How this sleepy-time hormone protects the ovaries
Melatonin. Many people think of it as a supplement that can help you get to sleep. But it is actually a powerful hormone that provides protection for the ovaries, breast and more!
Melatonin is produced by a small gland in the brain. Known as the pineal gland, it releases this sleepy-time hormone as it gets dark outside. It helps us feel relaxed and supports good quality sleep.
Melatonin is not only for sleep though. It has been shown to play an important role in supporting breast and ovary health.
We have come to understand that melatonin is a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are important in the prevention of chemical damage that can occur in our body's cells. Everyday stress, pollution, air travel, and poor quality food are some of the common causes of this damage.
What's really cool about melatonin is that it has the ability to enter every cell in every organ and transform dangerous substances into harmless ones that can be more easily eliminated from the body.
And interestingly it has been found that melatonin is highly concentrated in the ovaries. These high levels are thought to protect the eggs from the harmful effects of free radical damage. Because of this, I will often focus on optimizing melatonin levels in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome and fertility concerns..
It has also been shown that women who experience chronic sleep cycle disruption (such as in the case of nighttime shift workers like nurses) are more at risk of developing breast cancer. Because these women are awake at night they do not get the full release and protection of melatonin.
Exposure to bright lights, especially the blue light emitted by television and computer screens, signals the pineal gland to stop or slow the release of melatonin. That's why it's so important to avoid this type of light exposure in the evening hours before bedtime.
How do we support our own natural production of this powerhouse antioxidant?
Avoid bright lights in the evening, especially the light from TV, computers and mobile phones.
If you must expose yourself to the lights from these devices, here are some suggestions to filter out the blue light that impacts melatonin release:
Switch your phone to nighttime mode.
Add the program f.lux to your computer.
Wear amber colored glasses while working at the computer or watching TV.
Consider taking a melatonin supplement to support sleep and antioxidant status. Start low (0.5mg) and work your way up. If you feel groggy the next day, you may have taken too much.
Melatonin can also help with jet lag, so make sure to pack some when traveling across time zones. Take it shortly before the time you'd like to fall asleep.