Phytomelatonin with Deanna Minich: Rational Wellness Podcast 300
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Deanna Minich discusses Phytomelatonin with Dr. Ben Weitz.
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1:50: Eating the Rainbow. It’s scientifically true that it’s good to eat fruits and vegetables. She has spent a large portion of her professional career researching plants with various companies and now with Symphony Natural Health and phytomelatonin, a plant melatonin.
2:28: Deanna cowrote a review article on melatonin: Is Melatonin the “Next Vitamin D”?: A Review of Emerging Science, Clinical Uses, Safety, and Dietary Supplements. Melatonin is often thought of as a hormone, but it is actually an important nutrient and we need to have levels that are fortified throughout our lifespan to ensure better resilience and better mitochondrial function. According to Deanna, “vitamin D and melatonin are like brother and sister. One is connected to light and one is connected to darkness, so we need them both.”
4:15: Many people today suffer from darkness deficiency. We don’t let ourselves be bathed in enough darkness so that our retinas can change the signaling by the peal gland to produce melatonin. This has a lot to do with all the exposure we get in the evening to artificial light and our phones and computer screens and tv screens. And a lot of this artificial light is blue light, which inhibits melatonin production. And as we get older, our bodies tend to produce less melatonin. In the evenings we need red light, not blue light. And this is why we should consider quality melatonin concentration.
4:52: While the melatonin produced in the pineal gland may be the most important, melatonin is produced in organs throughout the body, including in the gut mucosa. And Melatonin is produced in the gut at 400 times the levels produced in the pineal gland, but only the melatonin produced in the pineal gland in the brain works systemically and it informs the body about the circadian rhythm. The melatonin in the gut plays a role in gut motility as well as in digestive secretions.
8:23 Melatonin testing. The website phytomelatonin.com has a lot of the research studies and the latest publications on melatonin and phytomelatonin. Deanna feels that testing for melatonin is not very accurate, whether you use urine, saliva, or blood. If we were going to measure melatonin, peak melatonin levels tend to occur between 2 and 4 am.
10:56 Benefits of melatonin. Melatonin promotes sleep and one of the ways it does this is by decreasing core body temperature and this could be especially problematic for perimenopausal women who get hot flashes at night. The primary way melatonin helps with sleep is by resetting our circadian rhythm.
17:46 Dosage. Deanna feels that we should use the lowest dose for the shortage duration. Dr. Richard Wurtman has shown us that to take a physiological dosage for sleep, we should take .3 mg. If we need help with sleep or we are jet-lagged and we need to reset our circadian rhythm, then 3 mg makes sense.
19:20 We may want higher dosages of melatonin for the antioxidant effect. Melatonin is an antioxidant, it’s an anti-inflammatory, and it’s a mitochondrial regulator. Dr. Paolo Lissoni has looked at the benefits of melatonin for cancer and to work synergistically with certain types of chemotherapy, but this should only be done under the supervision of a practitioner.
21:09 Brain benefits of melatonin. Melatonin may aid the glymphatic process where the brain detoxifies itself. This aids in degrading toxic amyloid beta and hyperphosphorylated tau proteins in the brain.
Deanna Minich has a masters in nutrition and a PhD in Medical Sciences and is a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is the Chief Science Officer at Symphony Natural Health and she is the author of six books on various wellness topics, including An A-Z Guide to Food Additives, Chakra Foods for Optimum Health, The Complete Handbook of Quantum Healing, Quantum Supplements, Whole Detox, and The Rainbow Diet. Her website is DeannaMinich.com.
Dr. Ben Weitz is available for Functional Nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure and also weight loss and also athletic performance, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111. Dr. Weitz is also available for video or phone consultations.
Dr. Weitz: Hey, this is Dr. Ben Weitz, host of the Rational Wellness Podcast. I talk to the leading health and nutrition experts and researchers in the field to bring you the latest in cutting edge health information. Subscribe to the Rational Wellness Podcast for weekly updates. And to learn more, check out my website, drweitz.com. Thanks for joining me, and let’s jump into the podcast.
Hello, Rational Wellness Podcasters. Today, our topic is melatonin and in fact, plant melatonin. Most people think of melatonin as a sleep aid, but it’s actually a very powerful antioxidant and has many other health promoting properties including for gut health, eye health, brain health, heart health, immune function, bone health. It reduces inflammation, has anti-cancer properties. Melatonin really has a lot of amazing health potential benefits when you start digging into the research. And we’ll be speaking with Deanna Minich who has a master’s in nutrition and a PhD in medical sciences, and she’s a certified functional medicine practitioner. She’s the chief science Officer at Symphony Natural Health, and she’s the author of six books on various wellness topics, the most recent of which is the Rainbow Diet, which is how I think of her as promoting eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. And in fact, I recall being at a lecture she did for Metagenics, must have been 20 years ago with that topic.
