Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your health questions.
Q. I want to find out more about a supplement called "SAMe" and other medications that help depression.
A. With 17 million Americans developing depression each year, the search for medications is very important. SAMe (pronounced Sammy) is a compound that our bodies produce from methionine, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods. It has shown positive results in treating major depression, and acts by increasing levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, in a way similar to many prescription-drug antidepressants. However, it acts on a different receptor than these drugs, and largely avoids the other side effects seen with antidepressants, such as loss of sexual drive and nausea.
Some people are thought to have a deficiency of SAMe, and supplementation has been helpful for many disorders. Early studies have shown the benefit in treatment of arthritis, fibromyalgia, sleep disorders, and migraine headaches, as well as in the detoxification and rehabilitation of opiate abusers.
However, like many over-the-counter or herbal remedies, this drug can interfere with prescription medication. See a health care provider to ensure that other medical conditions or other medications will not be affected. Also, remember that counseling and therapy is also an important component of treating major or even minor depression.
Other substances with potential for fighting depression include vitamin C (1,000 mg 3 times a day); iron (15 to 30 mg a day); calcium (800 to 1,200 mg a day); and for older people, possibly vitamin B12 and folate. St. John's wort is an herbal treatment for mild depression that is being studied against a traditional prescription antidepressant. Be sure to let your doctor, dentist, and pharmacist know all the prescribed, over-the counter herbs, vitamins, and minerals you are taking.