Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body that is produced by the pineal gland. It has been well known for its role in the sleep cycle but has more recently been shown to function as an antioxidant and as a player in proper immune system functioning.
There is currently a Phase II clinical trial recruiting subjects with ulcerative colitis to test the efficacy of melatonin supplements in lessening symptoms of the disease (1). It is important because previous research in animals has noted that melatonin plays a significant role in the health of the GI tract. With regard to inflammation and GI bleeding one rodent study found that the melatonin resolved the issue in all cases (2).
The additional benefit to something like melatonin is the relatively low risk of side effects as compared with the other treatments for UC. Some of the side effects that can be experienced with melatonin are: dizziness, daytime sleepiness, headache, abdominal pain, vivid dreams or confusion. There is very little research on the long term use of melatonin. Melatonin has also been shown to interact with some prescription drugs so it should not be taken without first discussing it with your physician.
While this is still a very new field it does show promising results for the future treatment of UC. Doctors are still determining the proper dosage as well as length of time for treatment. This new research may provide additional insight into how to use melatonin to help people dealing with UC.
Please do not make any changes to your medication, including supplements, with out discussing it with your physician.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.