Quick Overview

Methyl Sulfonyl Methane is a relatively new dietary supplement form of sulfur that is found in our living tissues. MSM supports healthy connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and muscle. Thus,...
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Methyl Sulfonyl Methane is a relatively new dietary supplement form of sulfur that is found in our living tissues. MSM supports healthy connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and muscle. Thus, it is important in conditions such as arthritis, muscle pains, bursitis, etc. MSM should be considered an integral part of any health care practice because of its physiological action, indirect importance, and current / future uses.

To understand MSM, some background information is necessary. MSM is a "naturally-occurring nutrient found in normal human diets" (1). It gets into the diet through the sulfur cycle. Ocean plankton release sulfur compounds which rise into the ozone where ultra-violet light makes MSM and DMSO. DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide, is a precursor to MSM. MSM and DMSO return to the surface of the earth in rain (1). Plants concentrate MSM and return it to the earth and the sea. Evaporation into the air results in their return to the earth (1).

MSM has a unique action on body tissues. It decreases the pressure inside the cell. In removing fluids and toxins, sulfur affects the cell membrane. MSM is an organic form of sulfur, whereas sulfites in foodstuffs are inorganic. Sue Williams states "sulfur is present in all cells" and is in the form of "organic compounds throughout the body’ (2). However, sulfur can be found in the body in sulfate forms. It forms sulfate compounds with sodium, potassium, magnesium, and selenium. MSM has a significance, because sulfur compounds are found everywhere throughout the body and in nature.

Sulfur has an indirect importance, because sulfur compounds play a role in many body organs and systems. Sulfur is in the hair, skin, and nails. Many amino acids, the building blocks of protein, have sulfur as a component. Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid formed from methionine (2). Taurine stabilizes cell membranes (2). Methionine contains sulfur, detoxifies cells, and is involved in pain relief (2). Carnitine comes from methionine and transports long chain fatty acids preventing accumulations of lipoproteins (2). Many B-complex vitamins interact with or contain sulfur. Sulfur is needed for insulin production.

One current use of MSM is for joint problems, as sulfur is found in and near osseous structures. Sulfur supports healthy muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Arthritic conditions have responded to oral MSM. Some researchers note results from MSM when used for post-exercise muscle pain (1). MSM normalizes pressure inside cells and removes toxins. Oregon Health Sciences University has conducted arthritis studies with mice. The mice which received MSM had "no degeneration of articular cartilage" (1). The other non-MSM mice had cartilaginous degeneration. The university has used MSM on over 12,000 patents. Researchers make no claim about MSM as a supplement, but osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscle soreness and muscle pain respond to oral MSM.

One researcher claims MSM is about as safe as water. One should drink extra water with MSM use. There are other dietary factors to consider.

Avoiding nightshade plants has helped arthritis patients (tomatoes / potatoes / green pepper/eggplant). Biotin and vitamin C help the body assimilate MSM. Biotin and vitamin C are found in fresh fruits. Eating fresh fruits while taking MSM could be helpful.

In addition to arthritis, it may have other future uses. Dr. Stanley Jacob believes ,'most people are deficient' in sulfur (1). Insulin synthesis depends upon sulfur. Many vitamins require or contain sulfur. Some researchers claim it has many future uses such as in allergies (1).

A good MSM product is both safe and effective. The MSM source for MSM supplements is often lignin from pine trees. Lignin is a molecule in plants that is part of a plant's cell wall. Lignin oxidation in oak wine barrels results in the vanilla flavors of wines. The pine tree lignin is an ideal source for a good MSM product.

For those who do not want to take MSM as a supplement, food sources of sulfur are as follows: sunflower seeds, garlic, lentils, soybeans, and yogurt. Persons with kidney problems or recurrent kidney stones may not want to take MSM. Certain renal tubular defects can make a person susceptible to recurrent kidney stones (2). Other kidney defects include errors of metabolism in which processing of sulfur amino acids is altered (2). Such persons may wish to avoid MSM.

One thousand to three thousand milligrams per day is a typical dosage range, but some people take well above that amount. This author takes MSM alone.

From the cell walls of pine trees to the cells of the human body, a good MSM supplement can contribute to good health.

Why Supplement?

Since sulfur is present in every cell of every living thing, it might seem that we would get plenty of this essential mineral from dietary sources and should not need supplements, but that may not be the case. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products are the main sources of dietary sulfur, but we have been advised to restrict or remove many of those foods from our diets. Vegetarians, especially those who do not eat eggs, are at particular risk for sulfur deficiency. Plants cells contain sulfur but not in abundant quantities and much of the MSM present in unprocessed foods is lost in washing, cooking or steaming. And, of course, MSM levels decline noticeably with age - doesn't everything? So, the older you get, the more important it becomes to maintain adequate sulfur levels in the body.

Usage and Toxicity

Due to its positive effects, particularly in maintaining healthy cell formation, 2,000 to 6,000 mg. of supplemental MSM daily is recommended. Of course, the optimum daily dosage of MSM depends largely on body size, age and the nature and severity of any deficiency symptoms you may be experiencing. Since vitamin C provides a positive synergistic it should be taken along with MSM.

MSM ranks in the "extremely low" toxicity category with a toxicity profile similar to that of water. When oral supplements are taken, the body will distribute MSM where it is needed. After about 12 hours, any excess amounts will be flushed out of the body.