Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic sulfur compound that can be found in many plants, vegetables, meat, dairy products and more. It is a source of dietary sulfur and also occurs naturally in our bodies.
Importance of Sulfur for Optimal Health
As a nutrient, sulfur is essential for life and helps maintain optimal health. It is a key component of several amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Structural proteins such as collagen and keratin, necessary for healthy hair, skin and nails, are made up of amino acids containing sulfur. The formation of bone, muscle, and connective tissue is also dependent on the availability of this mineral.
Additionally, sulfur plays a significant role in normal metabolism and other bodily functions. Our bodies use sulfur-containing proteins to create enzymes and hormones. Our immune system also requires an adequate supply of sulfur to make antibodies and antioxidants.
Benefits of MSM
One of the benefits of MSM is as a source of dietary sulfur, and even though MSM is abundant in nature, it is also very soluble and easily broken down by heat. For this reason, some have suggested our daily intake of MSM may be impacted by pasteurization, irradiation and other food processing. Additionally, others have suggested that sulfur depletion of soil caused by modern farming practices could cause a sulfur deficiency in our diet. This has led to the belief that taking MSM supplements may be beneficial. A recommended daily amount of dietary sulfur has not yet been determined by the FDA, and more research is needed in terms of sulfur deficiency.
Besides its use as a source of dietary sulfur, MSM is a safe and effective solvent. One particular characteristic that sets MSM apart from other molecules is its enhancement of cell wall permeability, so it is sometimes used as a vehicle to carry other helpful compounds that could not otherwise be absorbed.
MSM is used often in cosmetics to improve skin elasticity and strength. It is also commonly taken orally or applied to skin to treat a variety of skin conditions.
- Other skin irritation
Another benefit of MSM may include reducing inflammation and detoxification. MSM is currently used in supplements to treat conditions that involve inflammation.
- Muscle soreness
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Some researchers believe it is similar to the way sulfur baths are used to soothe and treat various ailments. Many studies have shown improvements for such conditions with the use of MSM, but more clinical trials are needed.
Since MSM is so ubiquitous and can be found in almost all raw foods, it is considered safe for consumption and for use in many other applications. While it is recognized as safe, be sure to check with your doctor before taking MSM, especially if you are allergic to sulfa drugs (sulfonamide). It has been noted, however, that since MSM is chemically different than sulfa and occurs naturally in the body and in most raw foods, a reaction is unlikely. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is highly recommended to only take supplements as instructed by a physician. In some cases, sulfur can make skin more sensitive to the sun.
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