Inflammation and oxidative stress are closely related and are in many ways two sides of the same coin. Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals, usually reactive oxygen or nitrogen species (RONS), come into contact with parts of the cell like proteins, lipids, or DNA. These cell parts become damaged and lose function. Inflammation is a response to some provocation that causes increased blood flow, increased capillary permeability, and most importantly white blood cell (or leukocytes) response. Characteristics of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Oxidation and inflammation are implicated in many chronic diseases. They are inextricably linked because each can be induced by the other. Inflammatory cells release a number of RONS at the site of inflammation, inducing further RONS. Conversely, RONS induce intracellular signaling cascades that induce inflammatory responses. MSM can benefit both inflammatory processes and oxidative stress processes separately and in ways that affect both.

MSM is able to boost the body’s natural anti-oxidant pathways. There are several ways in which the body neutralizes free radicals including the compound glutathione, and the enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT). One possible mechanism for this benefit is through the transcription factor Nrf2. Nrf2 is an upstream regulator of antioxidant enzymes, and MSM has been shown to have a positively impact Nrf2 activity, leading to increased levels of antioxidant enzymes. MSM also decreases the amount of free radicals being produced by the body. Studies have shown that MSM downregulates iNOS and COX-2, leading to reduced amounts of NO and O2- respectively. Another study showed that MSM reduces the amount of ROS produced by the mitochondria. Independently, MSM can both increase the scavenging of free radicals and reduce the amount of initial free radicals within the body. MSM has similar effects on the inflammatory system. Primarily, MSM is able to downregulate NF-kB. Inhibition of NF-kB reduces levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-α. It also appears that MSM independently inhibits the production of IL-1 and TNF-α. MSM reduces the expression of the NLRP3 inflammasome, a subcellular response to stress.

Because oxidation and inflammation are two sides of the same coin, many of MSM’s effects on individual pathways also lead to reductions on the other. Inhibition of NF-kB suppresses iNOS and COX-2, which in turn reduces the production of free radicals. Inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines reduces the levels of cellular free radicals, which is why MSM has been shown to inhibit both neutrophil and macrophage (types of leukocytes) RONS production. Conversely, one mechanism through which MSM inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome activation is through the reduction of mitochondrial ROS production. And increased levels of glutathione is associated with a reduction in chronic inflammation.

The interrelationship of the oxidation and inflammatory pathways are dynamic. Supplements or vitamins that affect one area of the complicated web can be beneficial, but insufficient. MSM’s ability to benefit each and both lends it broader and more balanced benefits.

*Please visit the RESEARCH section for supporting information and published studies