If you’re suffering from arthritis, chronic pain, or another common ailment, you may have been considering taking a methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) supplement to treat your symptoms. It is understandable to worry about adding another supplement to your daily routine or to be concerned about possible side effects. In order to fully understand the safety of taking a sulfur supplement, it is important to know exactly what it is.
What is Methylsulfonylmethane?
Sulfur is the 10th most common element in nature and the 3rd most abundant mineral in your body. This element is an important part of the ecosystem, enriching soil and water, as well as playing a part in the biochemistry of all plants and animals.
Methyl sulfonyl methane is an organic compound of sulfur with the formula (CH3)2SO2. You, like all other living things, need this compound in order to function on a cellular level. It works with glucosamine, amino acids, and antioxidants in living cells to assist them with an enormous range of biological processes, such as cellular division, protein synthesis, and immunity defense mechanisms.
Where Does it Come From?
In nature, sulfur compounds like methyl sulfonyl methane are a part of the sulfur cycle, originating from the action of plankton in the ocean that give off a gaseous form of sulfur, which rises into the clouds and becomes part of rain water in a new oxygenated form, MSM. Rain falls and we are benefited by the MSM it brings with it, absorbing it directly from rain, or eating the plants and animals that have absorbed it.
The first sulfur compound in the sulfur cycle is dimethyl sulfide (DMS), the gas that is secreted by microscopic plankton in the ocean and released into the atmosphere. Reacting with oxygen and sunlight, the other two sulfur compounds are created: methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM) and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). Once these compounds fall back to Earth with the rain, they are absorbed into surrounding plant life.
Animals can take in sulfur compounds by being exposed directly to rainwater or by eating raw fruits and vegetables, meat, or unpasteurized milk products. It is even abundant in human breast milk. The inert compound is highly soluble, however, and is easily released back into the atmosphere under very little pressure, ending up back in the ocean.
If you ate a diet composed mostly of raw fruits, vegetables, and meats, then you would have no problem consuming a sufficient amount of sulfur. However, since we humans cook, process, or preserve most of the foods we eat, the sulfur compounds are lost. That is why natural sulfur supplements are so beneficial.
Methyl sulfonyl methane cannot be isolated and extracted from plant materials. But since it is created in Earth’s atmosphere when DMSO is oxidized, scientists can easily replicate the natural process in a lab. By creating the same conditions and oxidizing DMSO, the MSM that is created for health supplements is made chemically identical to what is found in nature. It is a pure, natural substance with no detrimental side effects.