Deanna: I’m still talking about it, Ben. I’m still talking the rainbow.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. I talk about the rainbow too.
Deanna: It’s tried and true, right? It’s scientifically shown that it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables, and I have a love of plants, which is what I did for a large part of my professional work, my research, working with a variety of different companies, and then now most recently with Symphony Natural Health, as you mentioned, with their plant melatonin. So that’s given me the opportunity to go a bit deeper into what we need to know about melatonin. And as you and I were talking about before we jumped on, there are a lot of melatonin myths out there. So hopefully we’ll set the record straight.
Dr. Weitz: Sounds good. And I want to commend you for doing a great job with this Review article you wrote, which is, Is Melatonin the Next Vitamin D? Review of Emerging Science Clinical Uses Safety and Dietary Supplements in the journal, Nutrients published in September, 2022. I love the way you compare and contrast melatonin to vitamin D.
Deanna: So with my background in nutrition science, as I started to get into the research on melatonin, I soon came to reflect on, well, what is melatonin really? Most people think of it as a hormone, but as I began to go through the literature and to understand it at a deeper level, it soon came to me that perhaps melatonin is actually a nutrient. Perhaps we need it. We need to have levels that are fortified throughout our lifespan to ensure better resilience, better mitochondrial function. And it looks very similar to what we’ve done with vitamin D. Vitamin D started out as a vitamin, hence the name, but then later became under this scrutiny of looking at it as a hormone. So I would say that melatonin might be somewhat similar in that it perhaps started as a hormone, but now we start to see all the many applications. And I would even say that vitamin D and melatonin are like brother and sister. One is connected to light and one is connected to darkness, so we need them both.
Dr. Weitz: So vitamin D is Luke Skywalker and melatonin is Darth Vader.
Deanna: Wow, that brings in a whole other overlay to light and darkness. I think some people, it’s interesting that you say that because one of the things that we talked about in the article is darkness deficiency. How many people are not getting enough darkness. It’s almost like we may fear the darkness. We don’t actually let ourselves be bathed in the dark so that our retinas can have that connection to the absence of light in order to change the signaling by the pineal gland to produce melatonin. So no darkness, no melatonin.
Dr. Weitz: Right, right. And that’s because of the artificial light and our phones and our computer screens and everything else that are producing all this artificial light. And a lot of that is blue light, which has been talked about a lot, which inhibits melatonin production.
Deanna: Yeah, it’s toxic light. We need blue light in the early morning hours, but we need red light in the evening hours. So that’s why we start to think about, well, now we are not even endogenously producing enough melatonin. And as we get older from the age of 40 on, our bodies produce less of it. Now we start to go down and then we are surrounded with artificial blue light. So we’re really between a rock and a hard place. And that’s where things like supplementation and really looking at conscious supplementation with quality melatonin products would be something to start looking at as we get older.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. One of the things you pointed out in the article, which I thought was really interesting is that even though we all know about melatonin being produced in that part of the brain called the pineal gland, you point out that melatonin is found throughout the body, and like other brain chemicals, is produced in the gut at much higher levels than it’s actually produced in a brain.
Deanna: Yeah. 400 times the levels that are produced by the pineal gland, the gut produces a lot, but there is a difference. So the melatonin that the gut produces tends to be used locally in the gut mucosa. The pineal gland manufactured melatonin is used systemically and is keying into different receptors throughout different body tissues in order to inform the body as to the circadian rhythm. So for the gut, it’s much more of a connection to a postprandial response and a local utilization of melatonin and perhaps further signaling, whereas the pineal gland is more specific to circadian rhythm.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah, it’s interesting. We know that serotonin has all these roles actually in the gut and is involved with gut motility, and I wonder if melatonin is another factor in that whole process.
Deanna: It is. Actually, you’re spot on. There has been some research to suggest that melatonin has different roles within the gut. Number one, it may be changing up the digestive secretions. Number two, it may be changing up the muscular action of the gut lining because we know that the gut is not just a tube, it’s neurological, it’s endocrine, it’s muscular. So we know that there’s a motility action on behalf of melatonin. Indeed.
Dr. Weitz: Yes, absolutely. Motility’s a big factor in irritable bowel syndrome and the SIBO that causes a lot of it. I guess one of the things that happens with age is the pineal gland sometimes calcifies, which is kind of interesting.
Deanna: Yes, there has been discussion about that in the literature and looking at, how do we prevent that? It’s just that it’s not a test that most people are keyed into. It’s difficult enough just to get people to get their nutrient levels tested. So I think when it comes to melatonin, we need to look at just how we live, how we sleep, how we go about our day, and what symptoms we have. A personal history of medical history can tell us a lot about whether or not there might be a melatonin imbalance.
Dr. Weitz: How do we know if we’re low on melatonin? Is there a good way to test for it?
