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MSM Supplement Improves Joints, Allergies and Gut Health

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MSM supplement - Dr. Axe

What if I told you there was a so-called “miracle supplement” that could help lower inflammation, fight the effects of stress and pain, raise immunity, and increase energy levels? Would you be interested? Then you need to know about MSM.

What is the supplement MSM good for? It’s used to help treat literally dozens of illnesses, painful symptoms and disease.

For example, research suggests that MSM benefits include improving immune function, lowering chronic inflammation and helping to restore healthy bodily tissue.

What Is MSM?

MSM stands for methylsulfonylmethane. Methylsulfonylmethane is the oxidized form of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), an organic sulfur compound (aka organosulfur compound) formed from lignan. It’s also known as dimethyl sulfone (methyl sulfone) or DMSO2.
This organic sulfur-containing compound naturally occurs in some green vegetables and other food products, plus it’s found in the human body, in many animals, and in milk. It’s also a natural substance made from phytoplankton in the oceans.
When commercially prepared it’s used to make a popular joint health supplement due to its anti-inflammatory effects.

Many benefits of MSM dietary supplements are attributed to its biologically active sulfur, which is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the human body. Sulfur is needed for many different critical bodily functions every single day, and MSM is considered a sulfur donor.

In dietary supplement form it’s often used in conjunction with other ingredients that support joint health and connective tissue healing— including dimethyl sulfide and sulfone DMSO, glucosamine/chondroitin, and boswellic acid.

Types of MSM Supplements

There are several types of MSM supplements available:

  • Powder form
  • Cream/lotion form
  • Gel form
  • Pill/tablet form
  • Liquid eye drops
  • Crystals

It’s available in powder form most often. You might find it in powdered supplement mixes, such as green powders or digestive aids. MSM powder is believed to be the most absorbable kind.

What’s the best way to take MSM powder? Try simply adding it to water (usually about 16 ounces for one serving).

Look for pure powder for best results. Read the directions carefully, and start with about one to two teaspoons of MSM powder taken along with water.

You can increase your intake as your body gets used to it and you assure you don’t experience any digestive side effects.

You’ll get the best results when you use it along with antioxidants/anti-inflammatory compounds, like vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.

According to the Natural Eye Care website, MSM liquid eye drops can also be used to make the eye membranes more permeable, soften tissues in the eyes, decrease pressure, repair damaged membranes, and help the eyes utilize nutrients more easily.

Gel, lotion or cream versions can be applied to the skin to help treat conditions like skin irritation such as rosacea, allergic reactions, varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Make sure you buy MSM from a reputable seller, and always check for the correct chemical compound name “MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).”

Keep in mind that many MSM supplements contain synthetic byproducts and fillers. You want to look for an organic brand that sells “100% naturally derived MSM.”

Benefits

1. Treats Osteoarthritis and Joint Pain

A well-researched MSM benefit is that it helps decrease joint inflammation, improves flexibility and restores collagen production. It can help form connective tissue and repair joints, tendons and ligaments.

This is why it’s commonly used topically on the skin and also taken by mouth as part of an arthritis diet and supplementation plan to pain or osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease. Research shows that many patients with arthritis, joint pain, stiffness, knee/back problems and a limited range of motion experience a reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life when taking an MSM supplement.

MSM supplements may help treat arthritis because they help the body form new joint and muscle tissue while lowering inflammatory responses that contribute to swelling and stiffness. Sulfur also impacts the immune system and facilitates normal cellular activity.

Sulfur needs to be present for our cells to release many byproducts and excess fluids that can accumulate and cause swelling/tenderness.

A clinical trial testing the effects of MSM supplements on joint pain in 118 patients with osteoarthritis (such as with the knee) found that compared to a placebo, MSM supplements taken over 12 weeks resulted in more improvements in pain, swelling and joint mobility. MSM supplements were given in 500-milligram doses three times daily along with glucosamine (also taken in 500-milligram doses three times daily).

Together they both seem to safely reduce inflammation and pain intensity without causing side effects for the majority of people. That suggests that MSM — especially when combined with glucosamine and chondroitin — an excellent natural treatment for arthritis.

Some studies have also found that MSM may work better than glucosamine, if you choose to only take one of these.

2. Improves Digestive Problems

MSM can help rebuild the lining of the digestive tract and lower inflammatory responses in response to allergic reactions to certain foods.

It’s also useful for helping treat leaky gut syndrome since it can help stop particles from leaching out the gut through small junction openings, where they can enter the bloodstream and ignite an inflammatory response. This is due in part to the sulfur in an MSM supplement, which is important for digestion.

