Sulfur is the third topmost mineral in your body (15). It is found in your brain, bones, hair, muscles, and skin and plays a vital role in hundreds of physiological processes.
Sulfur doesn’t get the attention of other minerals and vitamins like magnesium which can help relieve muscle cramps and improve your sleep, calcium which helps support strong teeth and bones, iodine which helps with thyroid problems, or vitamin C which can help minimize and lessen cold symptoms. Perhaps because the benefits of sulfur are more subtle. So what role does sulfur have in the body? Let’s take a look. (1, 2)
The Role of Sulfur in the body
While sulfur’s roles are far too numerous to list here, we can highlight a few of them. With this mineral present in every cell of the body, you know it plays a key role in numerous body functions.
Sulfur is required for the biological activity of enzymes, without enough sulfur, enzymes simply cannot function as efficiently.
Sulfur binds two chains of amino acids that form insulin, which is needed for blood sugar regulation.
Sulfur is needed for the synthesis of taurine in your body. Taurine is critical for the proper functioning of the cardiovascular system, the central nervous system, and muscle function.
Sulfur helps to convert B1 (thiamine) and B7 (biotin), which converts carbohydrates into energy for your body. (3)
Benefits of Sulfur
Whether you consume sulfur through the foods you eat or supplements, you may be surprised to learn of its many health benefits.
Glutathione production– Sulfur is a necessity for the synthesis of glutathione, an antioxidant that is also needed for detoxification.
Supports Detoxification– Sulfur is one of the bodies more important antioxidants, as low glutathione levels are linked to low immunity, toxicity build up, chronic and degenerative disease. (4, 5)
Reduces chronic pain–Due to mineral poor soils, it can be difficult to obtain adequate sulfur levels, so for many people, sulfur supplementation is a more realistic option. MSM, an organic form of supplemental sulfur can be used to help with joint pain and osteoarthritis. (6, 7)
Joint Health– Dietary sulfur is needed for the formation of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), vital components of cartilage. In a clinical trial test of MSM supplements taken over 12 weeks in combination with glucosamine resulted in improvements in pain, swelling, and joint mobility. This is a superb option for natural treatment for arthritis. (1, 6, 8)
Support skin, hair, nail health– Sulfur is an important factor in the production of collagen and keratin. Both are necessary for healthy hair, skin, and nails. (9)
Skin problems- MSM cream with silymarin used in this study helped to lower inflammation which contributes to rosacea, skin discoloration, allergies, and slow wound healing. (10)
Cancer prevention-Cruciferous and allium foods have long been known for their cancer-fighting properties.
Cruciferous Vegetables-Cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy, kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower contain sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinols (I3Cs). Sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinols are two potent cancer fighters. These help to detoxify the body and help precancerous cells from developing. In studies conducted by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer, cruciferous veggies were most protective against mouth, esophagus and stomach cancers. (11)
Garlic-The sulfur compounds that give garlic its strong odor aid the body in preventing cancer-causing substances from forming in your body, speed up DNA repair and kill cancer cells. The sulfur in this group of foods facilitates the death of prostate, colon, breast, and lung cancer cells. (12)
Where to find Sulfur
Sulfur-rich veggies such as:
Alliums-Chives, garlic, leeks, onions, shallots
Animal foods-Bone broth protein, eggs, grass-fed beef, wild caught fish
Cruciferous –Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, radishes
Greens-Arugula, collard greens, watercress
Nuts-Sesame, cashew, peanut, pine nut, pistachio, walnut, almond, macadamia (13)
Stalks and Stems-Asparagus, celery, and fennel
In addition to food options, there are also supplements that contain sulfur. They include MSM, NAC, ALA, Garlic, Glutathione, Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
Looking for some delicious recipes to get you started?
Sulfur is important for every cell in your body. It plays an important role in detoxification, cardiovascular and mitochondrial health, proper insulin function and vitamin conversion.
Sulfur can be obtained through numerous foods such as leafy greens, nuts, foods from the allium and cruciferous family, as well as eggs, grass-fed beef, and wild caught fish.
Sulfur can also be obtained through supplements such as MSM, NAC, ALA, Garlic, Glutathione, Glucosamine and Chondroitin. (14)
- Nimni, M., Han, B. and Cordoba, F. (2018). Are we getting enough sulfur in our diet?. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2198910/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- CA, S. (2018). Sulfonation and molecular action. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12372849 [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Harris Ripps, W. (2018). Review: Taurine: A “very essential” amino acid. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3501277/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Lang CA, e. (2018). Blood glutathione decreases in chronic diseases. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10811055 [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- S M Cohen, L. (2018). Low glutathione reductase and peroxidase activity in age-related macular degeneration.. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC504938/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Anon, (2018). Meta-Analysis of the Related Nutritional Supplements Dimethyl Sulfoxide and Methylsulfonylmethane in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135791/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Frank, K., Patel, K., Lopez, G. and Willis, B. (2018). Methylsulfonylmethane Research Analysis. [online] Examine.com. Available at: https://examine.com/supplements/methylsulfonylmethane/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- MU, U. (2018). Randomised, Double-Blind, Parallel, Placebo-Controlled Study of Oral Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and their Combination in Osteoarthritis. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17516722 [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Butawan, M., Benjamin, R. and Bloomer, R. (2018). Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and Safety of a Novel Dietary Supplement. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5372953/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Berardesca E, e. (2018). Combined effects of silymarin and methylsulfonylmethane in the management of rosacea: clinical and instrumental evaluation. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18254805 [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Higdon, J., Delage, B., Williams, D. and Dashwood, R. (2018). Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic Evidence and Mechanistic Basis. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2737735/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Omar, S. and Al-Wabel, N. (2018). Organosulfur compounds and possible mechanism of garlic in cancer. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731019/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Wholefoodcatalog.info. (2018). Nuts and Seeds High in Sulfur containing amino acids | Whole Food Catalog. [online] Available at: https://wholefoodcatalog.info/nutrient/sulfur_containing_amino_acids/nuts_and_seeds/high/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- McFarland, E. (2018). 10 Important Health Benefits of MSM – My Health Maven. [online] My Health Maven. Available at: http://myhealthmaven.com/10-important-health-benefits-msm/ [Accessed 21 Dec. 2018].
- Nimni, M. E., Han, B., & Cordoba, F. (2007). Are we getting enough sulfur in our diet? Nutrition & Metabolism. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-4-24. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2198910/
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