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Frequently Asked Questions About SAM-e Supplements
What is SAM-e?
SAM-e stands for S-adenosyl-L-methionine. It is a compound made naturally in the human body and it helps to trigger the production of hormones and to regulate them, supports a healthy immune system, and helps with the maintenance of cell membranes. It also plays a role in the production and breakdown of chemicals in the brain.
Though it is primarily produced in the liver, it can be found throughout the body. A synthetic version of SAMe is available as a dietary supplement. It may be taken orally, via muscular injection, or intravenously. SAM-e is not available from food. Having a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency can reduce the levels of SAM-e in your body.
What Are the Uses & Benefits of SAM-e?
SAMe benefits are numerous, and it has been studied extensively as a potential option to address a number of different health issues. With that said, it’s good to keep in mind that most studies have looked at intravenous applications of SAMe, so it’s unclear if oral supplement forms may be as effective. Some of the potential SAMe benefits that have been looked at include:
- Osteoarthritis: SAM-e may be effective for alleviating joint pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. It may also stimulate cartilage repair. In a study published in BioMed Central Musculoskeletal Disorders, SAMe supplements were shown to be just as effective, over 4-12 weeks, as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for osteoarthritis of the spine, hip or knee.
- Fibromyalgia: This is a chronic disorder that affects joints, bones, and muscles. It causes widespread pain and fatigue and can also lead to depression. In a Danish study conducted in 1991, fibromyalgia patients who were given 800mg of SAM-e each day experienced less fatigue, pain and morning stiffness as well as improved mood, after 6 weeks of use.
- Liver disease: People who are suffering from liver disease are typically unable to synthesize SAMe. SAM-e is used throughout Russia, China, Eastern Europe, and Southern Asia as a therapy for liver disease. Though pre-clinical evidence exists that SAMe plays an important role in liver health, clinical research is needed to assess how effective it is for liver disease.
How Do I Take SAM-e?
If you wish to supplement your diet with an oral dose of SAM-e, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends beginning with a low SAMe dosage, such as 200mg per day. Increasing the SAMe supplement dosage gradually prevents upset stomach.
It is also important to remember that many clinical studies of SAM-e have tested injectable, rather than oral forms. Because of this, it is not always clear whether taking an oral supplement is as effective as an intramuscular injection.
Many healthcare practitioners recommend taking folic acid, B12 and methionine with SAMe to increase absorption.
Generally speaking, it’s advisable to simply take the dosage recommended by the product you are using. For more customized dosage recommendations, you can speak to your doctor.
Are There Any Side Effects of SAM-e?
Side effects may include nausea, insomnia, restlessness, sweating, palpitations, and dizziness. Some of these symptoms can be avoided by not taking SAMe at night. Large doses may cause abnormally elevated mood. For this reason, people suffering from bipolar disorder should avoid taking SAM-e as it may trigger or worsen manic episodes.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take a SAM-e supplement because safety for pregnant women is unclear at this time.
You should not take SAM-e if you are being treated with the following medications:
- Pentazocine (Talwin)
- Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM)
- Tramadol (Ultram)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
Because SAMe may interact with antidepressant medications, if taken together they may cause accelerated heart rate, anxiety, restlessness, headache, or serotonin syndrome. You should consult your physician if you are taking antidepressants and considering taking SAMe.
You should avoid SAMe if you suffer from diabetes, as it may lower blood sugar levels and increase the effect of diabetes medications. Speak to your doctor if you have concerns.
How Do I Pick a Good SAM-e Product?
The quality of SAM-e can vary significantly between different brands. When choosing a SAM-e supplement you should look for SAMe pills that have high potency and do not contain artificial colors or preservatives. The best SAMe pills are also free of unnecessary fillers and made by large, reputable companies.