Note: Each week, family physician Regina Chinsio-Kwong, DO from Mission Heritage Medical Group in Laguna Niguel will offer insight on a different vitamin—why you need it, how to incorporate it into your diet and how it affects your health. If you are considering taking any kind of supplement, consult with a medical professional first.
WHAT IT DOES: Melatonin is a hormone made by a small gland in the brain called the pineal gland. At night, as it gets dark, melatonin production begins and you feel tired as it moves through the bloodstream. Melatonin levels stay high until sunrise. In addition to regulating the body's sleep clock for day and night, melatonin also helps set menstrual cycles in women and may work as an immune booster because it has antioxidant properties. People take melatonin supplements for a variety of ailments, including insomnia, jet lag, breast and prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer's disease and chronic fatigue syndrome—though research varies on melatonin's effectiveness in those cases.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE: There is no RDA for melatonin. It is important to talk to your doctor about why you want to use it. The dosage and timing varies greatly depending on the reason for use; for instance, a typical dosage for insomnia can be 1 to 3 milligrams at or near bedtime, while it could be 0.1 to 8 mg on the day of travel for jet lag and for several days after.
HOW TO INCLUDE IT IN YOUR DIET: Melatonin can be found in foods, such as tart cherries, walnuts, mustard seed, corn, rice, oats, barley grains, asparagus, tomatoes, strawberries, olive oil, and to a smaller degree in wine and beer. However, a 2012 report in
Food & Nutrition Research found the dietary effect on nighttime production of melatonin is limited. Melatonin supplements can come in pill form, or they can be dissolved under the tongue. They should be manufactured in a lab, and not derived from animal sources, in order to avoid contamination.
HEALTH IMPACT: Melatonin supplements can cause abnormal heart rhythm, chest pain, mood swings, nightmares, confusion or delusions, drowsiness, changes to blood pressure or blood sugar levels, headache, dizziness and stomach disorders. Supplements can also interfere with medications such as birth control pills and drugs for the liver, high blood pressure, seizures, blood clotting and the immune system. Medicines with heavy sedatives should also be avoided while taking melatonin. Because of the many possible side effects, it's vital to talk to your doctor before taking melatonin.
RECOMMENDED SUPPLEMENT BRANDS: Douglas Labs, GNC, Life Extension, Nature's Bounty, Nature Made, Solgar, NOW, Vitamin Shoppe, ProThera, Pure Encapsulations, Thorne, Orthomolecular, Vital Nutrients.
Read the rest of the Value of Vitamin articles about probiotics,
vitamin D3 and
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.