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MSM Benefits: Joint Health & Beyond

Elderly couple hiking - benefits of msm (methylsulfonylmethane)

Aside from taxes, there’s one guarantee in life we can all count on: aging. No matter how old you are right now, you’re aging. It’s a fact of life, and the side effects that come with aging can hit each of us differently and at different stages.

One of the first areas to see a noticeable impact from aging is our joints. Today, thanks to the combined efforts of modern science and holistic healers, there are options to help support joint health so we can be active at any age. Three dietary supplements have risen to prominence over the years for their ability to help ease the effects of the aging process as it relates to joint health. You’ve likely heard of glucosamine and chondroitin — the two most popular joint health supplements available — but today we’re going to take a closer look at the lesser known methylsulfonylmethane, also known as MSM

What Is MSM?

MSM is an organic sulfur compound found naturally in our bodies, as well as in many plants and animals. According to Dr. Weil, MSM was first developed by Stanley Jacob, M.D., a surgeon at Oregon Health Sciences University Medical School, where he had been researching MSM as well as DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), from which MSM is derived.1

Not only do our joints become stiffer and less mobile as we age, each individual cell also suffers the side effects of the aging process, becoming stiffer and more rigid as time goes on. Because bio-available sulfur is one of the more beneficial nutrients for overall longevity, Methylsulfonylmethane is attracting more attention for its potential overall aging benefits beyond joint health. Dr. Jacob made no claim about MSM’s ability to repair or restore joint function, but he did find evidence that MSM can be effective at easing joint issues related to simple aging. Since then, small-scale animal studies have shown reason to believe MSM may help decrease the rate of joint degeneration, while human studies show promise for exercise recovery.2

Naturally, MSM is derived from sulfur during rainstorms, Mother Nature’s go-to natural restorative and rejuvenating process. Though MSM is found in many natural, unprocessed foods, the cooking process destroys any functional benefits of the compound. It’s also worth noting that today’s agricultural practices have had an impact on natural sulfur concentrations in the soil in which our food is grown, so we can’t even rely on fresh produce to deliver what our bodies need.

4 More Health Benefits of MSM (Beyond Joint Health)

Found in over 150 different variations throughout your body, sulfur is one of the most abundant compounds in the human body. Knowing that, it’s not a giant leap of logic to recognize how important its bioavailable derivative — methylsulfonylmethane — is not just for joint health, but overall wellness.3

  • Critical Source of Sulfur
    As a natural source of bioavailable sulfur, MSM acts like a catalyst for all the benefits sulfur provides the human body. For example, sulfur plays an important role in the production of glutathione — a key antioxidant that also supports natural detoxification. Without sulfur, glutathione cannot work. Without sulfur, the amino acids that act as the building blocks of protein also wouldn’t work. MSM is the best form of sulfur that you can get.
     
  • Promotes Natural Antioxidant Activity & Detoxification
    As mentioned above, sulfur is a key component in the production of natural glutathione. Further, MSM works to improve a critically important glutathione ration within the body that directly impacts your body’s ability to handle oxidative stress (i.e., free radicals linked to the aging process). MSM also may increase the natural permeability of your cells, which makes it easier for your cells to detoxify and flush out toxins.
     
  • Supports Healthy Hair, Skin and Nail Health
    Second only to joint health, MSM is most often used for its ability to promote healthy, supple skin and strong, vibrant hair. You lose collagen and healthy skin tissues as you age, which is why you notice a decrease in skin tone and elasticity. It all comes back to sulfur — the bioavailable sulfur provided by MSM helps produce the collagen and keratin your hair, skin and nails need to maintain strength and vitality.

Natural Sources of MSM & Recommended Dosage

The good news is MSM is found in almost all raw, unprocessed foods from leafy green vegetables to raw milk and even beer, wine and coffee. The bad news, as mentioned earlier, is that cooking at high heat burns off most, if not all, the available MSM found in the foods.

Raw milk is one of the best natural food sources of MSM. Pasteurization of milk, however, destroys as much as 50% of that natural MSM content. Several of the foods in your current diet do contain MSM, but again, you’ll have to consume these foods either raw or minimally cooked (following good food preparation practices) to get the most MSM content possible.

Sources of MSM

  • Tomatoes
  • Tea
  • Swiss chard
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Corn
  • Apple
  • Raspberries
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes

MSM Recommended Dosage

In supplemental form, MSM is recognized as a popular dietary supplement for its antioxidant capacity and support for joint health and anti-aging. MSM is a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) approved substance, usually well-tolerated by most individuals at dosages of up to four grams (400 mg) daily.4 Specific health issues could use higher doses depending on body size, age and other factors, but such use should only be carried out under the supervision of your primary healthcare provider.

For more on joint health, read 18 Tips + Foods to Support Joint Health

 

About Amy Sunderman, MS, RD

Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products

Amy is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author with over 17 years of experience in the supplement industry. Amy is passionate about dietary supplements and the health benefits they offer. She enjoys working to find novel nutritional ingredients with strong clinical research behind them to drive innovation and provide health-promoting products to consumers. 

Sources

1Can MSM Do Any Good for Arthritis Pain? DrWeild.com. https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/bone-joint/can-msm-do-any-good-for-arthritis-pain/ (Accessed 12/18/2017)

2MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane): WebMD.com. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/msm-methylsulfonylmethane-uses-and-risks#1 (Accessed 12/18/2017)

35 Important Ways MSM Could Benefit Your Health: Food Matters. http://www.foodmatters.com/article/5-important-ways-msm-could-benefit-your-health (Accessed 12/18/2017)

4Butawan, M., Benjamin, R. L., & Bloomer, R. J. (2017). Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. Nutrients9(3), 290. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu9030290 (Accessed 12/18/2017)

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