by Dr. Marcy Foley
In this article, I mention some research on MSM provided by Medical doctors and other researchers in regards to specific named diseases. As a Naturopathic Physician, I don’t work with disease. If you have a sulfur deficiency, I am simply informing you that MSM is one source of supplementation. I am in no way promoting using MSM or any other natural substance to cure diseases.
Thank You, Dr. Marcy Foley
MSM, or Methylsulfonylmethane, is a natural substance present in certain plant life, food and in the human body. MSM is about 1/3 (by weight) nonmetallic sulfur. In all my nutrition studies, sulfur was never emphasized even though sulfur is the third highest mineral in substance composition in the human body.
If this is such an important nutrient, why don’t we hear more about the importance of sulfur? Perhaps because sulfur is present in two amino acids – methionine and cysteine – it is often felt that if we have adequate amounts of protein in our diet, we will therefore have adequate amounts of sulfur. But, in order to utilize nutrients from our foods, we have to have optimal digestion and assimilation.
Since most of us have faulty nutrition and digestion, we need to improve our diets, rebuild our digestive systems and also add MSM in supplement form. Since we need sulfur for the normal function of enzyme-dependent reactions in the body, MSM plays a crucial role in both our anabolic (building up) and catabolic (breaking down) metabolic processes. When these two processes are in balance, our body will be in homeostasis. I will outline some of the functions and purposes of MSM and thus sulfur. (The Forgotten Nutrient MSM: On Our Way Back to Health With Sulfur, Beth M. Ley, Ph.D., p. 8-9.)
Sodium-Potassium Pump – Sulfur is necessary for the sodium-potassium pump, without which life could not exist. There are certain osmotic pressure gradients which keep the potassium on the inside and sodium on the outside of the cell.
Membrane Permeability – Sulfur makes the cell membranes permeable which allows the nutrients to go into the cell and the toxins to go outside the cell.
Structural Support – When new cells are made – regardless of whether they are present in bone, connective tissue, blood, muscle or soft tissues – sulfur is necessary, along with Vitamin C and other nutrients.
Flexibility & Elasticity – These are two characteristics of disulfide bonds which provide movement within protein structures in the body including hair, skin, nails, blood vessels and organs. A willow tree is strong, yet flexible enough to withstand strong winds and this is how the structures in the body should be. When a child falls down he will usually just get up and carry on. The older person with a more brittle body could end up in the hospital.
Tissue Repair and Healing – Pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties are probably the two most important reasons MSM is taken as a supplement. The properties sulfur provides for relieving musculoskeletal discomforts have a long history of use in hot mineral springs. Sulfur dilates blood vessels, increases blood flow and relieves muscle spasms which contribute to its effective pain relief. Doctors whose patients are taking MSM are either able to lower the dosage of pain medication they prescribe, or discontinue it entirely.
Scar Tissue – Sulfur reduces scar tissue by reducing the excessive crosslinking patterns in collagen. Crosslinking is a process in the body which occurs after surgery or serious traumatic injury to repair tissue. But if there aren’t sufficient building materials in the body to make new cells properly, this crosslinking can be rather crude, or have an excessive build-up of scar tissue. Aside from being unsightly, this scar tissue can also be painful because the cheloids are such hard tissue that there is not enough blood circulation and nerve supply. MSM softens the tissue, making it more flexible so the tissue can be reformed as new cells are made.
Intestinal Health – Sulfur helps to restore normal peristaltic activity and assist in the removal of worms and parasites.
Sulfur Deficiencies – In addition to the topics already mentioned, think of sulfur when you have allergies, slow wound healing, brittle hair and nails, gastrointestinal problems, joint and nerve inflammation, muscle pain, autoimmune disorders, post-traumatic pain and inflammation.
Hey! Check out this booklet!
The Forgotten Nutrient MSM:
On Our Way Back to Health With Sulfur
Beth M. Ley, Ph.D. $3.95 (plus S & H)
Approximately 40-50 million Americans are plagued by allergies having symptoms of headaches, fatigue, sneezing, watery eyes, stuffy sinuses, mood and behavior changes, diarrhea, coughing, skin rashes, muscular aches and pains. MSM is present in breast milk, and it is believed that babies who are breast fed have fewer allergies or immune problems.
Medical treatment for environmental illness and severe allergies includes administering antihistamines, anti-inflammatories and antibodies. These have a host of side effects, and can actually stimulate more histamine release and other allergic reactions.
