MSM Side Effects: What You Need to Know Before You Take It


6 User Reviews

Posted by Lisa (SF, CA) on 07/21/2008

MSM sort of a warning...

I started taking MSM a few weeks ago, in the hopes of getting rid of, or at least fading, the melasma I have. I started with 2000mg capsules in the a.m. Then increased to 3000mg, and last week to 4000 mg., a combo of tablets and powder (just because I had both, so mixed 'em up). I have not noticed a difference in the melasma, (I am applying topically, too) but have experienced sleeplessness. I already have a problem with insomnia, so this is not good. I noticed the sleeplessness got really bad after increasing to 4000mg., so I've cut down to 3000mg. I really noticed the increase in energy when I started taking the MSM, despite a lack of sleep. About 2 months ago, I began taking SAM-E for mood, and it seems to have helped, but that is also a sulphur compound, so perhaps that with the MSM is too much?

Itchy Skin, Mouth Sores

1 User Review

Posted by rapidswimmer (lexington, ky) on 10/21/2022

I've been taking MSM for many months/years but only recently very consistently. I take a teaspoon or a little more each day on an empty stomach. I take for my teeth and bones. I also do fermented cod liver oil. It has always helped and I've never had issues until recently... I noticed I was getting sores in my mouth. A lot. I was also noticing the front of my shoulders itching like crazy. Only the front of my shoulders, on both sides.

Just as an experiment, I stopped only the MSM. My mouth sores immediately cleared up and I hadn't noticed until now, the itching has stopped. So, this week, I started taking it again. A much smaller dose and only every other day. Today is the second time I've taken it and my shoulders have started itching. No mouth sores yet but I think I'm going to stop.

I'm wondering, how long should I stop? Should I even start it again? I really think it helps for my teeth and bones, I just wonder if you should only do it for a certain amount of time and then stop a certain amount of time to get the advantages of it?

Joint Pain

2 User Reviews
1 star (1) 

Posted by Joan (Ny) on 10/25/2016

MSM causes joint pain...

I now realize that msm is the culprit behind my wrist pain. I had stopped taking it about 1 year ago and I just restarted. I am taking .5 tsp. of Kala health OptiMSM.

Joint Pain
Posted by Ashley (Los Angeles, California Usa) on 01/25/2012

Regarding MSM, I just wanted to warn people that I have had adverse affects with it. I started taking it for joint pain (2 to 4 thousand milligrams a day) and it seemed like it was healing, until about 30 days in one of my knees started to hurt. I thought I may have just injured it slightly and didn't think anything of it. Then maybe another week and a half in my other knee (that never had any pain prior) and both my shoulders started hurting. MSM was the only thing that I had never done before that I was doing differently. I quit taking it and about a week later all of the pain was gone. I also just injured my right knee and have to question whether or not this actually made my joints worse.

Joint Pain, High Blood Pressure

1 User Review

Posted by SHIRLEY (FL) on 10/11/2022

2 weeks on msm. Joint pain bad and high blood pressure. I am taking 1/8 teaspoon msm pure flakes.

Kidney Stones, Long-Term Reactions

1 User Review

Posted by Rick (Newmarket, NH) on 10/16/2018

Initially, MSM was the most profound remedy I had ever experienced. It gradually but successfully treated my chronic prostatitis, tendinitis, even substantially improved depression symptoms I'd lived with for a decade.

After taking 2-3 grams for almost 3 years, however, it riddled me with imbalances and complications that I have yet to recover from. initially I started passing kidney stones- not realizing the MSM could contribute to this. After reading of a few similar cases online, I stopped taking the MSM and had a brutish withdrawal period.

