The Lowdown on Sulfur
Sulfur is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. In fact is actually the third most common when based on the percentage of overall body weight. Nearly half of the body’s sulfur supplies are found in the skin, muscles and bones but it plays a vital role in countless bodily functions.
Proteins need sulfur bonds in order to keep their structural shape and the bonds are responsible for the precise biological activities of these proteins. For example, your nails and hair are made up of a protein known as keratin which has a high content of sulfur. On the other hand, your connective tissues and cartilage are made up of proteins with a more flexible sulfur bond.
As we inevitably age, the body’s flexible tissues lose much if their elasticity resulting in common age related issues like wrinkles, sagging skin, loose muscles and joint pains. This implies that insufficient sulfur may contribute towards the effects of aging.
Sulfur is vital when it comes to the biological activities and structure of enzymes. Insufficient levels of sulfur means that your enzymes can not function effectively. This can result in an array of health disorders since the body’s metabolic processes depend heavily on active enzymes.
Other Uses of Sulfur in the Body
As well as its role in protein and enzyme function, sulfur plays a number of other critical roles in human health including the following:
- Proper function of insulin
- The conversion of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B7 (biotin)
- Synthesis of certain metabolic intermediaries such as glutathione, SAMe and N-acetylcysteine
- The metabolism of glucose
How to Increase your Sulfur Intake
A number of foods especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage are extremely high in sulfur. If you need to increase your sulfur intake, consider adding more of the following foods to your diet…
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts are a great source of sulfur.
- Member of the allium family like garlic, leeks, onions and shallots.
- Vegetables with edible stems like celery, asparagus and fennel.
- Animal products rich in protein like grass fed cattle, wild fish, free range chicken and egg yolks.
- Certain nuts including almonds, walnuts and cashew nuts.
- Seeds like sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.
- Dairy produce like cheese, milk, yogurt and sour cream.
- Certain fruit including coconut, pineapple, watermelon and bananas are also good sources of sulfur.
Although sulfur can be found in various types of food, it does not necessarily mean that you will be getting the requisite amount from your meals. Unfortunately, the soil in which our food grows has been demineralized leaving a shortfall of various minerals including sulfur.
One great way to make sure that you are getting an adequate amount of sulfur into your diet is by preparing a healthy bone broth. Simply cook down the bones from grass fed animals or free range poultry and make a nutritious broth. The animal’s tissues are very rich in sulfur; if you cook down the bones very slowly, the nutrients like sulfur will be dissolved from the bones. You can use the broth to make soups or stews or simply drink it down.
You can also obtain sulfur from two supplements – DMSO and MSM.
Dimethyl Sulfoxide : DMSO is mainly used to treat animals by veterinarians. Research has demonstrated that at least in animals, DMSO can help support the health of the soft tissues and help to heal soft tissues following injury.
The FDA has approved the use of DMSO for treating interstitial cystitis. It is also found in certain oral supplements and topical creams. However, it is not considered completely safe and might contain impurities.
Methylsulfonylmethane : MSM is considered to be a much safer option with no known interactions with other medications. Its main benefits are its effects on inflammation.
The main benefits of MSM is its ability to relieve inflammation. Around 15% of the DMSO in your body gets broken down into MSM which is around 35% sulfur. As well as donating sulfur, MSM also affects the metabolism of sulfur.
Health Benefits of Sulfur
1) For Arthritis
MSM is used widely to treat pain especially the pain suffered from arthritis. One study was conducted to analyze the effectiveness of the supplement on people with osteoarthritis in the knee. The results were impressive. The participants who were given 3 grams of MSM twice each day for a 12 week period experienced a significant reduction in pain and improvements in physical abilities compared to the placebo group. (1)
In another study, patients with osteoarthritis were given a combination of MSM and glucosamine. The researchers found that those who took this combination of supplements benefited greatly. After 12 weeks, patients experienced a reduction in pain and inflammation with the results indicating that a combination of supplements worked better than MSM taken alone. (2)
According to toxicity studies, MSM is very safe even when taken in high doses. Studies have demonstrated that an effective dose is between 1,5 and 6 grams daily.
2) Antioxidant Properties of Sulfur
One of sulfur’s major health benefits is that it has excellent antioxidant effects. Antioxidants are vital to combat the damage done to the human body by environmental free radicals. It is believed to act as a potent antioxidant because it helps to encourage the body’s production of a substance called glutathione known to be a very important antioxidant with numerous beneficial effects.
3) Sulfur’s Role in Amino Acid Production
Sulfur is a building block of amino acids. If your body had no sulfur, it would be unable to produce vital amino acids. These acids play a host of important roles in the body and are especially important in promoting muscle growth and strength.
4) For Bone Health
We have already mentioned that MSM, a popular sulfur supplement, is often taken to treat arthritis and rheumatism. Sulfur is believed to relieve support bone health and relieve joint pain because it helps the body process calcium more effectively.
5) For Healthy Skin and Hair
Getting enough sulfur into your system can also have a dramatic effect on your appearance and is sometimes referred to as the beauty mineral. It can help boost the body’s collagen production which is vital if you want healthy and beautiful skin. Sulfur also encourages the production of keratin, a protein vital for healthy hair and nails.
Unfortunately, as we get older, our bodies start to produce collagen in lower levels. This is one of the reasons that we we do not retain that youthful appearance and we start to develop those tell tale signs of aging like sagging skin and wrinkles. Not only is sulfur used to improve the skin’s appearance but it may also play a role in fighting many chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and dermatitis.
6) Alzheimer’s Disease and Autism
A sulfur deficiency may be one of the contributing factors in various illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease. According to research of minerals present in Alzheimer’s patients, sulfur is virtually nonexistent when compared with healthy individuals. It is possible that sulfur supplementation during the early stages of the disease can slow down the progression of the disease but more research is needed.
According to Dr. Roesmary Waring, studies have also demonstrated that children with an autism spectrum disorder are likely to be deficient in sulfur.. Dr. Warner found that children with autism often have as little as 15% the amount of sulfur in their systems as a child with a normal neurological profile.