Natural Mood Lifters: Nature's Blues Busters
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SAMe: Turning on the Lights
Recently, there has been a great deal of media attention focused on the natural compound SAMe (s-adenosyl-methionine), pronounced "Sammy." A new "convert" to SAMe, 35-year-old Marisa, shares the following experience:
I had been feeling just "blah" for what seemed like years. I read about St. John's wort and took it for a few months, 300 mg, three times daily. I felt somewhat better, but something was still missing. Then I added SAMe, 400 mg a day. It's like someone turned on the lights. I felt like a kid again, playing, being happy, and not as burdened as I had become.
For those of you with no mood problems, but just wanting to feel a little high, you can expect a similar experience. An appropriate dose, discussed below, on an empty stomach can put a spring in your step, a sparkle in your eye, and a grin on your face.
Placebo-controlled, double-blind studies show that SAMe is equal or superior to antidepressants and works faster, most often within a few days (most pharmaceutical antidepressants may take three to six weeks to take effect), with no significant side effects. Instead, SAMe has side benefits: It is an effective treatment for degenerative joint disease, fibromyalgia, and liver problems. According to one comprehensive review of all the studies, 92 percent of depressive patients responded to SAMe, while only 85 percent responded to antidepressant medications.
If you stop taking SAMe suddenly, you'll experience no withdrawal reaction a common pitfall when antidepressants are stopped abruptly. SAMe also protects your liver, in contrast to the potential liver damage triggered by some tricyclic antidepressants.
Except for the adrenal and pineal glands, the liver contains the most SAMe of any body organ. In the body, the liver depends on SAMe for regeneration, detoxification, bile production, and the essential biochemical processes of both methylation and the production of glutathione, the liver's natural antioxidant. SAMe aids the liver in neutralizing toxins, carcinogens, and free radicals. This slows the aging process, including that of the brain.
That's not all. Research shows that SAMe treats the fatigue, inflammation, and pain associated with fibromyalgia, a puzzling and hard-to-treat condition. Patients have reported significant benefits from taking 400-800 mg of SAMe daily, including improved sleep, reduced fatigue and pain, and enhanced mood. All in all, quite a remarkable nutrient!
How much should you take? SAMe should be taken on an empty stomach, preferably one hour between meals, and at least 20 minutes away from other supplements. If you experience nausea or gastrointestinal problems, reduce the dose and take it with meals although the food will somewhat cut its potency.
Start with 200 mg once or twice daily, which will often be enough. If you don't see results in a few days, you can gradually increase the dose by 200 mg every three days, up to a maximum of 400 mg four times daily (1,600 mg). Then, once your mood feels stable, you can gradually reduce your intake to a lower maintenance dose. In general, the longer SAMe is used, the better the results.
To enhance production of the SAMe precursor, methionine, you need to take its cofactors vitamins B6 (50 mg), B12 (1,000 mcg), and folic acid (800 mcg). Rather than taking the cofactors along with SAMe, they can simply be taken as part of your daily multivitamin regimen.
A limiting factor in SAMe's use has been its high cost, especially at doses as high as 1,600 mg a day. Don't skimp on quality, though. Purchase it from a reputable company, in pharmaceutical-grade enteric-coated tablets. Refrigerate it whenever possible. In comparing products by potency and price, look for the amount of active ingredient on the label. For example, 200 mg of s-adenosyl-methionine butanedisulfonate provides only 50 percent or 100 mg of SAMe.
A word of caution: Though this effect is not reported in the literature, higher doses can cause irritability, anxiety, or insomnia in some people. In this case, lower the dose, but if the effect continues, stop taking it. By the same token, SAMe's antidepressant activity may trigger a manic phase in individuals with bipolar disorder, so they should not take SAMe unless under medical supervision. The same cautions apply to the use of TMG (below).
From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright © Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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