Sulfer – Little Known Mineral

sulfurA very important mineral that is mostly overlooked as being essential is the mineral sulfur. Despite the body’s abundance of this mineral, it has not been well studied. Many of the sulfur bearing compounds, such as cysteine and methionine amino acids, have had more attention. This article will focus on how sulfur works in the body and the health conditions that can be improved with the use of sulfur bearing foods and nutrients.

Sulfur represents about .025 percent of our total body weight. It is mainly contained in proteins but is also distributed in all cells and tissues. Sulfur is present in four amino acids: methionine, an essential amino acid, the non essential cystine and cysteine, which can be made from methionine and taurine that is part of bile and aids digestion. Sulfur is also present in two B vitamins, thiamin, and biotin both of which are components of hair, skin and nails.

Sulfur is absorbed in the small intestines from the amino acids mentioned above and from sulfates found in water, fruits, and vegetables. It is readily available in protein foods: meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and legumes. Egg yolks are one of the best sources as well as blackstrap molasses. Onions, garlic, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and turnips contain sulfur as well as kale, kelp, and other seaweeds.

Let’s look at some of the functions of sulfur, but let’s not get confused. Many people ask if they can take sulfur if they have an allergy to sulfa medications. For clarity’s sake:

  • Sulfa drugs are used for wound healing and to fight some infections.
  • Sulfites are used as preservatives.
  • Sulfates are used as preservatives in meats

Natural sulfur is a mineral, and it doses not cause an allergic reaction. It is considered nutritional. Sulfur performs a number of enzymatic reactions and is involved in protein synthesis. It is necessary for the formation of collagen, the connective tissue protein. It is present in keratin which is a protein necessary for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Sulfur as cysteine and methionine work with insulin to regulate carbohydrate metabolism, aid liver detox processes by helping glutathione production, and work with gags (glucos-amino-glycans) to help with the joint health by building the joint lining. Sulfur is also important for cellular respiration. It is needed in oxidation-reduction reactions that help cells use oxygen, which aids brain function.

The use of sulfur has been used for numerous disorders. Elemental forms were prevalent during the nineteenth century, but in the twentieth sulfur containing amino acids have been the preference. It has been used for skin conditions such as, eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. The amino acid taurine has been used in epilepsy treatment. A new form of organic sulfur is now being recommended, MSM (methysulphonylmethane). MSM is a metabolite of a compound better known as DMSO (dimethylsulfoxide). It has a long history of use topically on horses to reduce inflammation in joint and injured areas. Both MSM and DMSO occur naturally in our environment, but the MSM you purchase is a white odorless crystalline powder. It may have a slightly bitter taste.

MSM allows cells to be more permeable resulting in the free flow of excess water and toxins to be removed. In a recent report by the New York Academy of Science, doses of 250-750 mg/day given at their clinic has shown effective results in problems of inflammation, allergies, hyperacidity and chronic constipation. In another study done at Oregon Health Science University, Dr. Stanley Jacob studied the effects of MSM on his patients with degenerative rheumatoid arthritis disc problems, acute and chronic injuries and states, “MSM is a life-enhancing agent, an important adjunct that gave long lasting relief”. And yet in a study by Dr. Herschler at Reagan State Science University, clinical data supports the use of MSM for relief of pain, swelling and inflammation. One interesting side effect was that it improved wrinkles and other age related syndromes.

MSM is considered safe and non-toxic. There is no specific RDA for sulfur or sulfur bearing amino acids. Our needs are usually met through diet, but if certain conditions are present, supplementation is recommended. Dr. Earl Mindell recommends 2,000 mg to 6,000 m daily for therapeutic application.

The most cost effective form is the powder, and 1/4 tsp. is equivalent to 1000 mg. Basically take a teaspoon per day.

It is important to research this for yourself or consult with your health care professional when considering this for therapeutic applications.

A good book on the subject is The MSM Miracle by Dr. Earl Mindell, Keats Publishing.

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