Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
21 Nov

Why Melatonin Is a Dangerous Supplement

Melatonin is a popular supplement for the sleep-deprived, namely because it carries rather innocent associations. Melatonin is “natural” and “safe” and “herbal”, right?

Wrong. I’ve been arguing with the melatonin prophets for years because I believe the image melatonin has, and what melatonin really is, are vastly different. Like so many things that we trust in, consume or think we understand, the truth may not be what we want to believe.

My caution with melatonin is simple: melatonin is a hormone.

That’s right – a hormone. Like estrogen. Like testosterone. And just like taking estrogen (whether it’s Hormone Replacement Therapy or the Pill) or testosterone therapy, melatonin comes with risks. Frequent melatonin use – especially in the typical dosage of 3-6 milligrams – can trigger a bit of a vicious cycle in the brain. Supplement with melatonin regularly to get to sleep, and your body is going to produce even less, creating even greater need for the hormone. It’s not that you can’t ever take melatonin; but I think it’s important that people understand the facts.

A caveat: While I am generally against using hormones (it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature), I am in favor of using the natural version of the hormone melatonin to “reset” the diurnal clock when traveling across time zones. Because, after all, you got there by fooling Mother Nature in the first place! Humans did not evolve a mechanism to adapt to changing time zones. Jet travel can be some of the most destructive stress you can encounter, especially the older you get.

In fact, a recent article in ScienceNow Daily News reported on the growing concern in the scientific community over the dangers of jet lag. Turns out it’s more serious than we previously realized. Jet lag increases risk of cancer, ulcers, and sleep disorders, as well as weakening the immune system. Now, this isn’t reason to stop traveling; simply be aware of the risks and take some smart precautions (drinking alcohol on the plane: not a good idea).

I travel frequently, and I don’t suffer from jet lag, because I use melatonin judiciously in these instances. I also have a few rules about travel (feel free to crib my notes):

– Once you’ve landed and checked in to your lodgings, immediately get an aerobic workout. This will help stimulate circulation, hormones and serotonin production – it’ll just be that much easier adjusting to the new time zone. Don’t tuck into a glass of wine or take a nap. Spend 30 minutes getting your heart racing instead.

Eat a small, protein-rich meal that also includes some fiber. But keep it light so your body isn’t further stressed.

– Reset your watch and then… lie to yourself. Don’t think about it; just immediately adapt to the new time zone.

– Of course, the goal is to adjust as soon as possible to your new time zone. If you’re flying overnight or flying to a place where everyone else will have just finished sleeping, by all means, do what you can to nap on the plane or otherwise refresh yourself.

Drink at least a quart of water your first day there (4 glasses).

Go to bed when everyone else in your new time zone goes to bed, and take 3-6 milligrams of melatonin an hour before you plan to fall asleep to make that possible.

Here’s the ScienceNow clickativity.

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Try “earthing” a.k.a. “grounding” to help with insomnia !
    It’s on Youtube and it does work – I use Aluminum tape and roll it out
    under my bed sheet…. and then connect a wire to it that goes out the window
    and into the ground…. It’s because our body has way too much voltage in alternating current (AC)…. and it’s a stress on the body and prevents us from getting a good REM deep sleep… and… like it my case… caused me to be unable to easily go to sleep… if you have any fears – put an inline fuse in the wire….
    Give it an honest try and it will make a believer out of you – I am not kidding…

    Don wrote on August 20th, 2014
    • Do you have any contact with the aluminum tape? Your post gives the impression you are not (tape under the bed sheet). If you do not, then you are not earthing. You are putting a shield between yourself and the ground, and some of the radiation from the ground (if there is ground current) is flowing out the earth wire. If the tape is contacting your skin then you are earthing, and I apologise for reading it wrong. I earth myself every night with a wrist strap and find it very worthwhile.

      greg wrote on August 23rd, 2014
  2. So much hate on here. Everyone is different, people. Melatonin will be a good thing for some and not for others.
    If I take melatonin regularly and then stop, I become depressed. My body lowers its production of serotonin as some of the melatonin is metabolised to serotonin. When I stop taking the melatonin, it takes a few days for my body to catch up. This is because of having an autoimmune brain condition. It would seem to not have that effect in healthy people. Glandulars can have that effect on some people too, if a gland in their body is really struggling. When the glandular is stopped, they crash.

    greg wrote on August 22nd, 2014
  3. I have been taking melatonin every night now for about 2 months. Mainly because I have horrible insomnia. It is great in the way of helping me fall asleep fast but it does not keep me asleep. I usually wake up 2-3 hours in and it takes me several hours to get back to bed. Maybe is is because I only take 3 mg. I’m not sure.

    I have not experienced any weight gain on this as many people have complained of… I am actually under weight and am struggling gain weight. If you eat balanced meals and exercise you should not gain weight taking this supplement.

    Krista wrote on August 24th, 2014
  4. So hey…does melatonin cause you to gain weight? lmao

    Jen wrote on August 26th, 2014
  5. What did you do to get yourself off melatonin? Any other supplements used? I’m gradually putting on weight. Did you have trouble sleeping when going cold turkey?

    Laura wrote on September 2nd, 2014
  6. Everyone’s body handles thing completely different and anyone can experience different side affects BUT with that being said i can say that melatonin was definitely making me gain weight. I weight about 150 pounds and i started drinking Nuero sleeps which contains high doses of melatonin then i thought i would try something natural so i started taking double the dose of melatonin pill almost every night to help me go to sleep. Right when i started taking melatonin i had started working out 5 days a week and to add to that a very healthy diet. About 5 months go by and i weigh 162 pounds. How could i gain 12 pounds when im eating better and exercising regularly??!! I thought of anything and every thing that could cause that so i stopped taking the melatonin and its been about a month and a half. I am still continuing on the same diet plan and exercise regimen and i have already lost 7 pounds! Like i said every one is different so maybe you will or wont have the same issue i had but i am much happier being back in shape and feeling thinner.

    To All wrote on October 21st, 2014
  7. I’ve been taking 2mg for a few years. I lost weight because I got great sleep and was able to be more active during the day. Watch what you eat. More meals and less portions people. Also exercise 5 times a week.

    craig wrote on October 22nd, 2014
  8. If you wrote it, you’re one.

    Madama Butterfry wrote on December 7th, 2012
  9. Totally agree Madama Butterfry. I only got halfway down page one and then people start calling everyone else idiots and stupid.

    I am now concerned that melatonin affects not only weight gain in certain individuals, but also mental capacity.

    It obviously affects different people in different ways.

    Matthew wrote on April 26th, 2013
  10. I started taking melatonin for prostate cancer, not to sleep. There have been several studies that show it prevents at cures cancer at an astounding rate. The drug industry wants to use chemo and make their millions on something that hardly ever works. I took 50mg every night and it cured my cancer. You can’t sell melatonin for cancer because it’s not FDA approved for that. Melatonin is cheap and the drug industry can’t make any money on it. It’s should be all over the news, but it isn’t.

    Gary wrote on November 4th, 2013

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