John Metcalf, D.V.M. began experimenting with MSM on his horses with amazing benefits which in turn lead him to use MSM on his own allergies. He used 2000 mg. twice a day. Being an avid researcher, Dr. Metcalf periodically stopped the MSM to go back on his usual dosage of antihistamines until he was convinced of the effectiveness of MSM.
In asthma, the bronchial tubes (airway passages) become filled with mucus. Then they become inflamed and the muscles surrounding the airways become tightened and spasm, so that breathing in and out becomes an arduous task. About fifteen million Americans suffer from asthma, and every year 5,000 die.
The standard allopathic (medical) treatment for asthma is to use symptom-suppressing drugs that are known to cause major side effects. Bronchodilators (inhalers) are used to expand the airways even though a 1992 study declared that regular use of bronchodilators may actually increase the risk of dying from asthma. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 1997 in which it indicated that children taking anti-inflammatory and steroid drugs (such as cortisone) experienced a reduced rate of growth.
Stanley Jacob is a medical physician who has discovered many positive effects in working with MSM for asthma and allergies in children. He prescribes 2000-8000 mg. a day of MSM, taken in divided doses. While he says that MSM does not cure them, it reduces their symptoms so beautifully that they don’t need cortisone or antihistamines. He slowly weans the children off their allopathic drugs with the use of MSM. Please note that only an M.D. is allowed to regulate prescription medications.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, Fibromyalgia is the second leading arthritis-related condition. It could also be called soft tissue rheumatism, fibrositis or nonarticular rheumatism. There are approximately three to six million Americans with this condition, and women are about four times more affected than men.
Unlike degenerative arthritis which affects the joints of the body, Fibromyalgia attacks the soft tissues – muscles, tendons and ligaments. Dr.’s Jacob and Lawrence report in their book, The Miracle of MSM, that even though they don’t know the cause, they have many testimonials relating to how MSM helped their Fibromyalgia patients.
Dr. Billie Jay Sahley describes the following symptoms in her book on Fibromyalgia (Malic Acid and Magnesium for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Syndrome): tenderness in at least 11 of 18 specific anatomical points, stiffness, (especially in the morning upon awakening), sleep disturbances, chronic aching, pain, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, tissue swelling, cardiovascular problems (such as dizziness & palpitations), muscle spasms and trigger point/muscle jerking, fluid retention, poor memory, PMS and tightening sensations.
Dr. Sahley believes the causes of Fibromyalgia include the following: aluminum toxicity, low oxygen levels, a build up of lactic acid, deranged mineral metabolism and mostly decreased ATP production. She recommends one or more of the following supplements for her Fibromyalgia patients:
- Malic Acid Plus – a formula which contains the factors to normalize the ATP cycle
- Pain Control – a combination of amino acids that help the brain release endorphins. This is also available in a product called Pain Control Cream which can be rubbed on the exterior of the body.
- Anxiety Control 24 – an inhibitory neurotransmitter support formula.
- Mood Sync – a combination of 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, GABA, glutamine, Taurine and B-6
- Tyrosine – for depression
- DLPA – a mixture of L and DL types of phenylalanine for pain control.
- Other items of benefit include Magnesium, Vitamin C, MSM, Homeopathic Serotonin, DHEA, Pregnenolone, Stabilized Oxygen, and Alkalizer drops.
Cosmetic Benefits of MSM
MSM does wonders for skin, hair and nails due to the fact that these body parts contain a lot of sulfur. Because it softens skin and makes it more permeable, some say it even decreases wrinkles!
In 1970, Bill Rich was trapped in a burning van for 20 minutes following a highway collision. He was severely burned over a large part of his body. He had extensive skin grafting which left his body covered with scar tissue and adhesions, severely inhibiting normal activities because he was in so much pain. Bill Rich was introduced to MSM by a veterinarian and it changed his life. He has transformed nearly all of his scar tissue, is out of pain and stronger than he has ever been in his life. Mr. Rich started the first supplement company to provide high quality MSM to humans. He created MSM to take internally as well as one of the best, all natural MSM and Aloe Vera skin lotions you will find.
Athletic Use of MSM
Taking MSM both before and after workouts helps athletes increase blood flow and circulation to their tissues, increase their strength, as well as reduce soreness afterwards. Bill Rich mentioned that he is stronger than his sons after his many years of taking MSM.
How to Take MSM
I have discovered three common mistakes people make when they take MSM, which is why some don’t feel it is effective. They don’t take enough of it, they don’t take it frequently enough or they don’t use it with Vitamin C.
