You don't have to opt for a prescription to find a pill that helps your mind and body. Several supplements can do everything from alleviate pain to ward off depression, says Jason Theodosakis, M.D., associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Talk to your doctor about adding these options to your regimen.
Take it to: Fight depression
The reason it works: SAM-e is produced by the body and believed to moderate emotion. Our levels decline as we age, but taking it in pill form may increase the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Research has found it to be as effective as some antidepressants.
What to know: SAM-e is very unstable, so check the label to make sure it's blister packed; this will protect the product from breaking down. People notice benefits when they get about 800 to 1,600 milligrams per day. Never combine SAM-e with an antidepressant—it may cause serious side effects—unless you've discussed this option with a physician.
Take it to: Boost your immune system and prevent fractures and osteoporosis
The reason it works: Vitamin D may improve immunity by activating the genes that fight infectious diseases, says a study. When combined with calcium, it can increase bone mineral density in older women. Our bodies make vitamin D from the sun, but sunscreen can prevent this. People living in the north may be especially at risk for a deficiency.
What to know: Ask your doctor for a blood test to check your levels. You could need at least 1,000 IU (units) of D3 daily. This form is produced by animals, and is more effective at raising your levels than D2, which is made by plants. A follow-up test can detect how well you're absorbing it.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
Take them to: Relieve osteoarthritis pain
The reason they work: Both chondroitin, a molecule, and glucosamine, a chemical, are produced by the body. When taken together as a supplement, they may increase the cartilage around your joints or slow its breakdown, which occurs in people with osteoarthritis.
What to know: Porcine- and bovine-derived chondroitin are more effective than the avian form. Aim for 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine and 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of chondroitin daily.
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.
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