MSM or Methylsulfonylmethane is an organic sulfur containing compound that is well known for its joint health benefits.
MSM’s value as a dietary supplement began mostly from work led by Stanley W Jacob MD, Professor of Surgery at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. Dr Jacob studied MSM’s therapeutic benefits in more than 15,000 patients and was the senior author of The Miracle of MSM and MSM: The Definitive Guide.
In this book, Jacob reveals how MSM can significantly decrease the discomfort associated with arthritis, back pain, headaches, athletic injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome and a myriad of autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma, lupus and fibromyalgia.
MSM has been so effective in helping patients with these problems since its introduction into the natural products marketplace that it has almost surpassed glucosamine and chondroitin as an analgesic dietary supplement, as well as for allergy relief and as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Where Does MSM Come From?
MSM is an organic form of sulfur. In nature, microscopic phytoplankton living in the oceans eventually die and begin to decompose. As it decays, it creates a gas called dimethylsulfide (DMS).
Both oxygen and sunlight react with DMS; that causes DMS to go through a series of oxidation steps that include the formation of dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and other sulfates. Studies on how clouds form have demonstrated that microscopic particles of sulfate are required for water vapor in the atmosphere to form clouds.
Water droplets then absorb DMSO and MSM since both are highly soluble in water. Eventually, when the clouds release their water droplets as rain, trace amounts of these compounds drop to the earth to be used by plants or returned to the sea to repeat the process.
Is MSM A Natural Product?
Most commercially produced MSM is not from a natural substance made from phytoplankton; it’s the product of chemical industries and manufactured from petroleum waste and methane gas.
Commercially available MSM is synthesized by the catalytic reaction of hydrogen peroxide with DMSO. All DMSO is formed by the reaction of nitrogentetroxide and oxygen with DMS. The oxygen atoms for these reactions come from the atmosphere, the same source used in nature.
DMS is made commercially in one of two ways.
The most common method, in simplified terms, is the reaction of sulfur with natural gas (methane). Methyl alcohol made from natural gas is combined with sulfur in the form of hydrogen sulfide or carbon disulfide in a vapor phase catalytic reaction to form DMS and methylmercaptan (MM). MM is primarily used to make the amino acid methionine, another dietary supplement. DMS is sold for various industrial uses or converted to DMSO. This process is generally favored due to high conversion yield, low energy consumption and its independence from a paper mill waste stream. It is the least “natural” of the two processes.
The second method for manufacturing DMSO, which is used in the production of MSM, combines sulfur with paper mill pulping liquids to make DMS. Sulfur is added to black liquor and heated to about 460 F under high pressure. Crude DMS is stripped from the liquor after about an hour. This process is very energy intensive and limited by low yield and pulping capacity. The black liquor is burned in a recovery boiler to dispose of the remaining organic material from the wood and to reclaim the inorganic chemicals for recycle to make fresh pulping liquor. Crude DMS is purified by a series of extraction and distillation steps to make a product for sale or conversion to DMSO.
If MSM is not manufactured properly, or is produced in a facility that makes multiple products with improper sanitation procedures, contamination is likely. There may also be a chance that impurities (such as heavy metals or chlorinated hydrocarbons) from the water used in the synthesis and crystallization process will remain in the final product.
Other factors that determine the purity of synthesized MSM is consistent product formulation and strict process control procedures. A good MSM manufacturer uses in-process control and rigorous product testing to ensure the product is indeed pure.
What Can MSM Do For Your Dog?
Deficiencies in biological sulfur can result in the less than optimal functioning of each cell, tissue and organ in the body. Inorganic sulfur is poorly assimilated. Organic, biologically active sulfur is therefore extremely important for the health of every living organism. MSM is the natural source of biological sulfur to which we are adapted through our evolution. MSM has been reported to have the following benefits:
MSM is a natural analgesic and blocks the transfer of pain impulses through the nerve fibers. MSM also blocks the inflammation process by enhancing the activity of cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory hormone produced by the body.
MSM is considered a potentiator of most vitamins and other nutrients, such as vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10, all B- vitamins, vitamin A, D and E, amino acids, selenium, calcium, magnesium en many others. MSM improves the cellular uptake of these nutrients, and prolongs their lives.
MSM is a strong antioxidant, capable of binding and inactivating harmful free radicals. Overproduction of free radicals is caused by physical and mental stress, malnutrition, air pollution, heavy metals and organic contaminants in drinking water and food and radiation.
MSM dissolves in many organic and inorganic compounds and reacts with toxins, affects inactivation and speeds excretion. Furthermore, MSM enhances the permeability of cell membranes, making it easier for nutrients to be taken up by the cells and for waste products to be eliminated.
