A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
The trace mineral sulfur is one of the major components in the biochemical structure of the amino acids cysteine, methionine, taurine and glutathione. There are other physiological actions performed by the mineral sulfur in the human body, the presence of sulfur aids in the treatment of poisoning from aluminum, cadmium, mercury and lead. Vitamins like biotin and B1 also contain sulfur as a major component in their structures. The major oxidation and reduction reactions in the human body also require the presence of sulfur. Sulfur also aids in the secretion of bile from the liver as well as helping in general metabolism and energy generation. As sulfur protects the cellular structures from the effects of toxic substance, it may actually enhance the life span. The mineral may also help in bringing about a reduction in the physical symptoms of arthritis. A lot of natural sources for sulfur exist and these can be consumed to increase the intake of the mineral. The best sources for dietary sulfur are foods like dried beans, eggs, fish and meats like lean beef, poultry, garlic, milk and wheat germ. Supplemental sulfur must be stored away from direct light in a cool and dry place.
The synthesis of many types of proteins in the body require sulfur to be present, these including proteins that are found primarily in the hair, the muscle tissues and the skin - these fibrous proteins are made from sulfur rich amino acids. As sulfur is needed for the production of bile acids, it makes a significant contribution to the digestion of fats and is important in their absorption from the digested food. The mineral sulfur also forms an essential constituent of hard structures in the body like the bones, the teeth and the main protein component of connective tissues - collagen. Sulfur is also a major component of the hormone insulin and is required for the regulation of blood sugar levels. The compound known as methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is claimed to be capable of treating a wide variety of disorders - this compound contains sulfur and many claims about the beneficial effects of this compound exists in the literature. As far as is known, clinical research published in medical journals has not substantiated even a single one of these claims till date.
The highest amounts of dietary sulfur are found as a part of certain sulfur containing amino acids in all types of protein rich foods. Sulfur rich foods include meats - especially the organ meats, poultry and eggs, fish, beans and other legumes, as well as different dairy products. These foods are all good sources for proteins that are made primarily from sulfur containing amino acids. The mineral sulfur may also be partly responsible for the health benefits associated with garlic and onions as it is found in high amounts in these foods sources. It is also easier for the body to absorb and use sulfur in its organic forms, as it is present in certain amino acids or as a part of the compound MSM. Sulfur containing MSM supplements are available in the market and these can be used as supplements by anyone.
There are no documented cases of sulfur deficiencies, while a diet deficient in major proteins could theoretically cause the development of a sulfur deficiency in the person. While far from being proven as a fact, the presence of very low levels of cystine and as a result - sulfur in people with arthritis, these reports were made many years ago and are not conclusive.
The unadulterated variety of sulfur contains several allotropes. In fact, allotropic constituents are found in many wholesome compositions. For instance, carbon is a familiar allotrope that is found as coal as well as diamond. Nearly all sulfur allotropes have a crystalline structure, while one of them has a physical appearance that is more akin to plastic. The most familiar sulfur allotropes are yellow-hued, crystalline odorless variety that also happens to be fragile. In fact, we are familiar with the rotten egg, pungent smell of sulfur, which is basically a hazardous sulfur compound called hydrogen sulfide. So people are generally surprised when they come to know that sulfur does not have any odor.
Sulfur is a tremendously reactive element that is employed in several applications, especially in manufacturing prescription drugs, insecticides and even gunpowder. The role of sulfur in the vulcanization procedure used to manufacture rubber, while it forms the base for many extensively used compounds, such as sulfuric acid. Sulfur is naturally found in the form of compounds, such as cinnabar and galena. In addition, this element may also be found in unpolluted reserves in the nature, particularly in the region of mineral springs and volcanoes.
Normally, handling sulfur is safe and harmless. However, this cannot be said about some sulfur compounds, which are really hazardous. As a number of sulfur compounds are very toxic, you need to be cautious always and follow the mandatory precautions regarding dealing with chemicals, such as sulfur dioxide.
Although scientists are yet to document dearth of sulfur in our body, theoretically speaking, any deficiency of protein in diet may result in shortage of sulfur.
Since the ancient periods, people have been using sulfur, especially sulfur water, for medicinal purposes. In fact, the ancient Romans bathed in sulfur springs to cure acne as well as other skin problems. Even today, acne products based on sulfur are available and washing your face with it will help to clear the skin pores and put off flare-ups. It has been found that sulfur water possesses keratolytic attributes that work to shred as well as get rid of the dead cells of our skin, which may otherwise block the pores and result in comedones or blackheads that lead to acne.
It is possible to have a therapeutic bath that will help in appeasing tender joints due to arthritis by adding sulfur to your bath water. It may be noted that taking sulfur baths is extremely useful for people with arthritis, as they generally have a deficiency of sulfur in their cartilage cells as well as the synovial fluid - which acts as a shock absorber for the joints. To use sulfur safely as well as effectively, you should mix potassium sulphate roughly in the measure of one to two ounces with 25 gallon of bath water in a tub. Ensure that the temperature of the water remains in the range of 90°F to 102°F. Get into the water slowly and remain immersed in it for about 10 minutes to 15 minutes.
A skin condition called melasma is attributed to excessive exposure to sunlight. One of the main symptoms of melasma is formation of brown specks on the face. While you may possibly try using sulfur water to cure this symptom, sill there is a need for more scientific proof to establish the efficacy of sulfur water in treating this skin condition. If sulfur is used internally, it helps to make the skin throughout the body softer. Besides lessening the melasma symptoms, sulfur water may possibly also help to decrease the prominence of scars formed on the face and also enhance the skin’s health on the whole.
In addition sulfur compounds are said to possess anti-cancer attributes and, hence, consuming foods containing these compounds help us to avoid as well as combat cancer. For instance, garlic encloses a number of anti-carcinogenic elements, including diallyl trisulphide, diallyl disulphide and S-allyl cysteine, which work to slow down the metabolism of tumour cells and, at the same time, augment the immune reaction. In fact, the entire allyl sulphides improve the glutathione S-transferase enzyme structures that facilitate in flushing out carcinogens from the liver. In addition, bromelain, a sulfur-rich proteolytic enzyme which is found in pineapple, is said to possess anti-cancer properties. Currently, scientists are examining this substance for its potential use in the form of an anti-carcinogenic remedy for humans.
Our body contains a number of amino acids that enclose sulfur and methionine and cysteine are two among them. These two sulfur-rich amino acids also possess potent antioxidant attributes and are effective in restricting the body’s tendency to take up heavy metals like lead, which has the aptitude to damage the skin. In effect, the amino acid cysteine is a vital element of glutathione. It may be noted that glutathione is especially important, as it is a major antioxidant that is dissolved in water and works within the cells.
There are no recommended intake levels for dietary sulfur. The majority of diets in the West provide sufficient sulfur; this is not surprising as most western diets are quite high in proteins.