Fitness Friday: SAM-e for Depression
Depression is sneaky. What begins as an “off-day,” turns into an “off-week”…then an “off-two weeks” with a decent day sprinkled in there. You wake up feeling sad and overwhelmed, feel better by noon and then—no, wait—you’re feeling “off” again.
Was it because of lack of sleep? Too much sugar? Not enough prayer? A fight with your spouse? That time of the month? Are you not sleeping and fighting with your spouse BECAUSE you’re depressed? Or is depression causing the lack of sleep and fighting?
You tweak your diet. You go to bed earlier. You light your favorite scented candle. You schedule a date night. You feel better.
Or do you?
It’s difficult to know when it’s time to get professional help.
I have been very open on this blog about my struggle with clinical depression—a struggle I’ve had on and off since about 2001. The more I learn about depression and seek to understand my personal cycles and triggers, I would now have to say, I’ve struggled with cycles of depression most of my life.
I didn’t really know it was depression until just a few years ago. I thought I was just really, really crabby, because depression starts out feeling so much like normal crabby (lack of sleep, lack of prayer, too much sugar, fight with a spouse, etc…) For me, the wake-up call came when, try-as-I-might, I couldn’t dig out of the crabby cycle. And things spiraled downward very quickly.
I have taken antidepressants (Lexapro) and seen a professional therapist. And though, I gained some unwanted weight on those antidepressants, I do not regret that decision AT ALL. In fact, I thank God for allowing me to live in an era where antidepressants and godly men with degrees in Psychology exist. The combination of Lexapro and professional counseling probably saved my life.
My only regret (regret is a strong word) is that I did not seek out natural, over-the-counter remedies before I tried prescription meds. Because I didn’t know I was dealing with clinical depression (I was not only depressed, but also a little dense and prideful), I waited until the last possible minute to seek professional help. I was in a desperately dark place and I was barely functioning. I did not have the luxury of time or the clarity of thought to browse the shelves at GNC for a natural alternative.
Now, I do. So I am. And that’s what I’m talking about today.
How I Felt the months of August and September:
Very weepy, over too many things.
Easily irritated, especially with my kids.
Very tired between the hours of 1 and 4 pm—needing a nap daily, but feeling even worse when I woke up.
Beginning to feel like I my efforts in writing, parenting and marriage were useless.
Waking up with a feeling of disinterest (on my better days) and dread (on my worst days).
If it all would have come on suddenly, I would have recognized it immediately and run to get help. But like I said, depression is sneaky. This happened slowly over weeks, with some really nice days sprinkled in between. Sometimes a little tweak here or there is all I need to lift a rotten mood. I dug deeply into my little bag of tricks trying to get over the hump.
But when I noticed a pattern of journal entries that read “Lord, help me.”
And “Something has to give.”
And “What am I doing wrong?”
And “I haven’t felt this sluggish and weepy in a very long time.”
And “I was looking so forward to this weekend, and now I’m just bummed and tired and worn out and apathetic.”
I could feel myself sinking into depression, and that scared the snot out of me—the most frightening thing being that all of this was happening during our mild and sunny autumn weather, long BEFORE the dark and dreary Kentucky winter (which is enough to make anyone sad). I knew I was at the point where I needed some help managing my depression.
What is SAM-e?
According to the official SAM-e website: SAM-e is a naturally occurring compound that is found in all living things. It’s distributed throughout the human body and it contributes to maintaining mood levels. SAM-e levels tend to decline as people get older and certain groups of people, including those with low mood, tend to have lower levels of SAM-e in their bodies.
What are the benefits of SAM-e?
Allegedly, SAM-e can improve mood, reduce anxiety and improve joint discomfort, in as little as 7-14 days.
According to WebMD, “Several studies have shown that SAMe can be beneficial and might be as effective as some prescription medications used for depression.”
In fact, the research available on SAM-e is all very promising.
How Did SAM-e affect me?
I started taking the lowest recommended dose of SAM-e (200 mg, twice a day). Because of the 7-14 day thing, I was not expecting anything whatsoever to happen for at least a week. However, I noticed on Day 2 a very mild “medicine head” feeling—very similar to when I started on Lexapro, but much more mild.
After a few days, I noticed a slight improvement in my over-all mood, but not enough to be satisfied with the results. After 2 weeks, I doubled my dosage to 400 mg, twice a day.
Within a few days of that change, I noticed a gradual and continual improvement in mood and energy. In fact, I would say in the last three weeks, I have felt happier and more energetic than I have in months.*
*Disclaimer: I don’t know if I can attribute all of this to the SAM-e. In this same time period, I’ve also switched up my workout routine and made some adjustments in my diet. It is my belief that all of those things working together helped to improve my mood and energy.
What are the side effects of SAM-e?
