For so many people getting a good night’s sleep is a daily challenge. If you find yourself counting sheep, night after night, you’re not alone. According to a study by Dr. Morin from the University of Laval, 40% of Canadians report having one or more symptoms of insomnia at least three times a week.1
The study showed:
Their data revealed that 40% of respondents had experienced one or more symptoms of insomnia at least three times a week in the preceding month, i.e., taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, being awake for periods longer than 30 minutes during the night, or waking up at least 30 minutes before they had planned. Moreover, 20% of the participants said they were unsatisfied with the quality of their sleep, and 13.4% of respondents displayed all the symptoms required to diagnose insomnia.
Getting a better night’s sleep can require correcting sleep habits, decreasing stress, or rebalancing hormones but after an initial period of improvement, patients often relapse. Most recently, I returned to the drawing board to try and find these patients a permanent solution. I started looking at the puzzle from a different perspective. What was I missing? Pineal calcification.
80% of the pineal gland consists of pinealocytes which produce melatonin.2 Melatonin has a lot more functions than just regulating our sleep. It enhances the immune system, and at higher doses, is a very strong antioxidant.2 It is a neuroprotector implicated in the aging process that is often associated with mental decline and dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s.2 It also decreases secretion of sex hormones LH and FSH, playing a role in sexual development.3
This study examined the role of melatonin in neurodegenerative diseases:
One of the features of advancing age is the gradual decrease in circulating melatonin levels. A limited number of therapeutic trials have indicated that melatonin has a therapeutic value as a neuroprotective drug in the treatment of AD and minimal cognitive impairment (which may evolve to AD). Both in vitro and in vivo, melatonin prevented the neurodegeneration seen in experimental models of AD. For these effects to occur, doses of melatonin about two orders of magnitude higher than those required to affect sleep and circadian rhythmicity are needed. More recently, attention has been focused on the development of potent melatonin analogs with prolonged effects, which were employed in clinical trials in sleep-disturbed or depressed patients in doses considerably higher than those employed for melatonin. In view that the relative potencies of the analogs are higher than that of the natural compound, clinical trials employing melatonin in the range of 50–100 mg/day are urgently needed to assess its therapeutic validity in neurodegenerative disorders such as AD.
Pineal calcification was first demonstrated in 1918 by Schüller on autopsy.4 Since then, countless studies have demonstrated that pineal calcification increases with age.5 Pineal calcification occurs from the death or degeneration of pinealocytes; therefore, decreasing melatonin production.6 In light of all the functions of melatonin, it’s important to consider the implications of decreased melatonin.
Pineal calcification has been associated with a number of serious conditions including Alzheimer’s7, diabetes8, hormone related cancer8, migraines4, GERD9, gastrointestinal ulcers10, and studies are now looking at a possible link between pineal gland calcification, lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration and abnormal aorta calcification11. In 2006, a study found that patients with Alzheimer’s Disease had significantly greater amounts of calcified pineal gland tissue than patients with other types of dementia.7
The pineal gland sits outside of the blood-brain barrier, and receives direct blood flow, making it a prime location for fluoride deposition.12 Fluoride has been found to deposit in the pineal gland in the form of hydroxyapatite and to interfere with pineal gland function.12 Since the mid 1900s, fluoridating water became common practice to prevent cavities. Today, many Canadian communities have chosen to not fluoridate their water and only roughly 45% of Canadians have access to fluoridated water.13 Health Canada recommends adding fluoride at a concentration of 0.7 parts per million.13
The effects of fluoride have been largely debated. Although research shows that water fluoridation decreases tooth decay by 20%-40%14, and some studies show that fluoridation is linked to no long-term harm, newer research suggests otherwise. Studies show that chronic consumption of high levels of sodium fluoride lead to deterioration in learning, evident in lower than normal IQ scores in children as well as histopathological changes in mice, such as demyelination of cells in the brain.14 Prolonged exposure to high levels of fluoride have also been implicated in thyroid gland dysfunction and abnormal sexual development in children.14
It’s important to recognize that fluoride is not only found in water and toothpaste. Fluoride is an important component of our soil, and is incorporated in varying amounts into our food and drinks in the manufacturing process. This makes it extremely difficult to regulate. Toothpastes can contain anywhere from 1000ppm to 1500ppm of fluoride and soft drinks were found to have fluoride levels ranging from 0.02 to 1.28ppm, with an average of 0.60ppm. Although conclusive research is not available, the possible dangers of excess fluoride intake warrant additional study and avoiding the use of products that contain large amounts of fluoride. Products that may contain large amounts of fluoride include soft drinks, teas and toothpaste. A fluoride intake of 0.05-0.07 mg/kg body weight/day has been suggested as being optimal.16 A Brazilian study looking at fluoride intake from toothpaste and dietary sources found that toothpaste alone contributes to roughly 80% of the recommended fluoride intake.16 The study also found that most children were exposed to a daily fluoride intake above the suggested optimal amount.16 Furthermore, inadequate iodine intake can decrease the threshold at which fluoride becomes harmful.17 In addressing the safety of fluoride, it is insufficient to only consider the amount of fluoride in water.
