The brain is not the only source of melatonin in the body; the digestive tract also makes melatonin. The gastrointestinal tract produces 400 to 500 times as much melatonin as the pineal gland. It has multiple effects on digestion and is important in maintaining normal digestive function. It is often referred to as an antioxidant, reported to be twice as effective as vitamin E. Melatonin may have clinical use in treating a range of gastrointestinal disorders including GERD, gastric ulceration, pancreatitis, liver fibrosis, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux and ulcerative colitis. Melatonin helps many other process in the body, besides insomnia.
The human digestive system is considered by many experts to be the ‘2nd Brain,’ due to its ability to produce neurotransmitters. Additionally, the digestive system works off of similar rhythmic patterns as brain waves and has an advanced communication network that rivals that of the brain This super hormone is present in all segments of the gastrointestinal tract as well as the pancreas & liver.
Oral doses of l-tryptophan increase blood levels of melatonin. The l-tryptophan is converted to melatonin in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) rather than the brain. The commonly held concept is that l-tryptophan is converted to serotonin may not be accurate. Serotonin is an intermediary on the pathway between l-tryptophan and melatonin and not the end product. Because the rate of conversion from serotonin to melatonin is variable, it is best to use melatonin itself to raise the levels in the gut. Melatonin inhibits nitric oxide production and this prevents relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and this may explain how melatonin prevents reflux.
The common assumption that people get heartburn at night because they are horizontal and gravity no longer holds the food down may need to be rethought. Within the gut, melatonin is an important regulator of motility and inflammation. Nighttime lighting lowers melatonin secretion and allows the LES sphincter to relax inappropriately. This may partly explain why reflux worsens at night.
Melatonin may also be useful in treating a range of diseases of the mouth such as infections, bacterial, fungal or viral. It may be useful for healing tooth extractions, periodontal diseases and oral cancers. One option might be to add melatonin to the toothpaste one uses at bedtime.