THE PINEAL GLAND
HOW IT PROMOTES HEALTH*
The pineal gland is one of the smallest endocrine glands in the body. It is very important for the healthy functioning of the body. It is located in the epithalamus, near the centre of the brain, and is near the more well-known pituitary gland. It is situated between the two hemispheres, in a groove where the two halves of the thalamus join.
The pineal gland gets its name because its shape resembles a small pine cone. It is about the size of a grain of rice (5-8mm). It is also called the pineal body, the pineal organ, cornarium, epiphysis cerebri and the "third eye". This latter name derives from the fact that the pineal gland has been compared to the photoreceptive, the so-called third parietal eye present on the epithalamus of some animal species, which is also called the pineal eye. It is said that René Descartes believed the pineal gland to be the "principal seat of the soul", and viewed it as the third eye.
The pineal gland grows in size until the age of about 2 years, remaining stable thereafter, although its weight increases from puberty onwards. The abundant melatonin levels in children are believed to inhibit sexual development, and pineal tumours have been linked to precocious puberty. When puberty arrives, melatonin production is reduced.
The blood supply to this gland is interesting since, unlike the rest of the brain, it is not isolated from the rest of the body by the blood-brain barrier. It has a high rate of blood perfusion.
The pineal gland’s nerve supply is complex, but in essence it receives interaction from both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves.
Pineal Gland Function
The pineal gland has several important and critical functions.
The primary function of the gland is the production of melatonin. It is responsible for the synthesis and the secretion of melatonin, a serotonin-derived hormone that causes sleepiness, or modulation of sleep patterns. In this way, melatonin maintains the circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle).
It is also involved in the regulation of certain endocrine functions, especially regulating the onset of puberty. It also helps the body to convert signals from the nervous system to signals in the endocrine system. It is also helps protect the body from cell damage by free radicals.
Physiologically, in conjunction with the hypothalamus, the pineal gland controls the sex drive, hunger, thirst and the biological clock which determines the body's normal ageing process.
Melatonin is N-acetyl-5-methoxy-tryotamine, a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan.
Melatonin is classified as a hormone since it is released directly into the bloodstream.
This hormone is the primary one that controls one’s sleepiness and wakefulness. Natural light affects the function of this gland. Melatonin's production by the pineal gland is stimulated by darkness and inhibited by light, thus maintaining the body's circadian rhythm.
Melatonin is a powerful free radical scavenger and a wide-spectrum antioxidant. It can reduce libido by inhibiting luteinising hormone and follicular stimulating hormone from the anterior pituitary gland. It interacts with the immune system and has anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing properties. It also supports glutathione activity in neural tissue. Glutathione is a storage form of cysteine and has multiple roles in the central nervous system.
During the metabolism of melatonin, pinoline (methoxylated tryptoline) is produced. Pinoline is a free radical scavenger and antioxidant.
For more information on melatonin, see my August 2008 newsletter Melatonin.
Causes of Calcification of the Pineal Gland
Pineal gland calcification is a cause of great concern since it can happen at a very young age. In this process, the gland accumulates calcium phosphate crystals, becomes hardened, and loses much of its functionality.
There is a great deal of speculation as to what causes calcification of the pineal gland. The possibilities include:
· food additives including artificial sweeteners
· more recently, the effect of the radiation from mobile/cell phones has been suggested.
The pineal gland is said to have the highest levels of fluoride in the body. The calcified parts of the pineal gland (hydroxyapatite crystals) contain higher fluoride levels than anywhere else in the body including bones and teeth. The non calcified parts of the gland also have higher levels of fluoride than other soft tissues of the body.
Does Fluoride in the Pineal Gland Affect its Function?
The concentration of fluoride in the pineal gland is known to inhibit enzymes. The effects of the fluoride on the function of the pineal gland are not fully understood. Studies have found that the calcified deposits are associated with decreased numbers of functioning pinealocytes and reduced melatonin production as well as impairments in the sleep-wake cycle and shortening of the time to puberty.
In Western countries, including Australia, girls are reaching the age of puberty at earlier ages than in the past, a trend that carries health consequences, including a heightened risk of breast cancer. There is evidence that fluoride, via its effect on the pineal gland, could be a contributing cause to this trend.
Based on the evidence, the National Research Council has stated that "fluoride is likely to cause decreased melatonin production and to have other effects on normal pineal function which in turn could contribute to a variety of effects in humans." (NRC 2006, p256).
How to Protect the Pineal Gland
If pineal gland calcification is an issue, it is important to avoid fluoride in water and food. Where possible, eat organic foods and drink liquids that do not have fluoride added to them. Cooking with water that contains fluoride can also add that chemical to the food you eat.
Regular detoxification protocols should be practiced. See my June 2009 newsletter Detoxification and my March 2014 newsletter Fasting for Health.
Melatonin can be taken therapeutically to help regulate the sleep/wake cycle, as well as for its antioxidant and other properties.
It is important to keep the pineal gland healthy and active.
To ensure a healthy pineal gland, it is essential to:
· have a healthy diet (see my March 2009 newsletter Foods for Health)
· undergo regular detoxification
· minimise the ingestion of fluoride in liquids and foods.
The action of the pineal gland is to help you get good sleep and to help you to be wide awake during the day. An active pineal gland will also ensure that neurological signals are clearly transmitted to the endocrine system. In addition to other functions, this can help promote better hormonal control, and hence, with its antioxidant properties, better health.
*Copyright 2014: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
Back to the list Print friendly version