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Do not take MSM without talking to your GP. Taking higher amounts of MSM will not achieve better results.
Pregnant or breast-feeding, check with your GP or a dietitian before consuming. Always take with food.
MSM is an abbreviation of methylsulphonylmethane, an organic form of sulphur. The chemical formula of MSM is CH3SO2CH3. It is the form in which sulphur appears in nature in all living organisms, and in which it is biologically active. MSM is an odourless, white, crystalline powder that is highly soluble in hot water and in a wide range of organic solvents.1 Biologically active sulphur has unbelievable preventive and therapeutic properties. The medicinal activities of biological sulphur are so all-encompassing, and are based on such obvious principles, that its discovery is generally considered one of the biggest advances in orthomolecular medicine in the second half of this century.
About forty years ago, Dr. Stanley Jacob and Dr. Robert Herschler, chemists with the pulp and paper plant Crown Zellerbach Corporation, were asked to find a use for lignin, one of the primary waste products of the plant. Oxidation of lignin in a reactor was shown to result in the formation of DMSO (Dimethylsulphoxide), a natural, organic form of sulphur. This water soluble compound has a strong and bitter taste, and is absorbed rapidly through the skin. Workers coming in contact with the DMSO-containing wastewater, noticed their perspiration began smelling like DMSO, and they tasted its bitterness in their mouths. Moreover, the water appeared to have special medicinal qualities. Many stories about miraculous recoveries and benefits still go around, but they can not be authenticated. It is certain, however, that cuts, scrapes, burns and sprains recovered more quickly when dipped in this water. Several workers also noticed that conditions caused by arthritis and asthma improved when they came in contact with the DMSO-containing water (George Bergstrom, personal information).
Following its original discovery, several thousand articles and publications have appeared in the United States discussing the medicinal properties of DMSO. Because of its bitter taste and penetrating odour, DMSO never became very popular with the general public. Another problem with DMSO was that it sometimes caused skin irritation when applied topically. For these reasons researchers began looking for a more user-friendly derivative of DMSO. Oxidation of DMSO was found to produce MSM, a much more stable, organic sulphur compound with medicinal properties at least equal to DMSO, but without the odour and skin irritation complications.4, 8, 9
MSM is the natural form in which sulphur is found in the earth's sulphur cycle.3 Algae and several forms of plankton in the oceans are capable of absorbing massive amounts of inorganic sulphur from seawater, and convert this into a simple, organically-bound form. When these algae and planktonic organisms die, enzymatic processes result in the breakdown of the organic molecules into DMS, or Dimethylsulphide. This compound is volatile and poorly soluble in water. It collects in the stratosphere, where it is oxidized under the influence of ultraviolet light into DMSO (Dimethylsulphoxide), and further converted into MSM (Methylsulphonylmethane). DMSO and MSM are highly soluble in water, and therefore concentrate easily in atmospheric water vapor, returning to earth in the form of rain. Plant roots rapidly collect and concentrate these sulphur sources. Laboratory research has shown, that a one ppm mixture of radioactive labeled DMSO and MSM, can concentrate one hundred fold in plant roots within hours.4
Rainwater in particular therefore contains a lot of MSM. It is also abundantly found in fresh fruit and vegetables in amounts generally ranging from 1 to 4 mg/kg.3 Raw milk from cows which graze in pastures contains 2 to 5 mg/kg MSM. Due to the volatile nature of MSM, it is rapidly lost due to heating during the preparation of food. It is also lost when vegetables and fruit are left for a period of time, heated or not. Pasteurized milk therefore contains less than 0.25 mg/kg MSM, roughly the same amount as found in milk from cows fed dried, artificial food.3 Due to our present day's dietary patterns, it is unavoidable that modern man suffers from a chronic shortage of MSM.
The natural level of MSM in the circulatory system of an adult human male is about 0.2mg/kg. Normal adults excrete 4 to 11mg MSM per day in their urine. Several studies suggest that the systemic concentration of MSM drops in mammals with increasing age, possibly as a result of changing diet or body metabolism. Some research suggests that there is a minimum concentration of MSM that must be maintained in the body to preserve the normal function and structure.8, 9 Low concentrations of MSM in our bodies have been linked with unspecified complaints of fatigue, depression, high sensitivity to physical and psychological stress, and with a large number of degenerative diseases.5, 6 MSM is an important source of sulphur, but also has unique properties related to its chemical structure and biological activities.
