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Methylsulfonylmethane Benefits for Hypothyroidism

Could supplementing with methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) help Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism symptoms?
Methylsulfonylmethane Benefits for Hypothyroidism
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You are probably seeing more about the use of methylsulfonylmethane – known as MSM – supplements for a variety of common health complaints and conditions. The supplement has become increasingly popular with people who want to improve their digestion and nutrient absorption, reduce inflammation, enhance their immune strength, and relieve muscle and joint pain. If you’re unfamiliar with MSM, we’ve looked at your key questions. Find out about MSM, what it’s intended to help, and whether it’s safe and effective for people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. Ahead, an FAQ on this popular supplement and what thyroid patients need to know about MSM.

What is MSM, and how does it work?

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a naturally occurring organic sulfur compound made up of carbon, sulfur, and oxygen atoms. MSM is found in small amounts in plants, animals, and humans and is also taken as a dietary supplement. MSM is also known as dimethyl sulfone (DMSO), methyl sulfone, sulfonylbismethane, organic sulfur, or crystalline dimethyl sulfoxide.

MSM works by providing the body with a source of sulfur, which is an essential nutrient for a wide range of bodily functions. Sulfur is necessary for the synthesis of many important molecules in the body, including amino acids, proteins, and enzymes.

In the context of joint health, MSM is thought to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the activity of certain enzymes that are involved in the inflammatory response. Reducing inflammation can help reduce pain and stiffness in the joints.

MSM’s antioxidant properties may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, a benefit that is particularly useful for people under chronic physical stress.

Overall, the exact mechanisms by which MSM works are not fully understood, and further study is needed. It is believed, however, that many of MSM’s health benefits are due to its ability to support various bodily functions and reduce inflammation.

What are the benefits of MSM?

MSM may offer benefits from joint health to skincare and even immune support. Let’s explore the key benefits of MSM and how it works.

Reduces inflammation

MSM has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body. Studies of the use of MSM in people undergoing intense stress -- and its resulting immunosuppression -- have shown that thanks to MSM’s antioxidant properties, it can reduce the inflammatory response to stressors.

The exact mechanism of how MSM lowers inflammation requires more study, but it’s thought to involve several factors. One possible mechanism is that MSM may reduce oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant activity in the body, which can, in turn, reduce inflammation. MSM may also directly inhibit pro-inflammatory molecules, such as cytokines, which contribute to inflammation. Additionally, MSM may help to enhance the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response by supporting the immune system and reducing the production of inflammatory immune cells. 

Boosts immune function

MSM has been shown to support immune function by increasing the production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.

One study found that taking daily supplements of MSM may boost your body’s natural defense mechanisms against viral infections since it affects white blood cell production. By increasing white blood cell counts in the bloodstream,

Aids joint and muscle health

MSM is believed to reduce inflammation, reduce joint and muscle pain, and improve flexibility and mobility, by working on free radicals found in the body. Sulfur-containing compounds have antioxidant properties, which help to prevent the oxidation of other molecules that can lead to cell damage.

A small study involving individuals over the age of 50 years found that a 12-week course of treatment with a supplement containing 1,200 mg of MSM led to reduced joint pain, stiffness, and swelling compared to a placebo. The group taking the supplement group also reported enhanced quality of life and less difficulty with walking and getting out of bed. 

Promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails

MSM helps improve the health of skin, hair, and nails by providing sulfur, a vital component needed to form collagen and keratin, two proteins that are the building blocks of skin, hair, and nails.

In hair, MSM supports hair growth by improving the production of keratin, which strengthens hair strands and promotes hair growth. MSM may also support healthy hair by reducing inflammation in the scalp, which can lead to hair loss or thinning.

MSM may improve skin health by supporting collagen production, improving skin elasticity, and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. MSM may also help to reduce skin inflammation and improve skin hydration.

MSM may promote nail growth and strength by increasing the production of keratin, which is a critical component of nail structure. MSM may also help to reduce brittleness and breakage of nails.

Increases energy

Some people report increased energy after taking MSM supplements regularly over a long period of time, likely due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

There is limited scientific evidence to support the anecdotal reports that MSM can improve energy levels. However, some proponents suggest that MSM may indirectly support energy by improving overall health.

The sulfur in MSM is essential for many biological processes, including the production of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that protects the body against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to fatigue and decreased energy levels, so improving antioxidant activity in the body may indirectly support energy levels.

Additionally, because MSM reduces inflammation and supports immune function, the body is better equipped to fight off infections and illnesses, which can lead to increased energy levels.

Improves digestive function

MSM has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the digestive system by reducing inflammation in the gut and promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. MSM may also help reduce gut permeability (“leaky gut”), helping to prevent the entry of harmful toxins and pathogens into the bloodstream.

In addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, MSM may help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Studies have shown that MSM can promote the growth of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum, which are two types of beneficial bacteria that play essential roles in digestion and overall health.

Finally, MSM may help improve nutrient absorption in the gut. Sulfur is an essential nutrient needed for synthesizing many important molecules in the body, including amino acids, proteins, and enzymes. By providing the body with a source of sulfur, MSM may help support these molecules’ production and improve overall nutrient absorption.

Reduce blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and type 2 diabetes

In animal studies, obese mice treated with MSM experienced significant decreases in blood glucose, insulin, and cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. While human studies are needed, experts believe that MSM may have therapeutic benefits in helping prevent metabolic disorders related to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes.

What are the risks associated with MSM?

If you have diabetes, you should know that MSM can potentially interfere with blood sugar control medications such as insulin and oral hypoglycemic drugs like metformin. Again, consult with your physician before using MSM.

Sulfites contained in some brands of MSM could pose a risk if you have asthma or allergies triggered by sulfur dioxide or sulfite sensitivity. Be sure to check the label of any MSM you consider taking before starting.

