5 Reasons Why It’s Good to Take Melatonin and How to Do It
Melatonin is also known as the hormone of sleep, because its production is directly related to the amount of light we receive. It is found naturally in our body and is synthesized through tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body cannot produce on its own — it must be obtained from food and is of vital importance, as it is necessary for growth and development.
Bright Side researched the importance of this hormone, and this article will tell you what we found out about it. Remember to consult with your doctor or nutritionist before taking any supplements or making any changes to your daily diet.
1. Our body produces 2 types of melatonin
Our body possesses two types of melatonin: one is developed in the pineal gland and the other is produced in the organs. The first is photosensitive, that is, it is produced according to the amount of light to which we are exposed, and is responsible for controlling the biological rhythms of sleep.
The second, called extrapineal melatonin, is produced in greater quantities, but its production is not related to light. Among its most important functions is cellular protection, as it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
2. Sleep, the function of pineal melatonin
Pineal melatonin controls our body’s biological clock, being the main thing responsible for our rest cycles. It begins to be produced at dusk, when we begin to perceive less light, and its maximum production appears in the darkness of the night. It does not induce sleep as if it were a sleeping pill — its job is not to make us to sleep, but to remind us that we need to rest.
3. Functions of extrapineal melatonin
The production of extrapineal melatonin is totally independent of the pineal gland and, when necessary, each organ or tissue can produce it on its own. Its functions occur at the cellular level. It regulates cellular functions by acting as an antioxidant, preventing cellular aging, and at the same time as an anti-inflammatory in the face of a threat, to protect cells.
4. Benefits for us
In addition to its most popular benefit, as a regulator of sleep and rest, this hormone also provides us with a series of extremely important benefits.
- It’s a natural antioxidant — Until recently it was believed that vitamin E was the most effective antioxidant that existed, but numerous studies have shown that melatonin is twice as potent. This hormone has the ability to neutralize free radicals, which are the toxic substances that accumulate in cells, by protecting them from deterioration.
- Prevents aging — Premature aging appears when there is a lack of melatonin since it is the hormone in charge of regulating cellular aging.
- Regulates the immune system — The accumulation of inflammatory enzymes and free radicals in cells damages healthy tissues, leading to the onset of chronic diseases. Melatonin regulates the number of immune system cells to fight infections, while acting as an anti-inflammatory, preventing chronic inflammation.
- Helps prevent cancer — Adding all the properties listed above, melatonin is considered an anti-cancer hormone. It also helps to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy while reducing their side effects.
- It’s a neuroprotectant — Melatonin supplementation in the elderly helps to care for and maintain the hematoencephalic membrane, the membrane that protects the brain and spinal cord from harmful substances. It can also be used to prevent Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases that appear with age.
5. Foods that help to produce it
Although we produce this hormone naturally in our body, our diet will be of vital importance, both to consume it directly from food and to obtain the tryptophan that our body needs to synthesize it.
- Fruits — Cherries, especially the more acidic ones, have a high melatonin content, as do bananas, both are recommended at night to help us fall asleep. The latter, in addition to melatonin, contains tryptophan, as do pineapples, avocadoes, and plums.
- Vegetables — Among the vegetables rich in tryptophan are spinach, beets, carrots, celery, and broccoli.
- Nuts — Of all nuts, walnuts have the highest melatonin content, 3.5 nanograms of melatonin per gram of nuts. Other nuts also provide tryptophan, vitamins B and C, protein, magnesium, and omega 3.
- Cereals — Rice and oats (mainly whole grains), together with sweet corn, are the foods with the highest amounts of melatonin per gram.
- Legumes and seeds — Chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, and sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds, in addition to tryptophan, will also provide B1, B3, B6, B9, and magnesium.
- Meat — Especially turkey, chicken, and oily fish are rich in tryptophan as are eggs, especially the yolks, and dairy products.
Do you take any type of nutritional or vitamin supplement? Which one and what for?