It is recommended that a person take 500 mg. MSM for every 30 pounds of body weight. Using a 500 mg. capsule, a 150 pound person could take five capsules, or 2500 mg.
MSM is used up in approximately 12 hours. Therefore, you need to take it twice a day. So the 150 pound person would take five capsules twice a day.
Third, it is suggested that half as much Vitamin C as the amount of MSM be consumed to make the MSM utilizable. In the above example, that means 1250 mg. of Vitamin C.
Those figures are simply a starting place for general health and well being. In cases of severe sulfur deficiency a person may need to take 3-4 times the recommended starting dose mentioned above.
Some people prefer to mix the crystallized or powdered form of MSM in fluid (water or juice), as they feel this gives them better absorption. It does have a somewhat bitter taste and takes quite a bit of stirring to get it to dissolve. One level kitchen teaspoon holds about 4000 mg. of MSM. You can heat the mixing water or juice slightly so that the MSM will dissolve better, and this does not damage the MSM.
As with any supplement, it is best to start at a smaller dose and work up to a higher dose, if you need it. Just don’t give up before you get the relief or support you are looking for. Remember that as you are taking higher amounts of MSM, with the concurrent Vitamin C required to assimilate the MSM, you could get diarrhea from either the MSM or the Vitamin C, or both. Therefore, in order to allow your body to absorb the MSM and Vitamin C, you may consider taking this supplement 3-4 times a day instead of twice a day.
In Beth Ley’s booklet (previously cited on page 3), there is a whole section entitled, “Therapeutic Usage of MSM” which has some variations on what I stated above. This little booklet has some very interesting information and I highly recommend it.
MSM for the Eyes
The eye is an open mucus membrane, so is important to keep this area cleansed. I’ve been cleansing my eyes for close to ten years now. When I discovered MSM, I had something new to add to my cleansing ritual. It is very soothing and strengthening for tired eyes that spend too much time in front of the computer. To mix my eyewash solution I heat 2-3 tablespoons of distilled water in a small glass pan for a few minutes. I add 1/4 teaspoon MSM crystals along with Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Eyewash tincture and stir until it dissolves. Then I use my glass eye cups and rinse my eyes.
Toxicity Studies of MSM
The first thing that is important when you take a supplement is to determine its safety. Here’s what Dr.’s Stanley Jacob and Ronald Lawrence had to say on the safety of MSM (The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain, Stanley W. Jacob, M.D., Ronald Lawnrence, M.D., Ph.D., Martin Zucker, p. 24-25.) “To determine the lethal dose of MSM, or of any substance, we used a standard test known as LD-50. LD stands for lethal dose. The number 50 refers to the amount of the substance required that would result in the death of half the number of laboratory animals used in the test. For MSM, the findings determined that the LD-50 was more than 20 grams for each kilogram of body weight. To put that into perspective, the LD-50 of common table salt you use for cooking is 2.5 to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight. MSM thus rates as one of the least toxic substances in biology and medicine. It compares to water, which has an LD-50 rating also greater than 20 grams per kilogram of weight.
“In follow-up experiments with human volunteers, we found no toxic effects at intake levels of up to 1 gram per kilogram of body weight per day for 30 days. That means about 68 grams for an average 150-pound person.”
If you take too much MSM, you could get a headache, or develop minor gastrointestinal discomfort. To reduce the risk of G.I. discomfort, take MSM with meals. Also don’t take it too close to bedtime, or it could keep you awake because it is very energizing. Remember also that MSM will help correct a condition of constipation, so you may have a good bowel cleansing from your initial doses!
MSM has not been shown to interfere with prescribed medication, and in some cases has gotten certain patients off medication. So, if you begin a high dosage MSM program, be sure to be monitored regularly by your physician. MSM has been shown to thin the blood and to decrease accumulations of platelets, so if you are on a blood thinning medication, or are taking aspirin to thin your blood, make sure to get checked regularly.
MSM has been shown to be safe for both children and pregnant women. However, most children don’t need it unless they have severe allergies, asthma or an inflammatory illness such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
MSM is a sulfur compound but it is not a sulfite or sulfa drug. Therefore, if anyone has an allergy to sulfites or sulfa drugs, they can still take MSM. It is also recommended that for best results, you use MSM internally and also apply it externally, especially for arthritis, psoriasis, Fibromyalgia, any kind of surgery or scar tissue.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to diagnose, prescribe or cure disease.
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