If you see a woman doubled over in pain, she may have endometriosis. This silent inflictor of pain affects millions of women worldwide and accounts for many lives spiraling into an abyss. The basic pathology behind all this pain involves tiny islands of endometrial tissue lying in abnormal places around the body causing a severe inflammatory reaction.
This basic pathology leads us to an interesting solution: melatonin. This powerful messenger secreted from a deep place in the brain called the pineal gland is growing in popularity because of its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Melatonin is also well known as the sleep signal because it is secreted mostly at night and regulates our sleep-wake cycles.1 So, why would it help women with endometriosis? Let’s take a look at the research.
First, some rat studies offer some clues. One study showed a reduction in inflammatory-related pain when rats where given melatonin.2 Another study showed shrinkage of abnormal endometrial tissue during melatonin therapy and reduced reoccurrence of endometriosis even after the melatonin therapy was discontinued.3 Now rat studies are not enough to get me excited about a particular treatment, but a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial is.
In Brazil, researchers studied 40 women with endometriosis by dividing them into two groups. One group got a placebo and the other group got melatonin supplements over an eight week period of time. After that period of time, the results showed a dramatic difference. The women taking melatonin experienced a 40% reduction in pain, improved sleep and 80% less need for other analgesic medications.4 Now that’s something to get excited about.
Melatonin is available as a natural supplement, is easily accessed and highly tolerable. It’s important to note that it may take several days or weeks to notice a difference, but it seems to be worth a try. Some pharmaceutical companies are developing synthetic versions like ramelteon (Rozerem, USA) and agomelatine (Valdoxan, Europe) for those that need long-acting replacement for melatonin deficiency. Light therapy is also known to stimulate natural hormone productions. Talk to your doctor and discuss whether or not any of these options are right for you or for the woman you know who spends her life doubled-over with endometriosis pain.
- ScientificWorldJournal. 2012; 2012: 640389
- J Pain Res. 2012;5:359-62
- Fertil Steril. 2010 Apr;93(6):1787-92
- Pain. 2013 Mar 5. pii: S0304-3959(13)00081-X