Deanna: We have a website. There is a website called phytomelatonin.com. It’s a site of all the research studies that have the latest publications, what’s in the news. And there is a page where we explored testing, looking at urine, looking at saliva, looking at blood. And in general, it’s pretty difficult to get a good estimation of one’s melatonin status because you have to take into account the timing, the time of day, what was eaten, how you process it through the urine. In my opinion, I don’t believe it’s a very reliable measure. I do think looking at consecutive measures over time might be one way to do it. But I do think looking symptomatically to see whether or not people are having blue light exposure at night, are they sleeping poorly? And you know what else? Many times people have issues with other hormones and for example, cortisol and melatonin have a dynamic. Cortisol is high in the morning, melatonin is high at night. So there is this dynamic. So if we have some change in another hormone, it can potentially pull on the hormone web to change melatonin. So we need to be thinking about that, which is why it’s important during perimenopause, menopause, andropause, very essential to look at that hormone dynamic and how there can be tugging in all kinds of directions.
Dr. Weitz: And I think maybe the best potential way to test it if there is some benefit would be with saliva, because that can be done at different times of the day. And I’ve seen some of these salivary cortisol tests also include melatonin.
Deanna: That’s true. But keep in mind that we would need to know at night at the peak of melatonin and more along the lines of a person’s kinetics or metabolism. So melatonin peaks during the time of absolute darkness between 2:00 and 4:00 AM So not many people are up and awake to take a sample to get an accurate read. And even if they had a little bit of light exposure, they can be changing their endogenous melatonin. So it’s not to say it can’t be done, Ben. It can, but there are all kinds of variables and factors to consider to ensure that it’s accurate.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. So let’s go into some of the many benefits of melatonin, and let’s start with sleep since everybody knows of melatonin being a promoter of sleep. And I thought it was really interesting in your paper, you go into some of the benefits of sleep, and you mentioned that melatonin has a hypothermic effect in decreasing core body temperature as part of how it helps with sleep, which is something new to me. I hadn’t heard that before.
Deanna: Yes. In fact, because it’s connected to lower body temperature, have you ever had that sensation at night? Maybe it’s 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM and you start to get a little cold and I don’t know about you, but I get that sensation and I always know, “Okay, that’s my body telling me I need to go to bed,” right?
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Deanna: Because that’s almost like the subtle, it’s called dim light melatonin onset. So even before we’ve gone to sleep, we start to have higher levels of melatonin. They don’t peak until that point of darkness. But as we start to prepare for bed and it starts to get dark outside, and if we’re not exposing ourself to excessive artificial blue light, we already start to get that change in melatonin, which can change body temperature. I often think about perimenopausal women, which I am one myself in terms of night sweats, hot flashes at night, when do they typically occur? They typically occur at around that… For many people that I talk with, it’s around that 2:00 to 3:00 AM timeframe. And while there is no science to suggest that melatonin is implicated in that, we do know that melatonin is implicated in body temperature regulation and there could be some change because perimenopausal and menopausal women are having issues with body temperature and making that transition through their cycle. So there could be some connection there.
Dr. Weitz: That’s interesting. Yeah, I’m very sensitive to temperature, so I use one of those chilling pads under my sheets to keep an even temperature all night while I sleep. I wonder if there could be benefits to using a timed release melatonin to maybe help with consistent core temperature?
Deanna: That’s an interesting point. Well, with Herbatonin, which is the plant melatonin, one of the things that is really unique about it is that it’s the cell matrix of the plant. So it has a lot of the other components. It has chlorophyll, it has carotenoids, it has essential fatty acids, so it’s actually the plant not extracted, but in its whole parts. So it allows for that slower release we believe, as it relates to the bioavailability. So the uptake in the gut is a little bit slow, and for that reason, it might be important in the efficacy as well as perhaps what you’re saying, the body temperature. We haven’t actually looked at that, but that’s an interesting point to consider.
Dr. Weitz: Now, part of how melatonin helps with sleep is that it helps to reset our circadian rhythm, especially when our awakened sleep cycles have been thrown off maybe by irregular sleep patterns or travel. You refer to it in your paper to melatonin as a chronobiotic.
Dr. Weitz: So when it’s being used for resetting our circadian rhythm, how should melatonin be time dosed? Should it be just taken at night? Is there a benefit to taking it during the day, et cetera?
Deanna: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So typically, administration of a melatonin supplement would be about an hour before bedtime. It has a half-life of about 40 to 60 minutes, and that can be variable depending on the individual. So if you take that through the night and sync that up with the waking time, typically, it’s about an hour before bedtime. Now for people who are night owls, and we know that there are morning larks, people that arise naturally in the morning and have a lot of energy, and then you have the night owls who get their energy at night, so they have difficulty going to sleep and they have that delayed circadian rhythm. Melatonin may be helpful for those individuals, and they might take it earlier than that one hour before bedtime in order to reset their circadian rhythm to an earlier phase. Now, people that do shift work like nurses and so many other people, like people that work in casinos especially, I often think of that where they’re in artificial light.