According to the SAM-e website: “Generally speaking, there are no documented side effects of SAM-e.”
According to WebMD: “SAMe is LIKELY SAFE for most people. It can sometimes cause gas, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, headache, mild insomnia, anorexia, sweating, dizziness, and nervousness, especially at higher doses. It can make some people with depression feel anxious.”
I spent hours researching SAM-e before taking the first dose. In reading hundreds of independent reviews, I found a large number of people who experienced stomach upset/cramping while taking the supplement. This side effect appears to be reduced or eliminated by also taking a vitamin B12 supplement while taking SAM-e, which I do.
Other than that mild “medicine head” feeling on Day 2, I have not had any negative side effects.
Where can You Purchase SAM-e?
I found SAM-e at Costco and Target. It is actually cheaper on Amazon. Here is a link:
Would I Recommend SAM-e for Depression?
I am not a doctor—just a girl who wants to keep her depression at bay, preferably without the aid of prescription antidepressants. If you are having suicidal thoughts or cannot carry out your daily duties, I would NOT recommend SAM-e. Please, make an appointment with your doctor, like today.
That said, I am cautiously optimistic about the effectiveness of SAM-e for treating mild to moderate depression, and would recommend it to anyone currently struggling. SAM-e is a very potent supplement, so I would urge you to do your homework before you begin taking it.
Also, and probably more importantly, I would urge you to make other adjustments in your lifestyle—healthy diet, exercise, sufficient rest, fresh air, exposure to sunlight, supportive relationships, and active communication with God—while you explore any supplements or medications for depression.
If you are doing all those things and you still feel depression creeping in, I think SAM-e is definitely worth a try.
Sam-E cured my PPD after Maggie was born.
Now I am taking 5HTP. Not sure if it is working, but I sure get some weird dreams!
And Sam-E DOESN'T MAKE YOU FAT.
Okay, you'd think I could just leave one comment and be done.
When I took Sam-E I noticed a vast improvement within 4 days. That was taking 400mg at night. I also took lots of fish oil, which also helps with post-partum depression.
I have found that the cheapest way to buy it is when CVS or Walgreens does buy one get one free. It's not very often so I stock up.
I think I'm done now.
This is very interesting. I can't really afford it right now (yay for being in college) and I know you're not a medical professional, but you've done research online & it can't hurt to ask… is this safe to use at the same time as a prescription anti-depressant? I'm on Zoloft right now (have been since summer of 05), I'm technically on it for anxiety, but pretty sure I have some depression, too… and I think your post mentioned that it can potentially help with anxiety, too? Anyway, I would LOVE to not be on prescription meds forever and would love a natural solution… and maybe something to help me get out of the funk enough to actually exercise. Sorry this is so long! Thanks for any help you can give me! 🙂
Wow! So interesting, Sandy. I have never heard of this, but I'm going to look into it for PMS–kicking my butt right now, if you know what I mean. I sure wish I had known about this when I was having babies. So much of what you describe sums me up perfectly back then.
I am visiting over from Missy's blog. This is so fascinating! Did you ever take it when you were pregnant?
I did not take it while I was pregnant. Fortunately, I never had depression symptoms during pregnancy. Plus, I was a big ole sissy about taking anything while I was pregnant. So, no. I would definitely check with my doctor before doing so.
Thanks for popping over. 🙂
Jumped over from Missys blog. Thank you for doing research and talking about it. I started it a few weeks ago but struggle with my memory- I recently purchased a pill case and have the Sami-e box next to it since the box said the foil wrapping keeps it fresh etc. Hoping to have good results too.
Lack of sleep, stress, and thinking too much might be sign of depression. Sleep deprivation may lead to a lot of very serious health diseases. It's better to take care of your health.
I started taking Sam-E about a week ago… and now I’m experiencing extreme anger as a side-effect. I’m looking around the internet to see if anyone else has experienced this, I’ve found a couple of sites talking about it but not many, so I wanted to comment about my experiences.
I have been taking 200mg in the morning and 100mg at night. I’m going to drop it down to just 50mg in the morning tomorrow and see how that goes. Being extremely angry is not conducive to any type of happy life or decent relationship.
Thank you for sharing your experience here! I’ve never read that as a side effect, but I agree. That is NO way to live. For me, my depression shows up as anger. So, that would be terrible. Keep me posted on how a lower dose works for you.
This is an old post, I know, but Sam-E makes me feel out of control and angry and jittery. I am pretty sure I’m Bipolar 2, though, as my Dad and sister are. It took me awhile to admit and I tried various natural methods.
I’ve read that if you have anxiety, Sam-E can make it worse. So, maybe the manic phases of your Bipolar disorder are exacerbated by the Sam-E. Keep trying to find natural methods and seek professional help if necessary. Best of luck to you.
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