What is MSM?
MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane, is biologically active sulfur. It's found in some foods, but the sulfur is sometimes eliminated during cooking. MSM is a stable and inert form of sulfur that many believe has beneficial properties for health. Sulfur is naturally present in the human body, but sometimes in insufficient amounts. Studies on rats show no detrimental effects, even when MSM is taken in high doses, and it's considered to be a benign compound.
Volcanic rock is the main source of organic sulfur. Rainfall deposits it in the soil, and certain plants are able to absorb it. Sulfur is present in dark green leafy vegetables, for example, and often found in drinking water. However, in the United States, soil has begun to exhibit sulfur depletion because of factory farming techniques. Because of this, you may not be getting enough sulfur from food sources.
What is MSM used for?
It's been widely used as a health supplement. MSM has preliminary recognition by the FDA in the category 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS). There's some evidence that it has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve flexibility in users. Other possible effects are improved immune function and increased energy. There's currently no recommended daily level of MSM for oral consumption.
MSM has been used to treat swelling and pain from a variety of ailments, including:
- Muscle cramps
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Eye inflammation
MSM is also used on the skin for the treatment of:
- Scar tissue
- Stretch marks
- Cuts and scrapes
MSM is also taken to alleviate intestinal problems such as:
How is MSM used as a supplement?
It can be added to liquid meal replacements, protein shakes and smoothies, along with electrolyte-replacement drinks. It's also found in energy bars, and it's available in capsules that can be taken with water.
Food Sources of MSM
Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions and garlic are some of the vegetables that have the most naturally occurring biologically active sulfur. They should be eaten lightly steamed in order to get the most benefit from the natural MSM they contain. Eggs are also sulfur-rich, along with wild-caught fish, nuts, seeds and dairy products.
Health Benefits of MSM
Relief of Joint Pain
It's believed that MSM relieves joint pain and swelling because it has anti-inflammatory properties, allowing a wider range of motion and giving joints more flexibility. There's a great deal of anecdotal evidence that it relieves stiff and sore muscles and joint pain for those who take MSM as a supplement. The cartilage in joints must have sulfur to remain healthy and strong. Users have reported noticeable relief from pain in conditions like arthritis, bursitis, gout and tendonitis.
Studies have shown promising results concerning the joint pain relief properties of MSM, especially when administered with glucosamine. This combination relieved both pain and swelling in those suffering from osteoarthritis. The two treatments worked best together, and there were no noticeable side effects after taking them for twelve weeks.
There are benefits for skin from the internal and external use of MSM. It's been reported to encourage softer and more elastic skin in those who use it regularly. In addition to strengthening the collagen in joints, it can improve collagen production in the skin. Collagen provides the cushion beneath your skin that gives it a smooth appearance, and increased collagen production can minimize fine lines in your face.
MSM also assists in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative stress. This is a prime defense against aging and wrinkles. Oxidative stress can also cause your skin to become rough and discolored. When combined with milk thistle, MSM has been clinically shown to help manage the redness and itching of rosacea.
Hair and Nail Strength
MSM also boosts keratin production for healthy hair and nails. One of the amino acids present in sulfur has a high concentration of keratin. This protein is a major component of hair, and it's also present in the outer layer of skin. Keratin is a protective substance, and it gives flexibility to hair, skin and nails. Some forms of keratin can even regulate cell growth, and keratin is used as a remedy for thinning hair.
Sulfur removes metabolic waste and toxins from your cells. This benefits the digestive tract because these byproducts can induce an inflammatory reaction in the gut if they're not eliminated. MSM also binds easily with metals, protecting your body from metal toxicity and helping the liver do its job of removing impurities from the blood.
Muscle Pain Relief
Sulfur is needed for other metabolic processes besides the removal of waste from cells, like helping your muscles recover after a workout at the gym. It aids in removing the lactic acid that builds up after strenuous exercise. It also promotes cellular healing after surgery and when tissues are damaged by injury. This reparative action works to prevent excess swelling that can add to muscle pain. It also allows your cells to receive nutrients more efficiently by making the cell walls more permeable.
According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., of MIT, having adequate amounts of sulfur and cholesterol in your body allows your skin to manufacture crucial vitamins upon exposure to the sun. Specifically, skin is able to produce vitamin D3 sulfate, a form of vitamin D3 that releases sulfur into the bloodstream to support bodily functions.
The cholesterol sulfate and vitamin D3-sulfate are carriers that deliver the energy (and the oxygen)
"door-to-door" to the individual heart and skeletal muscle cells.
MSM has a 34 percent sulfur content, and it's more than just a supplement because it also affects the way your body metabolizes sulfur.