Dr. Weitz: Let me just stop you one second.
Dr. Weitz: So let’s say your goal is to go to bed at 10:00, but you end up not falling asleep till 12:00. So you would take the melatonin maybe at 9:00 to get yourself more likely to fall asleep at 10:00, is what you’re saying?
Deanna: Well, and I would say that if you tend not to get sleepy until later like closer to midnight, to even take that melatonin earlier. It might bring the circadian rhythm closer in, so then it makes you tired earlier. You get to bed earlier. And for some people, they just have inherently, their circadian rhythm is programmed a little bit differently. But I would say, Ben, that the studies suggest that veering more towards morningness this rather than eveningness is a marker of better health outcomes overall. Of course, there’s a lot of personalization to that, but if we can prime our bodies to go to bed between 9:00 to 10:00 PM and wake up between 5:00 and 6:00 AM, then that aligns to, for the most part, depending on the season, the natural rhythm. So for most people that naturally get tired at that time, I would say that having melatonin an hour before bedtime. But if somebody has a delayed phase where they don’t get sleepy until 11:00 or 12:00 and they’re wired up, then even starting melatonin supplementation a little bit earlier, and they may have to change and just try out different hours that make sense for them, based on their own kinetics. But I would try it a couple of hours before.
Dr. Weitz: So for each of these benefits, I’d like to get a sense of what the dosage is. So when we’re using melatonin for sleep, what would be a good dosage?
Deanna: Yeah. Well, what I believe based on the literature and the safety of melatonin supplementation, I would say the lowest dose for the shortest duration. And a lot of that work is based on Dr. Richard Wurtman at MIT over the years who did a lot of this groundbreaking research in the early 2000s with his research team. There was one pivotal study that we talk about in this review paper where they looked at 0.3 milligrams versus a higher dose of three milligrams, and they found that the lower dose conferred greater benefit for sleep. So I would veer more towards that physiologic dose as well and do the 0.3 milligrams as a physiologic dose. And if you look at how we produce melatonin just in our bodies through the lifespan, having 0.3 milligrams helps to replenish what we’ve lost. Now, if we need additional help or we are jet-lagged where we need to reset circadian rhythm to sleep better, that’s a little bit different, then I would veer more towards a three milligram dose in order to really have that reset of the circadian rhythm. But if we’re in our everyday lives and we just want additional fortification, 0.3 milligrams.
Dr. Weitz: What if we were also trying to get some of the antioxidant benefits as well, and we’ll go into some of these other potential benefits.
Deanna: Yeah. And just to summarize them, so melatonin is anti-inflammatory, it is an antioxidant and as you mentioned, a chronobiotic and a mitochondrial regulator. And that’s what people are doing, is they’re trying to really access those other benefits of melatonin through supplementation. So there may be, depending on the individual, their age, their gender, their cytochrome P450, kinetics, their lifestyle, their artificial blue light exposure. And again, in the paper, we go through a number of those different personalized lifestyle factors that we might think about in functional medicine. But sure, there could be a case for perhaps short-term use of higher doses. And you and I were speaking about some of those doses, which some practitioners have used supraphysiologic levels and have used that with different patient groups for various indications. There isn’t a lot of data on long-term… In fact, there’s no data that I’m aware of with long-term use with high doses in that regard. Often if you look at the work of Dr. Paolo Lissoni and his work looking at patients with cancer, often those were certain types of cancer, certain types of chemotherapy under certain very targeted durations. So I think it has to be like you. You’re a practitioner, it has to be under practitioner supervision if there were going to be higher doses and what that indication might be for exactly.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. So one of the benefits of melatonin and its antioxidant properties, it appears to be with brain health, and you write about how it may aid the glymphatic process. For everybody who’s not aware, the brain has a natural detox process that occurs during REM sleep, especially where the glymphatic immune part of the brain helps to clear out toxins and melatonin aids this glymphatic process to help degrade amyloid beta and thus may prevent or delay dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Deanna: I think it’s exciting. This is very cutting edge and emerging research looking at the glymphatic fluid and how when we sleep is when our brain detoxifies, it gets rid of a lot of these toxic beta amyloid metabolites, Tau proteins that have been hyperphosphorylated. So what there seems to be an indication of in the literature, and again, this is very nascent, we still need more research, but what we can see perhaps from more preclinical work is that melatonin may actually play a role in the glymphatic fluid. So that might be by way of carrying out these different metabolites.
