February 27, 2016

In order to cope with these stressors it is important to maintain good health through diet and exercise. First, assess your overall diet and eating habits. A healthy, well-balanced diet helps to keep us “in balance,” and eating the right foods is essential for our health and emotional well-being. Including fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein, fish, and some nuts and seeds as staples in our diet helps to nourish our body and mind, as well as sustain our energy levels. Eating well makes us feel well. However, with hectic lifestyles, it may be difficult to eat healthfully on a daily basis and you may find yourself dining on fast-food and convenience foods that are lacking in good nutrition. Nutrition is only one factor that affects our mood—but an important one!

Another important factor is exercise. Exercise is a natural mood-booster and even quick mini-workouts are effective in helping us maintain our physical and mental well being. In addition to your diet and exercise routine, there are also some dietary supplements, such as SAM-e, or S-adenosylmethionine, that may help boost our mood. Since there are various factors that can impact our mood and emotional health, it is important to first speak to your health care practitioner to determine what your needs are, and what may work best for you.

What is SAM-e? SAM-e (S-adenosyl-methionine) is a naturally occurring molecule in the body and is found in every living cell. Unfortunately, SAM-e can become depleted due to diet and age. If SAM-e levels in the body become low, that may affect how you feel — it may be difficult for you to deal with the normal stresses in life, or you may experience more changes in mood. In a nutshell, SAM-e is a molecule in your body that serves as fuel for many of your body’s critical functions– including maintaining a natural goodmood.

How does SAM-e work? SAM-e helps fuel dozens of important reactions in the body. These reactions include the production and metabolism of hormones, neurotransmitters, nucleic acids (found in DNA), proteins and phospholipids (a component of cell membranes). Studies have shown that SAM-e enhances your mood by promoting a healthy balance of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which are part of overall healthy brain cell functions.

Where does SAM-e come from? SAM-e is created through methionine (an essential amino acid) metabolism in humans. Once consumed in the diet, methionine combines with adenosyl triphosphate (ATP) to form SAM-e in a reaction catalyzed by the enzyme methionine adenosyltransferase (MAT). Commercial SAM-e is made by enriching special yeast with methionine. The yeast converts methionine to SAM-e. Then the yeast is split to harvest the SAM-e. To ensure potency, SAM-e is then purified, stabilized into an enteric-coated tablet and encased in a special blister pack.

Is a SAM-e supplement safe? SAM-e supplements have been shown to be very safe. There is a fairly extensive body of clinical research around SAM-e. Studies typically report either the absence of side effects entirely, or cite how much less significant they are with SAM-e than with some alternatives. One reason for the low level of side effects may be that SAM-e is a naturally-occurring molecule in the body, and a SAM-e supplement simply replenishes your body’s own natural supply. If people do experience any side effects, they tend to be generally mild, such as an upset stomach, which tends to go away over time.

When and how do I take SAM-e? SAM-e is a supplement meant to be taken daily. It is recommended to try SAM-e for at least 14 days, preferably 30 days, to see how well it is working. SAM-e is not a supplement that you can take once every couple of weeks and expect to see good results. To help restore a healthy mood, a general recommended starting dose is 400 mg/day of SAM-e. If there is no improvement in your mood after a few weeks, the dose of SAM-e can be increased gradually–200mg at a time –to determine what dose works best for you. Also, it is best to take SAM-e every day at least 30 minutes before you eat, preferably before breakfast.

What Can I Expect if I Take SAM-e? Within about 7 to 14 days, most people start to feel a difference. Most individuals may notice they are a little less moody and irritable, and are not sweating the little things in life. Other people may notice a tremendous difference after a few weeks. Either way, SAM-e’s effect is not like a caffeine buzz that wears off. Taking SAM-e can help you maintain a balanced mood every day!

NOTE: People with bipolar (manic) depression should not take this or any other product containing SAM-e except under a doctor’s supervision. If you are pregnant or nursing, or taking prescription antidepressant medications, consult your doctor before using SAM-e.

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Janet Taylor, MD

Dr. Janet Taylor is a Community Psychiatrist in New York City, the Bronx and Queens. The practice of Community Mental Health is extremely rewarding to Dr. Taylor, because "being on the frontline with individuals and their families battling the emotional and economic impact of Mental Illness is where I can make a difference". She attended the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky for Undergraduate and Medical School. An internship in Internal Medicine at the Miriam Hospital-Brown University followed. Her psychiatric residency was completed at New York Medical College -Westchester Medical Center. She received a Master’s of Public Health in Health Promotion/Disease Prevention from Columbia University. She was a recipient of the 2008 Woman in Medicine Award (National Medical Association- Council of Women’s Concerns).

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