Are you completely unaware of the term pineal gland? For the unknown, the pineal gland is a tiny, pea-shaped gland located in the human brain. Also referred to as the pineal body or epiphysis cerebri, the pineal gland lies beneath the back part of the corpus callosum. As it is located deep in the center of the brain, the pineal gland has also been known as the “third eye”. In this article, we delve deep into the important functions of the pineal gland.
Top 5 Functions of The Pineal Gland – An Overview
Our physical and mental health is greatly influenced by the pineal gland, a tiny gland the size of a pea that is tucked away deep within the brain. Examining the pineal gland’s top five functions reveals its amazing contributions to our general well-being and functionality.
1. Releases melatonin
Circadian rhythms follow a 24-hour cycle and play an important role in your sleep-wake cycle. It’s the circadian rhythm that tells your body the time to sleep and wake up for the day. For your information, melatonin is a hormone derived from tryptophan. This hormone plays a major function in the regulation of the circadian rhythm of the body.
The pineal gland is light-sensitive and when it starts getting dark out, this gland releases melatonin into your body. As a result of this process, you start feeling sleepy. To keep it simple, melatonin plays an important role in regulating your sleep patterns (circadian rhythms). Thus it is due to the secretion of melatonin that you feel sleepy at night rather than in the middle of the day.
2. Contributes to cardiovascular health
The secretion of melatonin contributes positively to your heart and blood pressure. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, studies have revealed that melatonin has substantial effects on ischemia-reperfusion injury and myocardial chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) injury.
This hormone also plays a pivotal role in hypertension, pulmonary hypertension, vascular diseases, valvular heart diseases, and lipid metabolism. The other development that deserves special mention is that melatonin may emerge as a new therapeutic option for cardiovascular disease. This is due to the factors that it may be an inexpensive and well-tolerated drug.
3. Related to female hormones
According to the latest studies, the menstrual cycle may influence the pineal gland and levels of melatonin. In addition to noticing a surge in melatonin levels during the late luteal phase, the researchers also observed that these levels will be lower when one moves from premenopause to postmenopause. Another major finding was that progesterone probably influences the rise of melatonin.
A section of the experts are of the view that melatonin may influence sexual health and reproduction. According to them, low melatonin levels are related to a delay in puberty and lower fertility. An important observation in this regard is that people residing in regions close to the Arctic Circle have lower pregnancy rates during times of prolonged darkness in the winter.
4. Cuts down the risk of cancer
Another major finding by researchers is that there may be a connection between impaired pineal gland function and the risk of cancer. A study conducted among rats showed that lowering pineal gland function by exposing excessively to light led to cellular damage and an elevated risk of colon cancer. The use of melatonin along with other treatments may improve the outlook for patients suffering from the disease. However, this may be true in the case of patients diagnosed with advanced tumors.
5. Associated with mood stabilization
The size of your pineal gland may be an indication of the risk for some mood disorders. A study conducted by Pubmed revealed that people diagnosed with schizophrenia have smaller pineal gland volumes. Thus, it may be concluded that those with a lower pineal gland volume stand a higher risk of developing schizophrenia and other mood disorders. However, more research needs to be conducted to confirm the connection.
Hope the article provides valuable insights into the functions of the pineal gland. Though we discussed all the major functions, any impairment in the working of the pineal gland can also lead to serious health issues.
An example is hormonal imbalance which can affect the functioning of your other body systems. This includes a disturbance in sleep patterns, jet lag, and insomnia. The other health issues caused by the malfunctioning of the pineal gland include mood swings, depression, and peptic or stomach ulcers to name a few.