MSM: Banish Stiff, Achy Joints with THIS…
When you think of rotten eggs, the last thing that probably comes to mind is good health. Their distinctive, pungent scent alone – the same odor we associate with natural gas – is enough to turn you off to any potential benefits.
But the compound responsible for that stinky smell actually plays an important role in human health. Far more than just another element on the periodic table, it helps drive a wide range of biological actions in the body.
In fact, proponents claim that a specific supplement containing this remarkable compound can treat everything from cancer to stretch marks.
Well, that’s a bit of a… stretch.
However, a growing body of research does suggest that such supplements might ease the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis.
Stinky Substance or Stellar Supplement?
Also known as MSM, methylsulfonylmethane is a sulfur compound that occurs naturally in many foods in the human diet.
Sulfur is a mineral that gives rotten eggs their unpleasant smell, but it is also found in garlic, onions, nuts, seeds, raw milk, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Sulfur is present in every cell in your body and helps form the structure of many hormones, enzymes, and antibodies. It also helps make collagen, which explains why sulfur is found in large quantities in the nails, hair, muscles, and connective tissue.
MSM itself doesn’t occur naturally in the body. Instead, MSM contains sulfur, which is delivered to the body when you ingest it in food or in the form of dietary supplements.
It may seem “natural,” but MSM has its roots in the paper industry. See, back in the 1980s, Dr. Stanley Jacob and Dr. Robert Herschler, chemists with the pulp and paper plant Crown Zellerbach Corporation, discovered that lignin, one of the plant’s major waste products, could help create dimethylsulfoxide.
Also known as DMSO, this natural form of sulfur has a strong bitter taste and is rapidly absorbed through the skin. As the story goes, workers at the paper plant with arthritis who touched DMSO-treated wastewater reported that their condition improved.
Based on these claims, DMSO was marketed as a home remedy for arthritis and other painful conditions. But there was a problem: DMSO’s strong taste and smell made it unpleasant to use, and it never caught on as an alternative treatment.
That led researchers to seek out a better, less-offensive source of sulfur, which led to the creation of MSM supplements by Dr. Stanley W. Jacob of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland and Robert J. Herschler, a biological chemist and inventor. Together, they own a dozen patents on MSM-related products.
But does MSM really work?
Promising Pain Relief…
Although some people tout MSM as a cure-all, its biggest potential appears to be as a treatment for osteoarthritis, joint pain and inflammation caused by wear and tear of the cartilage. It makes sense: MSM provides us with sulfur, which our bodies need for healthy bones, muscles, and joints.1,2,3
But there’s a big difference between theoretical benefits and proven facts.
Fortunately, researchers continue to investigate the effects of MSM on osteoarthritis, with encouraging results.
For example, one 2011 study looked at 49 men and women with osteoarthritis of the knee who took MSM supplements. After 12 weeks, people who took 1.125 grams of MSM three times a day experienced more improvements in pain and physical function than those who took a placebo pill.4
A similar randomized, controlled study, published in 2006, examined the effects of supplemental MSM in 50 men and women with osteoarthritis of the knee. The researchers found that taking 3 grams of MSM twice a day for 12 weeks was associated with better function and less pain than a placebo supplement.5
MSM may also benefit osteoarthritis when taken along with other protective compounds.7,9 In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 118 adults with osteoarthritis of the knee took the arthritis supplement glucosamine (500 mg, 3 times daily), MSM (500 mg, 3 times daily), a combination of glucosamine and MSM, or a placebo. After 12 weeks, both MSM and glucosamine appeared to improve arthritis symptoms compared to placebo. Interestingly, the combination of MSM and glucosamine was more effective than either one alone.7
Yet all findings haven’t been positive. For instance, the authors of a review of six previously studies (involving a total of 681 patients with osteoarthritis of knee) found that they could not convincingly determine whether or not MSM is beneficial for this condition8
MSM has been best studied for its role in treating osteoarthritis. However, some research suggests that it might have other health benefits as well.
Some scientists believe that MSM inhibits histamine, the chemical responsible for allergic reactions, at least as well as the traditional antihistamines, without the negative side effects.
Indeed, one 2002 study of 55 people with seasonal allergic rhinitis found that people who took 2,600 mg of MSM daily for a month saw their symptoms improve, compared to those who took a placebo.6
Although it’s too early to recommend MSM for anything other than osteoarthritis, it will be interesting to see what other benefits are uncovered for this supplement in the future.
What to Know…
MSM is certainly worth trying if you suffer from the pain and debilitation of osteoarthritis. However, there are a few points to keep in mind before you buy it.
This supplement can cause mild side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, bloating, headaches, and insomnia in some people. It may also trigger an allergic reaction, so you should avoid it or proceed with caution if you are allergic to sulfa drugs, sulfonamide, or any other component of methylsulfonylmethane.1,2,3
You should also pass on MSM if you have a deficiency of calcium, potassium, or copper, as it may lower levels of these substances in your body.1,2,3
Otherwise, if you have osteoarthritis, try taking 500 mg of MSM with a glass of water three times a day, about an hour and a half before meals. It is safe to take up to 3 grams of MSM daily, but you may not need to take this much to notice results. Products that contain glucosamine as well as MSM may also be helpful.
And remember, keep an open mind to new ideas, but ALWAYS do your own homework…and combine that with common sense to figure out what’s best for YOU.
4Debbi EM, Agar G, Fichman G, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized controlled study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Jun 27;11:50.
5Kim LS, Axelrod LJ, Howard P, et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2006 Mar;14(3):286-94.
6Barrager E, Veltmann JR Jr, Schauss AG, et al. A multicentered, open-label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Apr;8(2):167-73.
8Brien S, Prescott P, Bashir N, et al. Systematic review of the nutritional supplements dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008 Nov;16(11):1277-88.
9Usha PR, Naidu MU. Randomised, Double-Blind, Parallel, Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and their Combination in Osteoarthritis. Clin Drug Investig. 2004;24(6):353-63.
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