SAMe Can Be an Effective Natural Alternative to NSAIDs for Arthritis

SAMe is a natural substance that occurs in the body, and is often recommended for the treatment of joint pain, depression, anxiety, and a number of other health concerns. It is relatively new so more study is needed to understand everything there is to know about this supplement. I have taken it for depression and joint pain, and have found it to be effective. Here are some things to consider if you are considering this alternative to the usual prescribed medicine.

SAMe is a relatively recent discovery, and has shown promise in the management of arthritis.

SAMe was first discovered in 1953, and the most extensive studies of this supplement have been done for the management of arthritis. It has also been used for depression, liver concerns and infertility. It appears to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, and is well tolerated by most people.

SAMe has been used in Europe for years for the treatment of anxiety and depression.

According to “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmond J. Bourne, SAMe is more widely used in Europe than in the United States, due to relative lack of significant side effects and potential other health benefits. While more study is needed, SAMe has shown some promise in the treatment of Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder in adults as well as for depression.

It takes time to notice the effects of using SAMe.

SAMe works in a similar way to antidepressants, by affecting cell metabolism. Similarly, it takes a few weeks to feel the full effects. If you are trying SAMe, it is a good idea to slowly increase the dosage over time. The full effective dose for adults for the treatment of arthritis is considered to be 600-1200 mg. per day. For depression, the standard dose is 800 mg or more per day. Taking your time to reach this dose will minimize any uncomfortable side effects.

There are some minimal safety concerns to consider when using SAMe.

SAMe has been associated with mania, usually in patients with bipolar disorder. It also is energizing, so unless it is taken in the morning it can contribute to insomnia. It is contraindicated with MAO inhibitors (a type of antidepressant) so if you’ve been on antidepressants, stay off the medication for a few weeks before trying SAMe. Children and the elderly should not use SAMe, because SAMe has not been studied for use with these populations.

The most common reported side effects of taking SAMe are some nausea in the beginning, which usually decreases over time. Skin rashes have also been reported. Allergic reactions are possible, so starting with a low dose is a good idea. SAMe does cross the placenta, so it should not be used by pregnant women, although some studies have shown that it does no harm in the third trimester. SAMe can lower blood sugar levels, so if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic you should only take it under medical supervision. More unusual side effects have been reported by a small number of people, so if you experience anything odd other than a little nausea, stop the supplement and discuss these with your doctor.

SAMe is expensive, and not covered by most health insurance. I still find it a good alternative to prescribed medicine, because it seems to help and not harm without many of the side effects I have experienced with other medications. Your doctor can help you consider whether it may help you as well.

Mayo Clinic

More from Elizabeth Danu:
The Dangers of Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements
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