The pineal gland is a small structure about the size of a pea that is located in the centre of the brain. There are four hormones produced by the pineal gland and each has a major affect on our bodies.
1. Melatonin is produced primarily during darkness and can be found everywhere in the body and affects all bodily functions. This hormone affects the regulation of the sleep/wake cycle.
2. Serotonin is involved in neural mechanisms important to sleep and sensory perception. Both melatonin and serotonin influence adrenal secretions of epinephrine and norepinephrine. This hormone is also called the “feels good” hormone, this may be why carbs are soo addictive as they trigger the release of serotonin. Carbs are a quick fix, but they do nothing to stimulate ongoing production of serotonin, which is what you want.
3. Adrenoglomerulotropin is a hormone that stimulates the release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex. With melatonin and serotonin also having an influence on the adrenal glands it’s beleived that pineal hormones may play an important role in the body’s ability to handle and respond to stress.
4. Pinealin in an insulin-like hormone that can lower blood sugar levels and protect the pancreas from the toxin, alloxan.
One popular disorder of the pineal gland is Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a mood disorder characterized by mental depression related to the absence of sunlight generally during the winter months. Symptoms include:
Insomnia and the inability to concentrate.
SAD is about 4 times more frequent in women than men and is often accompanied by excessive sleeping, reduced sex drive, lower immune functions, weight gain and over eating. (especially carbs)
Some great nutrients for your Pineal gland is:
Tryptophan. Contrary to popular thought it gets its associating with sleeping from being one of the most important amino acids that help manufacture melatonin and serotonin….not because if you eat too much turkey you will fall asleep. 🙂 Tryptophan can be found in Turkey, Milk, Cottage Cheese, Chicken, Eggs, Red Meats, Soybeans, Tofu and nuts, especially almonds.
B6: This is a cofactor in proper melatonin synthesis and is found in Brewers yeast, cantaloupe, cabbage, milk, eggs, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, bananas, prunes, potatoes and avocado.
Cherries or cherry juices have been shown to increase melatonin.
Meditate and stress reduction has been shown to improve proper Pineal gland functions
Exercise and a proper sleep/wake/exercise pattern has been shown to improve all functions of the gland.
Avoid simple carbohydrates and other high glycemic foods.
Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.
Sometimes depression can’t be avoided but with a few small changes to your diet you can be feeling good no matter what season it is.