Friday, October 23, 2020

Can SAM-e Really Help With Depression & Anxiety?

Are you tired of feeling tired?
Do you struggle to make it through the day? Do you feel like a cloud of overwhelming hopelessness is hanging over your head? 

If so, you might be depressed.

No doubt, there are plenty of reasons to get the blues right now.

The world feels shaky and chaotic. 

Millions of people have lost jobs due to COVID-19. The way we interact in society has drastically changed. We have lost simple human connection. (I find myself not making eye contact with other shoppers in the grocery store because my smile doesn’t show through my mask.) Civil unrest makes us feel that we are more divided than ever. Food shortages and an overwhelmed healthcare system add to our anxiety.  

Oh, and I forgot to mention the extreme natural disasters taking place all over the world. The overall theme of 2020 is fear.

Sometimes it just takes a heart-to-heart conversation with a good friend to feel better. But what if it’s deeper than that?

For me, none of the usual advice helped. When I’m down, I draw inward. Something about dumping my problems on a friend feels…dirty. I’m the strong one.

I like to be needed, but I hate feeling needy. (Can I get an amen?)

I hit my breaking point when I spent an entire Saturday in my bed. Crying. For what felt like no reason. Naturally, my kids were worried. Ashamed, I told them I had a migraine.

I’d never felt so alone.

I didn’t want to die, but morbid thoughts of a world without me in it swarmed around in my head. I was miserable.

After literally hours of crying, a mountain of tissues, and a dose of cold medicine to dry my sinuses; I started to search for answers. 

I found an online screening tool and scored high for depression. I was a little surprised. I’m more of an anxiety-type girl, and I’d never experienced depression on that level.

Most of the information online recommended talking to my doctor, suggested helpful ways (such as exercise and quality sleep) to combat depression, and discussed the use of prescription antidepressants.

I needed help right then. Not in two weeks. The exercise and sleep recommendations felt like a joke. I could barely get off my bed, so a walk around the block wasn’t an option. And as far as sleep…well, that would’ve been lovely (as if I could just make myself sleep).

That left antidepressants. I understand that prescription antidepressants have a valuable role in treating mood disorders, and I would never knock someone for using them. I wasn’t completely closed to the idea, but I wanted to try a more natural approach.

One supplement that repeatedly came up in my searches was SAM-e, or S-adenosyl-L-methionine. 

I’d noticed SAM-e on the supermarket shelf before – marketed as a treatment for osteoarthritis. I had no clue that SAM-e could help with depression.

According to the MayoClinic, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) is a compound found naturally in the body. SAM-e helps produce and regulate hormones and maintain cell membranes.  Blah, blah, blah…

What does this mean? And more importantly, how could this help with depression?

PsychologyToday reports that “In humans, SAM-e is an important methyl donor, an essential step in the synthesis of several neurotransmitters from amino acids in the diet. The antidepressant effects of SAM-e are probably related to multiple mechanisms of action including increased brain levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.” 

(Serotonin  and dopamine are known as the "happy" hormones. Norepinephrine has a role in providing more energy to the body.)  

"In addition to the effects of SAM-e on the above neurotransmitters, it has been proposed that antidepressant effects of SAM-e are facilitated by anti-inflammatory effects, changes in neuronal membrane fluidity, increased rate of serotonin turnover, inhibition of norepinephrine reuptake, and beneficial synergistic effects of SAM-e on dopamine activity."

If that sounds like a lot of mumbo jumbo, don’t worry. 

The important things to know are - 

1) The human body already makes SAM-e, 

2) SAM-e is important for multiple functions in your body, and 

3) A deficiency can occur when your body doesn’t get enough Folate and/or B-12.   

Check out this short, information-packed video from Psychopharmacology Institute - Over 50 studies have been done on SAM-e, and it has been found to be more effective than a placebo and about equivalent in efficacy as tricyclic antidepressants

WOW! That’s big!

As you can probably guess, I bought SAM-e, along with a B Complex supplement. I started with 200 mg and increased the dosage to 400 mg after one week. As recommended, I took the supplements in the morning on an empty stomach.

Did it work?

It took about two weeks to notice any real difference. But what a huge difference it made! I started to feel “normal” again. My brain fog lifted, and I didn’t feel sad and dull for the first time in months. I was a believer!

SAM-e provided an additional, unexpected benefit…My back pain drastically improved. I’ve had a dull back pain for so long, that I’d really gotten used to it. 

And wait for it… my knees stopped crackling and popping whenever I squatted down.  Funny how we adjust to discomfort over time.

Fast forward to last month. I attended a funeral in Cleveland and ran out of my SAMe. When I returned home, I spaced off buying more. Boy, did I notice! It took about two weeks to feel the full force of life without SAM-e. The lethargy was back, the back pain returned, and – you guessed it – my knees were sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies.

Is SAM-e safe? 

Yes – for the most part. Those with Bipolar Disorder should avoid SAM-e supplements because the risk of hypomania exists. Hypomania has been documented (although rare) in a few patients with Bipolar Disorder.

According to PsychologyToday, although SAMe is well tolerated, transient  anxietyinsomnia, gastrointestinal side effects, dry mouth, and dizziness have been reported. With continued treatment, most side effects resolve within days or a few weeks.

Although I was prepared to tolerate some minor side effects, I’m happy to report that I didn’t experience any negative effects! 

If you think SAM-e could be helpful for you, I recommend doing your own research. It's always good to be informed. And of course, if in doubt, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. 

There are many brands available on the market. You can purchase SAM-e at your local health food or grocery store. I've found better prices and variety online. 

Jarrow Formulas (click to view on Amazon) brand is my absolute favorite because it's high quality, gluten-free, and vegetarian/vegan friendly. 

A good quality B-Complex is important to help the SAM-e work better, plus B vitamins are crucial for so many other functions in your body. 

My favorite B-Complex is made by Integrative Therapeutics (click to view on Amazon). It's a quality product, reasonably priced, and contains folate (not all B-Complex formulations do). 

I want you to know that you're not alone, and you're not a failure. Depression and anxiety happens to most of us at one time or another. More than ever, we are isolated. It's important that you reach out to someone, even if it's an online support group. 

If you've struggled with depression/anxiety, I'm interested to hear what has, or hasn't, worked for you. 

~ I'm wishing all the best for your health and happiness ~

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