In This Article
The Seat of the Soul
The pineal gland, which is a pea-sized gland that sits in the center of the skull, has been ascribed numerous health functions over the years including enhancing sex, promoting sleep, boosting mood and increasing longevity by as much as 10-25%. (1)
French philosopher René Descartes, in the 1500s, believed the pineal gland was the seat of the soul, (2) and many still believe this to be true, yet there is little science available to back up this claim.
What we do know about this gland is that it plays an important role in the body’s day, night and seasonal circadian rhythms. The understanding and adherence to the circadian clock is a foundational principle in Ayurvedic medicine, and an exciting new branch of science predicted to revolutionize western medicine, referred to as “Circadian Medicine.” (3)
With emerging science pointing at the health risks of chronic disruption of the circadian clock as a result of shift work, there is new interest in the function of the pineal gland, which plays an important, but not fully understood, role in the body’s circadian rhythms. (3,4)
Sunlight is processed through the retina of the eyes, and that information, in the form of light, travels to the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, which informs the pineal gland on how to regulate our hormones based on the circadian rhythms. Studies show that, for the pineal gland to be activated, it cannot have too much or too little light – it has to be just the right amount. (1) In mammals, the pineal gland regulates sex hormones and the seasonal nature of mating. In one study, when bears lost pineal function, the normal reproductive cycle of bearing young in the spring was lost. This cycle of seasonal fertility is critical for species survival.
While this effect is less clear in humans, when pineal tumors either over- or under-stimulated the pineal function, there is a direct correlation to sex hormone production in humans. (1) Pineal activity decreases significantly during the four months of light-restricted hibernation followed by a surge of light, pineal activation and sex hormone production. During times of darkness, the pineal gland produces melatonin, which supports healthy sleep cycles and slows sex hormone production (if the cycles are balanced). (1)
The proper production of melatonin through the pineal gland is closely linked to heart, brain, mood and immune health, as well as longevity and healthy sleep. (4)
Fluoride and the Pineal Gland
The pineal gland is not only vulnerable to poor lifestyle habits and irregular sleep, but it is also affected by environmental toxins like fluoride. Fluoride, in particular, has been shown to build up in the pineal gland, and thus alter both pineal and thyroid function. (5,6)
In one study, when fluoride levels were high in drinking water, there was a significant reduction in thyroid function and the effect was worsened when there was an iodine deficiency. In fact, when iodine levels were normal, there was minimal effect from the fluoridated water. (5,6)
In one clinical study by thyroid expert, Dr. David Brownstein, there was a measured 78% increase in urine fluoride levels after the ingestion of iodine supplementation — which means the body was excreting much more fluoride with an iodine supplement. (7) The current RDA for iodine is 75 mcg per day, but most thyroid experts believe that to adequately protect the breast, thyroid, and pineal, 1-3 mg of iodine per day is required. (8)
For more information about iodine support, please read my Thyroid/Iodine articles.
How do you take care of your pineal health?
- Guyton and Hall, Textbook of Medical Physiology. 12th edition. Saunders. 2011. p. 986
- Summa, K and Turek W. The Clocks Within. Scientific American. Feb. 2015. p.50
- http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/47443, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11275672
- Brownstein,D. Iodine: Why You Need It. 4th edition. Medical Alternatives Press. 2009. p. 117