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Sulfur

Sulfur is a mineral naturally occurring near hot springs and volcanic craters. The "rotten egg" smell of sulfur mineral baths is caused by sulfur dioxide gas escaping into the air. Sulfur has been used medicinally since ancient times, and it is contained in every cell in your body. It is a component of three different amino acids (the building blocks that make up protein). Approximately 0.25 percent of your total body weight is sulfur. It is most concentrated in keratin, which gives you strong hair, nails, and skin. It is known as "nature's beauty mineral" because your body needs it to manufacture collagen, which keeps your skin elastic and young-looking.

Sulfur is used primarily to ease the red, itchy rashes of conditions such as eczema and diaper rash. It also helps to protect your body against toxins in the environment. In addition, people with arthritis may find pain relief from taking a soothing bath in hot sulfur springs.

Uses

 

bulletUsed primarily to treat the red, itchy discomfort of eczema, diaper rash, dry scalp, hemorrhoids, and similar conditions
bulletSulfur baths can help relieve arthritis pain.
bulletIn recent years, the benefits of garlic have been widely studied. Research suggests that the beneficial effects of garlic in lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure are likely due to the sulfur it contains.
bulletNecessary for the body to make collagen—the substance in your skin that keeps it elastic, young-looking, and wrinkle-free.
bulletAids in certain digestive disorders, especially acid reflux, indigestion made worse by milk, chronic diarrhea, and vomiting in the morning.
bulletCan help gynecological problems such as premenstrual syndrome and menopausal discomforts.

 

Dietary Sources

The elemental mineral form of sulfur is found in rocks near hot springs and volcanos. The form your body uses is found in protein-rich foods such as meat, organ meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cooked dried beans and peas, and milk and milk products. Other good sources include garlic, onions, brussels sprouts, asparagus, kale, and wheat germ.

Other Forms

To ease skin rashes, there are ointments, creams, lotions, or dusting powders containing sulfur as the active ingredient. If you suffer from arthritis, soaking in a natural sulfur bath (the kind usually found at hot springs) can greatly ease the pain in your joints. Talk to your health care provider to see if you might benefit from this type of therapy. Organic sulfur (the kind our body uses) is available in the form of MSM (metylsulfonylmethane).

Sulfur is also available as a dietary supplement in tablets and capsules. However, you most likely do not need to take extra sulfur. If you are eating a well-balanced diet that includes the recommended daily allowance of protein, you should get all the sulfur you need to maintain your body's daily functions. Any extra sulfur will be excreted in your urine. Follow the advice of your health care provider in taking sulfur as a supplement.

How to Take It

If you have arthritis, an oral dose of 500 mg to 1,000 mg per day may decrease symptoms. Consult your health care provider before taking sulfur supplements.

Precautions

Sulfur, by itself, is not toxic to our bodies. However, some people are highly allergic to relatives of sulfur such as sulfites and sulfa drugs. Sulfites are used as a food preservative and can trigger asthma and other allergic reactions in people who are sensitive. Sulfa drugs can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), skin rashes, high fever, headache, fatigue, and gastric problems. Tell your health care provider if you think you may be allergic to sulfur-containing substances.

Possible Interactions

No harmful drug interactions have been reported.

Supporting Research

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Eades MD. The Doctor's Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. New York, NY: Dell Publishing; 1994.

Haas EM. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkeley, Calif: Celestial Arts; 1992.

Lockie A. Geddes N. The Complete Guide to Homeopathy. New York, NY: DK Publishing; 1995.

Lester MR. Sulfite sensitivity: significance in human health. J Am Coll Nutr. 1995;14(3):229-32.

Mahan LK, Arlin MT. Krause's Food, Nutrition and Diet Therapy. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Company (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc.); 1992.

Martensson J. The effect of fasting on leucocyte and plasma glutathione and sulfur amino acid concentrations. Metabolism. 1986;35:118–121.

Midell E, Hopkins V. Prescription Alternatives. New Canaan, Conn: Keats Publishing; 1998.

The Mineral Connection website. MSM, Biologicial Sulfur supplements. Accessed at www.mineralconnection.com/msm.htm on March 5, 1999.

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