Looking to give your daily routine a boost? Consider adding a supplement that contains MSM, a naturally occurring compound that can improve your overall health. Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, HUM’s educational specialist, shares all of the best MSM benefits.
There’s a short list of natural ingredients that can “do it all.” Ginger, for example, is a widely-known superfood that boasts some serious health benefits—from improving digestion to supporting cognitive health to fighting inflammation. But there’s another ingredient that’s less popular and also has several health benefits: methylsulfonylmethane (also known as MSM). It’s a sulfur-based compound that’s vastly underrated in the health space. Found in some of your favorite fruits and veggies, this ingredient can help boost your immune system, clear up your skin, and more. Interested in adding this superstar ingredient to your daily routine? Keep reading to learn all about MSM’s benefits and how you can up your intake through food and supplementation.
What is MSM?
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in plants, animals, and humans. It also naturally occurs in certain fruits, vegetables, and grain crops. Additionally, some dietary supplements feature lab-made MSM, to address a variety of wellness concerns.
Health Benefits of MSM
So, what makes this compound special? From your body’s defense system to skin appearance to muscle recovery, MSM boasts quite an array of science-backed benefits. The most notable benefits of MSM include:
Improves Skin Appearance
Want to give your complexion a boost? Incorporate MSM into your diet. Several studies have cited that one of MSM’s benefits is its potential to improve both skin quality and texture.
MSM exerts itself as a sulfur donor. It delivers skincare benefits by donating sulfur to keratin, a protein of the skin. Additionally, MSM helps regulate the expression of the primary genes related to skin health. Further, MSM’s antioxidant capacity can contribute to its ability to protect the skin against early aging caused by free radicals.
One double-blind study reports that people who supplemented 3 g of MSM daily over the course of 16 weeks saw significant improvement in skin firmness, crow’s feet, tone, and texture compared to the placebo.
On a similar note, its relationship with keratin has led researchers to speculate about MSM benefits for hair (more specifically, hair growth). One study has demonstrated that applying MSM topically may have a positive effect on hair growth when combined with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP). However, the study found that results are largely dose-dependent. Ultimately, the evidence linking MSM for hair growth is limited and more research is needed at this time.
HUM Nutrition’s Daily Cleanse helps add some MSM to your diet, plus, it contains several other detoxifiers to help clear and strengthen your skin from the inside out. You’ll also want to incorporate other sources of MSM into your diet (read on to learn what foods contain MSM.)
Relieves Joint Discomfort
MSM is also notable for its ability to improve joint aches that can result from stiffness and swelling. Joint aches can be extremely uncomfortable and can take a toll on your quality of life. Fortunately, MSM can help improve joint health by preserving cartilage.
Cartilage is a connective tissue that helps cushion and coat the bones in our joints. It allows for fluid movement, flexibility, and protection. However, the gradual breakdown of joint cartilage can lead to serious discomfort and decreased mobility.
Several in vitro studies have observed MSM to preserve joint cartilage through its ability to protect the chondrocytes, the cells that help form cartilage, and by inhibiting the activation of harmful proteins.
Moreover, a randomized, double-blind study with 100 participants who supplemented 1,200 mg of MSM daily for 12 weeks experienced less joint pain, stiffness, and swelling compared to the placebo group.
Helps with Muscle Recovery
Good news for gym-goers everywhere: This sulfur compound may just be the perfect addition to your workout routine. Soreness is the body’s response to microtrauma (or oxidative stress) that occurs within the muscles and connective tissue following strenuous exercise or other prolonged physical activities.
As previously mentioned, MSM is regarded as a sulfur donor to connective tissue, meaning it can help strengthen your muscle fibers. Since MSM also exerts itself as an antioxidant, it can address the oxidative stress that occurs after exercise. As a result, it has the potential to protect against sore muscles.
In fact, a double-blind study found that participants who supplemented 50 mg/kg of MSM for 10 days saw significant decreases in muscle damage.
Some research hints that MSM may also help improve range of motion after exercise-related muscle damage. However, the data is not conclusive.
Eases Seasonal Allergies
Among its benefits, MSM also has the potential to reduce seasonal allergies, a condition that more than 23 million Americans deal with annually, according to the CDC.
Seasonal allergies are the body’s response to a number of environmental variables such as pollen, mold, and animal dander. Consequently, the body reacts by releasing cytokines and prostaglandins, which can cause watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
An evaluation of 50 participants who took 2,500 mg of MSM daily for 30 days found a reduction in common signs of seasonal allergies. However, the study excludes pollen counts and a symptom survey, so researchers redid it a year later, and the updated evaluation had similar results.
Gives Defense Systems a Boost
A strong immune system is one of the most important pillars of health. Many physiological and environmental factors (anything from bacteria to stress) can take a toll on the immune system.
But MSM can help give your defenses a boost. It plays a key role in supporting the body’s innate immune response. MSM helps the body defend itself through creating the antioxidant glutathione. As a result, it helps minimize the effects of oxidative stress that can occur when we’re feeling under the weather.
Foods High in MSM
One way to add MSM into your routine is by consuming it through food. In fact, it’s likely that you’re already eating foods that contain this compound because it’s so widely accessible. One thing to note: It’s important to eat foods that are high in MSM in their whole or minimally processed form. Cooking or processing these foods can diminish the naturally occurring MSM.
Try these MSM-containing foods in their whole form:
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whole grains
Although somewhat processed, these beverages also deliver MSM:
Who Should Try MSM?
Since MSM delivers a wide range of benefits, many people might find it helpful to add it to their routine. The FDA identifies this compound as a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) substance. Based on the current research, MSM appears to be safe and well-tolerated for most people in doses of up to four grams per day.
Side Effects of Taking MSM Supplements
While there are no known significant side effects for the oral supplementation of MSM, people who are prescription medications should consult with their doctor to avoid potential interactions. Similarly, pregnant or lactating women should check with their doctor before adding MSM to their routine.
What to Look For in an MSM Supplement
The most popular way to get more MSM is through supplementation. This is because food typically contains very small amounts of MSM,which makes it difficult to reap the benefits that occur at higher doses. Taking an MSM supplement can make it possible to feel benefits without having to eat unrealistic amounts of food.
Depending on the type of results that you’re looking for, you’ll want to find a daily MSM supplement that delivers anywhere from 50 mg to 3 g. In most cases, you’ll find MSM available in capsule or powdered form.
MSM is a popular ingredient in dietary supplements that’s well-supported by research to help provide relief from joint discomfort, seasonal allergies, and muscle soreness. It’s also known for its anti-aging and immunity benefits. Since it’s well-tolerated by most people, MSM can easily be integrated into daily routines.