Now, one other thing that I didn’t mention in the paper with my colleagues is this whole idea of rejuvenation and repair at night. I’m sure that most of your listeners are aware that the greatest repair time for the body is typically nighttime. And I do think that melatonin plays a role in that. And there was a more recent study that just came out, which is why it’s not in the paper, which showed that at about that 2:00 AM time point is where you start to see not just melatonin peak, but you also see glutathione peak. You see other enzymes like superoxide dismutase catalyze. I think glutathione peroxidase was another one. So it seems as though melatonin is very important for nighttime repair processes together with a lot of those other antioxidant defense enzymes and compounds, which also seem to rise at night. So there’s a reason why we need sleep. It’s not just to process and condense memories, there is a physiological physical basis for sleep that may be connected to what you and I, Ben, have been talking about through the years, which is even detoxification.
Dr. Weitz: And I can see melatonin being maybe added to liver detox programs, added to Alzheimer’s prevention reversal programs.
Deanna: Yes, absolutely. It’s interesting because in the world of metabolic detoxification, we often think of the liver, we think of the gut, we think of the kidneys, the skin, but the brain is also part of the detoxification web. I think it’s essential. And of course the gut-brain connection is key there. And just to back up to something that you said about the gut, there is some research looking at the role of melatonin supplementation for IBS and even looking at GERD, gastro esophageal reflux disease. So there may be some indication where having melatonin in the gut supplementally may be of benefit.
Dr. Weitz: Interesting. I’ll be talking to Dr. Pimentel in a few weeks.
Dr. Weitz: So melatonin has benefits in preventing migraines.
Deanna: Migraines is another one, tinnitus, any kind of neurological issues we want to be thinking about.
Dr. Weitz: Tinnitus is a really tough one too.
Deanna: It’s very tough.
Dr. Weitz: There aren’t a lot of tools.
Deanna: Yeah. And also let’s not forget about the eye as part of the nervous system. So since we’re covering off brain health, we’re talking about migraines, headaches, tinnitus, there’s also the eyes and so many more people, I don’t know if you’re seeing this with your patients, but so many more people are having eye disorders and diseases. And I don’t know if that’s because of all of the blue light exposure that we’re getting through our devices and technology, but our retina is the key starting place for the reception of light or darkness, which then can change the signal to the brain. So it’s really important to even be thinking about eye health. And what’s really neat with Herbatonin, which is the supplemental plant melatonin, is that it contains other actives for the eyes like lutein and Zeaxanthin, to embed into the retina to actually protect it from blue light. So there’s also a value add.
Dr. Weitz: Which particular eye conditions has been studied with? Is it macular degeneration in particular, other eye conditions?
Deanna: I think that there were more for inflammatory eye conditions and also looking even at potentially glaucoma. Separately, I believe that the one that’s on the rise is age related macular degeneration, which theoretically, we might think that there could be some benefit there. Of course, I do think, again, I’m speaking to the science and many times, science is 20 to 50 years ahead of what we see done in the clinic. But we’re already starting to see that there’s this inkling of, well, if it’s an anti-inflammatory and it helps with inflammatory response, anything potentially that may involve that mechanism may be beneficial as we start thinking about melatonin. That we might see a beneficial response with melatonin.
Dr. Weitz: Cool. You have a chapter, a few paragraphs, a section on cardiovascular health and that melatonin has some potential benefits for heart health. In particular, you mentioned that it decreased nocturnal hypertension, which is a underdiagnosed, potentially dangerous form of hypertension.
Deanna: Yeah. And there can also be some connection to cardiometabolic health, even through blood sugar regulation. That can depend on gene variants and receptors and things of that nature. More recently, there was some work on body composition, which makes sense to me because even if we’re changing sleep or if we’re changing inflammation in the body, we know how important that would be for things like body composition and making sure that people have adequate and healthy muscle to fat ratios.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. The article also mentioned that melatonin may improve endothelial function in patients with heart failure. And heart failure is one of those really sad conditions, and we could certainly use more tools to help with that.
Deanna: That’s right. So again, a number of different things, blood pressure, and if we’re changing endothelial function, we are changing so many different aspects about vascular functions. So indeed.
Dr. Weitz: That could be part of our long Covid protocol too.
Deanna: Well, it’s funny you mentioned that because melatonin is beginning to be looked at as it relates to long Covid. And if you look back at some of the initial papers just recently over these past years looking at Covid, there is a connection with vitamin D, zinc, vitamin C, and melatonin was brought into a number of those protocols. So it was interesting to me, to see that right together with vitamins, minerals, and all of a sudden melatonin comes in, which makes me think, again, is it a nutrient? And what about the obvious, which is immune health. Because melatonin is playing a role in inflammatory response, antioxidant and free radical scavenging. It’s obvious to me that there could be some connection to immunity.
And in fact, I would say that even more than sleep, in some ways, the preponderance of data on melatonin is in that direction of its role in circadian rhythm and also immunity. So it makes good sense. And I even had conversations with other people in our space about autoimmune conditions. So I talk in the paper about multiple sclerosis, potentially. There’s more coming out on that. So it can cross a blood brain barrier, which is why I think it’s important for those kinds of neurological and immune conditions.
