HOW TO USE MSM
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Anybody can take MSM as a nutritional supplement, but most people will start doing so out of a desire to address chronic ailments. While our modern medical system performs brilliantly in emergency medicine, acute care treatment, and complicated surgical procedures, it leaves much to be desired in the treatment of chronic pain issues. An over-reliance on pharmaceutical drugs leads to whole hosts of negative side effects and has plagued far too many people with secondary problems. Sadly, abuse of highly addictive prescription pain killers alone has swiftly risen to become one of society’s leading causes of preventable death. If you or a loved one, including a pet or working animal, is suffering from a chronic pain issue, and you are uncomfortable with the prospects of extended pharmaceutical drug use, it may be worth considering MSM. All decisions to incorporate MSM into a care regimen, and especially any decisions to alter or reduce prescribed medicine dosages, should be made in consultation with your doctor or veterinarian.
Forms of Supplemental MSM
MSM can be taken either orally or topically. Due to its unique nature and small size, MSM has the ability to pass through tissue, absorbing into the skin and the tissues beneath when applied on the skin. Topically applied MSM is usually sold as a gel or cream, and is often mixed with lavender, Aloe Vera, or menthol. As an oral supplement, MSM is usually encapsulated for people taking only 2 to 8 grams a day, the most common dosage. People taking larger doses often prefer MSM powder, which is sold either as coarse flakes or fine crystals. Coarse flakes are the most natural form of MSM, but they take longer to dissolve in liquid. Fine crystals are more powdery and easily dissolved, but a very small amount of non-toxic silicon dioxide (0.1%) is added to prevent clumping. Which you use is a matter of personal preference; either way, the main challenge will be masking (or enduring) the bitter taste. Many people can easily tolerate a spoonful of MSM powder placed on their tongue and swallowed with some orange juice. Other people prefer to dissolve MSM in a glass fruit juice. Hot liquids will not damage its chemical structure, so it can also be added to tea, coffee, or even soup. Many people give powdered MSM to their animals, especially those with big animals, like equestrians and zoo handlers, but also people who choose to give MSM to smaller herbivorous pets such as rabbits or Guinea Pigs. Dog and cat owners most often give MSM through flavored chewable joint or coat supplements designed for pets that incorporate MSM along with other compounds, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, or Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids. Before giving any animal a form of MSM other than a specially-formulated pet supplement, always check with your veterinarian on appropriate dosage amounts.
Using MSM Topically
MSM gel can be great as a topical skin healing agent, particularly for insect bites, poison ivy itch, or mild sunburn, and can also be applied over localized muscle or joint pain. Some people prefer pure MSM gels or creams, and others prefer ones that incorporate other ingredients, such as lavender for its smell, Aloe Vera for its skin soothing qualities, or menthol for its cooling sensation. We don’t recommend for or against these other ingredients, as long as the gel contains a high-quality MSM. We have even heard of some people reporting success with making their own topical MSM supplements by mixing finely powdered MSM into their favorite skin creams. Whatever you choose to use, the same basic precautions apply to MSM gels and creams as to Aloe gel or skin moisturizer. Though most people will be able to safely apply MSM to healthy skin indefinitely, you should consult with a dermatologist if you have any concerns, and should avoid applying it to any skin that you think might be open to infection. Always seek immediate emergency room medical attention if any skin condition grows worse, as it may be an indication of acute cellulitis, which would not be caused by MSM itself, but could be inadvertently introduced to vulnerable skin during the application process.
How Much to Take
As with most dietary supplements, the general rule with MSM is to take as much as is needed to see positive benefit, and no more. Too much MSM will give some people minor upset stomachs or more frequent stools. Take MSM with food to decrease the chance of gastrointestinal discomfort. Like vitamin C, bodies that are more in need of MSM will generally tolerate more of it, since they are absorbing more MSM into the cells (upset stomachs result when excess MSM is diverted into the gastrointestinal system for expulsion). People taking MSM simply as a dietary supplement for general maintenance will be fine with 2 grams a day. Patients seeking therapeutic relief of minor ailments, such as allergies, should start low, with about 2 grams of MSM per day, and work their way up if needed—most will find relief at around 4 to 6 grams per day. Athletes will often take 2 to 3 grams before and after workouts to reduce muscle soreness and lactic acid buildup. People with more severe chronic conditions, such as arthritis or back pain, will often need much higher doses, and should work their way up over a two or three week period, starting with a full teaspoon (4 grams) taken in the morning, then, after a few days, another teaspoon taken in the afternoon. After a couple of weeks they should increase the dosage to a tablespoon (12 grams) in the morning, and another one in the afternoon. Most people don’t need to take more than two tablespoons (24 grams) per day, depending on their bodyweight. Some doctors will prescribe their patients to take as much as 40 to 60 grams per day, but this should never be undertaken without medical supervision. Consult your veterinarian regarding appropriate animal doses; as a general rule, give animals about one gram per day for every 20 lbs of bodyweight, and increase to two grams or more if you don’t see improvement. Remember that you may see variation in your animal’s stool if you don’t start with smaller doses and gradually work them up.
How Long Will it Take to See Results?
MSM is not intended as a fast-acting patch, but should be considered a long-term therapy aimed at addressing the root cause of discomfort. Some patients may begin to notice improvements almost immediately, others may take weeks or sometimes months. Most people will notice initial improvements within about two weeks.
How Long Can I Take MSM for?
If your body tolerates MSM well (that is, it does not cause headache or diarrhea), which you will learn within your first few days of use, then it can be taken for an indefinite period of time. Should you notice these side effects, then do not be discouraged. Simple reduce the dose and stick with it. These side effects will almost always dissipate within a few days, and are usually the result of detoxification of the body. There are now middle aged people who have grown up taking supplemental MSM since a young age who show no signs of harm, and many people will tell you that they have taken it consistently for decades. Most people find that the benefits of MSM stop when they discontinue taking it, even if they have been taking it for 20 years or more. MSM is not chemically addictive, and there is no reason that your body would develop a “tolerance” for it.
Taking MSM While on Prescription MedicationThere is no clinical evidence that MSM will interfere with any prescribed medication. Modern medicines have many wonderful benefits, and no supplement is a replacement for all necessary drugs prescribed by your doctor. MSM should be considered complementary to prescribed medicines, and one which may hopefully help some patients reach a point where they no longer need to continue with drugs that may have undesirable side effects. If you feel that MSM has helped you reach such a place, always consult with your doctor. Never reduce or discontinue prescribed medication use on your own. Patients being liver-tested should discontinue MSM use about one week before the procedure to avoid interfering with the accuracy of the test. People with low platelet counts or anybody taking blood-thinning medication should consult with their doctor before beginning MSM use, as MSM has been known to have an aspirin-like effect on platelet aggregation. For the same reason MSM use should be stopped prior to any operation.