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Health Benefits of MSM Supplements and Their Side effects

health benefits of MSM supplements

Methylsulfonylmethane is a popular dietary supplement. You can use it to treat a wide range of symptoms and conditions. It is a compound containing sulfur can be found in plants, animals, and humans. MSM is used in alternative medicine and by people looking for a natural way to ease joint pain, reduce inflammation, and improve immunity. Evidence also supports its use in the treatment of several conditions ranging from asthma to rosacea. Here are the health benefits of MSM supplements and their side effects.

MSM Has Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Scientific research is well documenting the anti-inflammatory properties of MSM. It is believed to inhibit NF-kB, proteins responsible for inflammation in your body (1).

It also inhibits the production of cytokines such as alpha (TNF-ɑ average) tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 6 (IL-6), which signal systemic inflammation-related proteins (2).

In addition, MSM will raise the body’s levels of glutathione, a potent antioxidant. For example, supplementing with MSM reduced stomach ulcer inflammation in mice by inhibiting the release of inflammatory cytokines including TNF-ɑ and IL-6, and increased the glutathione levels (3).

A study in 40 active men showed that consuming 3 grams of MSM before rigorous exercise reduced inflammatory cytokine release and prevented immune cell over-stress compared to placebo (4).

May Help People with Arthritis

Arthritis is a common inflammatory condition in your joints that causes pain, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion. MSM has strong anti-inflammatory properties, the symptoms associated with arthritis are often used as a natural alternative to medication.

A study conducted in 49 people with knee osteoarthritis showed that taking 3.4 grams of MSM per day for 12 weeks decreased pain and rigidity and enhanced physical function compared to placebo (5).

It can also increase the effectiveness of other popular supplements used to treat arthritis such as glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and boswellic acid.

One study found that combining MSM with glucosamine and chondroitin in humans with knee osteoarthritis was more active than glucosamine and chondroitin alone in reducing pain and stiffness (6).

Another study found that a daily supplement containing 5 grams of MSM and 7 grams of boswellic acid was more effective in reducing pain and improving function in people with knee arthritis than glucosamine (7).

The people who received the supplement for MSM and boswellic acid were less reliant on anti-inflammatory drugs than on the glucosamine group (8).

May Improve Skin Health by Enhancing Keratin

Keratin is a protein that functions in your hair, skin, and nails as the main structural component. This component comprises sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine. As you may notice burnt hair gives a smell of sulfur.

By acting as a sulfur donor to keratin, MSM can be beneficial to skin health. This can help reinforce its essential protein, in effect. MSM also helps to reduce inflammation that can destroy skin cells that cause premature aging such as wrinkles (9).

It can even reduce symptoms of skin conditions such as rosacea, which can cause skin redness, itching, and inflammation. One study showed that MSM improved redness, itching, swelling, hydration, and color of the skin in people with rosacea when applied to the skin (10).

MSM May Decrease Muscle and Joint Pain

One of MSM’s most popular uses is to reduce muscle and joint pain. Those with joint dysfunction, a common cause of knee, back, hands and hips, can benefit from it. By restricting your movement and flexibility, joint pain can have a negative impact on the quality of your life.

Research has shown that inflammation in your body is reduced by MSM. It also prevents cartilage breakdown, a flexible tissue that protects your joints. A review of 100 people over the age of 50 showed that treatment with a supplement containing 1,200 mg of MSM for 12 weeks reduced joint pain compared to placebo (11, 12).

Also reported by the community receiving the supplement improved overall quality of life. Another study in 32 people with lower back pain found that taking a glucosamine supplement containing MSM reduced lumbar rigidity and movement pain, plus an increased quality of life (13, 14).

Can Speed Recovery After Exercise

Muscle damage occurs during intense exercise and increased oxidative stress. It results in muscle soreness and discomfort felt by athletes, which can impair athletic performance and preparation. After intense exercise, MSM can speed up muscle recovery by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress (15).

Research in 18 men found that taking 50 mg of MSM powder per kg of body weight for 10 days. After 10 days they reduced exercise-induced muscle soreness and improved activity after a 14 km run. In three weeks leading up to a half marathon, 22 healthy women got 3 grams of MSM or a placebo per day in one experiment (16).

The MSM community reported less muscle soreness than the placebo group. The study found that after a vigorous resistance exercise, athletic men taking 3 grams of MSM daily for two weeks had lower levels of IL-6 and lower muscle pain (17, 18).