Dr. Weitz: And MS has this seasonal relapse and correlate with the light dark cycle. And then we also have the connection with vitamin D and MS as well.
Deanna: Lots of dots to connect on that one. Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Weitz: It looks like from some of the articles I saw, that the dosage for some of those purposes is more like 10 milligrams. And then I know for Covid, they were talking about, I think 20 to 50 milligrams was being used.
Deanna: Yeah. And I think for short term use, having that as part of a protocol with other nutrients and again, under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner, makes sense.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. I talked to Bob Rakowski one time and he’s been taking 50 milligrams for years just as a longevity protocol.
Deanna: Oh, my. Okay. Well, we know how vital Bob is.
Dr. Weitz: So fertility and pregnancy. In the article, you mentioned you use melatonin as supplemental melatonin being both safe in pregnancy for both the mother and the fetus, which is interesting because conventional wisdom would be, no, no, you can’t use that during pregnancy because it’s a hormone, et cetera.
Deanna: Well, I think what we talked about more was fertility, for melatonin supplementation to play a role in a woman getting pregnant. I would say that we’ve checked in with a number of different physicians who are expert in this fertility space, and a number of them, they don’t express concern about melatonin and supplementation at very modest doses during pregnancy, but we don’t have a lot of literature on that particular group. So I think about it more in the fertility and actually getting pregnant, and also dealing with a number of conditions that can result in infertility, looking at polycystical variant syndrome because of its role with the inflammatory response with blood glucose control. I think that even endometriosis, there’s some initial work being done on that.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah.
Dr. Weitz: You mentioned in the article, one study showed 95% decrease in menstrual irregularities in patients with PCOS who took melatonin for two months. The endometriosis study was 10 milligrams, and at least one study showed a reduction of endometriosis pain by 40% with 10 milligrams of melatonin over two months. So it looks like there are potentially lots of hormonal benefits.
Deanna: There can be, and again, we don’t want to paint the picture of melatonin as a panacea for all conditions, but I do think that the literature is stacking up and quite promising for a number of conditions that we might not have already thought about for melatonin supplements.
Dr. Weitz: Right. And I think on the pregnancy thing, I think the angle was that it may help with some of the blood pressure issues that sometimes occur with pregnancy.
Deanna: And I believe there was some talk about preeclampsia as well, right?
Dr. Weitz: Right.
Deanna: Yeah. Just getting at the whole picture of cardiometabolic health.
Dr. Weitz: Also bone health and perhaps melatonin may be part of a protocol for helping patients with osteopenia, osteoporosis.
Deanna: And that makes sense because of, again, the osteoblast-osteoclast dynamic with osteoclastic activity being upregulated with inflammation. And perhaps I’m personally most excited about that connection, especially with perimenopause and the changes in bone, the changes in vasomotor symptoms, cardiovascular symptoms. It just makes sense to me that that could fit very nicely into one’s healthy aging protocol, is to be looking at melatonin as a way of filling the gap and helping with improved inflammatory response.
Dr. Weitz: Also, vitamin K, super important. I recently had a discussion on vitamin K on the podcast with Cristiana Paul, and we went a deep dive into what form and how much of vitamin K, but I think vitamin K is being underutilized for osteoporosis.
Deanna: And several years ago, I had a blog that was, is vitamin K, the next vitamin D? Because I was also connecting into the hormonal aspects of vitamin K and the pleiotropic effects. And then you have different forms of vitamin K, different food sources, even of the different kinds of vitamin K. It does a lot of different things, and it works hand in hand with vitamin D.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. Yep.
Deanna: So what would happen if we put melatonin, vitamin D, and vitamin K in a protocol, right?
Dr. Weitz: There you go.
Deanna: That might be interesting for bone overall.
Dr. Weitz: Oh, absolutely. Add some strontium citrate and maybe a little boron and some calcium magnesium.
Deanna: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
Dr. Weitz: So the big C, as we know, cancer is one of the major killers today, and it looks like there’s some really impressive research on melatonin for cancer. I was just reading an article this morning and they had this chart of all the different pathways by which melatonin may actually have a beneficial effect on cancer, and it was amazing. It kind of reminded me of the chart on curcumin I’ve seen on that. And it looks like melatonin, even though it’s an antioxidant, has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of chemo in certain cases. And I know the dosage for cancer is quite a bit higher. And we were speaking off-air, that I had spoken to Dr. Paul Anderson not too long ago, and he had said that the recommended dosage now for cancer patients is at least for some patients, in the 100 to 300 milligram range. Whereas for years, I had always heard for sleep, it should be three milligrams, for cancer, maybe 20 milligrams, and now we’re looking at a 100 to 300 milligrams and possibly seeing some really amazing benefits.