Addressing an underlying melatonin deficiency could be central to a person’s treatment plan. Synthesized in the gastrointestinal system and by the pineal gland, melatonin plays a central role in our body and affects virtually every single system in our body. Without the luxury of being able to have a CT scan to see if your pineal gland is calcified, what can you do? Urine testing for the melatonin metabolite, 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, could be a sign of pineal calcification.5If pineal calcification is suspected as the cause of a melatonin deficiency, tissue salts and auricular acupuncture may be the answer. Exogenous sources of fluoride leading to pineal calcification also needs to be considered.
Dr. Olisa Mak is a licensed ND with a general family practice in downtown Vancouver. She has a special interest in bringing awareness to the mind-body connection using homeopathy, botanicals and lifestyle counselling.
She is driven to educate, inspire and empower those around her. Everyone has the potential to achieve their dreams and goals but are often unable to because of their fears, perceptions and circumstances. Dr. Mak strives to work with her patients to remove barriers, empowering patients to seize opportunities and to make the life they want a reality.
- Université Laval. (2011, September 8). Sleep disorders affect 40 percent of Canadians. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 22, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908104005.htm
- Wu Y, Swaab D. The human pineal gland and melatonin in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. J Pineal Res. 2005;38(3):145-152. doi:10.1111/j.1600-079x.2004.00196.x.
- Tamura H, Nakamura Y, Korkmaz A et al. Melatonin and the ovary: physiological and pathophysiological implications. Fertility and Sterility. 2009;92(1):328-343. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.05.016.
- Ozlece H, Akyuz O, Ilik F et al. Is there a correlation between the pineal gland calcification and migraine? European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2015; 19(20): 3861-3864.
- Assessment of Pineal Gland Volume and Calcification in Healthy Subjects: Is it Related to Aging?. Journal of the Belgian Society of Radiology. 2016;100(1). doi:10.5334/jbr-btr.892.
- Humbert W, Pévet P. The pineal gland of the aging rat: Calcium localization and variation in the number of pinealocytes. J Pineal Res. 1995;18(1):32-40. doi:10.1111/j.1600-079x.1995.tb00137.x.
- Mahlberg R, Walther S, Kalus P et al. Pineal calcification in Alzheimer’s disease: An in vivo study using computed tomography. Neurobiology of Aging. 2008;29(2):203-209. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2006.10.003.
- Sandyk R, Anastasiadis P, Anninos P, Tsagas N. Is the Pineal Gland Involved in the Pathogenesis of Endometrial Carcinoma. International Journal of Neuroscience. 1991;62(1-2):89-96. doi:10.3109/00207459108999761.
- Pereira R. Regression of gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms using dietary supplementation with melatonin, vitamins and aminoacids: comparison with omeprazole. J Pineal Res. 2006;41(3):195-200. doi:10.1111/j.1600-079x.2006.00359.x.
- Bandyopadhyay D, Bandyopadhyay A, Das P, Reiter R. Melatonin protects against gastric ulceration and increases the efficacy of ranitidine and omeprazole in reducing gastric damage. J Pineal Res. 2002;33(1):1-7. doi:10.1034/j.1600-079x.2002.01107.x.
- 11. Turgut A, Sönmez I, Çakıt B, Koşar P, Koşar U. Pineal gland calcification, lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration and abdominal aorta calcifying atherosclerosis correlate in low back pain subjects: A cross-sectional observational CT study. Pathophysiology. 2008;15(1):31-39. doi:10.1016/j.pathophys.2007.12.001.
- Luke J. Fluoride Deposition in the Aged Human Pineal Gland. Caries Research. 2001;35(2):125-128. doi:10.1159/000047443.
- Rabb-Waytowich D. Water Fluoridation in Canada: Past and Present. Journal of the Canadian Dental Association. 2009;75(6): 451-454.
- Basha P, Rai P, Begum S. Fluoride Toxicity and Status of Serum Thyroid Hormones, Brain Histopathology, and Learning Memory in Rats: A Multigenerational Assessment. Biological Trace Element Research. 2011;144(1-3):1083-1094. doi:10.1007/s12011-011-9137-3.
- HEILMAN J, KIRITSY M, LEVY S, WEFEL J. ASSESSING FLUORIDE LEVELS OF CARBONATED SOFT DRINKS. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 1999;130(11):1593-1599. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.1999.0098.
- de Almeida B, da Silva Cardoso V, Buzalaf M. Fluoride ingestion from toothpaste and diet in 1- to 3-year-old Brazilian children. Commun Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2007;35(1):53-63. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0528.2007.00328.x.
- Carton, Robert J. “Review of the 2006 United States National Research Council report: fluoride in drinking water.” Fluoride 39.3 (2006): 163-172.