Following calcium and phosphorus, sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in the body. A grown person contains approximately 140 grams of sulphur.6 Nearly half of all sulphur is contained in muscular tissue, skin and bones.5
When plants absorb MSM from rain water, they convert it into the sulphur containing amino acids methionine and cysteine. Taurine and cystine, the other two known sulphur amino acids, are synthesised from cysteine. The body manufactures about 80% of the amino acids it needs, and these are classified as nonessential. The remaining 20%, called essential amino acids, must be obtained from food. Methionine and cysteine are considered two of them. There are approximately 28 known amino acids. Each type of protein is made up of a unique collection of amino acids in a specific combination. Two molecules of cysteine can oxidise and bond together through sulphur (-S-S-) bonds.5 These sulphur bonds are the key factors that hold proteins in shape and determine the form, properties and biological activity of proteins.
Nails and hair primarily consist of a tough protein with a high sulphur content, called keratin. Flexible tissues like connective tissue and cartilage, contain proteins with flexible sulphur bonds. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, and a major component of all connective tissue. In skin, collagen works with fibres of another protein called elastin, to give skin its elasticity. In cartilage, the sulphur containing proteoglycans, glucosamine and chondroitin, form with collagen a fibrous protein substance that gives cartilage its structure and flexibility.5, 6
Cell Membrane Permeability
All cells (and all organelles within cells) are surrounded by membranes. A membrane consists of two layers of molecules situated opposite one another and consisting of an essential fatty acid on one end, and a sulphur containing amino acid on the other end. The amino acids are interconnected in such a manner that they form a surface into which the proteins and other membrane constituents are inserted and secured. These proteins are necessary for the transport through the cell membrane of many types of nutrients and waste materials.
Sulphur bridges form flexible connections between the cells and the surrounding connective tissues. This allows the cells to retain their elasticity. When sulphur is in short supply, the cell wall hardens, and the cells lose their elasticity. The transport proteins of the membrane become locked, and the membranes become less permeable. This results in a reduced transport of oxygen and nutrients into, and excretion of waste products from, the cells. This causes a shortage of oxygen and nutrients, and an accumulation of toxic metabolic waste products inside the cells.
Deficiencies in biological sulphur can result in less optimal functioning of each cell, tissue and organ in the body. Inorganic sulphur is poorly assimilated. Organic, biologically active sulphur is important for the health of every living organism.
Perhaps the most remarkable discovery regarding MSM is that MSM is an effective pain killer which works with many types of chronic pain. In March 1999 a remarkable book was published: "The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain". This book is based on the experience of two medical doctors who have worked with MSM. The authors are: Stanley W. Jacob, M.D., Head of the DMSO Pain Clinic in Portland, OR, and Professor at the Oregon Health Sciences University; and Ronald M. Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., Founder of the International Association for the Study of Pain, and the American Association for the Study of Headaches. Both doctors discuss their extensive experience with MSM in this book. Combined, they have over 20 years of experience with fighting pain with MSM. They conclude that of more than 18,000 patients that suffer from chronic pain, about 70% have experienced benefits from the use of MSM, i.e., the pain either diminished or disappeared altogether.
The types of pain which have been treated successfully with MSM include:
The way MSM impacts pain is currently explained by the following mechanisms:
MSM is a strong antioxidant, capable of binding and inactivating free radicals.
MSM is known to dissolve in many organic and inorganic compounds.1 Bound to the mucosa and split into an electron deficient group CH3SO2 , MSM reacts with toxins, affects inactivation and speeds excretion.4 Furthermore, MSM enhances the permeability of cell membranes, making it easier for nutrients to be taken up by the cells, and waste products to be eliminated. Practically speaking, MSM drastically increases the ability of cells to excrete toxic waste products.
The optimal dosage depends on the nature and intensity of the complaints. In most cases, it is sufficient to take an initial dose of three 1 gram tablets twice daily (children ten and under take a tablet twice daily, older than ten, take two tablets twice daily). After several months this dosage can be reduced to two tablets twice daily.
What are the side-effects of taking MSM?
There’s some anecdotal evidence that MSM can increase sensitivity to alcohol, but this has not been clinically studied.15
However, it may have a blood-thinning effect, so it should be avoided if you’re taking blood-thinning medication such as warfarin. It may also cause digestive issues, like diarrhoea, too.16
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