Confused manReader says, “I’m confused. You mention on your website that sulfur is an essential mineral that we all need to stay healthy and detoxify, yet I’m allergic to sulfa drugs as well as the sulfites found in wines. Can you clarify your comments for me? Thanks!”

Many people are under the impression that because they are among the segment of the population who are allergic to sulfites or sulfa drugs (sulfonamides) that they would also be sensitive to organic sulfur and should, therefore, avoid this dietary supplement. In this regard, it is vitally important to distinguish between each of these compounds and their known effects on the body.

First of all, sulfites and sulfates are chemically unrelated to the sulfonamide group, which are synthetic compounds that have been developed to inhibit bacterial growth. In recent years, penicillin and other antimicrobials have been found to be more effective than sulfa drugs, except when treating urinary tract infections and certain fungal diseases.

Sulfites (SO3) are inorganic compounds commonly used in the food and wine industries as a mold inhibitor and preservative. The reason why a small percentage of people are allergic to sulfites is open to debate. Their allergic reactions may be due to the sulfur dioxide vapors that emanate from foods that have been preserved with sulfites.

On the other hand, organic sulfur (methylsulfonylmethane) is an organic compound derived from the paper and pulp industry that makes an essential mineral of life – sulfur – bioavailable to the body. This organic form of sulfur helps our bodies perform two vital functions: it transports oxygen to enable healthy cell regeneration, and it creates harmless sulfate (SO4) compounds out of the waste material that it finds. Our body, in turn, disposes of these sulfates through regular bowel movements.

For a technical overview about these sulfur compounds, click the link below to download an Adobe PDF document.

Allergies to Sulfur Compounds: The Confusion between Sulfates, Sulfites, and Sulfa Drugs
Published in June 2006 by Point Institute, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Sulfites, Sulfa Drugs and Organic Sulfur: What’s the Difference?
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