What if I told you that your body can produce a powerful antioxidant that can support your body’s circadian rhythm, reduce inflammation, prevent tissue damage, and support your mitochondria’s energy production. Would you want to know what to do to make more of it?
What is Melatonin?
The antioxidant I’m referring to is called melatonin. It is a hormone made primarily by the pineal gland, located in your brain. Your body makes more melatonin at night as the sun sets and then decreases production in the morning when the sun rises. The amount of light you get each day, combined with your own body rhythms determines how much and when you make melatonin.
Most of the time, we talk about melatonin as it relates to sleep (or a lack of sleep!). If you want more help with that, check out my post on sleep here.
What are the Benefits of Melatonin as an Antioxidant?
Most of us don’t realize that melatonin has another important function and that is its role as an antioxidant.
If you’ve been working to reduce your inflammatory symptoms for a while now, then I’m sure you are already aware of some amazing anti-inflammatory nutrients available such as curcumin, fish oil, green tea, and ginger. But have you ever considered melatonin as your new favourite anti-inflammatory strategy?
Melatonin is a potent electron doner that can significantly reduce oxidative stress in the body. It can also upregulate the activity of other antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione.
In fact, its powerful anti-inflammatory effects are similar to those produced by over-the-counter NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen) without the side effects.
A low level of continuous inflammation is a central piece in the progression of many conditions and in accelerated aging. So, it makes sense that we utilize all the tools the body has to keep us feeling young and well.
How Can We Optimize Our Melatonin Levels?
Does this mean that melatonin as a supplement is a good idea to combat inflammation? Perhaps for some. Studies show mixed results when using melatonin as a sleep aid, and most often it is beneficial during brief interruptions from sleep such as with jet lag and improvements are maximized when combined with other sleep hygiene efforts.
The precursor to melatonin is serotonin which itself is derived from the amino acid L-tryptophan. So, one aspect of optimizing melatonin levels is to be consuming and absorbing sufficient levels of tryptophan. Consuming foods high in tryptophan is straightforward. It involves ensuring that you include foods such as poultry & eggs, fish & seafood, and nuts & seeds in your diet. In addition, tart cherries contain both anti-inflammatory compounds and melatonin that have been shown to improve sleep quality.
The Mediterranean Diet is a good option to support the consumption of the above foods.
Ensuring that you are absorbing your amino acids and other nutrients means addressing any digestive issues you might have. This can be challenging since you may not be experiencing digestive-specific symptoms, but instead be feeling symptoms in other areas around the body due to your gut-derived nutrient deficiencies. This is where working with a practitioner can help.
Boosting melatonin through good sleep hygiene is an important and optimal way to maximize our levels of melatonin. We can’t take a shortcut here. Some important lifestyle strategies to consider include:
- Avoiding stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, and nicotine
- Creating a routine of regular sleeping and eating times
- Managing your light exposure so that your pineal gland knows when it is time to reduce melatonin in the morning and increase it in the evening. Keep those screens out of your evening routine!
- Sleep with the optimal temperature, which for most people means making it a bit cooler during the night.
- Utilize stress management tools that support your stress response. This means a combination of mindful activities, optimal nutrient absorption, and moving the body daily.
If you are struggling with inflammation and are simultaneously struggling with your circadian rhythm and sleep, then it is important that you consider boosting your melatonin. Supplementation can be helpful for a period if you are working with a practitioner on the root cause of your issue.
Are you looking for a deeper dive into your inflammation, energy, and other symptoms? Click here to book a complimentary strategy call with me.