Harvard Health Letter

In brief: Could melatonin calm irritable bowels?

In brief

Could melatonin calm irritable bowels?

Melatonin is a lullaby in the form of a hormone. Doctors believe that we get sleepy most evenings partly because the pineal gland deep in the brain pumps out sleep-inducing melatonin when it gets dark.

It's not quite so simple: Study results have varied on how well melatonin works as a sleeping pill. Still, there's little question that the hormone influences the sleep-wake cycle (the so-called biological clock). Many people take it to cope with jet lag.

Like many hormones, melatonin has multiple effects, so researchers have investigated it as a treatment for everything from attention deficit disorder to stroke to high blood pressure to smoking cessation — and now, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

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