Reader says, “I can’t take your product because my Doctor said I have a sulfur allergy that causes inflammation and digestive disorders. Since that is the case, what foods should I avoid and which ones should I emphasize in my diet?”
I am not a licensed physician, so what I am providing here should not be interpreted as professional medical or dietary advice, but rather as supplemental information that you can use to educate yourself about your specific health situation.
The raw, elemental form of sulfur is a yellow-colored volatile mineral that readily bonds with dozens of elements to form other compounds that can be classified as either inorganic or organic. Sulfa drugs or sulfites (typically added to wine, dried and canned fruits and vegetables, condiments, and jerky products) are inorganic forms of sulfur that can trigger an inflammatory response or allergic reaction in some individuals.
On the other hand, Organic Sulfur is an organic form of methylsulfonylmethane, which is often abbreviated on the Internet as MSM. Methylsulfonylmethane is known by its scientific formula of (CH3)2SO2. The CH3 molecule represents a common structural group of organic compounds known as a methyl group that consists of one carbon atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms. These methyl groups participate in the natural detoxification process of methylation, where they add or remove themselves from proteins or nucleic acids in order to provide healthy gene expressions. When Organic Sulfur reacts and bonds with toxins, it converts them into their sulfated forms that can then be eliminated from the body via the bowels.
As noted in a National Library of Medicine abstract entitled, “Sulfur Metabolism,” sulfur is an essential nutrient for all organisms including plants. Methionine, cysteine, homocysteine, and taurine are the 4 common sulfur-containing amino acids, but only the first 2 are incorporated into proteins (Brosnan JT1, Brosnan ME., PubMed, June 2006).
In addition, A LiveStrong report posted on Oct 3, 2017 included the following information about the importance of vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B7 (biotin) — two vitamins that contain sulfur:
Thiamine is an important part of your daily diet because it is needed to process fats, carbohydrates and protein. The vitamin converts carbohydrates to energy and helps you maintain a normal metabolism. It is essential for skin, hair and nail health. Thiamine deficiency can result in a loss of hair and can cause nerve damage, fatigue and weakness. Severe thiamine deficiency can also lead to brain damage.
Biotin is needed for glucose and fatty acid formation, which fuels the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, biotin deficiency is rare but if it happens, it could lead to heart problems, skin rash and loss of hair. Biotin can be found in salmon, cereal, carrots and cauliflower.
On July 18, 2017, LIveStrong published Caroline Thompson’s report entitled, “A List of Low Sulfur Foods” where the author states that sulfur in foods and inorganic sulfates may aggravate ulcerative colitis, a chronic colon condition. You will note that her warning about sulfates referred to inorganic, not organic compounds.
In addition, Mark J. Donohue wrote a report in the form of a PDF document entitled, “Sulfur and Sulfur Compounds in the Environment – Part 1” where he noted that sulfur may be improperly metabolized in the body due to the lack of essential enzymes, genetics, or nutritional deficiencies:
Once in the human body sulfur and sulfur compounds must be metabolized and detoxified properly. Poor metabolism and detoxification can occur due to a variety of reasons such as: nutritional deficiencies, lack of appropriate enzymatic activity, heavy metal toxicity, viral or bacterial infections and genetic defects. The inability of the body to properly metabolize and detoxify sulfur and sulfur compounds results in the buildup of excitotoxic and neurotoxic compounds.
Well-known sulfur foods include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, bok choi, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, garlic, onions, rutabaga, radish, turnips, and watercress. Other sulfur foods include egg yolks, meats (including beef, chicken, and fish), some legumes and nuts, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and sour cream.
Low Sulfur Foods
Vegetables: Squash, artichokes, eggplant, beets, celery, sweet corn, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, lettuce, and cucumbers.
Fruits: Most fruits, melons, figs, and dates.
Carbohydrates: Potatoes (including sweet potatoes), yams, bulgur wheat, barley, oats, rice, and semolina.
Spices and seasonings: Brown sugar, honey, butter, and cinnamon. Also, fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, and rosemary.
Thomas Leustek | Arabidopsis Book. 2002; 1: e0017
U.S. National Library of Medicine
List of Foods with Sulfites
by Jessica Benzaquen
List of Foods that Contain Sulfur
by Abigail Adams | LiveWell
A List of Low Sulfur Foods
by Caroline Thompson | LiveStrong
July 18, 2017
Sulfur-free at last!
Apr 22, 2013
Why Foods High in Sulfur Can Be Unhealthy
By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH
Sulfur and Sulfur Compounds in the Environment: Sulfur Part I
by Mark J. Donohue