Deanna: Yeah, I think it’s interesting, and again, Dr. Lissoni is one of the people that I lean on. He has been doing this work for three decades in people undergoing chemotherapy and doing a certain dosing protocol before the chemotherapy starts in order to help with the receptivity of the chemotherapy. So higher doses, double digits, usually. Not triple digits, as you mentioned. I believe in his studies, I recall seeing 20 to 50 milligrams on a daily basis, but now that’s some time ago. And so I’m assuming that people like Dr. Paul Anderson and others in that field of oncology, it’s of interest to try out different doses in different people. I think under that type of, again, supervision, that’s not something that would be advocated for the average consumer.
Dr. Weitz: Obviously, yes.
Deanna: But working with somebody’s healthcare practitioner to help navigate that space and to perhaps try out different levels based on kinetics, I think it makes sense.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. None of the recommendations here are to-
Deanna: Definitely no.
Dr. Weitz: To be used by consumers to help with healthcare problems. You should consult your doctor on the use of an melatonin or any other nutritional supplements.
Deanna: Ben, I just want to say one more thing before we move off that topic.
Dr. Weitz: Yes, yes.
Deanna: When it relates to cancer prevention, so if we think of shift workers. What we see in the literature is that there is an association between shift work and increased risk of certain kinds of cancer like breast cancer. So I often wonder how much that circadian distortion does change our biology, our physiology, what’s happening and how that could be impacting it significantly within that realm. The other thing that Dr. Russell Reiter. Now, Dr. Reiter is I would say, and it’s R-E-I-T-E-R, he’s brilliant. And whenever I talk about melatonin, I can’t help but mention Dr. Wurtman and Dr. Reiter because they have really created much of this ground level research for understanding. And Dr. Reiter has talked about how even having melatonin may change the metabolism of cells as it relates to the Warburg Effect.
And so changing, being able to remove some of those metabolic blocks in cancer cells, or at least to bring the metabolic pathways back into better regulation, which is so interesting. And it makes sense because if we know that melatonin is highly concentrated in the mitochondria and that’s the hub of metabolism, then it makes sense that melatonin could have an impact there. Really important.
Dr. Weitz: For health, for longevity, as well as cancer prevention, for sure.
Dr. Weitz: So let’s finish up by talking about plant melatonin, phyto-melatonin and how that’s different than other melatonin.
Deanna: So most of the supplements of melatonin on the market, and this is just even looking at Amazon, most of them are synthetically derived, meaning that you’ve got big chemically oriented factories cranking out melatonin from different petroleum based substrates. So they’re chemically synthesized. And by way of that process, two things are happening. One is that you can get the formation of toxic metabolites, and there was one publication that we cited in the article with at least 13 different contaminants that can arise from that process. Secondly, it’s very polluting and not very good for the environment to have these big factories. It’s cheap to do that. Back in the late 1950s, people had extracted melatonin from the pineal gland of animals, but then there were issues with prions and viruses and all kinds of different issues. So then there needed to be some other strategy to get melatonin, and it was through this chemical synthesis. And not to say that’s always a bad thing. There are certain nutrients that can be created without that kind of problem, but with melatonin, there can be a number of things that fall out of that. So people are buying a poor quality melatonin product, and it’s from a company where they’re not testing for these other contaminants that might be problematic.
So with Herbatonin, this is a brand of plant melatonin that is directly from rice, chlorella, and alfalfa. So it’s the same melatonin that’s in our bodies with the added benefit of the other plant constituents. So it’s vegan for those who are vegan, and it also has a bit more of a complex plant matrix. So the digestibility and the bioavailability, we presume, is different than just taking straight on melatonin. Some of the melatonin products that are on the market might have more than just melatonin in the product, which we don’t really know how everything interacts or are you actually dialing down the function of melatonin if you have other things in there.
So anyway, it’s just good to know what you’re getting to get the quality. So with Herbatonin, it’s been tested side by side against synthetic melatonin and found to be 646% better in terms of its anti-inflammatory response, up to 470% better in terms of free radical scavenging. And even in a skin cell model of looking at reactive oxygen species, having a 100% better effect relative to synthetic melatonin. Now, that was not in my paper, that was in a different paper published in Molecules 2021 by a different researcher, just doing head-to-head cell assay studies just to look at the comparison. So yes, you want melatonin, but you don’t want the toxic metabolites, and you want the amplified activity of all of these other benefits of whatever comes along for the ride in the plant.
Dr. Weitz: Now, does this plant melatonin come in a range of strengths?
Deanna: It does. It has a lower strength, the physiologic strength, and then it has the more increased strength, more for jet lag and other kinds of applications. So 0.3 milligrams, which is based on the research and three milligrams, which is the higher dose to be used in specific applications.
