The Relationship Between Daytime Salivary Melatonin and Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Young Adults Seeking Psychiatric Care

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The pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not completely understood, although we do know that patients with IBS have a high prevalence of psychiatric comorbidity (mainly depression and anxiety disorders). Melatonin, produced in the gastrointestinal tract, influences gut motility. Psychiatric conditions are associated with circadian disturbances in peripheral melatonin levels. This study aimed to investigate associations between daytime salivary melatonin and gastrointestinal symptoms in young adult psychiatric patients.


Ninety-six patients (86% women), aged 18–25 years (M (SD) = 21 (2)), seeking psychiatric care with primarily anxiety disorders, affective disorders, or both were included in the study. Total scores from the Gastrointestinal Symptoms Rating Scale - IBS were compared with salivary melatonin measured at three time points (30 minutes after waking up, at 11:00 hours and 30 minutes after lunch) during the waking hours of 1 day.


After adjustment for potential confounders, melatonin levels in saliva 30 minutes after lunch remained significantly correlated to the total Gastrointestinal Symptoms Rating Scale - IBS score after correction for multiple testing (B = 0.016, SE = 0.006, p = .015, q = 0.045). In a post hoc analysis, symptoms of gastrointestinal pain and bloating contributed most to this association.


In young adult psychiatric patients, salivary melatonin levels after lunch are associated with gastrointestinal symptoms, which is consistent with the proposed effect of elevated levels of gastrointestinal melatonin on gut motility. This result suggests a link between IBS symptoms and regulation of melatonin in patients with psychiatric disorders.

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