Methyl Sulfonyl Methane or MSM is an organic sulphur naturally found in fruits, vegetables, grains and milk. In supplemental form, the same has now widely become known as a “miracle supplement”. Why so? Because it has shown amazing potential in terms of lowering inflammation, fighting signs of stress, boosting energy levels while also improving immunity.
With such an impressive health boosting portfolio, it is no wonder that people want to know more about MSM and how they can use it to improve or achieve their health goals. So here is a bit about what MSM supplements really are and what they can do for you.
What are MSM Supplements?
Sulphur happens to be the fourth most abundant supplement in the body. In terms of functionality, it is required for many bodily functions and restoring healthy tissue. Sulphur also helps detoxify heavy metals from the body and assists in healthy liver function.
While it is present in many natural, unprocessed foods, sulphur can be lost quickly during the cooking process. In addition, the same is also naturally derived during the earth’s rain cycle but may not be as readily available from food grown in depleted soils. As such people may not be getting enough sulphur from their diet alone.
Therefore, it is recommended to get this nutrient from supplements to reap its many benefits.
Key MSM Supplement Benefits
MSM does already have a solid repute for improving bone and joint health, improving skin health, detoxification and boosting energy levels. However, its potential health benefits extend way beyond these and offer so much more. Here is a look at what MSM supplements can do for you:
Arthritis is a debilitating condition that presents joint pain and stiffness, knee and back problems along with a restricted range of motion. MSM can be helpful in managing these symptoms, as it plays a role in breaking up unhealthy calcium deposits in the body that can otherwise become the root cause of degenerative diseases.
With regards to joint health, adequate MSM supplementation can also be beneficial for improving joint flexibility, reducing associated stiffness, pain and swelling as well as improving circulation and cell vitality in the area. Much of this activity is encouraged by MSM’s ability to form new joint and muscle tissue while lowering inflammatory responses.
Its detoxifying potential also comes into the picture as sulphur helps release excess fluids and other by-products that collect and contribute to swelling and tenderness.
A clinical trial involving patients with osteoarthritis indicated that MSM supplementation over 12 weeks showed significant improvement in symptom management compared to a placebo group. MSM was administered along with glucosamine with a dosage of 500mg each three times a day for both supplements. Together the two showed promising results in reducing associated pain and inflammation but without presenting any side effects for most of the subjects .
Effective Treatment for Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome, also known as ‘intestinal permeability’ is a condition in which intestinal lining becomes damaged and undigested food particles, bacteria and toxic waste products leak through the intestine and into the bloodstream. The result is an impairment of proper digestion and the inability of the body to absorb essential nutrients.
In this scenario, MSM supplements can help rebuild digestive tract lining and reduce the associated inflammation as well as allergic reactions to food. By doing so, the same can also be useful in stopping food particles from seeping into the bloodstream.
Natural Skin Remedy
Topical creams containing MSM have long been in use to help lower inflammation of the skin. Common skin conditions like rosacea, skin discoloration and allergies use this ingredient for managing symptoms. The use of MSM can help improve the skin’s tone and reduce the associated redness. When combined with silymarin, MSM can be very effective in managing symptoms and conditions of rosacea skin .
Other skin healing features of MSM include boosting collagen production. Collagen is the protein that gives skin its resilience and prevents it from becoming saggy, wrinkled and dry. At the same time another protein compound known as keratin is equally important for skin health.
The sulphur content in MSM has an active role in the production of both collagen and keratin, so it is also seen as a “beauty mineral” given its skin boosting properties. When used in combination with other antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, MSM delivers even better results in improving the look and feel of skin. Together, these important nutrients can build new healthy tissue, help resolve scars and create new skin cells.
Restores Hair And Nail Growth
The beauty benefits of sulphur do not stop at the skin alone. In fact, by boosting collagen and keratin levels, MSM can also help form new hair strands. In addition, boosting these levels also has beneficial results for promoting nail health.
Hair and nail products often label collagen and keratin as ingredients because it is these compounds that give hair its strength, make strands more lustrous and may even prevent or reverse hair loss.
Acts As A Natural Analgesic
MSM can help lower muscle pain and spasms while improving range of motion and mobility. Because the sulphur in MSM can renew muscles that become damaged or stressed during intense exercise, after an injury, surgery or even strenuous physical labour, it not only repairs the damage but also speeds up the healing.
Athletes can benefit particularly when looking for speedy recovery.
Helps Adapt To Stress
Sulphur is known to have calming properties and can help assist the body cope better with stress. For instance, all forms of exercise cause some oxidative stress, which is actually not a bad thing when present in small amounts.
If anything, a little exercise induced oxidative stress is essential; it prompts cells to become stronger over time by increasing the body’s antioxidants. When the body is supplemented with MSM in these cases, the sulphur content helps prevent sore muscles from setting in, boosts the ability to heal faster and bounce back from exercise .
Taking MSM prior to working out can be helpful for reducing muscle damage and other markers of stress.
In terms of psychological stress, sulphur has been studied as a mood stabilizer that relaxes the nervous system.
How MSM supplements work
To understand the mechanism of MSM supplements, it is important to know the following few keys terms before.
Methionine: MSM supplements are used to deliver extra sulphur to the body. This extra supply helps in creating methionine which is one of the two sulphur containing essential amino acids. It is needed for tissue repair and growth in the body, enhances the pliability and tone of the skin, renews hair and strengthens nails. Plus it also helps synthesize and metabolize foods, allowing absorbed nutrients to be used for energy.
DMSO: DMSO stands for dimethyl sulfoxide which is a clear, odourless liquid produced as a by-product of the paper industry. DMSO also presents the ability to penetrate skin and other biological membranes. As such, it can and has been used as a transportation device to pass small molecules through the skin.