I broke out in full hives on my back, fever, etc. after the withdrawal, all of my original symptoms returned, but with a twist. Over time I became similarly sensitive to most anti-inflammatory herbs/nutrients. I can't even take fish oil without having reactions. My kidneys behave irregularly, I have cardiovascular involvement, and more recently significant adrenal dysfunction. I suspect I imbalanced something nutritionally from taking the sulphuric, but i've had little to no luck finding a combination of nutrients to restore the balance. Please use caution with MSM, and even if you find it to help you. PLEASE take regular breaks when using it. Do not stay on it long-term. It's been over a decade since I stopped, and I'm not certain whether I'll ever get my life back completely.


2 User Reviews

Posted by Elsa (New York, NY) on 01/03/2009


MSM and glucosamine in combination were extremely helpful to my lower back and hip pain (arthritis), but it triggered daily migraines, so I had to stop taking it. I can take glucosamine alone without getting the headaches.

But about arthritic pain: I have found that applying arnica gel, which I get at the health food store or from iherb, stops the pain. (It also helps prevent/reduce bruising.) I wake up with a bad backache, apply a tsp or so onto my back and hip (rubbing it in well), and can get back to sleep.

I wish I could take MSM. My husband takes it every day and has no aches or pains.

Posted by Cindy (Silver Spring, MD) on 11/07/2008

MSM & Migraine Headaches:

I tried MSM after reading in several places it helps w/joint deterioration & pain, & also seeing that it is a component of several glucosamine & chondroitin supplements.

Years earlier, my orthopedic surgeon (a Johns Hopkins University professor) recommended Cosamin DS (a brand of glucosamine & chondroitin w/no added MSM), which he also takes, because it's purity & dosage accuracy were verified in (independent, double blind, placebo controlled) research trials. I took the it for years w/no side effects, & w/much pain relief & improved function. I saw other brands of glucosamine & chondroitin w/MSM, which Cosamin DS does not contain.

My doctor was not opposed to my trying MSM, but he was adamant I stick w/Cosamin DS, although it costs more than most other brands. My pets' vets also insisted I use the same company's pet formulation (Cosequin) & not switch their brand. I decided to stick with it, but add in MSM separately, which my doctors did not oppose.

Within a couple of days after starting MSM, I developed a migraine. Initially mild, it worsened over the next 10 days, becoming severe. I'm prone to both muscle spasm & migraine type headaches, & can distinguish clearly between them. I didn't initially attribute the migraine to MSM, since so many other things can trigger migraines, including stress, irregular sleep, hormonal cycles (especially during peak estrogen levels), as well as certain foods/beverages, medications, smoke, fragrances, & chemical odors/fumes.
I'd learned I must stay on a preventative medication (in my case Verapamil), which enables me to avoid most migraines. With it, I can get away w/some things which otherwise trigger my migraines, including certain favorite foods (in small amounts) & unavoidable whiffs of problem scents & tobacco smoke. (See list of common migraine triggers at end, if interested).

I stayed on the MSM, regulated my sleep cycles (no late nights or sleeping in), avoided stressors, & avoided known migraine triggers--including the foods I sometimes 'cheated' on & places where I could be exposed to problem scents or smoke (malls, rest rooms, smokers, crowds, etc.). Friends & family helped by not exposing me to perfumes or scented products & staying across the room if they had tobacco smoke on their clothes.

These measures had always worked in the past, but this migraine did not lessen. An increase to the maximum dose of Verapamil did not help. I temporarily went on a diet of unprocessed foods w/simple ingredient lists, began stress reduction techniques, & avoided new medications & household or personal products, to no avail. After a 5 week period in which I should have been through a full female hormonal cycle (& into the next one) w/no reduction or fluctuation in severity of the migraine, I was concerned. By week 6 I was spending a lot of time in a dark, quiet room, & getting a little desperate. Lights were like daggers & sounds were like bomb blasts. I considered a trip to downtown Washington, DC, to see a trusted migraine specialist, but couldn't imagine making the trip.

As I looked back for what was new in my regimen since onset of the migraine, I considered the MSM. It seemed so innocuous, but it was the only truly new variable I could identify. No literature available to me at the time I first considered taking it had mentioned anything about MSM & headaches. There was little mention of side effects at all, other than sulfa allergy, at the time. I asked two pharmacists, but neither had heard of MSM triggering headaches, nor had my doctors.