Additionally, MSM supplements seem to help treat hemorrhoids, according to studies. Applying a gel containing MSM along with tea tree oil can reduce pain and swelling caused by hemorrhoids (swollen blood vessels of the rectum that make it hard to go to the bathroom without pain or bleeding).

3. Helps Skin Conditions

Some research shows that applying topical cream containing MSM and silymarin helps lower inflammation contributing to rosacea, skin discoloration, allergies or slow wound healing. MSM can help improve skin’s tone, reducing redness, easing sensitivity and treating other symptoms associated with rosacea, since MSM inhibits inflammation.

While it hasn’t been proven in many studies, people also use it to hold on to a youthful appearance, since it seems to help prevent wrinkles, scar formation, dark spots and sun damage.

How’s this possible? It’s necessary for collagen production, and collagen is what helps keep skin from becoming saggy, wrinkled, cracked and dry.

Using an MSM supplement helps us hold on to precious collagen and keratin because sulfur is required for the production of these “youthful” compounds. We lose collagen and healthy tissue as we get older, which is exactly why our skin tone and elasticity suffer.

You can get even more results using MSM on your skin when you combine it with other antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A, which all help build new, healthy skin cells.

4. Lowers Muscle Pain/Spasms and Improves Exercise Recovery

Here’s good news if your someone who’s regularly active but suffers from muscle pain: Research suggests that MSM can act like a natural analgesic, helping prevent and treat muscle aches and pains, throbbing and swelling while improving range of motion and mobility.

According to a 2017 study, it’s been shown to help muscle recovery after exercise, injuries and even surgeries — and it seems to be especially beneficial when used in conjunction with other anti-inflammatories. Using MSM supplements is tied to better immune function, accelerated healing and reduced pain because it helps counteract certain byproducts (like lactic acid) that contribute to the feeling of soreness, inflexibility, pain and stiffness.

In addition, a study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, in which it was found that only 10 days of MSM supplementation helped decrease muscle damage via its effect on antioxidant capacity.

How does MSM stop muscle pain and damage? It comes back to the role of sulfur in the body, which is largely stored inside tissues that make up our muscles and joints.

It helps repair the rigid fibrous tissue cells in our muscles that become broken down during exercise, therefore helping prevent them from swelling for prolong periods of time.

It can also restore the flexibility and permeability of cell walls within muscles, which means nutrients can pass through the tissues more easily, facilitating repair work faster and removing lactic acid, which causes that “burning feeling” following exercise. The result is less time needed for recovery, plus reduced pressure, soreness and cramps.

5. Restores Hair Growth

Struggling with thinning hair or balding as you get older? Good news: MSM has been shown to help boost both collagen and keratin levels, two nutrients we absolutely need to form new hair strands (and also rebuild strong nails and skin cells).

Collagen and keratin are often found in hair products and treatments because they’re what gives hair strength, durability and that “healthy” look — and they can help reverse hair loss.

6. Helps the Body Adapt to Stress

Ever hear of “adaptogen herbs” or supplements that help control how the body deals with stress? MSM works similarly, since it boosts our ability to heal and bounce back from exercise, stressful events, injuries and even surgeries.

A 2016 study, for example, found that “MSM appears to dampen the release of inflammatory molecules in response to exercise … it allows cells to still have the capacity to mount an appropriate response to an additional stimulus.”

Does MSM make you sleepy? No, in fact it can help to improve energy and reduce lethargy.

Taking it before exercising, such as running, seems to reduce muscle damage and other markers of stress. It can also lessen fatigue felt after exercise and stressful events and support an upbeat mood, energy levels and normal digestion.

7. Can Help Reduce Allergies

Because studies show it can help to reduce inflammation and decrease the release of cytokines and prostaglandins, this supplement can be useful for managing allergic reactions.

One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that it can help to reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis, which can include itching, congestion, shortness of breath, sneezing and coughing.

Uses

Some of the most common uses for MSM include treating:

  • chronic joint pain (osteoarthritis, joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disorders
  • osteoporosis and susceptibility to bone fractures
  • bursitis, tendonitis, the development of scar tissue and other musculoskeletal pains
  • allergies and asthma
  • yeast infections
  • muscle cramps
  • constipation, ulcers, upset stomach, indigestion
  • PMS symptoms (cramps, headaches, water retention, indigestion)
  • stretch marks
  • hair loss
  • skin problems including wrinkles, sun burns (it offers some protection against UV light/wind burn), wounds, cuts, skin abrasions
  • eye inflammation
  • poor circulation
  • high blood pressure
  • fatigue
  • oral infections, toothaches, gum disease/periodontal disease

Three uses that MSM has gained the most notoriety for include: acting like an anti-atherosclerotic (preventing the hardening/thickening of arteries), chemo-preventative compound and natural anti-inflammatory.

