Is S-adenosyl-L-methionine a Miracle Cure For Depression?
Not everyone who is depressed wants to take prescription drugs for depression.
Some people experience unpleasant side effects with prescription antidepressants. Many people prefer to take natural substances instead of pharmaceutical drugs, whenever possible.
Many people have heard about spectacular results for treating depression that have been achieved with a natural substance known as sam-e, or its other name, S-adenosyl-L-methionine. Sam-e is made natuarlly by our bodies, and it is found in many health food stores.
So is sam-e, really the magic, natural antidepression pill some people claim it to be?
When sam-e is taken as a supplement it can function as a very powerful drug. It is also known under several other names, including s-adenosylmethionine. Sam-e is very important in the body as a methyl donor and is needed for more than thirty different reactions in the body.
Besides treating depression, sam-e, is also used in treating arthritis and fibromyalgia.
As we age, we become less efficient at producing sam-e.
One of the many effects that sam-e has in the body is that it seems to boost various neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin.
There have been over forty studies of sam-e that have shown it to be an effective treatment for depression. Most of these studies were done in Europe and were fairly small trials done over a relatively short period of time. No one yet knows if there are any long term negative effects of taking it over a period of many years.
Although it is much more common for doctors in Europe and other parts of the world to prescribe sam-e, very few doctors in North America are knowledgeable about its use in treating depression.
Doctors in North America tend to put their faith in those drugs that have been approved by the FDA after undergoing very large, very expensive drug trials paid for by large drug companies. Most North American doctors tend to ignore treatments based on herbs and other natural supplements.
Some European studies of this substance have shown that sam-e can relieve depression in about 70% of cases. This 70% success rate in treating depression is better than a placebo, and it equals the rate of cure of prescription antidepressants.
It’s very unlikely that S-adenosyl-L-methionine will ever undergo major clinical trials like those that are used to evaluate new drugs for the FDA in the United States. The reason is because sam-e is a natural substance and it can never be patented. That means no drug company could make big profits from it.
Some people who have used sam-e for depression claim that this substance lifted their mood in a matter of just two or three days. When a depressed person takes prescription antidepressants, it can take as long as six weeks to start getting an improvement in mood.
Although the supporters of sam-e claim there are few significant side effects when taking this supplement, this is not entirely true. There are side effects of taking it that you should be aware of.
Some people experience gastrointestinal discomfort when they take sam-e including nausea, gassiness, and bloating. This discomfort can usually be prevented if you take enteric-coated pills, and swallow them with a meal.
Sam-e can be very stimulating to people who take it, to the point where some people become very agitated, anxious, and can’t sleep. This side effect is cumulative and can increase the longer you take it, especially if your dose is too high.
For this reason it’s better to start with a very low dose of sam-e until you know whether you experience any negative side effects.
Although some manufacturers say you should take 400 mg of sam-e each day, this dose can trigger anxiety and insomnia in some people. In fact, people have reported experiencing agitation and an inability to sleep even at doses as low as 100 mg a day.
A starting dose of 50 mg a day may help avoid this potential side effect of agitation and insomnia.
If you have bipolar depression, you should not take sam-e. In some cases, it can aggravate the manic stage of this type of depression.
Sam-e can also cause problems when taken with other types of antidepressants.
There is another potential problem you might encounter if you take sam-e. S-adenosyl-L-methionine can increase the levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. If you add more Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and Folic acid to your idaily intake, you can help convert the homocysteine back into a harmless substance.
Sam-e is a very expensive supplement, so if you decide to take it, choose a reliable brand that actually contains the substance it claims to be.
Every case of depression is different. Even though sam-e appears to have good results in alleviating depression in some people, it’s very important to work with your doctor in finding the best treatment that works for you.