic function, because digesting food at night is not what your body is interested in.

My constant and deep study into melatonin has revealed so much that science has documented positively and yet we fail to use it.

From training the immune system to balancing hormones, creating deep rest, and working with organs in the human body, we have been using melatonin in our practice to help wean people off their pharma sleep medications (if we can, and if the doctor permits).

Anti-cancer effects of melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that is not just responsible for sleep. It is also connected to immunity and cancer. It has been scientifically documented as an anti-cancer hormone, and a lack of it can make cancer worse. When you sleep, melatonin freely roams around in your body, boosts your immunity, and is like a soldier looking out for cells that are proliferating abnormally. That is why sleep is essential for healing, prevention, and our entire circadian rhythm.

Anyone who has dealt or is dealing with jetlag will understand what disrupting the circadian rhythm is. Meal timings change, cravings change, energy levels dip, sleep patterns change, moods change, and everything seems off. Imagine living with this disruption every day! You may be able to take it, but your body cannot. Your body cares for survival and not your social life, goals, or dreams that drive you to challenge nature.

The point I am trying to drive through this article is that all of us have a powerful inner physician within us called melatonin that we should try using to our maximum advantage. We have everything our body needs to heal itself. It is called the inner intelligence, and melatonin and all the powerful effects it’s capable of are a part of it. We suppress our body’s inner intelligence through wrong lifestyle choices, but can revive it too by correcting the way we live our lives.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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