Sulfur: What is it and Who needs it?
Sulfur is among the most commonly found minerals in the human body, mainly in the proteins but also in cells, tissues and joints. It is also found in four amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins, and so it is essential that sulfur in an absorbable form is available. MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane) is one of those bio-available forms of sulfur.
Sulfur takes a big role in helping cells to use oxygen in energy production which is essential for for all cell activity, including brain function. It is also needed for the immune system where antibodies use forms of sulfur to create bonds.
MSM is formed in the ozone layer where sulfur compounds emitted from plankton and small organisms in the oceans are converted into organic forms of sulfur. These are then returned to the earth in rain, which then are then taken up by plants and the soil. Plants that are exposed to rainfall are therefore more likely than those grown in greenhouses to be sources of MSM.
Where Is Dietary Sulfur Found?
Protein foods, like eggs and meats contain amounts of dietary sulfur. In smaller amounts it can be found in garlic, onions, fresh green vegetables, turnips, sunflower seeds, nuts and some fruits.
A problem is that this type of sulfur (MSM) is very soluble and storage, washing and cooking can cause much of it to be lost. If you buy your greens from the supermarket or green grocer, where they spray the produce regularly with water to keep it looking fresh, they are also probably washing away much of the useable sulfur.
Two for the B Vitamins, Thiamine and Biotin also contain Sulfur. These are vitamins that are important to the skin, hair, insulin and carbohydrate metabolism.
Areas of sulfur deficient soils may make sulfur deficiency more prevalent in the population. Some growers have been known to add MSM to the soils where they are growing their vegetables.
Sulfur deficiency is more prevalent in people with a low intake of protein in their diet, or where they are low in stomach acids or the right intestinal bacteria to finish the digestion process.
How Does Sulfur Help With Health?
A body made up of healthy, flexible cells will not only feel better, it will look better too. The body is continuously at work replacing old, worn out cells with new ones. The process goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without stop. When all the raw materials needed for cell-building are available, it is a very efficient process. When there are deficiencies, the new cells may be weak, rigid or deformed.
One of the most important raw materials for building healthy new cells is a form of organic sulfur known as methyl sulfonyl methane (MSM). This element is so essential to life that it is found in every cell of every plant and every animal. Sulfur makes up 0.25% of human body weight. However neither plants nor animals can use elemental sulfur directly. Sulfur is not easily available to living organisms in its inorganic form.
Sulfur, and MSM in particular, supports healthy connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and muscle. Thus, it is important in conditions such as arthritis, muscle pains, bursitis, and others.
MSM decreases the pressure inside the cell. In removing fluids and toxins, sulfur affects the cell membrane. MSM is an organic form of sulfur, whereas sulfites in foodstuffs are inorganic. However, sulfur can be found in the body in sulfate forms. It forms sulfate compounds with sodium, potassium, magnesium, and selenium. MSM has a significance, because sulfur compounds are found everywhere throughout the body and in nature.
Since sulfur is a component of all cells, it is essential that the body have a plentiful supply of this mineral in its usable form. There is a positive synergistic effect on building healthier cells when MSM is taken in combination with vitamin C. The new cells are more pliable and permeable, allowing fluids to pass through the tissue more easily. Internally this means more efficient elimination of toxins, a reduction in inflammation and pain – so you feel better. On the outside it shows up as a softer, smoother complexion, stronger hair and nails – so you look better.
MSM makes cell walls permeable, allowing water and nutrients to freely flow into cells and allowing wastes and toxins to properly flow out. The body uses MSM along with Vitamin C to create new, healthy cells, and MSM provides the flexible bond between the cells. Without proper levels of MSM, our bodies are unable to build good healthy cells, and this leads to problems such as lost flexibility, scar tissue, wrinkles, varicose veins, hardened arteries, damaged lung tissues, dry cracking skin, digestive disorders, joint problems, and inability to defend against allergic reactions to food, animals and plants.
MSM is an anti-oxidant that helps to clean the blood stream and flush toxins trapped in our cells. It is also a foreign protein and free radical scavenger. In order to maintain good health, we may need to supplement our diets with MSM, to enable the body to heal itself. The body uses what it needs, and after 12 hours will flush out any excess amounts.
Sulfur has been called nature’s “beauty mineral” because it is needed to keep the hair glossy and smooth and keeps the complexion clear and youthful. It is needed for synthesis of collagen and is prevalent in keratin, a tough protein substance necessary for health and maintenance of the skin, nails and hair.
MSM is responsible for the flexible disulfide bonds between cells, including those that make up the skin. It blocks undesirable chemical and physical cross-linking or bonding of collagen which is associated with tough, aging skin. Consequently MSM enhances tissue pliability and encourages repair of damaged skin. If there is insufficient sulfur in the body when new cells are being manufactured, the new cells will be rigid. This rigidity can contribute to cracking, wrinkling and unsightly scar tissue. When sufficient sulfur is present for new cells, the skin is softer, smoother and more flexible. MSM provides that sulfur.
Acne, including the severe acne rosacea, responds favorably to MSM supplements. Adequate sulfur and vitamin C are also needed for healing. When the body is deficient in these nutrients, the new tissue will be elevated leaving an unattractive, raised scar. Because MSM makes the skin more permeable and pliant, it can also help prevent blistering and promote faster healing from sunburn or wind damage.
With MSM supplements, nails show not only an increase in growth rate, but also increased toughness and resistance to chipping and cracking. This effect has been seen both in human nails and horses hoofs.
Is Taking MSM Supplement Necessary?
Since sulfur is present in every cell of every living thing, it might seem that we would get plenty of this essential mineral from dietary sources and should not need supplements, but that may not be the case. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products are the main sources of dietary sulfur, but we have been advised to restrict or remove many of those foods from our diets. Vegetarians, especially those who do not eat eggs, are at particular risk for sulfur deficiency. Plants cells contain sulfur but not in abundant quantities and much of the MSM present in unprocessed foods is lost in washing, cooking or steaming. And, of course, MSM levels decline noticeably with age – doesn’t everything? So, the older you get, the more important it becomes to maintain adequate sulfur levels in the body.
MSM ranks in the “extremely low” toxicity category with a toxicity profile similar to that of water. When oral supplements are taken, the body will distribute MSM where it is needed. After about 12 hours, any excess amounts will be flushed out of the body. MSM, a member of the sulfur family, should never be confused with sulfa drugs to which some people are allergic.