MSM Sulfur Helps Arthritis Pain, Inflammation, Skin Strength, and More

Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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MSM Sulfur Helps Arthritis Pain, Inflammation, Skin Strength, and More
Sulfur, known as the “beauty mineral”, has a wide variety of uses and is touted for all kinds of ailments. Much of the popularity of MSM sulfur supplementation has been due to clinical experience or personal use. Studies have been limited in documenting the various benefits. However, within the last five years, some remarkable research has confirmed the benefits of MSM sulfur for arthritis pain, cellular health, lung health, digestive inflammation, skin strength, and exercise recovery.

MSM sulfur (methylsulfonylmethane) is a compound that naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables, grains, and in the human body. Hundreds of processes in the body require sulfur in order to do their job. Major enzyme systems with antioxidants, detoxification, and body structure rely on this mineral. This includes methylation, glutathione, and homocysteine. Hair, skin, bones, the central nervous system, connective tissue, mucous membranes, and joints require sulfur compounds as an integral part of healthy physiology and functionality.

Sulfur is considered one of the most important trace minerals on the planet. This necessary mineral enables oxygen transport across cell membranes. It is vital to cellular regeneration and detoxification. Some authors believe that insufficient sulfur in the diet and the stripping of sulfur from soils with modern agriculture is responsible for the massive rise in disease in North America.

MSM Sulfur Relieves Knee Arthritis

Results from a randomized clinical trial with 120 adults who had knee arthritis were published in March 2016. Treatment groups were divided into those who received glucosamine only or those who received MSM sulfur combined with boswellia. The MSM group received 5 grams of MSM and 7.2 mg of boswellia per day. The glucosamine treated group received 1,500 mg of glucosamine per day. Both treatment groups had positive responses with less pain and better knee joint function, but the MSM-boswellia group results surpassed the glucosamine group with even better pain relief and improvement with joint function. The authors even suggested that the MSM-boswellia combination challenged the “cornerstone” of arthritis treatment, referring to glucosamine as the cornerstone.

Several other studies point to strong efficacy of MSM for knee arthritis support. In another recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, patients were treated with MSM, manganese, low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, and a glycoprotein via injection or were treated with placebo. At the end of the trial, the group treated with the combination of nutrients had much better joint viscosity and healthier knee cartilage that resulted in considerable pain relief. The benefits that were obtained allowed a marked reduction in pain medication use. This is great news given that Tylenol was recently found ineffective for arthritis pain.

A recent Russian human trial evaluated individuals with knee arthritis. Individuals in one group were given a combination of 300 mg of MSM sulfur, 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate, 500 mg of glucosamine hydrochloride, and 10 mg of hyaluronic acid. The other group did not receive the MSM, but rather glucosamine and chondroitin with pain medications. Those who were treated with the MSM combination therapy had a 72 percent faster response time and had significantly less pain and stiffness after just one month of use than the other group.

MSM Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth

Exciting news published on MSM reveals powerful abilities to deter cancer growth. In the International Journal of Oncology February 2016 issue, researchers focused on breast cancer. They concluded, “We recommend the use of MSM as an inhibitor for the management of HER2-positive breast cancers”. This was based on examinations of MSM in breast cancer cell lines wherein researchers found that it inhibited the proliferation of estrogen receptor positive and HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) positive breast cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner. The researchers were trying to find a non-toxic, inexpensive treatment method rather than expensive drugs like Herceptin. MSM sulfur delivered that option with very positive results.

In the emerging quest to find increased efficacy of cancer drugs with less toxic doses, researchers have looked at MSM sulfur with one popular breast cancer treatment drug, Tamoxifen. Tamoxifen has significant dangerous risks. New research has found a way to reduce exposure and dosage from this powerful drug and provide a much safer approach to breast cancer treatments.

Researchers found that by adding MSM to the drug treatment, tumor growth was suppressed and inhibited with less need for Tamoxifen. Organic sulfur compound demonstrated tough anti-tumor cell effects. Less cellular differentiation and migration of breast cancer cells Jak2 and STAT5b occurred. MSM provides a natural non-toxic approach with no side-effects. This certainly brings good news to those struggling with the breast cancer treatment who are unable to tolerate the side effects of the drug and/or not responding the drug treatment.

MSM may be helpful for other cancer types. The World Journal of Hepatology reported two years ago that MSM has anti-cancer effects by causing apoptosis (cell death) in liver cancer. MSM was shown to decrease the growth of certain liver tumors in animals in a dose dependent manner. Rodents that received MSM as treatment had reduced liver tumor size and number compared to the controls.

Bladder cancer, which is the fifth most common cancer, affects over two million patients worldwide. Despite surgical treatment, it commonly recurs. Just like in breast cancer research, scientists are turning to non-toxic MSM in combination with drug therapy. Researchers studied human cell lines of bladder cancer treated with MSM and the cancer drug AG490. Tumor growth and metastasis was shut down when the MSM was added to the drug, providing powerful anticancer effects against bladder cancer.