It made sense to all of us that I stop the MSM immediately, but if the migraine ceased, we knew it could be coincidence. The migraine DID cease within about a week of stopping the MSM, & I went back down to my original dose of Verapamil a week later. My primary doctor suggested I just stay off MSM.

However, MSM was enough help for my joint pain that I wanted to be as sure as possible that it was not coincidence that the migraine ceased after stopping MSM. I waited a month, during which I stayed on my migraine reduction/avoidance routine & had NO migraines. Then, while continuing this routine, being careful to add in no new foods, products, medications, or other supplements, I restarted the MSM.

Unfortunately, the migraine returned again, about a week after restarting the MSM while eliminating all other variables that I could control. Of course, there were variables I could not control outside a research setting, including my own knowledge of whether I resumed taking the MSM & when. However, there have been so many times I thought things would cause me a migraine but they did not do so (or conversely I thought they would not cause a migraine but they did), that I strongly suspected the MSM was the cause of my protracted status migrainosis.

About 4 years later, I was diagnosed w/a more severe joint disease, which eventually causes destruction of the entire affected joint. With 8 major weight-bearing joints involved & few treatment options, I decided to try MSM one more time. I had been nearly migraine-free for the better part of a year. With my doctors' agreement, I went doubled my Verapamil (to the maximum dose), went back on my strict migraine avoidance/reduction routine, waited 10 days so my body had the full benefit of these measures, & restarted MSM.

This was my third trial of MSM. I took what I was told was likely the minimum effective dose. On this trial, I intentionally chose a different brand of MSM, in hope that any additive or contaminant in the first brand which might potentially have caused the first 2 migraines would not be present in this new brand.
This time, I developed a migraine 3 days after starting MSM. (Usually, things that trigger migraines in me most strongly do so overnight if ingested orally, but fragrances/fumes/smoke do so w/in minutes, via the nasal route. Things less "migrainogenic" for me take 2 to several days at 1 serving/day, but act more quickly w/several servings daily. While I wish there was an environmentally controlled, double blind, placebo-controlled study of MSM side effects, so most other variables could be eliminated, after 3 trials I consider it very likely that MSM caused my migraines, despite use of a migraine-reducing medication, & consider it likely it would do so in others who are prone to migraine headaches.

Migraine triggers:
This is somewhat individual, & doctors don't all agree on items, such as tomatoes.
-Foods: For me, migraine triggers include all foods & beverages high in tyramine (an amino acid), so I eat a low tyramine diet, eliminating or reducing foods such as tomatoes (fresh are less of a problem than tomato sauce, catsup, or paste), some fruits including bananas & all citrus fruits, a few veges & beans including avocados & fava beans, processed or organ meats including liver, hot dogs, balogna, & salami, cultured dairy products such as yogurt, buttermilk (regular milk is OK), & aged cheeses (fresh cheeses such as cottage & farmer cheeses are about all that are OK), fermented products including all alcoholic beverages (red wines are notorious), soy sauce, chocolate, monosodiumglutamate, abbreviated "MSG", (which legally can be hidden on food package ingredient lists in the U.S. under the term "natural flavoring"), etc.
-Caffeine* (including in coffee, tea, & some medications including some headache medicines)--ironically, caffeine can both help treat migraines & can trigger migraines, so avoid it unless you have a migraine already, but if you get one & have no other remedy available, it is worth a try to have a cup or two of tea.
-Estrogens in food or medicine: Foods high in natural estrogen-like compounds such as sweet potatoes & soy beans, plus medications w/estrogen (even w/low-dose estrogen, such as some birth control pills & hormone replacement therapy), & including the estrogen-like compounds now known to leach out of plastic food & beverage containers such as milk or water jugs
-NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: such as Motrin (Ibuprofen), Alleve/Naprosyn (Naproxen sodium), Feldene, Clinoril, Indocin, etc. which are said to cause a rebound effect, intially helping, but making migraine worse w/continued use (but Tylenol, which is not an NSAID, seems to be OK)
-Other medications: Variable. (According to at least one specialist, narcotic pain medications make migraines worse, though in my experience this is NOT the case if the person is on a stable, long-term dose. Rapid increases, reductions, or fluctuations in dose DO trigger migraines, in my experience.
-Smoke: Tobacco smoke(including second-hand), & other smoke including wood smoke, & incense
-Perfumes, Colognes, & Scented Products: highly individual but includes air freshener products in all forms, scented soap or laundry detergent, fabric softener, scented oils (including for aromatherapy), scented candles, scented personal products, such as shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, scented lotions, etc., & scented household cleaning products, including scented air or surface disinfectant sprays
Chemical odors: including unscented household cleaning products w/fumes, freshly printed newspapers, nail polish remover (acetone), "liquid bandages", many disinfectant sprays, moth balls, dry cleaning chemicals, gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, propane, natural gas, "bug sprays" (insecticides), "weed killers" (herbicides), fungicides, formaldehyde (including in plywood, & as preservative for animals used for dissection in biology labs such as in high schools & colleges), paint fumes, glues (white glue is usually OK), various solvents