It fits into the MSM equation because MSM is a natural by-product of DMSO and its medicinal properties appear to mimic those of DMSO. When used, DNSO is converted in the body to MSM which has the potential to remain in the body longer than DMSO itself. This allows MSM to have more of a long term impact in the body.
When MSM is retained in the body through supplements, one of its most noteworthy features is its detoxification properties. Others include improved immunity and acting as a performance enhancer.
The process involves how chemicals enter and exit from cells, aka cell permeability. This is a key component of the whole process and lends much of the potency attributed to MSM. As you will see throughout this article, cell permeability will be a recurrent theme and will have an important role to play in almost every benefit that MSM supplements offer.
MSM supplements can deliver all these benefits in the following different ways:
Because MSM adds to the permeability of cells, it facilitates the release of certain built up minerals such as calcium, which may otherwise cause problems. The same applies to the detoxification of heavy metals and waste products.
At the same time, cellular permeability also encourages ushering in nutrients and water which is beneficial for maintaining hydration levels in the body. Such detoxification also enhances the body’s antioxidant potential, protecting it better from free radicals.
Closely tying in to this point is MSM’s ability to improve immune function, expedite healing and lower pain. The sulphur content in MSM neutralizes specific by-products like lactic acid which can otherwise add to the sensation of soreness, stiffness and inflexibility.
This is also why athletes and very active individuals use MSM supplements to improve their recovery times, boost performance and rebuild new and healthy joint tissues and muscles.
The sulphur in MSM also assists in the production of glutathione, an amino acid that plays a vital role in the body. Glutathione is also considered a “master antioxidant” as it is present in every cell of the body. Its long list of functions includes its role in the immune function by promoting T-cell function, preventing drug resistance and protecting from environmental toxins, all tying in to improving immunity.
Last, but not least, MSM is also considered a performance enhancer as it can help fight fatigue while raising energy levels. Remember the point about increasing cellular permeability? Well that one comes into play here once again as increased permeability of cells requires less energy to deal with toxin accumulation. With toxin accumulation out of the way, energy sources can be redirected towards activity and healing.
In the same strain, digestion requires the use of most energy reserves with approximately 70-80% of energy spent on digestion each day. When MSM increases the absorption of nutrients, energy expenditure on digestion is vastly reduced and redirected elsewhere.
When less energy is required, more remains behind to boost performance levels, improve cognitive functioning and improve overall energy reserves.
An important consideration is to drink adequate amounts of water when taking MSM supplements. Since MSM detoxifies the body, it involves sufficient water flushing the system so that toxins can be removed effectively without taxing other bodily organs such as the kidneys.
What else can you use MSM supplements for?
Other than the benefits offered by MSM supplements mentioned above, the same may also be used to treat the following inflammatory and other conditions:
Stomach issues like ulcers, indigestion, constipation and upset stomach
PMS symptoms including headaches, cramps, indigestion and water retention
Gum disease and oral infections
While these conditions can be addressed by using MSM supplements, the three areas where MSM has gained a lot of renown include:
Anti-atherosclerotic: MSM can help blood vessels from becoming thick or stiff that can otherwise restrict blood flow to the organs and tissues. It helps prevent the build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances on arterial walls which restrict blood flow.
Chemo preventive: Chemo preventive agents are used to inhibit, delay or reverse the growth of cancer. Some research indicates the potential of MSM to work in this capacity .
Natural anti-inflammatory: When inner and outer cellular fluid pressure are not equal, inflammation and swelling result. Because MSM enhances cellular permeability, it allows the pressure to equalize, thus relieving inflammation.
Recommended MSM Dosage
Individual dosage for MSM will largely be dictated by the reason for using the supplement and the individual’s current state of health.
As a starting dose, typically 500mg MSM may be prescribed to be taken three times every day. This is the starting dosage for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Some other recommendations include taking between three to six grams every day for overall health. Dosage to be divided into three daily doses.
When using the powdered form, it is recommended to start off with one to two teaspoons of MSM powder dissolved into 10 ounces of water. As the body gets more used to the supplement, dosage can be increased gradually, taking care to monitor that no digestive discomfort is experienced.
Where to Buy MSM Supplements
MSM supplements are available as either powder, cream or even in tablet or capsule form. The most common among these is the powdered version and is often incorporated into powdered supplement mixes such as digestive aids and green powders.
MSM supplements are believed to deliver best results when taken along with other anti-inflammatory compounds like vitamin C and Omega 3s.
MSM supplements are available at health stores and from online sellers. It is very important to make sure that you get your supplements from a reputable seller or vendor to avoid getting synthetic products with artificial fillers. The best recommendation is to use organic MSM and look for a product that carries the label of 100% naturally derived MSM.
Potential Side Effects
Generally, MSM appears to be well tolerated by most people as it is a natural product and also found in the body. While there have not been too many reported side effects of MSM use, there have also not been enough studies conducted to report any long term effects.
One of the most reputable studies conducted in this field was in 2006 involving patients with osteoarthritis. Patients were given 3,000mg of MSM every day for 12 weeks and observed to conclude that administering the supplement significantly improved symptoms of pain and physical function sans any major side effects .
Other studies observed that some mild side effects may be observed with the use of MSM supplements. These may include digestive indicators like upset stomach, diarrhoea, and indigestion. Some people may also experience swelling, fatigue, insomnia and difficulty concentrating.
Interestingly enough, some of the adverse effects of using MSM occur because it is such a potent detoxifier. Since it dissolves certain compounds and reacts with specific toxins, the detoxing process itself may cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Detox symptoms or side effects if any, tend to be quite individual.
MSM supplements may also not be suitable for individuals taking blood thinning medication or expectant mothers. Talk to your doctor before starting any kind of supplementation.