Cellular studies on gastrointestinal cancer like stomach and esophageal cancer showed benefit with MSM intake. Results published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer suggested that MSM may cause cancer cell destruction interrupting cell cycle life. The same study found that liver cell cancer was the most susceptible to the effect of MSM.

Protection against Tylenol and Herbicides

Add MSM sulfur to the list of nutrients that protect the liver from injury from common, everyday chemicals and drugs. Acute overdose or chronic use of Tylenol for pain management may dangerously affect liver function and lead to liver failure. Historically, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is the nutrient of choice to help treat Tylenol liver injury or overdose. MSM support is now considered a natural treatment option for liver injury from Tylenol.

Animal studies found that when MSM was taken prior to acetaminophen or Tylenol treatment that liver injury was avoided. This occurred even when very high doses of Tylenol were used. Using MSM for one week prior to the drug use significantly inhibited the free radical damage induced by the drug and protected glutathione levels. Tylenol depletes glutathione. Sulfur is essential to the formation and recycling of glutathione and acts as a free radical quencher. Protecting oneself from drug-nutrient interactions is a must as America is a nation of pill poppers. MSM may be used with NAC for combined natural support.

MSM and Lungs

Parents of asthmatic children, or any person who is asthmatic and using Tylenol, need to take advantage of this information. MSM protects the liver against Tylenol injury. MSM also helps protect against lung injury because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support. MSM helped increase levels of glutathione and SOD antioxidants in the lungs even after exposure from paraquat, one of the most common toxic herbicides used worldwide.

Digestive Inflammation

Individuals who suffer from digestive complaints may find MSM helpful in managing gut inflammation. An animal study showed that inflammatory damage associated with ulcerative colitis was ameliorated after MSM treatment. Rodents treated with MSM had markedly less inflammatory markers, less visible macroscopic and microscopic damage. Simultaneously, glutathione levels improved. It was deemed that MSM may provide a protective effect on ulcerative colitis.

Exercise Recovery

MSM offers antioxidant support for many systems and functions in the body. Recovering from the oxidative effects of exercise is no different. To test how well MSM worked in recovery from exhaustive exercise, scientists evaluated young, healthy men who did not exercise. Participants were given either water for placebo or MSM at 100 mg/kg of body weight before running on a treadmill for 45 minutes at 75 percent VO2 max or peak exercise. Several markers of inflammation were measured. Those individuals who received the MSM had definitely less oxidative stress inflammation after the activity and into the next day.

Other research showed improved exercise recovery with less fatigue and joint pain, reduced homocysteine levels, and less muscle soreness from using MSM. In this study, researchers found that 3 grams of MSM sulfur provided the best results rather than smaller doses in healthy young men who were moderately active. Whether you are a weekend athlete, a dedicated athlete, or a first timer, MSM can help reduce the aches and pains of the physical output, while protecting your knees from pounding the pavement.

Rosacea, Skin and MSM

No discussion on MSM sulfur is complete unless there is a focus on skin health. Skin integrity relies on sulfur compounds for maintaining integrity and protecting it against inflammation. One condition that is often difficult to manage with frequent flare-ups is rosacea. MSM offers an avenue of support for this often embarrassing and trying skin issue. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 46 patients with rosacea were treated with MSM and silymarin. The cytokines and other inflammatory immune compounds that were up-regulated causing the rosacea responded to the MSM and silymarin combination. Skin health improved and inflammation substantially reduced.

Dosage and Sources

MSM sulfur therapeutic dosage ranges from 1500 mg to 6000 mg per day. Toxicity studies have shown the MSM is very safe even with high doses. Foods that contain higher amounts of sulfur are vegetables like peas, spinach, mustard greens, cabbage, kale, lettuces and other cruciferous vegetables. Raw vegetables will have more sulfur compounds, but be cautious with frequent intake in the face of an unprotected thyroid. (Raw cruciferous vegetables can contribute to goiters in the unprotected thyroid.) Onions, garlic, meat (poultry, beef, pork, fish), eggs, avocados, kiwi, banana, pineapple, strawberries, milk products, chocolate, coffee, tea, sesame seeds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, and more contain this precious mineral. Sulfur content will be at its peak in when foods are very fresh and eaten raw. Cow’s milk has the highest amount of MSM sulfur.

Unfortunately, modern agricultural processes induce loss of sulfur in the soil. Cooked foods or lack of fresh foods, dietary limitation, and environmental toxins increase the likelihood of inadequate sulfur to meet the body’s demands. Major processes in the body require this essential mineral. Antioxidant protection, detoxification, tissue repair, and anti-inflammatory actions make MSM a valued member in keeping the body healthy and rejuvenated. Considered a beauty mineral because of its recognition of great skin health, now consider it a beauty mineral for internal health and vitality.

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