Hint: If you smell a problem scent unexpectedly when out in public, try breathing through your mouth until out of range. If it is just a matter of a few steps to get out of range of the scent, hold your breath & walk rapidly upwind (if outside) & away. Apparently it is the short, direct route from the nasal nerves to the brain (&/or blood supply to the blood-brain barrier) which allows such rapid migraines induction from scents. When one inhales the same substance through the mouth to the lungs, avoiding nasal exposure, these substances do not seem to trigger rapid-onset migraines. They can still trigger breathing problems in those w/asthma.

Muscle Cramps, Emotional Lows

1 User Review

Posted by Marid (Noblesville, IN) on 02/21/2021

I started MSM a couple of weeks ago because I discontinued my Chondroitin Glucosamine, and I have been experiencing cramping in my feet and legs. I see from this article that my occasional insomnia may also be from taking my MSM later in the day when I have forgotten it in the morning. I have also recently experienced some mild emotional lows.

Pale Stools

1 User Review

Posted by Leila (Europe) on 06/16/2015


Recently I started taking MSM and noticed a change in the color of my stools, much paler, wondering if anyone has had the same experience or know if this is a normal reaction? Many thanks! Leila

Replied by Angela

I did have a lighter stool at the beginning but later on it was normal, so I thought I was detoxing. After four years I stopped using it because I started to have panic attacks and flashing lights.


7 User Reviews

Posted by Marsh (Colorado) on 03/13/2021

We purchased pure MSM in November (2020). My husband takes it daily and he feels it's helped his frozen shoulder and joints.

After the 7th day of 1/2 teaspoon MSM, I was besieged by heart palpitations. They finally began lessening in January. Made appt with cardiologist, all tests came back fine. I increased magnesium to 400mg 3x day, a banana and himalayan sea salt, which eliminated the palps.

2 days ago, I tried about 1/8 teaspoon of MSM and yup, a couple palps occurred. I think I'll try 1-2 crystals because my joints were feeling much better to see if that keeps the joints and heart happy.

Posted by Sharon (Perth, Western Australia) on 09/13/2016

MSM helps with my fibromyalgia but I also get heart palpitations...if I keep taking it will heart palpitations go away?

Replied by Nikit

Take potassium and magnesium.