MSM seems to help the body’s natural free radical-scavenging abilities, which means it lowers oxidative stress as well as the many ailments that come along with it.

It’s an effective anti-inflammatory because it blocks the release of pro-inflammatory mediators and down regulates certain harmful signals sent from the immune system that can affect the entire body.

How MSM Supplements Work

MSM supplements supply the body with extra sulfur for creating methionine, which helps in important bodily processes like making other chemicals, forming connective tissue, synthesizing/metabolizing foods, and absorbing nutrients to be used for energy.

We all have sulfur present in our bodies at all times, but our sulfur levels can drop as we get older, when we’re stressed and if we normally eat a low-nutrient diet. The principal dietary sources of sulfur are the amino acids called methionine and cysteine.

Studies show these are not always consumed in adequate amounts to meet sulfur requirements.

In humans (and animals, too), pure MSM is naturally found in the adrenal cortex, which is a part of our hormonal system that helps regulate our response to stressors. It’s also stored in our cerebral spinal fluid and is used to maintain the structure of normal connective tissues.

One of the most notable attributes of MSM supplements is that they help accelerate healing and “detox” the body by improving how chemicals enter and leave our cells. MSM essentially makes cells more permeable, releasing certain built-up minerals that can cause problems (like calcium, for example), heavy metals, waste and toxins, while also helping usher in nutrients and water.

This helps keep us hydrated and lowers inflammation, which is the root of most diseases. Research shows that MSM also stabilizes cell membranes, improves the body’s antioxidant abilities, slows or stops leakage from injured cells, and scavenges hydroxyl free radicals.

MSM’s sulfur also plays an important role in the production of glutathione, considered to be a “master antioxidant” and an important agent for detoxification.

Dosage

How much MSM do you need or should you use? The FDA doesn’t recognize a recommended dietary allowance for an MSM supplement or for sulfur (which it contains), because there’s no proven symptoms of sulfur deficiency described in medical literature as of now.

Therefore the dosage you’ll want to take depends on what you’re using MSM for and your current state of health.

Usually, 500 milligrams of MSM, taken two to three times daily, is the starting dose recommended for treating osteoarthritis. For example, one study mentioned above gave participants 1,200 milligrams daily for 12 weeks.

Other reports show that up to three to six grams of MSM daily (divided into three doses normally) seems to be safe and well-tolerated.

Is MSM safe for dogs?

According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, it can be given to dogs to help reduce joint pain, injuries and inflammation, however be very careful to avoid giving any pet a product that contains sweeteners and flavors such as xylitol, which can be fatal to dogs.

The recommended “therapeutic dosage” for dogs is about 50 to 100 mg MSM per 10 pounds of body weight.

Risks and Side Effects

MSM seems to be well-tolerated, since it’s completely natural and already found in the human body. There haven’t been many serious side effects of MSM reported to date, however, there also haven’t been many large, well-controlled human studies looking at its long-term effects.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, based on the most reputable studies conducted so far on this supplement — such as a 2006 pilot study that analyzed the effects of 6,000 milligrams of MSM taken daily by patients with osteoarthritis — it effectively helps improve symptoms of pain and physical function without any major side effects.

That being said, it is capable of causing mild side effects for some people, including indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea, and skin and eye irritation. It’s also not suitable for people taking blood-thinner medications, due to potential side effects affecting the heart and cardiovascular system that may occur.

If you’re pregnant, you’ll want to speak with a doctor before taking it regularly.

Final Thoughts

  • What is MSM? It’s a supplement that stands for methylsulfonylmethane (or dimethylsulfone or DMSO2). provides biologically active sulfur, which is the fourth most plentiful mineral in the body and is needed for many different critical bodily functions every single day.
  • It’s called the miracle supplement because it’s been shown to lower inflammation, fight the effects of stress and pain, raise immunity and increase energy.
  • Three uses that this supplement has gained the most notoriety for include: acting like an anti-atherosclerotic (preventing the hardening/thickening of arteries), chemo-preventative compound and natural anti-inflammatory.
  • MSM benefits include: treating osteoarthritis and joint pain; improving digestive problems like leaky gut syndrome; repairing skins and treating skin problems like rosacea, allergies and wounds; lowering muscle pain and spasms; restoring hair growth and helping the body adapt to stress.
  • There is low risk for experiencing MSM side effects, as it’s typically well-tolerated. However, some people may experience digestive issues.
Josh Axe

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