May Have Cancer-Fighting Effects

One of MSM’s newest research areas is the review of its efficacy in the fight against cancer cells. While the research is limited, the results have so far been promising. Several test-tube studies have shown that MSM prevents the development of cancer cells in the stomach (19, 20, 21).

It can damage cancer cells to boost the killing of cancer cells. MSM also seems to prevent cancer cells from spreading, also known as metastasis. A review of liver cancer in mice found that those treated with MSM had fewer tumors, less damage to the liver than those not (22, 23, 24).

Another mouse study showed that MSM inhibited the development of human breast cancer cells. While these results are encouraging, there is a need for more research to determine it’s us for cancer (25).

May Help Allergy Symptoms

Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction that causes symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing, itching, and runny nose. Animal dander, pollen, and molds are common triggers for allergic rhinitis. It releases some inflammatory substances such as prostaglandins and cytokines after exposure to an allergen, resulting in unpleasant symptoms (26).

Studies have shown that MSM can help reduce allergic rhinitis symptoms. It can reduce allergic reactions by reducing inflammation and inhibiting cytokine and prostaglandin release (27).

A study in 50 people with allergic rhinitis showed that a dosage of 2,600 mg of MSM per day for 30 days decreased symptoms. These symptoms include itching, nausea, shortness of breath, sneezing, and coughing. However, by day 14 the participants experienced a significant increase in energy (28).

Can Boost Immune System and Overall Health

Your immune system is a network of specialized tissues, cells, and organs that protect your body from infection and disease. Factors such as stress, disease, poor diet, inadequate sleep or lack of activity may weaken it.
Sulfur compounds like MSM play a major role in your immune system’s protection (29).

MSM can be active, for example, in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation that may weaken immunity. Because it is effective in reducing levels of inflammatory compounds such as IL-6 and TNF-ɑ. MSM can reduce stress on your immune system.

It also plays a role in creating glutathione, the main antioxidant of your skin. It can also help to increase these essential compound levels. Levels of glutathione are crucial to your immune system’s overall health and function (30).

A test-tube study showed that MSM restored levels of glutathione and decreased inflammatory markers in mouse cells damaged by HIV proteins (31).

The Bottom Line

MSM is a popular add-on with a wide range of uses. Research shows that reducing joint pain, reducing inflammation, improving skin health, reducing symptoms of allergy, and speeding up recovery after exercise. In fact, there is some evidence that MSM can improve the immune system and have cancer-fighting properties. MSM is healthy and only studies reports minor side effects. While the current findings on MSM are encouraging, there is a need for more studies to understand all its potential benefits and side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is MSM supplement natural?


MSM is a naturally occurring substance found in the human body and many foods. The highest concentration of MSM in nature is in mammal milk, but only parts per million of these food sources contain MSM. Therefore, from an organic origin, you can not remove, isolate or grow the compound.

All commercially available MSM is produced by using hydrogen peroxide to react to dimethyl sulfoxide.

What is the recommended dose of MSM?


1 to 6 grams per day are acceptable dose or serving sizes.

Does MSM dissolve in water?


Depending on the water, you are trying to dissolve and the amount of MSM. MSM will dissolve by weight at room temperature in the water at a concentration of about 15-17 percent.

If you have an allergy to sulfa drugs, is it safe to take MSM?


Sure. No verifiable cases of an allergic reaction to MSM have been identified, including through sulfa-like pathways. While both contain sulfur, their similarities end here.

Sulfa-drugs contain a chemical group called sulfonamide that causes allergic reactions when they metabolize and release specific side chains.

The compounds that cause allergies have no structural or functional resemblance to MSM.

What are the side effects of MSM supplements?

MSM is safe and with minimal side effects are usually well tolerated. Big regulatory agencies like the FDA have granted it the label Recognized As Safe.

They have conducted much toxicity studies to determine MSM health, and doses of up to 4,845.6 mg daily (4.8 grams) seem healthy.

However, if they are sensitive to MSM, some people may experience mild reactions, such as vomiting, bloating, and diarrhea. It can also cause mild skin or eye irritation when applied to the skin.

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Naeem Durrani BSc
Naeem Durrani is a freelance journalist who specializes in health and wellness innovation. His interests include medical research, nutrition, and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices that empower people to positively transform their lives.
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