Methyl Sulfonyl Methane (MSM)

Overview

Editor’s Note:

While peer-reviewed scientific studies on this dietary supplement are lacking, many practitioners and individuals report observational and anectodal benefits from its use. Use of this dietary supplement is on the rise. For this reason, NHIondemand has provided this monograph using the information that is currently available. As more science-based research becomes available, this monograph will be updated to include that material.

Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) is a natural form of organic sulfur that occurs in meats and plants including fruits and vegetables, and it is naturally produced in the human body. Although MSM occurs naturally in foods, even moderate food processing destroys most of it. It provides an important source of sulfur, which plants, animals, and humans need for biochemical processes. Commercially, MSM is made from DMSO. DMSO, or dimethyl sulfoxide is claimed to be an anti-inflammatory agent, but it produces an obnoxious odor in people who use it. In the body, about 15 percent of DMSO is converted to DMSO2 or dimethyl sulfone, which is another name for MSM. Some DMSO is converted to dimethyl sulfide or DMS, which is actually the substance that produces the bad odor associated with DMSO. When MSM is ingested, none of it is converted to DMS, so MSM provides many of the benefits of DMSO without the side effects. In addition to not causing any odor, when MSM is taken orally it stays in the body about 4 times longer than DMSO. Unfortunately, there is a scarcity of published scientific research on the therapeutic aspects of MSM.

Active Forms

Methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM), also known as dimethyl sulfone (DMSO2).

Absorption

MSM is readily absorbed both orally and topically.

Toxicities & Precautions

General

There is no known toxicity associated with MSM.

Side Effects

People taking large doses of MSM have reported mild gastrointestinal discomfort, an occasional headache, and more frequent stools, but no serious side effects have been reported with its use.

Functions In The Body

Anti-inflammatory Agent

MSM reduces redness, heat, pain, swelling and the loss of function associated with inflamed tissues or body parts.

Pain Relief

It is thought that MSM relieves pain via several mechanisms:

it inhibits pain impulses along type C nerve fibers

reduces inflammation, which relieves pressure on nerves and tissues

promotes blood flow, which speeds up healing

reduces muscle spasms

Sulfur

MSM is a source of biological sulfur, which is a major component in many of the body’s proteins, connective tissues, hormones, and enzymes. Some of the detoxification mechanisms in the liver require adequate supplies of sulfur.

Clinical Applications

Allergies

Hundreds of case histories of successful reduction or elimination of allergies. [ Ref. ]

Arthritis

Many case histories, reporting successful reduction and elimination of pain. [ Ref. ]

Asthma

Dozens of cases reporting substantial reduction is the use of prescription asthma medications and large increases in FEV (forced expiration volume). [ Ref. ]

Constipation

MSM normalized bowel function. Nurses in nursing homes report that MSM works very well for the elderly, even for individuals who do not respond to Metamucil or stool softeners. [ Ref. ]

Gingivitis

MSM can be taken orally and used as a mouth wash to relieve the inflammation of gingivitis. [ Ref. ]

Interstitial Cystitis

Researchers suggest that MSM holds promise as a treatment for interstitial cystitis patients, as well as those suffering from painful bladder (urethral) syndrome and note that it is has virtually no side effects. [ Ref. ] , [ Ref. ]

Lupus

Several dozen patients with lupus have been treated with good results, experiencing improvements in joint, skin, and vascular symptoms. MSM nearly doubled the lifespan of animals prone to developing autoimmune diseases. [ Ref. ] , [ Ref. ] , [ Ref. ]

Osteoarthritis

MSM may help by reducing pain, inflammation, muscle spasm, and the formation of scar tissue around arthritic joints, slowing down degeneration of cartilage, and providing biologically active sulfur to the body — it has been reported that the sulfur concentration in arthritic cartilage is only about one-third the level of normal cartilage. [ Ref. ] , [ Ref. ] , [ Ref. ]

Scar Softening

MSM reportedly normalizes cross-linking. Taken orally or applied topically as a lotion or gel, it reduces scar formation. If taken prior to surgery it seems to reduce post-surgical adhesions and scarring. [ Ref. ]

Scleroderma

MSM may provide benefit to individuals. [ Ref. ]

Pain Relief

Study reported a 60 percent pain reduction in patients at 4 weeks, and the average reduction in pain at 6 weeks was 82 percent. [ Ref. ]  Anecdotal clinical reports of pain improvement with the use of MSM in the following conditions: [ Ref. ]

  • severe accident-related pain
  • degenerative arthritis
  • rheumatoid and osteoarthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • back pain from herniated discs, arthritis, and other causes
  • headaches
  • muscle soreness
  • tendinitis
  • bursitis
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • interstitial cystitis
  • scleroderma
  • athletic strains and sprains
  • cold sores
  • Buerger’s disease–a chronic inflammatory vascular occlusive disease of the peripheral arteries and veins
  • Bell’s palsy-facial paralysis involving seventh (facial) nerve
  • Inflammatory bowel disorders
  • shingles
  • TMJ (temporal mandibular joint) pain

 Symptoms and Causes of Deficency

No specific condition has been identified with a deficiency of MSM. However, the wide variety of conditions that reportedly respond to MSM may be related to the role it plays in correcting a sulfur deficiency in many people. Food processing destroys much of the MSM in foods.

Dietary Sources

Trace amounts of MSM occur in plants, animals, and humans.

 

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