My MSM Migraine

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MSM (aka Methylsulfonylmethane) is a naturally occurring compound found in nature (e.g., fresh fruits and vegetables, and raw fish, meat, and milk). However‚ MSM is a volatile substance that is easily lost when foods are processed/pasteurized, stored, and cooked. As a result, there are some scientists and doctors who believe that our diets supply our bodies with only a marginal amount of MSM on a daily basis. In addition, MSM levels are also thought to decline as we age. Some practitioners even suggest that when the concentration of MSM falls below “minimum levels,” physical and psychological stress can be triggered and result in a reduction (or loss) of normal organ function.

I first encountered this acronym on YouTube and then later on various hair boards. I was intrigued by the numerous claims that it helped to grow hair healthy and long SUPER FAST. Then, I came across several medical articles that touted a litany of other benefits.

Uses

  • To prevent hair loss, poor circulation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
  • To treat chronic pain, joint inflammation, PMS, obesity, parasitic infections, and various medical disorders and diseases.
  • To promote mood elevation and boost the immune system.
  • To minimize scar tissue, stretch marks, and wrinkles.
  • To relieve allergies and control snoring.
  • To accelerate healing of wounds.

Time To Plan

Because MSM maintains healthy connective tissue, it is said to help keep skin‚ hair, and nails healthy by donating sulfur for the production of keratin‚ a fibrous protein. It can be taken orally in pill or tablet form, or applied topically (by creating a lotion or cream with MSM powder). So, after doing some research, I decided to take the plunge. It seemed like the perfect addition to my current vitamin and supplement regimen. I purchased 1500 mg of pure crystalline MSM by Doctor’s BestI figured I would give the supplement 3-4 months to work its magic.

I tried to find a recommended dosage but failed. I found some hair enthusiasts online taking anything from 500 mg daily to 10,000+ mg daily. Most seemed to hover somewhere in the middle. So, I decided to take three 1500 mg pills each day (one before each meal).

Time for Caution

Month one began without a hitch … until I started to experience daily headaches. Month two I started to have problems sleeping. Month 3, I had full-blown insomnia. Unfortunately, it took me a while to realize that the MSM I was taking was causing all of these symptoms. I remember calling my mom and telling her about my inability to fall and stay asleep. She asked me if I had changed my normal routine in any way. Like an idiot, I said, “No!” It wasn’t until I got off the phone with her that I realized everything in my routine was just as it had always been except for the addition of MSM to my vitamins and supplements.

Time To Rethink

I did some additional research and found that some MSM users who experienced side effects had greater success eliminating the evening pill and dividing the same dosage between the breakfast and lunch allotment. So, I switched to taking two 1500 mg pills before breakfast and one 1500 mg pill before lunch (with no pill before dinner). I continued to have insomnia … Then, I thought that maybe 4500 mg of MSM a day was just too much for me, so I reduced my intake to 3,000 mg a day (one pill before breakfast and one pill before lunch) … When my symptoms persisted, I opted to only take one 1500 mg MSM pill a day. Still no luck!

Needless to say, after countless severe headaches and the agony of averaging only 4 hours of sleep a night for 3 months, I stopped taking MSM all-together. Why did it take me so long to give it up? I guess, I really was hoping all the increased hair growth claims were true. Sigh.

The problem is that there isn’t much published scientific research to support the use of MSM or to even provide a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). But, even if the claims of MSM‘s effectiveness need more proof, you might be tempted to take the supplement anyway. You know, just in case it might work for you. 

Safety First

Side Effects & Warnings

MSM MAY BE SAFE for most people when taken orally or topically. However, some studies suggest that consumption should be limited to a maximum of 12 weeks. There is also not enough information available concerning the safety of MSM and its use in nose drops, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding. Possible side effects include:

  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Itching (or worsening of allergy symptoms)

MSM Warning

Also, keep in mind that the quality of MSM can differ dramatically from brand to brand. Depending on the manufacturer, some inferior MSM supplements can contain trace amounts of heavy metals (i.e., lead) or other contaminants (i.e., pesticides).

Even more importantly, there haven’t been any peer-reviewed studies conclusively linking MSM supplements to increased hair growth. The rationale is that (1) MSM regenerates and maintains healthy cells. (2) Hair, skin, and nails are made of cells. (3) So, MSM grows and maintains healthy hair, skin, and nails. While it is true that keratin (the main component of hair) does, indeed, have sulfur in it, most medical doctors who oppose the addition of MSM as a supplement believe that an ordinary diet is likely more than enough to provide all the sulfur our bodies need for hair growth.

