Dr. Alan Christianson here. Does melatonin cause infertility? This is a really good question and answering this question is a great case study for the thought process on how the body works. How Biochemistry functions. What is Melatonin? Where does it come from? Why would we be concerned about this? We will make sense out of all of this in just a couple minutes here.
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So Melatonin is a hormone and hormones are chemicals made by one part of the body to be used by other parts of the body. Mostly for regulating key functions. Melatonin is made by the pineal gland. A little tiny thing near the back of your head and it has got a lot of connections between our visual centers. So bright light and the absence of light has strong effects stimulating the activity of the pineal gland and the timing of it. Melatonin is a healthy system is made starting in the evening. I got a little bit kicking in here soon so bear with me. We start making it in the evening and it makes us tired. It makes us want to sleep and unwind and really recover our bodies.
Melatonin, imagine like a see-saw and you got Melatonin on one side and cortisol on the other. Cortisol is the main adrenal activating hormone and when cortisol rises in the morning ideally Melatonin goes down and vice versa.
So Melatonin is also available as a nonprescription dietary supplement and as such, it is one of the more popular sleep aids on the market. It has had that status for some time. Now we produce Melatonin and we actually produce quite a bit more then what is actually found in pills or supplements. So when we do take it, it can change how much we are making by ourselves and of course it can change how much melatonin we have in circulation. When the body is making its own there is a burst or kind of a gentle spike that goes on closer to bedtime and there is a steady trickle throughout the evening that winds down close to when the sun rises. When we take it, however, most versions are called immediate release and that is just kind of a standard default tablet or capsule or liquid meaning that it enters your bloodstream immediately or quickly as you absorb it. You know rather fast. What happens in your blood is that there is a burst of Melatonin followed by a drop off in Melatonin.
So this is not quite the same as how your body does it. It is not the same response and not the same timing. When you get large amounts of Melatonin way above what your body would make that can stop ovulation. That can keep women from ovulating. This can change the timing of their menstrual cycles and this can cause infertility. There has also been data saying that Melatonin in levels higher then what the body would typically produce can affect sperm formation in men. So they can be affected by this as well. The amounts that clearly block this are rather high. They are outside of the range of what you would probably come across in supplements. So don’t expect this to be a contraceptive. No one is telling you that Melatonin will keep you from getting pregnant if you’re wanting not to get pregnant. You know Murphy’s Law. If you are trying to get pregnant it could be one more thing that could be a problem blocking it.
So you know Melatonin has effects on sleep that get pronounced at the low end of the dosing scale. Meaning that it is stronger. It is a stronger sleep aid when you take smaller amounts. How is that possible? It seems so logical with so many things that more is more and its hard not to think about the body or about nutrients or hormones in that same way.
There is a thing we call the U shape curve and a lot of us nerdy health people get enamored about this. Imagine the letter U and the higher the line is, the high parts of the U that represent more of something happening. So the long side as far it’s going down and up represents how much you got that is triggering it. So Melatonin if going up means more of it and going over means more of an effect there is a U shaped curve. Meaning that the greatest effects occur at a low part or the narrow part of the dosing range. That results in larger amounts doing less not more.
For Melatonin, most products in the market are in the range of about 1 to 5 milligrams and it is not uncommon to see people using 5 or 10 milligrams. You know many do take these higher amounts and yet the effective dosing range, the amounts that do the most are so much lower. They are way down on the bottom end of the curve. They are actually below a milligram.
What happens when it works well is that tiny amounts hit our blood stream and it causes us to temporarily make less but then we rebound and make more. So it is not that we are taking it to supplement what we have at all. Its not an effective strategy with it. What does work is to take a tiny amount to trigger us to produce more by ourselves for a longer period of time. That is not much. That is about a third to a half of a milligram. You can also see that in microgram dosing. That would be like 300 to 500 micrograms. The most common dosing units.
Then timing, because we are not trying to knock ourselves out with it but trigger a stronger response the timing is also a consideration. So the times that are most effective are not at bedtime but they are actually a while before it and this is also counter intuitive. It is not a matter of taking it when we are wanting it to work but we are taking it before hand so we get this rebound effect. The last part of it is that it works better if there is a gentle trickle in our bodies for longer periods of time. So sustained release plant dried types are probably most effective.
I want to give a shout out to Dr. Michael Bruce the sleep doctor for sharing some of the insights about the infertility in Melatonin and the many roles it plays in the body. To have it work really well it is most effective in conjunction with targeted therapies that help cortisol and also use lights to re-set one’s rhythm but it can be effective. The funny thing is that used properly there is actually a paper showing that it helps fertility. So how is that for a curveball. You know too much of something can block it and the right amount of it can help it. The right amount, of course, can come from yourself. You know some good tricks for that is really making your bedroom dark and I mean dark. Look around and find the little courtesy lights or the alarm lights and tape over them. My wife does not like the tape we got but she lives with it because she knows its important. So make it dark. You will produce more Melatonin. It will make you more fertile. If that’s what the goal is it will be useful.
Remember that nutrients and hormones they are not more is better. I would love to think that it would be so simple but it does not work that way. It is always about seeing what is best and what is the right amount for you. It is not always the same from person to person. So Melatonin friend or foe make your own by creating a dark bedroom, by good brisk training and by unpacking your mind, you know clearing things out at the end of a day, and it can be a wonderful boon to your health.
So thanks for tuning in and I will be back soon with Reset Me With Dr. C.
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