SAMe: Much More than a Mood Booster
Some supplements seem to be a victim of their own success; they become so well-known for one thing, that any other good things about them are overlooked. We’ve recently been talking about some of these multi-purpose supplements like glutamine, alpha lipoic acid and coconut oil. Another supplement we could add to this group is SAMe. Most people think “depression” when they hear the word SAMe (which is pronounced “sammy”), and that makes sense since it’s one the very best and fastest-acting mood boosters. But there’s a few other really great benefits to taking SAMe that make it something almost anyone can benefit from. By adding SAMe to your regimen, you’ll be enhancing and protecting your health in ways that basic supplements like multis and fish oil cannot. You’ll feel SAMe working within the first few doses, especially where mood and joint comfort are concerned. But you certainly don’t have to be depressed to use SAMe. It’s gone way down in price and way up in popularity since it was introduced in the 90′s, so let’s take another look at SAMe and see if it’s something you might want to use, too.
The word SAMe looks like a typo at first glance but it’s the correct abbreviation for a natural compound which is much harder to spell out: s-adenosyl methionine. Biochemically, SAMe is a metabolite of the amino acid methionine and like many vitamins, it acts as a coenzyme. That means it helps the body produce something it needs or eliminate something it doesn’t. But because of the many ways methionine is used in the body, you can’t just take methionine supplements to raise SAMe levels. Instead, you’ve got to take actual SAMe, along with some B-vitamins. That’s the most important thing to keep in mind when using SAMe; you need to take a B-complex vitamin (or multi) too. You don’t need to take a lot, but you need certain B-vitamin co-factors for SAMe to have beneficial effects, especially B-6, B-12 and folic acid. You’ll get all the B vitamins you need for SAMe in a B complex, a high potency multi or one of the new homocysteine B-vitamin formulas.
SAMe’s effect on mood, especially with respect to depression, is its best-known feature. SAMe works much faster than anti-depressant supplements like St. Johns Wort, but can work well alongside it. It’s best to have a health professional’s supervision if you intend to use any natural supplements to treat depression, especially if you’re taking anti-depressant medications. SAMe is not recommended for bipolar disorders, but for occasional on ongoing use SAMe can be an enormously effective mood booster and regulator.
One of the most important benefits of SAMe pertains to heart health. SAMe is able to detoxify a toxic amino acid known as homocysteine which is a recognized, albeit under-recognized, risk factor for cardiovascular disease right up there with cholesterol and blood pressure. Homocysteine promotes atherosclerosis while increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. If you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease, you may want to ask your doctor about a homocysteine blood test. If it’s high, you and your doctor could discuss using SAMe as a way to bring the levels into a desirable range.
Most of the body’s SAMe is used in the liver. Within the liver, the methylation reactions that SAMe supports are crucial to the liver’s primary and never-ending task of detoxifying the body. In this sense, SAMe is one of the most legitimate liver support nutrients, and could be considered and used along with other liver detoxifiers like milk thistle extracts, alpha lipoic acid and N-acetyl-cysteine
Methylation reactions are also involved in the production of cartilage which cushions and protects joints. And SAMe is one of the fastest-acting of joint supplements in terms of delivering noticeable improvements in comfort and function, certainly faster than the better-known joint supplements like glucosamine and MSM that overshadow SAMe in every supplement store’s Joint Section.
You already know that you need to take B-vitamins along with SAMe, but how much SAMe should you take? There’s no standard dose, most people have to experiment over the course of time to find
the ideal dose. The most common range is 400 to 2000 mg per day, but there’s no right or wrong amount per se. If you’re using SAMe for mood or joint comfort, we suggest you start at the higher end of the scale and reduce the dosage gradually to find the lowest dose at which you’re getting benefits. If you’re using SAMe for liver toxicity, stay in the middle of the range. For homocysteine support , the SAMe dose depends on how high the levels are and how aggressively you and your doctor want to approach it.
While you do need to take a B-complex or high-potency multi if you’re going to use SAMe, you should not (and don’t need to) take them at the same time. Take the first dose of SAMe early in the day on an empty stomach, and any subsequent doses between meals as well. The B-complex or multi-should be taken with the largest solid food meal of the day.