Dr. Weitz: Okay, cool.
Dr. Weitz: Great.
Deanna: You need to try some, Ben. We need to have you try some Herbatonin.
Dr. Weitz: Okay.
Deanna: It’s become my mainstay, that’s for sure.
Dr. Weitz: I’ll add it to my 30 or 40 other supplements I take twice a day. I’m on the longevity train, I’m doing it all.
Deanna: Everybody else has that goal of 120 years. I think for me, I just want to live a good quality life. When I’m done what I needed to do, I’ll know.
Dr. Weitz: I never plan to be done needing to do what I want to do.
Deanna: Oh, well, that’s a good point. And there are so many concepts as it relates to healthy aging, right? There’s lifespan and then there’s healthspan, and you want those two lines to be going together. You don’t want to have a lifespan without the healthspan.
Dr. Weitz: Of course. Yeah. You focus on biological aging, for sure.
Deanna: Yeah, I like that for sure. Yeah.
Dr. Weitz: Okay. So thank you Deanna, and any other final thoughts for our listeners and how can they find out about if they want to get more information about you, your website, and more about phyto-melatonin?
Deanna: Well, I’m surprised you didn’t ask me about-
Dr. Weitz: Is phyto-melatonin… Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Deanna: Well, I just want to say one last thing before we segue into that. You didn’t ask me about blue light blocking glasses.
Dr. Weitz: Oh, okay.
Deanna: Do you wear those? Do you do that, personally?
Dr. Weitz: I don’t.
Deanna: You don’t? Well, there’s actually.
Dr. Weitz: I never have any trouble falling asleep.
Deanna: Yeah, I agree. But are you on a computer late at night? So blue light blocking glasses are going to defray. I just want to mention it as part of a lifestyle strategy for some people where they feel really boxed in like, “Oh, wow, she’s telling me I have to be in complete darkness when it starts to get dark or dark outside.” So two strategies which can work very well hand in hand if you can’t correct your lifestyle and reverse that, there can be all kinds of things. Dim the light on your computer. There is science on blue light blocking glasses. And so having those on to trick your retina into thinking that it’s red light instead of blue light, and then a quality melatonin supplement to help your body to naturally have the levels that you need to prime circadian rhythm and keep you healthy, especially as you get older when we don’t have those same curves in place.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. And there are blue light blocking filters you can use on your phone or on your computer as well.
Deanna: Yeah, you can. I’m really sensitive to that lately. I mean, I just think we’re never going to have technology go away. We’re not going to work by candlelight. So it’s nice to think about all those things.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. I’m not going to go around the house and put red light bulbs in. I think somebody talked about doing that.
Deanna: There’s that. Well, my husband actually, we have a light system in our house under Phillips, it’s called Hue, where through an app, we can change the light intensity and the light color. It’s kind of cool, actually. I like color, so for me, I like it for that reason.
Dr. Weitz: Okay.
Deanna: But anyway, all kinds of different biohacks out there, as we might like to call them. But long story short, yes. Hopefully, this has been informative, that people get a better sense of what melatonin can do. Things to look for in a supplement. I did mention Herbatonin. How do they find me? Through my website, deannaminich.com or even the symphonynaturalhealth.com website where they can find out more about Herbatonin, bring it up to their practitioner if they’re interested, or they just want to try it on their own. Yeah, I think that-
Dr. Weitz: Is Herbatonin only sold through practitioners?
Deanna: No, no. You can find it also on Amazon.
Dr. Weitz: Okay.
Deanna: But for practitioners, there’s a different way that it’s packaged. And yeah, we have a symphonynaturalhealthpro.com, which is for health professionals and has different types of information there, but most people can find the product online or through the symphonynaturalhealth.com site too.
Dr. Weitz: Great. Thank you, Deanna.
Deanna: Thank you, Ben. Good talking with you.
Dr. Weitz: Same here, thank you.
Thank you for making it all the way through this episode of the Rational Wellness Podcast. For those of you who enjoy listening to the Rational Wellness Podcast, I would certainly appreciate it if you could go to Apple Podcasts or Spotify and give us a five star ratings and review. That way, more people will discover the Rational Wellness Podcast. And I wanted to let everybody know that I do have some openings for new patients, so I can see you for a functional medicine consultation for specific health issues like gut problems, autoimmune diseases, cardiometabolic conditions, or for an executive health screen, and to help you promote longevity and take a deeper dive into some of those factors that can lead to chronic diseases along the way. And that usually means we’re going to do some more detailed lab work, stool testing, sometimes you’re in testing, and we’re going to look at a lot more details to get a better picture of your overall health from a preventative functional medicine perspective. So if you’re interested, please call my Santa Monica Weitz Sports Chiropractic and Nutrition office at 310-395-3111, and we can set you up for a new consultation for functional medicine. I’ll talk to everybody next week.
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