Sulphur is found all around us, including in the soil that we grow our food in. It is part of every living tissue and is contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine, found in protein molecules. By weight, sulphur is one of the most abundant mineral elements in the human body, with the body containing around 140 grams of sulphur for the average person.
Health benefits of sulphur
Your body uses sulphur for various important functions:
- Building and repairing DNA
- Regulating gene expression
- Protecting your cells against damage
- Making protein
- Maintaining the integrity of connective tissues like tendons, ligaments and skin
- Synthesising taurine - taurine is essential for proper functioning of our cardiovascular system, muscles, and our central nervous system.
- Helping your body metabolise food
- Making and recycling glutathione — one of the body’s main endogenous antioxidants that helps reduce inflammation and prevent cell damage caused by oxidative stress
- Strengthening hair
- Helping with insulin formation (insulin is generally talked about in relation to health issues but is essential for the functioning of the body)
- Certain sulphur-rich foods, such as garlic and cruciferous vegetables, may also help protect against diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and age-related loss of brain function.
Some highly respected researchers—Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D. from MIT— believes that sulphur deficiency is quite common, partly due to the depletion of minerals in our soils. Joe Mercola, DO believes that sulphur deficiency may be a contributing factor in health problems from heart disease to chronic fatigue, and many researchers have questioned whether we get enough in our diet.
Foods that are high in sulphur include:
- Meat/poultry: beef, ham, chicken, duck, turkey, organ meats eg heart and liver
- Fish and seafood: most fish, scallops, shrimp, mussels, prawns
- Legumes: black beans, soybeans, kidney beans, split peas, white beans
- Brassicas – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and other brassicas
- Alliums – onions, shallots, garlic, leeks
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
- Eggs and dairy: eggs, cows milk, cheese - cheddar, parmesan, gorgonzola
- Dried fruit: especially peaches, apricots, sultanas, figs
- Some grains: especially pearl barley, oats, wheat, and the flours of these grains
- Certain beverages: particularly beer, cider, wine, coconut milk, grape and tomato juice
- Condiments and spices: especially horseradish, mustard, marmite, curry powder, ground ginger
While ensuring you consume enough sulphur via your diet is important for your health, too much sulphur in the diet may cause some side-effects for certain people:
- It may worsen the symptoms of those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
May help a specific type of sulphate-reducing bacteria grow in your gut. These bacteria release sulphide which may break down the gut barrier, causing damage and inflammation
However, not all sulphur-rich foods may have the same effect on the body. While a diet rich in sulphur-containing animal products and low in fibre may raise sulphate reducing bacteria levels, a diet rich in sulphur-containing vegetables may have the opposite effect. However, there are many factors that may influence the balance of gut bacteria beyond the sulphur content of the food.
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