Nancy Dell: Melatonin supplements; Diet and osteoporosis

You need calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones

1. Do melatonin supplements really help with sleep, and are they safe? 
Kaitlyn, Internet

Lack of sleep can cause weight gain and increase your risk of almost any disease. So it important to do what you can to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces when it gets dark at night. It is sold as a supplement and when taken 45 minutes before bed, it can help you fall asleep.

But it is a hormone and you should not take it every night, and you should find the lowest dose that works for you. Experts say start with 1 milligram or less. If that does not work, try 3 milligrams.

Some melatonin supplements are time-released and not only help you fall asleep but may help you stay asleep. However, they do not work as well as prescription medications.

Generally, melatonin is considered safe. However, it may increase blood pressure in people taking blood pressure medication. In women going through menopause, melatonin may cause menstrual flow to resume. So always check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

Your brain makes melatonin when it gets dark. So one hour before bed, shut off the overhead lights and the electronics – computer, TV, cell phone, and tablet.

2. I take calcium and vitamin D. Is there anything else I should do to prevent osteoporosis?
Liz, Internet

You need calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones. We learned that in grammar school. But in addition, here are three other diet tips for strong bones starting in your teens and twenties.

First, focus on making half your plate fruits and vegetables at most meals to prevent calcium from being pulled out of the bones.

Second, eat leafy greens like kale and collard greens for vitamin K. Vitamin K pushes calcium out of the arteries and into the bones. If you like spinach for vitamin K, cook it to reduce a compound in spinach that binds calcium.

Third, limit sodium. Too much increases the amount of calcium you excrete in your urine.

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