While more studies are needed, there are some reports of concerns about mixing MSM with alcohol. Research has reported that other sulfur-containing supplements and drugs can cause adverse reactions when mixed with alcoholic beverages.

Also, since the safety of MSM hasn’t been established in people with any pre-existing kidney disease or liver conditions, if you fall into this category, avoid taking MSM until you consult your doctor.

Finally, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your doctor before taking any type of dietary supplement, including MSM.

What are the side effects associated with MSM?

According to research, “as a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) approved substance, MSM is well-tolerated by most individuals at dosages of up to four grams daily, with few known and mild side effects.”

Here are some of the more common potential side effects you should consider:

  • Digestive discomfort: Some people may experience digestive discomfort, such as nausea, flatulence (gas), heartburn, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.
  • Headaches: MSM may cause headaches in some people.
  • Skin rash: Some people may have a skin rash, itching, or hives (urticaria).
  • Insomnia: MSM may cause insomnia or sleep disturbances in some people.
  • Interactions with medications: MSM may interact with certain medications, such as blood-thinning medications, type 2 diabetes drugs, or chemotherapy agents. 

In some cases, if you consume large amounts of MSM over an extended period of time, you may experience an upset stomach that lasts for days after you stop using the MSM.

If any of these symptoms occur while you are supplementing with MSM, it’s important to speak with your doctor right away so they can help you determine if your symptoms are related to the supplement or are caused by something else.

Is MSM safe for people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism?

MSM is generally considered safe for most people when taken in appropriate doses.

A review of studies on the safety and efficacy of MSM published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that MSM is a safe and effective dietary supplement for treating various conditions, including arthritis, allergies, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Overall, while more research is needed to fully understand the safety of MSM, these and other studies suggest that MSM is generally safe and well-tolerated when taken in recommended doses.

The safety of MSM for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism has not been studied, so specific implications for thyroid patients are unknown. 

Can MSM benefit people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism?

The benefits of MSM are a good fit with some of the continuing signs and symptoms experienced by Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism patients.

Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism are both characterized by chronic inflammation. Because MSM targets inflammation throughout the body, including the gut, digestive system, joints, and muscles, it may help alleviate inflammatory symptoms in Hashimoto’s patients and people with an underactive thyroid.

As an autoimmune disease, having Hashimoto’s indicates that the immune system is dysfunctional. By boosting immune function, MSM may help reduce the risk of autoimmune flares or the development of other autoimmune conditions.

Joint and muscle pains are common with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. Given MSM’s proven ability to support joint and muscle health, MSM may have benefits for patients with an underactive thyroid who have joint and muscle pain.

People with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism often struggle with dry skin, dull and shedding hair, and weak nails. MSM promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails and may help alleviate these symptoms.

Fatigue is one of the most common complaints of people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. MSM’s reported ability to increase energy makes it a potential aid in combating fatigue.

Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism patients are at higher risk of having “leaky gut,” gut health imbalances, digestive disturbances, and chronic constipation. MSM’s ability to improve digestive function may help alleviate these chronic symptoms that are characteristic of autoimmune thyroid disease and an underactive thyroid.

People with an underactive thyroid are at risk of elevated blood glucose levels, pre-diabetes, and high cholesterol. Because MSM can help reduce blood glucose, lower cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, it could be a powerful complement to thyroid treatment.

What’s the recommended dosage of MSM?

People usually take from 500 mg to 3 grams of MSM each day, depending on the severity of symptoms, as well as age and weight. It is important to note that MSM is generally considered safe when taken in the recommended doses. Still, doses of more than 3 grams per day may cause gastrointestinal upset, headache, or other mild side effects in some individuals.

It’s essential to be consistent and keep a steady dosing schedule if you want your body to obtain the most benefit from MSM.

How should MSM be taken?

You can take MSM orally in either capsules, powder, or tablets.

If you’re taking MSM as powder, you’ll need to mix the powder with juice or water. (Remember that MSM has a bitter taste, so juice may be more palatable!)

It’s recommended that you take MSM at least an hour apart from your thyroid medication to avoid any possible problems with absorption.

Also note that when choosing an MSM supplement, it is crucial to look for a high-quality product from a reputable manufacturer. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and to talk to a healthcare professional if you have any questions or concerns about using MSM.

If you have questions about how much to take or use, your healthcare provider can help you determine the proper dosage.

A note from Paloma

Animal and human studies have extensively examined the effects of MSM on animal models as well as in human clinical trials and experiments and found the supplement can help with inflammation, joint and muscle pain, oxidative stress, and antioxidation. That said, it’s important to note that while MSM may have potential benefits and help alleviate symptoms in people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, it is not a replacement for thyroid medication or thyroid treatment.

When you have lingering thyroid symptoms, optimizing your thyroid treatment is essential. You can start by regularly evaluating your thyroid levels. Paloma offers a practical, affordable at-home testing kit to help you easily get a complete thyroid blood test panel. The Paloma kit measures TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb). You also have the option of adding on a Reverse T3 and/or Vitamin D test. Your test results are quickly and securely returned to your inbox, making regular thyroid tests simple.

It’s also vital that your physician completely understand how to treat hypothyroidism properly. Consider working with Paloma’s knowledgeable team of thyroid experts for your hypothyroidism care. Paloma’s practitioners can assist you in evaluating and managing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism to resolve your symptoms and ensure that your thyroid treatment is effective.

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Mary Shomon

Patient Advocate

Mary Shomon is an internationally-recognized writer, award-winning patient advocate, health coach, and activist, and the New York Times bestselling author of 15 books on health and wellness, including the Thyroid Diet Revolution and Living Well With Hypothyroidism. On social media, Mary empowers and informs a community of more than a quarter million patients who have thyroid and hormonal health challenges.

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