Pineal Gland Disorders

  • Conditions [A]

    Melatonin Deficiency: Functional deficiency of melatonin production by the pineal gland
    § Melatonin Excess: Excess production of melatonin by the pineal gland

  • Associated Syndromes and Etiologies A
  • Melatonin deficiency is associated with insomnia. Melatonin excess is associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

    Melatonin Deficiency [A]
    Signs and Symptoms B

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Elevated estrogen/progesterone ratio
  • Immune suppression
  • Lowered basal body temperature

    Medical History A

  • Evaluate history for family history of insomnia, circadian rhythm patterns, light and electromagnetic radiation exposure, stress, and head trauma.

    Laboratory Tests A

  • Saliva and plasma tests are useful to detect melatonin levels. Note that the half-life of melatonin is 20-50 minutes.

    Therapeutics A
    Lifestyle

  • Minimize exposure to artificial light (or any type of electromagnetic radiation) after sundown.
  • Promote a regular circadian rhythm with daytime exercise and light exposure.
  • Meditate or practice other types of stress reduction techniques.
  • Maintain regular habits or sleep/waking/eating etc.

    Clinical Nutrition

  • Avoid simple carbohydrates and other high glycemic foods.
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid cherries and cherry juice, which have been shown to increase melatonin
  • Eat adequate protein. High tryptophan foods (turkey, chicken, soy, whole grains) support melatonin synthesis.

    Melatonin Nutraceuticals

 

Herb/Nutrient Herb/Nutrient Dose
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate) Cofactor in melatonin synthesis from L-tryptophan 100-200 mg per day
L-Tryptophan Precursor amino acid to serotonin and melatonin 500 mg 1-3 times per day
5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5HTP) Intermediate in the tryptophan to serotonin/melatonin pathway 50-600 mg per day in divided doses
Melatonin Bio-identical hormone replacement 1-3 mg per day at bedtime

 

 

Melatonin Excess [A]
Signs and Symptoms B

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Lowered estrogen/progesterone ratio
  • Low thyroid and adrenal function
  • Hypotension

    Medical History A

  • Medical history should be evaluated for light and electromagnetic radiation exposure
  • Family history of depression, anxiety, bipolar, and symptoms of SAD.

    Laboratory Tests A
    Saliva and plasma tests are useful to detect melatonin levels. Note that the half-life of melatonin is 20-50 minutes.

    Therapeutics A
    Lifestyle B

  • Aim for regular daytime exposure to light (10,000 lux/20 minutes per day in the morning).
  • Promote normal circadian rhythms by following natural day/night light patterns.
  • Avoid night shift work.
  • Manage stress.
  • Exercise daily, preferably in sunlight.
  • Place office/workspace near large windows to maximize natural light exposure.

    Clinical Nutrition A

  • Avoid simple carbohydrates and other high glycemic foods.
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Maintain blood sugar balance by having protein with meals.
  • Take essential fatty acids (omega 3 from fish and flax oil).

    Prognosis [B]
    Most patients with excess melatonin /seasonal affective disorder respond well to naturopathic approaches. Melatonin deficiency can improve with general naturopathic recommendations, or melatonin can be taken orally for some time until normal pineal function can be enhanced.

 

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