Friday, April 5, 2013

Melatonin for Sleep, Cancer Protection, IBS and more

I am what even my favorite airline calls a frequent, frequent flyer (I have Diamond status on Delta). It's no surprise that I consider melatonin one of my favored friends, especially as melatonin decreases with each new birthday.

Every evening, when I take my melatonin, I think about the benefits it will offer to my body in addition to sleep. I'm not a mantra or affirmations kind of person (I tend to like understanding the science of cause and effect). Still I have often reflected on the benefits that my belief bestows, as imagery of cancer protection always comes to mind.

So what does sleep and cancer protection have to do with one another? The answer may be in something called "chronobiology," which studies how time and daily biological (or circadian) rhythms affect our health.

According to Melatonin, Chronobiology and Cancer, presented back in 2003, melatonin and chronotherapy "have been studied for many years but, despite largely positive findings, have not been brought into mainstream cancer therapy."  This is a shame. The word should be spread more effectively, especially with the results that collaborators on this work have reported.

Dr. Paolo Lissoni, from Italy, notes that melatonin helps survival rates  for patients with inoperable, advanced stage solid tumors and with chemotherapy-resistant tumors as well.  Doses of melatonin in cancer treatment are far higher than for promoting sleep (20-40mg versus 3-6mg), with Dr. David Blask, from New York, stating: "At pharmacological concentrations, melatonin suppresses cancer cell growth and multiplication."  In other research, scientists have found that women who work nights are more prone to breast cancer and irritable bowel patients with sleep disturbances have less abdominal pain with melatonin. Lots and lots of great research on melatonin.

I have to put a warning in here though for people reading my blog: some people start to have nightmares and disrupted sleep if on too high a dose of melatonin, so it is best to work with your healthcare practitioner before doing anything with hormones on high doses.

I think this is pretty cool given how inexpensive melatonin is.  I take 3mg of melatonin most nights, even when I am not particularly worried about falling asleep. Melatonin. Rest. Sleep. Potential protection.

It makes me think of this lovely little poem (yes, I'm finally revealing my love of this art that pairs so nicely with rigorous science):

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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