by Stephen LaBounty (2007-10-21)

S-Adenosylmethionine (whew!) or SAMe is an important physiological agent formed in the body by combining the essential amino acid methionine with ATP (a substance that is present in all cells, but particularly muscle cells. When the substance is split by enzyme action, energy is produced. Thus, the energy of the muscle is stored in this compound)

Normally the body produces all the SAMe that we need from methionine, such as vitamin B12 or folic acid.

There are five principal uses of SAMe. Depression, Osteoarthiritis, Fibromyalgia, liver disorders and migraine headaches. We will concern ourselves with the martial artist's inevitable fate: Osteoarthritis.

There have been impressive results in the treatment of Osteoarthiritis using SAMe. As stated in the last article on Glucosamine, a deficiency of SAMe leads to loss of the gel-like nature and shock absorbing qualities of cartilage. As a result, Osteoarthritis can develop. Years of pounding barefoot on a variety of surfaces, overstretching, wrenching the joints in all sorts of directions, lend to the decline of joint health. The current (and past) treatment protocol is to rest and apply external therapy (ice, heat, salves) for reduction of swelling and the invigoration of the blood supply for healing. The internal therapy has been aspirin and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc), but they have shown to produce side effects, and inhibit cartilage recovery and repair and possibly accelerate bone loss.

How it Works

There are over forty biochemical reactions in the body when SAMe is used. First, it functions closely with folic acid and vitamin B12.

Using a process called "methylation reaction", a single carbon unit is added to another molecule, which makes the SAMe many times more effective in transferring these "methyl" groups to other donors. These methylation reactions are critical in the manufacture of many body components, especially brain chemicals and, this is the most important part, detoxification reactions.

SAMe is also required in the manufacture of all sulfur-containing compounds in the human body, including glutathione and various sulfur-containing cartilage components. So the benefits of SAMe supplementation are far reaching because of its central role in so many metabolic processes.

The Use of SAMe

There have been double blind studies that indicate SAMe offers the pain relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits that some of the other drugs like Indocin and Feldene. SAMe seems to be better tolerated that these pharmaceuticals. Most people who try SAMe find that the longer they take it, the more beneficial the results. It has a perfectly suited safety profile and the dosages are usually found in the literature that accompanies the product.

This is how I administer SAMe for my arthritis. I began with 400mg 3X a day. This caused some gastric upset and so I changed (under the guidance of a Naturopathic Physician) to 200mg 2X a day for two days, then 400mg 2X a day for two days, and on the fifth day I began to take 400mg 3X a day. After a month I went to 4X a day, but I didn't notice a difference by adding one dose, so I returned to 3X a day.

Safety issues: The only side effects were occasional nausea in the very beginning, and occasional gastric disturbances for the first few weeks. It has been reported that those persons with severe depression not take any sort of supplement without their health care provider's attention. For me, the caveat is still the same. If you're not in good health, have a pre-existing condition, or are on strong medications, always check with your doctor of health care provider!