Replied by Annie

Try Magnesium Calm gummies, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and hibiscus tea for your heart palpitations. ACV might help too 1 teaspoon

Posted by Steve (Centennial, Co) on 10/29/2012

I have been taking MSM for the past week or so. I had heart palpitations yesterday. One thing that msm appears to do is purge the body of heavy metals. I suspect it may also take with it some of the necessary minerals that are key for the electrical signaling of the heart to function properly (like some other heavy metal detoxes I have taken before). As soon as I became aware of what was happening, I took a general overall mineral supplement and the palpitations ceased immediately. I will have to monitor this point forward. Less MSM. More minerals. For detox the key is not to take them together as then it is just sweeping out the minerals you took, rather than the heavy metals deeply imbedded in fat and bones. For detox it appears there needs to be 6-8 hours in between the taking of the minerals and the taking of the msm. Hope this helps in your own research.

Posted by Karen (Seligman, Mo, Usa) on 01/15/2011

Could someone help. This is strange. I started talking MSM a couple days ago and after second dose had palpitations and they don't stop and have been going on 24 hours now. I stopped taking MSM after it began and its still happening. Breath is hard to catch sometimes and I do not have these but maybe 2 a month and it's usually once. My BP is spiked at times and I have always had LOW LOW blood pressure. This is really creepy. I am also getting off white sugar at the same time and using brown for 4 days. So what's going on here? Don't yang about going to a Dr. If I hadn't already I wouldn't be here. They say nothing wrong but anemia.

Replied by Tom
(Regina, Sk)

Karen: It souns like you are having a reaction not due to allergy, but simply from the almost unique beneficial effect MSM has in greatly increasing cell membrane porosity throughout the entire body!

As such, any toxins will be mobilized in greater amounts, and that includes any Rx drugs or their metabolites.

MSM thus has the effect of amplifying the drug dose! So you have to increase the dose of MSM slowly over several weeks, and/or do not be on any Rx drugs when you do, if possible.

Drink lots of water to aid in flushing them out.

For the anemia, you are on the right track in that it can be caused by a lack of essential minerals, which can be had from things like a complete cane sugar, as near to unprocessed as possible:

To make demerara sugar, sugar producers press sugar cane and steam the juice of the first pressing to form thick cane syrup. The cane syrup is allowed to dehydrate, leaving behind large golden brown crystals of sugar. Because demerara sugar is not heavily refined, it has a rich, creamy, molasses-like flavor which enhances baked goods. The large grains also remain crunchy through cooking, which makes demerara sugar a great choice of sprinkled topping on scones and similar dishes which might otherwise have a uniform texture.

As such, you might want to move up from the "brown sugar", since it is merely white table sugar (sucrose) sprayed with molasses to turn it just dark enough!

Posted by Allmymarbles (New York, New York) on 02/02/2010


MSM: Serious Side Effect

I started taking MSM for asthma. My husband takes it for arthritis and gets total relief. Unfortunately I reacted badly. I had developed high cortisol subsequent to using inhaled steroids (which I discontinued). The MSM drove the cortisol higher and I suffered an extremely high pulse rate, palpitations and insomnia. When I started using MSM I did not know of this side effect. So be warned. If you have high cortisol do not take this supplement. It can be very dangerous.

Replied by Steve
(Spring Branch , Tx)

The warning you posted wasn't because of the MSM you were taking, The warning was for the steroids that you were ingesting. These drugs have been proven to be very dangerous. MSM is not a drug, it's a element.

Replied by Peggy64
(Montgomery, Al)

I don't take steroids and when I started the MSM, after a week or so, it caused me problems with elevated cortisol levels. So then, How would you explain that?

Replied by Tom
(Regina, Sk)

MSM is a natural substance (as is cortisol), found even in the oceans. It could be that your symptoms were simply caused by one of the healing aspects of MSM which very few other nutrients can replicate:

It increases, dose dependent and therefore also depends on body weight, the cellular membrane porosity , thus rate and amount of nutrient, metabolic waste and signaling molecules across the cell's membrane. This holds for all or nearly all tissue and organ cells. So perhaps you actually suffered a slight reaction to a too-fast re-balancing from too many toxins on the move at the same time?

This is why with MSM one should start with a small dose for the first week, then increase over many more weeks in increments to the maximum suggested dose based on body weight.

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