This sulphur-containing compound is used to help treat a range of conditions but appears particularly helpful for maintaining healthy joints and bones.
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What is it?
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a compound found naturally in plants, animals and humans which is said to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the body. It is found naturally in a small number of foods, including tomatoes, green leafy vegetables and alfalfa sprouts, but only in modest amounts. To get enough it is easier to take it in supplement form.
How does it work?
MSM is said to have powerful antioxidant effects with natural, free-radical scavenging abilities – meaning it can help protect your DNA from damage by slowing the rate of oxidation.
It is also a highly effective anti-inflammatory which has been shown to block the release of chemicals released during the inflammatory process.
Many of its beneficial effects are attributed to the active sulphur in the MSM. We all produce sulphur naturally in the body but levels of it start to decline with age, which is also why it can be helpful to supplement it.
What can it help?
This is one of the most common reasons for taking MSM as it has been found to help those suffering with the pain of joint degeneration.
It has been shown in rats to inhibit the breakdown of cartilage (the tough tissue that cushions the ends of your bones in their joints and acts as a shock absorber).
In a human study carried out on people over 50 suffering with degenerating joints, those given 1,200mg of MSM daily for three months reported less pain, stiffness and swelling in their affected joints than those given a placebo.
Significantly, they also reported improved mobility and quality of life.
Inflammation is at the root of most chronic diseases and the anti-inflammatory properties of MSM are exciting as it is said to inhibit the release of molecules involved in the inflammatory response.
It has also been found to increase levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant produced in the body which is essential for your immune system to function efficiently and is crucial for building and repairing tissue.
In one study, men given 3g of MSM before a gruelling exercise routine decreased the release of inflammatory cytokines (a type of protein that serve as messengers between cells and regulate inflammatory response) compared to a placebo.
The anti-inflammatory properties of MSM are harnessed in helping the pain, stiffness and reduced mobility in those living with arthritis. It is often used as an alternative to traditional medication, but it can also be taken alongside it.
In one small study on people with knee osteoarthritis, those given 3.4g of MSM daily for 12 weeks reported a reduction in pain and stiffness and improved physical function compared to a placebo.
Studies have shown that MSM may be effective in reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including sneezing, itching, runny nose, watering eyes and nasal congestion.
It is believed it does this by decreasing inflammation in the body and inhibiting the release of cytokines.
A small study on sufferers of allergic rhinitis who were given a daily dose of 2,600mg of MSM a day for 30 days reported a reduction in their symptoms including sneezing, coughing, shortness of breath, congestion and itching.
Helping with muscle recovery
Feeling sore and achy after exercise can be the result of oxidative stress to your muscles and tissues, and MSM supplements have been shown to help alleviate this.
In a study involving 22 healthy and able people, who took 3g of MSM or a placebo for three weeks in the run up to a half marathon, the MSM group reported less muscle soreness and pain compared to the placebo group.
MSM may help to rebuild the lining of the digestive tract and could reduce allergic reactions to certain foods. It is also useful for helping those with leaky gut syndrome as it can help to stop particles from leaching out of the gut through small openings where they can enter the bloodstream and cause an inflammatory response. This is thought to be due to the action of the sulphur in the MSM.
There is also evidence to show MSM used topically in conjunction with tea tree oil could be helpful in the treatment of painful and uncomfortable haemorrhoids (piles).
MSM has been shown to help reduce inflammation, which can damage skin cells and lead to premature skin ageing.
It has also been shown to reduce the effects of the skin condition rosacea. In one study, applying MSM topically reduced skin redness, inflammation and itching.
How safe is it?
There have been a number of toxicity studies to assess the safety of MSM and it is generally recognised to be safe with no reported interactions with other supplements or drugs.
In some rare cases, MSM can cause GI symptoms, including bloating, nausea and diarrhoea.
When applied topically to the skin it has also been shown to cause minor skin and eye irritation in some people.
In studies, dosages have ranged from 1,200mg to up to 7 grams, but there is no recommended daily allowance or optimal dosage. Taking between 1g to 3g a day appears to be a normal safe dose.
Taking more does not seem to produce better results – a study from 2018 where people took 12g of MSM had less relief from their allergy symptoms than those who took just 3g.
Glucosamine and chondroitin. Glucosamine is a naturally occurring substance that is said to help develop and renew cartilage and keep it well lubricated for better joint flexibility and movement. Chondroitin is another naturally occurring substance that helps to maintain fluid and flexibility in the joints.
MSM is considered safe and is generally well tolerated with minimal side effects.