There are many testimonials concerning the positive effects of MSM on energy levels, and it does seem to give people a boost. Exercise can lead to exhaustion and fatigue, and MSM reduces this effect while it helps relieve pain. Sulfur is also needed for the synthesis of taurine, which provides stamina to muscles. And sulfur helps convert vitamins B1 and B7 to forms that free up carbs for energy.
What's the right dosage of MSM?
You can find MSM supplements in a capsule form to be taken orally and as a powder that can be added to smoothies and shakes. It's also available in a cream that can be directly applied to the skin. There's no official dosage of MSM since it hasn't been established as having a minimum daily requirement, but here are some suggestions based on previous use.
Baseline MSM Intake: To be sure that you have enough sulfur to maintain healthy bodily functions, 2.5 grams per day of MSM is sufficient. At this level, few if any users report side effects from taking it. You can also increase your consumption of foods rich in MSM to supplement this intake level.
Treatment of Joint Disease: Taking 3 grams twice a day for 12 weeks has been shown to be effective at reducing the pain from osteoarthritis. At higher doses like this, a very few users experience swollen ankles, skin rashes and/or intestinal discomfort. This can be offset by starting with a lower dosage of MSM and gradually increasing it.
Treatment of Skin Conditions: It may take some time for MSM to have an effect on a skin rash if you have a sulfur deficiency. At first, toxins will be released that your body's been holding onto, and this could interfere with the healing effect. You should experience pain relief right away, however. Most therapeutic lotions and creams contain between 10 and 12 percent MSM.
Important Note: Side effects from MSM are rare and minimal but, as with any supplement, it's important to start slowly and only increase your dosage once your body has had time to adjust. Also, those with allergies to sulfa drugs will not react well to high doses of MSM.
When using MSM as a nutritional supplement, start with the minimum suggested amount and increase it slowly as needed. Although there are only mild side effects reported from the use of MSM, too much of anything isn't good for you. It can interfere with the body's homeostasis, the balancing act that keeps your body in the optimum zone when it comes to health and nutrition.
Do You Have a Sulfur Deficiency?
Sulfur is one of the eight most common elements in the human body, right up there with carbon, oxygen, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, hydrogen and nitrogen. There are two amino acids that contain sulfur, cysteine and methionine, and both are essential for good health. Since there's no established minimum daily requirement for sulfur, it's not included in many multivitamins, and it's not a nutritional additive in other foods.
A deficiency in sulfur can lead to pain and inflammation in the muscles and joints. The amount of support given to these parts of your body is apparent when you examine the positive effects of sulfur in treating joint diseases. For example, it's been shown to reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and restore flexibility when taken by arthritis sufferers.
Sulfur is also a component of glutathione (GSH), a tripeptide made of three combined amino acids: glutaminic acid, glycine and cysteine. Glutathione is the most important antioxidant in the body because of its potent ability to fight damage from free radicals. It also helps maintain stores of vitamins C and E and eliminates toxins.
As this illustrates, the human body depends on adequate sulfur stores for many important biological functions. Although MSM is just a blip on the supplement radar compared to other nutrients, it's actually a vital one. Sulfur deficiency has been linked to eczema, immune dysfunction, body wasting diseases and glucose intolerance, among other illnesses.
An Easy Fix
The good news is that you can easily make sure your body has sufficient sulfur to fuel the metabolic processes that keep you healthy. Taking MSM supplements is one way to ensure this, and eating sulfur-rich foods is another. One relaxing and enjoyable way to get more sulfur into your system is to take a hot bath with dissolved Epsom salts. Otherwise known as magnesium sulfate, Epsom salts will boost the stores of magnesium and sulfur in your body.
Why is MSM so good for skin?
MSM has been used to successfully treat rosacea and chronic eczema, and it can alleviate the symptoms of shingles. It has a healing effect on acne, too. The anti-inflammatory properties of sulfur are one of the reasons for these positive effects, along with sulfur's role in collagen production. Collagen accounts for 30 percent of the protein in your body, but it makes up 70 percent of your skin's protein.
Collagen gives skin elasticity and fills it out, giving young skin the full smoothness that makes aunties want to pinch little cheeks. Wrinkles start to form when this underlying support begins to deteriorate. Loss of collagen occurs naturally as we age, and it can be accelerated by factors like smoking, stress, and poor nutrition. Skin becomes thinner, and it's harder for it to hold onto moisture. Taking MSM to increase collagen production and using the right moisturizer for your skin type are two ways to combat these effects.
A Supplement for Your Whole Body
As you can see after reading all the information about MSM, it's a general-purpose supplement for good health. Although it supplies only one thing, biologically active sulfur, that compound is a necessary part of your metabolism and the health of your skin, joints and digestive system. Your heart and muscles also benefit from sufficient sulfur, and it's not hard to maintain a healthy level through wise food choices and supplementation with MSM.