Obviously, there’s a huge demand in the hair industry for a hair loss remedy (especially an over-the-counter remedy). Most people without hair (or who have experienced hair loss) want to grow their hair, and most people with hair want to grow more of it. In fact, according to The Washington Post, more than 3.5 billion dollars a year is spent on the treatment of hair loss. Although the American Hair Loss Association (AHLA)  readily acknowledges the emotional distress attached to hair loss, they warn that 99 percent of hair loss treatments, including MSM, DO NOT work.

MSM Cream

Waste Not, Want Not

So, what to do with all my leftover MSM? I made a MSM cream for my mom who has arthritis in all her joints. She experiences pretty severe pain on a daily basis. However, after about 4-6 weeks of using the cream, she noticed a significant reduction in her pain level. In addition, I used some of the MSM cream on a scar every day for a few weeks, and it healed the area so well that I can hardly tell where the scar is anymore.

Final Thoughts

I think MSM works well topically for skin repair and for the relief of chronic pain. Not so much internally (or for hair growth).

The bottom line? If you want to add it to your arsenal of vitamins and supplements, you probably can. Just be sure to consult with your doctor, check the ingredients on the label, and buy from a reputable company. While there is no scientific proof that MSM consumption is harmful, there is also no scientific proof that it specifically helps with hair growth. So, chances are, if you’re taking MSM and “see lots of hair growth,” you’re likely experiencing a placebo effect. Without more research, there’s just no way to know for sure.

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24 Comments

Filed under Hair Regimens, Hair Styles & Tips, Product Reviews

24 responses to “My MSM Migraine

  1. Elizabeth Towers

    By the way, I am a migraine sufferer and I wonder what the connection is…there does seem to be a connection between migraines and a problem taking MSM for some ppl.

    • I don’t know. Many people can take MSM without ANY ill effect. Unfortunately, for us, we fall into the group of people who get migraines as a side effect of taking MSM. Not fair! AT ALL. 😦

    • Tracie Watson

      Just happened to me too. I’ve used Trader Joe’s brand in the past, 1 or 2 1,000 mg pills a day. I thought it did help me grow back some hair. Trader Joes discontinued them and I recently started taking Doctor’s best MSM 1000 mg pills 3X a day. I got a crazy painful 3 day migraine I can’t attribute to anything else.

  2. John

    I tried MSM after hearing it was good for flexibility. I got terrible headaches. Since I rarely get headaches and the MSM was new in my routine (only a couple days of headaches), I stopped it for a day and had no headache that day. Then I tried it again, and again got a terrible headache. If you’re just starting MSM, be alert for this symptom. On the upside, I have more sympathy for folks who have regular headaches.

  3. Leo

    Thanks , I have this issue too, now I know the reason ! It’s MSM that I started a month ago. Although I started it for my stomach, it has this side effect of a lukewarm headache all day …

  4. Thanks for the post. After two days of taking MSM, I am migraining. I bought it trying to help heal a knee injury. I would be very interested in your MSM cream recipe. Perhaps applying it directly to my knee will help.

    • Krish:

      Here’s the recipe I came up with for MSM cream:

      1. Measure 7 tablespoons of whipped shea butter. Set aside. (I make this myself. It’s a combination of shea butter and other oils, but you could probably just use shea butter by itself that has been whipped. Cocoa butter or mango butter would likely work as well, too.)
      2. Place 3 rounded teaspoons of MSM powder (15g) in a small bowl. Add 2 TB of hot distilled water. Stir vigorously until the powder completely dissolves.
      3. Add the MSM liquid to the whipped shea butter. Stir until well-combined.
      4. Add ½ tsp of vitamin e oil. This extends the shelf life of the MSM cream. Mix well.
      5. Transfer to a 4 oz (100-120 ml) container.

      I made this for my mom who literally has arthritis in all the joints in her body. She said it really helped ease the excruciating joint pain she experiences 24-7. So, hopefully, it will work for you, too. When I was doing research on making MSM cream, I noticed that most people use lotions or pre-made body creams as a base. While this would probably make the process easier, I wanted to use all-natural ingredients. But, it’s up to you, what you have on hand, and how involved you’re willing to get. Hope this helps!

