MSM supplements: benefits and side effects

Methylsulfonylmethane, more commonly known as MSM, is a relatively new entrant to the supplement scene. That means it’s a bit tricky to figure out which MSM benefits are scientifically-backed and which are marketing fluff. We wrote this piece to clear up some of the confusion.

MSM is commonly sold in powder or capsule form, but is also present in tea, coffee, milk and veggies - just in very small quantities,. It also occurs naturally in your body.

MSM is essentially organic sulfur. Sulfur is the third-most prevalent mineral in you body, and is part of many vital functions, such as enabling glutathione, an important antioxidant. MIT researcher Stephanie Seneff calls sulfur a “healing mineral”, and that “a sulfur deficiency often leads to pain and inflammation”

Naturally, MSM is said to reduce inflammation and assist in antioxidant processes. But MSM’s uses don’t stop there. Studies have claimed a number of benefits, which we’ll explore below.


What are the health benefits of taking MSM?

Studies have shown that MSM’s health benefits include reducing inflammation, treating scars, wrinkles and stretch marks, immune system support, reducing muscle soreness after exercise, and general antioxidant support. 

Let’s start with MSM’s most popular health benefit - its role as an anti-inflammatory.


MSM and inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to infection, and is characterized by redness and swelling in the affected area. Without inflammation wounds wouldn’t heal, and infections would be a lot more dangerous.


But too much of a good thing isn’t always a good idea. Some diseases lead to excess inflammation, eventually causing chronic joint pain and stiffness (arthritis), along with other side effects.


MSM’s role in joint pain relief is documented in a number of studies, but the benefits might be more short-lived. A recent meta-analysis (a study of other studies), found that MSM, along with other supplements, helped with short-term osteoarthritis pain relief, but was not as useful mid- to long-term,,.


The Arthritis Foundation notes that there aren’t any “well-controlled studies” on MSM, but does cite a 2006 report that used large doses of MSM (6g/day) to improve symptoms of osteoarthritis pain.


Keep in mind that many substances in isolation may not be effective for some people. Stacking nutrients can produce synergistic effects in these cases. For example, one study demonstrated that patients going through physical therapy felt an improvement in their quality of life after taking MSM with glucosamine.


MSM and skin health

Sulfur-based creams aren’t anything new in dermatology - topical sulfur has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for a variety of skin conditions.


One study found that peeling sessions with pyruvic acid and MSM improved skin elasticity and wrinkling. Combinations of MSM with other nutrients in the same study demonstrated improvements with flushed skin and other conditions.


A quick note on MSM’s hair benefits: while YouTube and marketing sites are full to the brim with MSM-praising videos and articles, there haven’t been any significant studies conducted with humans on MSM’s impact on hair growth and hair health.


MSM for immune system support

MSM’s role in immune system support isn’t direct. Instead, MSM helps regulate free radicals and antioxidants - a healthy balance of both is required for proper immune response during infections. Sulfur-based compounds have a similar role.


MSM may serve other immune system roles indirectly: one non-human study found promising results for MSM’s wound-healing abilities. Though, there needs to be more research conducted in this area to affirm this benefit.


MSM for post-exercise soreness 

Several small studies have noted the effects of reducing muscle and joint pain to varying degrees,. One study involving mostly women found that taking MSM three weeks prior helped reduce muscle pain after a marathon. Another study confirmed that MSM helps reduce muscle damage after exercise.

Many of MSM’s health benefits have one thing in common: the compound’s role in kickstarting antioxidant action. Antioxidants can help fight free radicals that cause damage to your skin, muscles, and joints. No wonder MSM has so many health benefits!

 

What is the correct MSM dosage?

The FDA has labeled MSM “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS). Online sources point to 3g/day as being a safe maximum dosage, and some studies use twice as much during their trials. But there’s a caveat here.

MSM taken orally accumulates over time. While side effects in human trials were mild - nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, insomnia, among others - different people may be affected differently by nutrients labeled as “safe”. 

At Rootine, we create personalized vitamin and mineral packs to fit your lifestyle and your biological profile. Our at-home DNA kits measure for gene variations that may alter your MSM dosage requirements, while our lifestyle assessment quiz provides additional data for us to personalize your nutrients. 

 

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