(S) is a nonmetallic element that is found mainly as part of larger
Sulfur represents about 0.25 percent of our total body weight, similar
to potassium. The body contains approximately 140 grams of sulfur-mainly
in the proteins, although it is distributed in small amounts in all cells
and tissues. Sulfur has a characteristic odor that can be smelled when
hair or sheep's wool is burned. Keratin, present in the skin, hair, and
nails, is particularly high in the amino acid cystine, which is found in
sulfur. The sulfur-sulfur bond in keratin gives it greater strength.
Sulfur is present in four amino acids: methionine, an essential amino
acid; the nonessential cystine and cysteine, which can be made from
methionine; and taurine, which is not part of body tissues but does help
produce bile acid for digestion. Sulfur is also present in two B vitamins,
thiamine and biotin; interestingly, thiamine is important to skin and
biotin to hair. Sulfur is also available as various sulfates or sulfides.
But overall, sulfur is most important as part of protein.
Sulfur - occurs also as
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). MSM
has been helpful in allowing doctors to be able to lower the dosage of
medication that they prescribe for pain relief. In some instances they
were able to completely discontinue the medication previously prescribed.
MSM supplies biologically active sulfur as a nutritional
As part of four amino acids, sulfur performs a number of functions in
enzyme reactions and protein synthesis. It is necessary for formation of
collagen, the protein found in connective tissue in our bodies.
Sulfur is also present in keratin, which is necessary for the
maintenance of the skin, hair, and nails, helping to give strength, shape,
and hardness to these protein tissues. Sulfur is also present in the fur
and feathers of other animals. The cystine in hair gives off the sulfur
smell when it is burned. Sulfur, as cystine and methionine, is part of
other important body chemicals: insulin, which helps regulate carbohydrate
metabolism, and heparin, an anticoagulant. Taurine is found in bile acids,
used in digestion. The sulfur-containing amino acids help form other
substances as well, such as biotin, coenzyme A, lipoic acid, and
glutathione. The mucopoly-saccharides may contain chondroitin sulfate,
which is important to joint tissues.
Sulfur is important to cellular respiration, as it is needed in the
oxidation-reduction reactions that help the cells utilize oxygen, which
aids brain function and all cell activity. These reactions are dependent
on cysteine, which also helps the liver produce bile secretions and
eliminate other toxins. L-cysteine is thought to generally help body
detoxification mechanisms through the tripeptide compound, glutathione.
Deficiency and toxicity: There is minimal reason for
concern about either toxicity or deficiency of sulfur in the body. No
clearly defined symptoms exist with either state. Sulfur deficiency is
more common when foods are grown in sulfur-depleted soil, with low-protein
diets, or with a lack of intestinal bacteria, though none of these seems
to cause any problems in regard to sulfur functions and metabolism.
Diet recommendations: There is no specific RDA for
sulfur other than the amino acids of which they are part are needed to
meet protein requirements. Our needs are usually easily met through diet.
About 850 mg. are thought to be needed for basic turnover of sulfur in the
body. There is not much information available on sulfur content of foods,
nor are there supplements specifically for sulfur.
Food Sources: As part of four
sulfur is readily available in protein foods-meats, fish, poultry,
eggs, milk, and legumes are all good sources. Egg yolks are one of the
better sources of sulfur. Other foods that contain this somewhat smelly
mineral are onions, garlic, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and turnips. Nuts
have some, as do kale, lettuce, kelp and other seaweed, and raspberries.
Complete vegetarians (those who eat no eggs or milk) and people on
low-protein diets may not get sufficient amounts of sulfur; the resulting
sulfur deficiency is difficult to differentiate clinically from protein
deficiency, which is of much greater concern.
Recent research: Clinical experience
has shown that
MSM provides major pain relief through the following actions:
- The inhibition of pain impulses along
- Lessening of inflammation
- Increasing of blood supply
- Reduction of muscle spasm
- Softening of scar tissue