Women are usually more aware of hormonal fluctuations than men even though they too undergo cyclical changes in the secretion of these tiny messenger chemicals. And since the endocrine system closely impacts and is influenced by our nervous system, imbalances do affect our mood.

To ride the monthly changes of your cycle smoothly it helps to look into balancing smaller units daily. Just looking at one single day there are and should be natural shifts and changes. The HPA axis is the backbone of your endocrine system. The Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenalin glands constantly communicate via hormone secretion how to best adjust and keep your body in homeostasis. Your sex organs in the end get their command for the proper secretion by messengers from that HPA axis.

Looking at the complexity of the human body it seems like a miracle that not more things go wrong. The reason why is because the body has an innate reset button: It’s called SLEEP!

Every day you are given this great chance to start over. If you don’t allow your body this daily or better nightly gift, you set yourself up for trouble. Attending to your baby at night, late night studying for an exam or a fun date night out are occasionally not a problem. Repeated and prolonged sleep deprivation however will mess with that HPA axis setting off a downward spiral that will affect your nervous system. Once your brain chemicals start dancing to the wrong tune, rejuvenating sleep will be even more difficult, and a vicious cycle begins.

Full restoration takes five hours of uninterrupted sleep. Does it matter if you get them at night or during an afternoon nap? It does. Shift workers and long-distance frequent flyers will know this first hand. Your body has its own bio-clock calibrated to the time zone you live in. A small gland in the back of your head, the pineal gland, responds to light changes. At dusk it starts secreting a potent muscle and nerve relaxant called Melatonin. Following its nightly call to go to bed will put you at peace with yourself and your environment. Artificial light stimulation from your TV, computer screen or just a plain light bulb will confuse the pineal gland and stop the release of this sleep hormone.

Melatonin is chemically a potent anti-oxidant. So you do want to flush your body with it as part of your free skin and health rejuvenating therapy. Melatonin is also one of the most important cancer fighters that catches and neutralizes suspicious cell activity literally over night.

Now, if Melatonin is such a wonder drug wouldn’t it be good to take as a supplement? Taking Melatonin is technically a form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It is a hormone and you would be replacing or supplementing your own ones. HRT can be useful but it comes with high risks. Supplementation will decrease your own production of this hormone, and the less you will produce on your own, the more you will need to supplement to make up for the difference. Short-term use for nighttime workers or cross-time zone travelers is ok but only for the purpose of recalibrating your internal clock.

Like all cells and chemicals in your body Melatonin too requires the right nutrients as building blocks. Melatonin synthesis relies on an amino acid called tryptophan. Most people know that you get so sleepy after a traditional Thanksgiving dinner because of the tryptophan-rich turkey. Excellent plant-based sources of tryptophan are bananas, collard greens, and sesame seeds.

And there are even plants that make their own form of melatonin: Walnuts and cherries.

Check out my “Sweet Dreams Pancakes”recipe.