The brain is extremely sensitive to the effects of toxic materials such as heavy metals and organic compounds. Many of these compounds tend to accumulate in nerve cells where they can cause severe oxidative damage. Neurological disturbances may be the result. MSM is one of the few antioxidants which can easily pass the blood-brain barrier. It prevents and repairs oxidative damage and restores cell membrane elasticity and permeability. This allows the nerve cells to start excreting waste products.
MSM alleviates the symptoms of a large number of allergies, including food allergies, contact allergies, inhalation allergies, and others. The major anti-allergic characteristic of MSM caused by its ability to bind to the mucosa and present a natural blocking interface between hosts and allergens. Besides, MSM alleviates allergies through detoxification and elimination of free radicals, and improvement of cell permeability.
MSM very effectively fights inflammation resulting from autoimmune reactions (in which the body’s immune system turns on itself). For example, people who suffer from arthritis often benefit greatly from MSM. Several studies have shown that supplementation with MSM significantly reduces joint degeneration and inflammation. In one study, 24 people with symptomatic osteoarthritis were treated with either a regular (NSAID) drug, or with 3 grams of MSM daily. After one month, both groups noted equal improvements in pain and stiffness.
Several experiments have shown that oral administration of MSM can protect rats against the onset of cancer.
In one study, rats specially bred to be susceptible to breast cancer when given certain carcinogenic compounds were fed a diet containing MSM for a period of eight days. The control group did not receive MSM. Following this preliminary period, all rats were given oral doses of cancer-causing agents.
There was no statistical difference in the number of tumors developing in the two groups. However, the MSM diet rats developed their first tumors some 100 days later than the control rats, and these tumors became cancerous some 130 days later than those in the control group. Considering a two-year average life expectancy of rats, 100 days are the equivalent of about ten years in human life.
One of the most amazing discoveries on MSM is its antiparasitic action against Giardia, Trichomonas, roundworms, nematodes, Enterobius and other intestinal worms. Animal studies include laboratory mice determined to have pin worms by fecal cast examination. They were given commercial food and drinking water, both containing 2% MSM by weight. After 17 days, fecal examination indicated the feces were free of worms and eggs.
The sulfur containing B vitamin biotin is a critical part of glucokinase, the enzyme involved in the utilization of the sugar glucose. Sulfur is also a component of insulin, the protein hormone secreted by the pancreas that is essential to carbohydrate metabolism. Lack of nutritional sulfur in the diet can result in low production of biologically active insulin.
Studies indicate that MSM improves cellular glucose uptake by improving cell permeability, thus balancing blood sugar level and returning the pancreas to normal functioning.
Are There Natural Sources Of MSM?
MSM and its precursors return to the earth in rainwater, which contains a lot of MSM. Fruits and vegetables will absorb this rainwater and MSM can be found in most plants, with a content ranging from 1 to 4 mg/kg.
When animals eat these plants, they also assimilate MSM. Raw cow’s milk from pastured animals contains a considerable amount of MSM: about 2 to 5 mg/kg. Due to the volatile nature of MSM, it is rapidly lost when consumables are heated during food preparation or pasteurization. Pasturized milk therefore contains less than 0.25 mg/kg MSM, roughly the same amount found in milk from cows fed dried, artificial food. Milk from goats and other animals contains a lesser amount.
Cooking and heating will destroy most MSM in plants and meats. MSM is also lost when vegetables and fruit are frozen for a lengthy period of time, or when they are irradiated. Due to the realities of the modern food industry, in which a great portion of everything we feed out dogs is either heated, irradiated, or frozen for a period of time, it’s no wonder that dogs and humans both suffer from a chronic shortage of MSM.
Is Your Dog Getting Enough MSM?
The therapeutic dosage for dogs is about 50 to 100 mg MSM per 10 pounds of body weight. Even dogs fed a raw, whole food diet might not be getting enough of this supplement, thanks to the industrialization of farming.
Toxicity is not usually an issue with MSM; in fact, it’s similar in toxicity to water. The lethal dose for humans is more than three pounds.
If your dog suffers from a chronic inflammatory condition or joint pain, you might wish to feed him MSM. Because it’s a synthesized product, extensive distillation is crucial to remove impurities such as heavy metals. Unlike most other supplements, MSM can be manufactured in the US, so look for US made sources.
If you prefer to rely on food sources of MSM, make sure your dog’s diet is raw and organic to keep as much of the naturally occurring MSM intact. Smaller amounts of naturally occurring MSM would be needed, so it might be possible for your dog to get enough MSM from diet alone.
Adding sulfur rich foods to your dog’s diet might also help, since MSM is organic sulfur. Sulfur also plays an important role in the production of glutathione, another important antioxidant.
Sulfur rich foods include meats with a lot of collagen, such as bones, trachea and connective tissue.
Raw, organic meats and bones are best.
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