      Take care.

  5. Mary

    I started taking msm for my joints about a year ago it works very well. People started commenting on my hair, your growing it long, looks good etc. so I googled msm and hair and thats how I discovered people take it for hair growth! It works for me. I say its worth a try for anyone.

    • Yes, for many it works and works well. I just apparently am one of the few people who have an extreme sensitivity to it. I made some MSM cream for my mom (who has arthritis in all her joints), and she said it works wonders! So, it is definitely amazingly for that. I just personally experienced horrible side effects from taking MSM internally. So, it’s important to be aware of the side effects even though they don’t affect most who use the supplement. But, absolutely, people should give it a try, especially since it seems to work for most. I wish it worked for me (in terms of hair growth)! 😦

      • Elizabeth Towers

        Hi, it works well for growing my hair, making it stronger and my fingernails are strong and long, my injured knee feels better, etc., when I take MSM. However, it gives me massive frontal lobe pain. I was taking 1500mg to start but when I realized it was MSM causing the headaches, I stopped taking it. Several months later, I decided to start out with a small dose each morning, 375mg..(I cut my pills into 1/4) but when I began taking 1/2 of the pill each morning … WHAM! Major headache, frontal lobe …

      • Yes, the pain for me was excruciating. I had to stop taking it.

  6. JaneC

    MSM is good stuff. I have taken MRM Brand MSM crystals and natural balance Pure MSM powder and capsules which seemed to have aided in hair growth, less to no joint pain, lighter periods (granted I also took multivitamin and Solaray Bamboo Extract and cod/fish oil) & worked in a warehouse so constantly moving 🙂 just wanted to say some people can take MSM and some can’t. Initially I also had a few headaches the first week. All one can do is try or not lol Be sure to drink lots of water while taking and take small doses to start. Say 500mg the first week. 1,000 mg the second week etc. Happy supplementing and Holidays. Healing & blessings to you & yours..

    • Yes, I am definitely one of those people who just can’t take it. I’ve talked to others in the hair community who swear by it, but it definitely does NOT agree with me! But, I am glad it works for you! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Have a wonderful holiday season. 😉

  7. I started taking MSM, and the relief was amazing. My muscles and joints felt well again. I was suffering from tendinitis very badly from overworked muscles. I started getting headaches very badly, and I never have them. Then, I was awake at 4 am to 6 am, not being able to sleep. I stopped taking MSM and finally, after 3 days, the headaches are gone, and I am sleeping through the night again. But, sadly, the pain is back. Do I dare to try pure MSM? I would for the pain relief, but as soon as I have the first sign of a headache I am discarding them.

    Kathleen

    BTW my nails are amazing!

    • Yes, some people can take MSM no problem, but not me! I had horrible insomnia for months! Now, I did find out that while I can’t take it internally, I can use it topically without any side effects. Try buying an MSM cream (or make your own)! I made some MSM cream for my mom who has arthritis, and she said it works wonders!

  8. This is scaring me … I don’t want to get migraines again. I thank you for the information.

    • Well, some people can take MSM with zero effects. But, I just wanted to remind people that some who use it may experience severe side effects like I did. Yes, the migraines I experienced were excruciating. I was barely functional. So, I haven’t taken MSM since!

  9. Jack

    Proper stuff made right and not in your local store, but does just what it is supposed to. Might cost more, but it is 100% pure. Sounds like what you were taking had contaminants, so you were doing more harm than good. If you take the right stuff, it will do all that it claims, and there are no ill effects, no matter how much you take. I have nothing to do with http://www.organicsulfur-msm.ca, but I’ll tell you what, until I can find the exact same stuff processed the exact same way cheaper, I’m their customer.

    • Actually the reason I purchased the brand I did was because it was “OptiMSM.” This means that the MSM is not supposed to contain ANY impurities due to a more intensive distillation process. There are certainly more expensive brands on the market. I think I just might be one of those few people who may be sensitive to MSM. Or, maybe the brand I purchased was just inferior. I don’t really know …

      Either way, I’m not sure I am willing to take a chance to see if I am not! Countless months of insomnia and migraines are not worth the risk for me to find out for certain! Thanks for the info., though … I’ll let you know if ever I am ready to take the leap!

    • Michalle Hammond

      I was told by a nurse to buy it at the local feed store. They sell it by the bag (for horses) and it is pure and much cheaper. Just mix with liquid.

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