MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane).

MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane) is a natural sulfur, most abundant in our body after water ans sodium. However, it should not be confused with sulfur drugs or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), to which some people are allergic. It originates as dimethyl sulfide (DMS) in the ocean with an aid of plankton, transforms to MSM in the atmosphere and comes to Earth with the rain water, where it is absorbed by plants. It is an important element in more than 150 compounds in the body, including tissues, enzymes, hormones, antibodies and antioxidants. MSM is stored in every cell of the body, with the biggest concentration in the hair, nails and connective tissue of joints and skin. It is one of the building blocks of two essential amino-acids: methionine and cysteine. Cysteine is needed to manufacture collagen – a major component of skin and connective tissue such as cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones. Cysteine is also a major component of keratin – a protein found in skin, hair and nails. Methionine is important for liver detoxification process. MSM also provides key building blocks to maintain healthy, flexible, permeable cells. The concentration of MSM decrease with age and should be maintained to preserve normal function and structure.

MSM in action.

  • Because sulfur is incorporated into the connective tissue and has anti-inflammatory properties and has been extensively used for years to treat inflammatory conditions of skin and joints. In U.S. natural products industry it is the most rapidly growing joint support supplement due to its potential pain relief properties. In UK, most good quality joint support formulas contain MSM. A double-blind study on MSM given to arthritis patients reported 80% improvement in pain relief to a 20% improvement in those who took placebo. The restoration of sulphur levels in patients with osteoarthritis has also shown to be of significant benefit.
  • It may also be helpful in treating allergies – especially hay fever – due to MSM ability to stabilise Mast cells, thus decreasing histamine production naturally.
  • Sulfur supports healthy immune system.
  • It also has detoxifying properties, which aids liver function. Chelation involves amino-acids and sulfur donor, and because MSM is a sulfur it plays a role in heavy metal removal. Being a part of amino-acids that aid liver detoxification (glutathione, methionine and cysteine), it latches onto heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium, aiding their removal from the body. Because of these detoxifying properties, it helps to restore hormone balance and helps those with hormonal acne. MSM also works well in treating inflamed acne.
  • Because MSM is involved in keratin production, it supports healthy hair and nails and is included in most good skin, hair and nails formulas.
  • MSM dilates blood vessels, improving the blood flow, helps to support impulses along nerve fibres and helps to maintain muscle reflexes. This helps to decrease muscle spasms.

Food Sources of MSM.

Sulphur is naturally occurring in many foods, such as meat, beans, fish and seafood, eggs, fresh raw fruits and vegetables, dairy and even tea, coffee and chocolate.  We do get enough MSM from the diet, even the less healthy one. However, food processing, inappropriate storage and heat from cooking may affect its levels. So is it beneficial to take MSM as a supplement if it is readily available from a wide variety of food? For most people in good or even average health, it’s not worth it. I wouldn’t recommend to take MSM supplement just like you would take a multivitamin. MSM is not as much preventative supplement as it is a potential relief from the existing conditions. MSM is great to try for skin, joint or other inflammatory problems. For example, acne, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, sports injuries and muscle inflammation, polymyalgia rheumatica, hay fever, etc. are conditions which might improve with the use of MSM.

MSM Supplements.

MSM comes in a crystalline powder, capsule or tablet form. There are also plenty of skin and body creams, ointments and massage oils with MSM.  Crystals are diluted in water and don’t smell or taste much. This is also the purest form of MSM. The recommended intake range for adults is from 1 to 6 grams daily, starting from 1g and increasing the dose as necessary. MSM intake is very similar to Creatine: use with plenty of water and spread the intake through the day.

Although MSM is found in abundance in nature, many companies supply petrochemical MSM. I am not sure whether it is better or worse than natural MSM – and maybe it is just the same – but personally, I always prefer my supplements to be natural whenever possible. All good quality supplements should have customer care phone on the bottle, where you can call and find out the origins of nutrients. To my knowledge, Higher Nature produces a good quality, natural MSM.

MSM Contraindications and side effects.

MSM is safe and rated as one of the least toxic substances in biology, similar in toxicity to water. It has no side effects, but because of its effective detoxifying properties it is recommended to drink plenty of water while taking it and introduce it gradually, starting at lower dose, then increasing it to a comfortable level.  It works well with vitamin C, especially if used for skin problems.

MSM is Calcium and Potassium antagonist and also lowers the amount of Copper in body. The latter is a not a problem, as most people generally run high on copper, so unless there’s an established copper deficiency, there’s no need to worry. People with Calcium and Potassium deficiency should not take MSM or consume foods high in sulphur.

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7 comments to MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane).

  • Marcia

    Hello, and thanks for this article. Do you have references to back up the claim that MSM/sulfur lowers calcium, potassium and copper?

    • Elvira

      Only my study notes for this one, sorry. It is mostly a cause for concern in animals rather than humans. You’d have to take a very large dose of sulfur daily for it to have negative effect of other minerals, but I wanted to mention it in the article.

      • Sue

        I was wondering why it’s more of a concern in animals… and do you have any idea about dosages…. what is a ‘very large dose’? Thanks.

        • Elvira

          Hello, “a very large dose” would be anything more than prescribed on the bottle. I can not, legally, say otherwise. Animals like cats and dogs (and cattle) have different metabolism so, they require different dosage of supplement. I know some people give their pets the same supplements they would take themselves and this is not advisable as the adverse effects, however minimal, might be much worse in animals.

  • Brittany Barlow

    Can I take MSM if I’m on birth control pills?

    • Elvira

      I am not aware of MSM, or any other supplement, interfering with the pill. Not with the birth control aspect anyway, but do ask your doctor to be sure.

  • Linda Clark

    Hi: I notice that you said that MSM is potassium antagonist. The problem with that is that the more you increase the MSM, the higher the chance of throwing off the potassium. I boldly (and unwisely) started with five of the 1,000 mg of MSM one day and then the second day after taking that amount again, I developed a severe heart arrhythmia. It was the only thing I did differently that I felt could bring it on. I came home and researched that and found that many people who take large amounts of sulfur actually have reported going to the ER for a heart arrhythmia. The potassium/MSM antagonist most likely explains what was happening. Now I’m afraid to actually take it at all. However, if I did, I would start with only one capsule a day, along with a potassium capsule, and slowly over a long period of time, increase that, if 1,000/day is not enough.

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