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What is SAMe? Why do we need it?

SAMe stands for S-adenosyl-L-methionine, a chemical compound found in the human body and produced by the liver.

Although the full extent of SAMe research has yet to be conducted, it is believed to play a role in more than 40 essential biochemical reactions, and is responsible for the manufacture of brain chemicals, antioxidants, joint tissue structures, and other vital components essential for life.

SAMe plays a vital role in the management of depression, as it can raise levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating a person's mood. While it does not work as well as some prescription antidepressants, it does appear to work faster - often within one week of the first dose. SAMe also has anti-inflammatory and palliative properties, and is often used to heal and strengthen joints. It is particularly useful for people with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, stiffness in the joints and swelling

Preliminary research suggests that SAMe can help treat a variety of liver conditions, ranging from cirrhosis to Gilbert's syndrome. One study published in 1999 found that people with cirrhosis due to alcohol had a 47 percent lower death or transplant rate when they took SAMe for two years compared to people taking a placebo.

Other uses for SAMe include treating migraine headaches, increasing sperm activity in infertile men, and reducing the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

How much SAMe should I take?

Because SAMe is produced naturally by the liver, healthy people do not need to take SAMe supplements. However, some recommended levels have been established for individuals with particular conditions, including depression (1,600 mg per day); osteoarthritis (800-1,200 mg per day); fibromyalgia (800 mg per day); liver disorders (1,200 mg per day); and migraines (800 mg per day). Make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking SAMe supplements.

What forms of SAMe are available?

SAMe is produced naturally by the body, and is related to methionine, an amino acid plentiful in many protein-rich foods. In the United States, SAMe supplements have been available since 1997. Some studies have used SAMe injections instead of pills or capsules.

What can happen if I take too much SAMe? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Large doses of SAMe may cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. In addition, there is evidence that people with bipolar disorder who are treated with SAMe may switch from depression to a manic state. In addition, SAMe may interfere with the absorption of some tricylic antidepressants, such as Elavil or Norpramin. Patients on these medications should consult with a doctor before taking SAMe supplements. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are necessary for the synthesis of SAMe; patients with low levels of these nutrients may have low SAMe levels in the nervous system as a result. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking SAMe or any other dietary supplement or herbal medicine.


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  • Carney MWP, Chary TK, Bottiglieri T, et al. The switch mechanism and the bipolar/unipolar dichotomy. Br J Psychiatry 1989;154:48-51.
  • Jacobsen S, Danneskiold-Samsoe B, Andersen RB. Oral S-adenosylmethionine in primary fibromyalgia: double-blind clinical evaluation. Scand J Rheumatol 1991;20:294-302.
  • Mato JM, Cemara J, Fernendez J, et al. S-adenosylmethionine in alcoholic liver cirrhosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter clinical trial. J Hepatol 1999;30:1081-9.
  • Vetter G. Double-blind comparative clinical trial with S-adenosylmethionine and indomethacin in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Am J Med 1987;83(suppl 5A):78-80.
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