Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occuring organosulfur compound, a source of the essential mineral sulphur. It is most commonly known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
MSM is known as ‘the beauty mineral’ and also the ‘healing mineral’. It is one of the best sources of sulphur. You may recall visiting thermal springs or mud baths which are known for helping skin and joints. Their health and beauty giving properties are due to their high sulphur content. The sulphur gives that ‘eggy’ smell that we put up with in the name of wellbeing!
MSM is the most bio-available form of sulphur. Sulphur is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body, and is a constituent of keratin and collagen, substances in skin, hair and nails. When people take MSM they frequently report improvements in skin, nails and hair.
MSM origninates in the ocean. Microscopic plankton release sulphur compounds into seawater. This is converted into DMS (a volatile sulphur compound that then releases into the atmosphere. In it’s gaseous state, DMS reacts with ozone and ultraviolet sunlight to create MSM.
MSM then falls to earth with the rain, it falls to the soil and becomes concentrated in plants. It is therefore present in many foods. Sulphur rich foods include eggs (especially the white), cruciferous veg (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale …), alliums (garlic, onions, leeks…), protein rich foods. It is lost however through cooking and food processing. The richest natural supplies are in pine trees and cabbage.
MSM is found naturally in soil, however soils are often depleted, which means food may also be depleted. There are areas of the world naturally rich in sulphur (these are often volcanic) including Iceland, Japan, Italy…
MSM is also found in the fluid and tissue of all living organisms and sulphur is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body.
Sulphur is structurally and functionally important to over 150 bodily compounds, and is predominantly found in the skin, muscles, cartilage and bones.
The beneficial effects of MSM and sulphur on for the skin and the body include:
● Feeds the building blocks of connective tissue; collagen, elastin and keratin.
● Improves the quantity and the quality of collagen, elastin and keratin
● Anti-Inflammatory (regulates and decreases inflammation)
● Detoxifying and tissue cleansing
● Anti-bacterial & anti-fungal
● Skin Brightening
● Pain control
● Tissue building - it strengthens the cell membrane – cells can perform better, energises and oxygenates cells
● May help to reverse osteoporosis
● Builds the strength of the kidneys and helps to eliminate excess water
● Supports circulation and helps eliminate cellulite
● May improve cell membrane fluidity, improving the exchange of fluids in and out of cells
● May help to reverse symptoms of Parkinsons and Alzheimers
MSM is commonly taken as part of a beauty regime due to its presence in ‘anti-aging’ formulations and is gaining popularity as a nutritional supplement for the support of hair, skin and nails. Sulphur is needed for new cell formation (remember the skin is constantly renewing itself) and so helps to regenerate healthy skin cells. Studies have proven it is sufficiently effective in reducing the facial signs of ageing even at a low dose of 1g a day. It is integral to the production of collagen and elastin, and also protects extra-cellular matrix proteins such as collagen from damage and degradation.
It inhibits pro-inflammatory signalling pathway NF-kB, which therefore has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Because of this enzymes and cytokines involved in Reactive Oxygen Species are inhibited and the skin benefits.
Further benefits to the skin include:
● Protecting collagen against collagen degrading enzymes.
● Clincally proven to reduce fine lines & wrinkles by boosting collagen and elastin production. For collagen production, it is often thought that rather than taking collagen it’s better to support the body’s ability to produce it. MSM is good for this, especially if combined with vitamin C.
● Boosts the natural production of Glutathione, the body's key cellular anti-oxidant, to boost the immune system and reduce pigmentation and cellular damage.
● Acting as an anti-inflammatory agent by reducing the production of cytokines (pro-inflammation).
● Providing the body with the raw materials needed to create new cells, and to repair damaged ones.
● Maintaining skin cell membrane flexibility and permeability, promoting an efficient exchange of nutrients and waste products, to help keep skin clear.
● Sulphur also helps skin to heal. It has applications in wound repair, acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Another area MSM supplementation is typically applied is joint support. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial measured the effects of MSM on osteoarthritis vs placebo. Compared to placebo, MSM produced significant decreases in pain and physical function impairment. It also produced improvement in performing activities of daily living when compared to placebo.
As sulfur is a powerful anti-inflammatory the joints can benefit in terms of flexibility and pain reduction. It also helps with repair. It is excellent for improving muscle recovery time after exercise.
As a powerful anti-parasitic, sulfur creates a smooth, resistant coating lining the colon, which leaves parasites homeless, so that they are flushed out of the body. It is also anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, creating a inhospitable habitat to pathogens. It therefore clears the gut of unwanteds.
MSM supports the sulphation process in the liver. MSM is needed to detoxify the body. Sulfur assists in removing toxins from the cells and removing them from the body. We also need higher amounts of sulfur when we cleanse in order to replace what is used removing toxins. Sulfur deficiency may lead to toxic build up in the cells.
This important nutrient is also a key player in our bodies ability to make glutathione, our master antioxidant. Because of this, clinical studies have been conducted to trial its role as an anti-cancer agent. A study in 2018 looked at the effects of MSM supplementing in prostate cancer patients. They observed that MSM decreases the viability and invasiveness of prostate cancer cells through the induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Moreover, MSM in a low dose was shown to reduce the migration and invasion of prostate cancer cells.
MSM has also shown promise in the treatment of allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever. A 2018 study found that 3g daily doses of MSM significantly reduced symptoms of hay fever nasal symptoms (nasal obstruction, rhinorrhea, watery or itchy eyes and nose, and sneezing).
MSM also helps in maintaining the body's pH balance.
It is good to add sulfur to the diet through supplementation. If the diet is primarily raw, with lots of outdoor grown organic food one might be getting enough, however most people can benefit from supplementation. Choose MSM crystals over powder as it is less likely that the MSM has evaporated.
Take a teaspoon per day diluted in water for 3-4 weeks, then 2 teaspoons per day.
If any of the following deficiency symptoms are present, judge whether supplementation improves them. If so continue to take MSM.
● Skin ageing
● Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis
● Varicose veins
● Digestion: difficulty digesting foods, difficulty digesting fats, parasites
● Hair loss, brittle hair or split ends, slow hair growth
● Brittle nails, slow nail growth
● Joints: arthritis, stiff joints
● Immune: allergic sensitivities
● Brain: poor memory, mental fogginess, more chronic brain disorders
Another simple way to incorporate more sulphur is to include Epsom Salt baths into your lifestyle. Granny really did know best as these salts are an excellent way of getting sulphur into the body as the cells can readily take it in, when the bath is warm the pores open to allow this to happen easier.
There seems to be a correlation between good health and sulphur rich soils, although so many variables can be considered. Emerging science is discovering that healthy sulphur levels may be protective against alzheimers, obesity, heart disease, diabetes…… much more. Sulphur could be contributing as it helps the cells rid themselves of toxins via the liver, and kick starts antioxidant protective processes in the body.
Radish, garlic, onions, rocket, cayenne, chilli peppers, mustard seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, blue-green algae, spirulina, horse radish, brussels sprouts.
Kylie Williams is a Co-Director of Therapy Organics, and also a Bowen Technique Therapist. She is passionate about natural medicine to optimise health.See more Articles by Kylie
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