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Sam-E, St. John's or 5-HTP???

Hi. I have been suffering from depression, mood swings and severe food cravings, which I believe to be due to a low serotonin level. I also had anxiety problems for most of my younger years (social phobia). I do not want to take medication, so I am going to try a natural supplement and have narrowed it down to St. John’s Wort, Sam-E and 5-HTP. Sam-E sounds the most promising but it appears that the dosage almost makes it cost prohibitive (1200-1600 mg. daily for depression). Does anyone have any suggestions? I have taken 5-HTP before (not separately, but in MD6), and it seemed to help with mood at times but not consistently. Thanks for any assistance!

There have been quite a few threads posted on depression lately that you may want to check out (if you haven’t already). I’m not sure they answer your specific questions though. However, if you want to try to take care of this depression on your own without prescription drugs, I would suggest looking over at mercola.com for tips. I would definitely recommend his suggestions for taking fish oil, preferrably cod liver oil during the colder months (because of its Vit D content), avoiding sugar and grains and getting plenty of exercise. Sorry I can’t help you with St. John’s Wort, Sam-E or 5-HTP; all I know about them is what I’ve read. Although I’d be real interested to see if anyone else has some tips for you about them. Best of luck to you.

Hi, Frankie Four Fingers. I agree with Tyler on two points (and disagree with him on none of the others). Be sure to do a search on the word “depression” here on the Training & Nutrition forum. The search engine to the left searches the forum, and the one on www.t-mag.com searches previous articles. You’ll want to search the forum.

Second, if you’re not doing so already, immediately start taking flaxseed oil (1 tablespoon per 50 pounds of BW) or fish oil high in EPA/DHA. The solid, non-water portion of the brain is 60% fat, and Omega-3 fatty acids have a strong and positive effect on brain chemistry.

Recommendation, don’t start taking everything all at once. If you do, you’ll have no idea of what’s helping or what might possibly cause a funny reaction. Take ONE supplement, make ONE change, asses, and then keep it as part of your regimen or dump it, based on whether you notice a positive affect or not.

Unfortunately, 5-HTP at therapeutic doses is also expensive.

Here’s what I recommend.

  1. Without getting into too much detail, instead of SAMe, I’d recommend you take folic acid. Folic acid is a limiting factor in methionine metabolism. Methionine is an amino acid. When everything works properly, if you’re getting enough folic acid, the body makes its OWN SAMe. Folic acid is incredibly cheap ($5 give or take). I’d take 800 mcg per day. If it works, you’ll notice improved mood in a week or so. In other words, if there’s no improvement in mood by the end of the bottle, forget it.

  2. Start taking your flaxseed oil. Once again if it’s going to help, you’ll notice benefits quickly, within a week or so.

  3. I don’t know where you live, but a lack of sunlight can cause depression. Try to get some natural sunlight daily.

  4. Re the cravings, use this as an opportunity to get your diet right. Take a look at the T-Dawg II diet, which is a low carb diet. Stop with packaged foods, processed carbs and sugar. Sugar is bad, bad, BAD. And while you’re at it, get off coffee; it negatively affects mood in depressed individuals.

  5. Whether you feel like it or not, exercise.

Finally, you don’t have to live with depression. Get in to see a doctor. Depression can be a result of so many things, hormonal imbalances, environmental factors, food allergies. I posted a message within the last week that discussed these factors (among others) at great length. Depression is not a character flaw or defect; it’s not a lack of strength. There’s usually a biochemical reason.

Finally, the easy fix (for busy doctors) is to prescribe medication. Myself, I would prefer to find the underlying cause or metabolic defect. Find a nutritionally savy, progressive DO, DC or nutritionist who will work wiht you and dig a little deeper.

Best of luck to you!!!

frankie 4F, i agree with tyler, and especially terry - no shortage of great posts from him.
i am now entering my second week off of meds (i had been on prozac). things are going fantastic; it is possible to beat depression. if terry’s tips don’t work, ie - fix the metabolic block in your brain chemistry, you should see a doc to find out what’s up. it may take some time (6 mo - 1 yr) but it can be done. in my case i used an ssri (prozac) at low doses to buffer the depression whilst i got to the root of the cause through active psychotherapy.
be wary of shrinks who just want to write a script and not talk. talking is very important, and vastly underrated by many depressives. the three compounds you listed i would say to stay away from. i only rock the folic acid (800mcg/day) and make sure to get some tasty flax gruel each day.
i think i once heard another guy on the board say something like this, but i’ll give it a shot:
shiner…feelin great since '88

ps - don’t fuck around. depression is serious and should be treated as such, and if you’re low get thee to a head-shrinker.

Many thanks for the replies, everyone! I did read through most of the other threads on depression…I guess I was just looking for a somewhat clear-cut answer on the best one to take out of the ones I listed.

I do take HFS liquid fish oil as well as Udo’s and walnuts so I get plenty of Omega-3’s. I purchased some folic acid today so hopefully that will help. I don’t take a multivitamin as my diet is good and I already take separate C, E and ZMA, but I’m thinking I may need to at least throw in a B-complex. Any thoughts?

As far as the cravings go, I am already on a diet very similar to T-Dawg 2.0. I do fine for the most part during the low-carb days; however when I do my modified carb-up once a week all hell breaks loose and as soon as I get the taste in my mouth it’s all over.

I have read that low-carb diets can cause these problems due to lack of serotonin production from such a low carb intake. Maybe this is part of the reason, but as I said in my first post, I have dealt with severe social anxiety disorder for the first twenty-some years of my life (30 now), so something else has got to be going on as far as a chemical imbalance. I am also trying to get off both ephedrine and caffeine…I feel this may be part of the problem too.

Hi, Frankie. Getting off of ephedrine and caffeine would be a good move. Re the multi-vitamin, I’d still recommend one for you, a good one. There are a number of vitamin deficiencies found in depressed individuals. Consider it insurance.

Re your diet and carb up, I have a recommendation that should help. Do your carb up the last two meals of the day, right before bed. Rob Faigin recommends that in his book “Natural Hormonal Balance.” I guess the idea is that if carbing up causes one to lose control and start on an all-out binge, going to sleep prevents that and causes the carb up to be just a distant memory upon waking.

There’s actually a biological or physiological reason. When LIVER glycogen levels are filled (which is what happens if you eat sugar and/or fructose and/or honey), you have greater trouble with cravings because it’s the liver that’s responsible for maintaining blood sugar levels, resulting in cravings. If you carb up with starchy carbs – i.e., pasta, potatoes, rice, oatmeal – those carbs are used to fill MUSCLE glycogen stores and you won’t have the same problem with cravings. But as I said, just carb up the last meal or 2 of the day and go to sleep as scheduled. That way you won’t be awake to deal with any cravings.

The advice I gave you above on carb-up timing runs counter to what you’ll get here on the forum because the times we’re most insulin sensitive is in the morning, upon waking, and right after our workouts. But your carb-ups are causing you larger problems, thus the reason for my recommendations.

Best of luck to you, Frankie. Please let us know how you are doing.

What helped me was…
1.Taking fishoil along with borage oil

2 eating a diet a little lower in carbs and higher in fat and cholesterol

3. DMAE has worked wonders for my mental clarity and i reccomend this for everyone. i find these supplements at a relatively cheap price at the vitamin shoppe.