Sulfur

Sulfur

Sulfur

Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in our bodies. The first two are Calcium and Phosphorus. We get it almost exclusively from the protein we eat in our diet. Our bodies store about half of it in our hair, skin, nails, muscles and bones. Sulfur helps give our skin and connective tissues their flexibility, while at the same time helps make our nails hard. One of the reasons why our skin loses it elasticity as we age could be a lack of sulfur in our diet along with other compounds.

Sulfur helps support other vitamins and minerals by keeping them like vitamin B-1, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, copper and magnesium. It may even help support omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

 

Amino Acids and Proteins

Sulfur is a part of 4 of the 20 amino acids our bodies use to function. These amino acids are methionine and cystine. Sulfur allows proteins to maintain their shapes, which is very important since sulfur is needed to create these amino acids. It does this by forming links between sulfur atoms, creating a sulfur bridge. Even more important, sulfur helps proteins form properly. Proteins like neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes work like a lock and key, binding to places that are specifically designed for them. If a protein does not have the right shape, it can’t perform the function it was meant to. Sulfur is critical when it comes to protein structure. Some of these important proteins include insulin, which regulates our blood sugar, and keratin, which makes our hair and nails hard.

 

Glutathione

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that our body produces. It’s made up of the amino acids cystine, glutamic acid and glycine. Our bodies do not store the sulfur containing amino acid cystine. Rather, it combines cystine with glutamic acid and glycine to create glutathione. Therefore, glutathione is not only one of the most powerful antioxidants in our body but also one of the ways our body stores sulfur. There is certainly a link between the amount of sulfur you get from your diet and your glutathione levels.

 

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM is a compound that is an organic form of sulfur. It is a very effective anti inflammatory compound that’s naturally found in fruits, vegetables and other foods high in sulfur. What makes MSM so great is that it may help relieve joint pain from sports injuries, tendonitis and especially arthritis. It does this by oxidizing free radicals that have found their way into your joints. Raw grass-fed milk is the best source of MSM. It’s important to note that MSM is not a drug but a supplement. It is a natural form of sulfur that is non-toxic even at relatively high levels.

 

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How much Sulfur?

What’s interesting, and surprising, about the officially recommended amounts of sulfur is that there isn’t one. Sulfur does not have any established RDA’s from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. Sulfur is an important and critical mineral for the body especially as you get older. Studies show that as we get older the amount of sulfur in our body decreases. It’s not clear why this happens but it may have something to do with our diet since western diets tend to lack in foods high in sulfur. To help correct this, start to include foods in your diet that are high in sulfur.

 

Foods high in Sulfur

Sulfur is found in proteins that contain the amino acids methionine and cystine. So, aim for foods that are high in proteins. Many foods that are high in sulfur containing amino acids are usually from animal sources. However, there are other non-animal sources of protein that are high in methionine and cystine.

 

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Eggs

1 large egg contains a little more than 0.2 mg of sulfur. Most of this comes from methionine and cysteine. Eggs contain about 320 mg of methionine and cystine combined.

On a side note, 1 large egg contains over 800 mg of glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid needed to make glutathione and may help your body boost its production of glutathione. Eggs are high in cholesterol but fortunately much of it is the HDL variety, which is the healthier form of cholesterol as opposed to LDL cholesterol. Nevertheless, those with high cholesterol levels should limit the amount of eggs they eat per week to around 4 or 5 eggs.

 

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Beans

Beans of all kinds are wonderful sources of sulfur. Most of them contain anywhere from 300-700mg of methionine and cystine combined.  Some beans, like Soybeans, reaching upwards of  800mg of methionine and cystine combined per cup of cooked beans. Many beans also contain well over 2,000mg of glutamic acid.

 

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Spirulina

Spirulina is a wonderful source of protein. It has over four times more protein than eggs do. What’s great about Spirulina is that it is full of proteins that contain methionine and cystine. It contains just over 500 mg of these amino acids per ounce of Spirulina.

Just like eggs, Spirulina also contains glutamic acid, and, at levels that dwarf the amount found in eggs. It contains over 2,300 mg (2.3 grams) of glutamic acid per ounce. Of all the amino acids found in Spirulina, glutamic acid is the most abundant.

 

Cruciferous

Cruciferous Vegetables

These foods also contain smaller amounts of sulfur amino acids. Some of these vegetables include Broccoli (60 mg per ounce), Cauliflower (50 mg per ounce), Cabbage (24 mg per ounce), and Kohlrabi (27 mg per ounce). Those very healthy dark leafy greens are also a part of this family of vegetables. These include Kale (50 mg per ounce), Collard greens (20 mg per ounce) and Mustard greens (36 mg per ounce).

 

Allium

Allium

Allium vegetables like garlic and onions, also contain smaller amounts of sulfur.

Garlic has about 12 mg per ounce and Onions contain about 10 mg per ounce. Other allium foods like shallots contain less than 10 mg per ounce.

 

MSM

MSM breaks down when foods are heated. It’s best to eat fruits or vegetables as soon as they’re cooked. Keeping foods as leftovers will also cause much of the MSM it contains to break down. Some foods that contain MSM include Tea, Coffee, Dairy foodsFruits and Vegetables.

 

Goats milk

Grass-fed Raw milk

Grass fed raw milk contains about 2 mg of MSM per quart. It may be one of the best natural sources of MSM available. Pasturized milk contains little to no MSM since the pasturization process uses heat to kill any natural or pathogenic bacteria present in the milk. The heat causes the MSM to break down.

 

 

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Supplements

Since there are no RDA’s for sulfur, it’s hard to gauge how much sulfur we should take as a supplement per day. In this case, MSM is the supplement of choice. Some health professionals suggest 500 mg three times per day while other suggest as much as 7,000 mg per day.

Here are a couple of suggestions from health professionals:

800-900 mg daily for adults. Those with liver conditions may want to take around 1,500 mg per day of sulfur, preferably as an MSM supplement since it may help detoxify the liver.                –Sharecare.com

Food expert David Wolfe: start with 2,500 mg of MSM and work up to 5,000 to 7,000 mg per day for adults.

Try 500 milligrams of MSM three times daily. If you have osteoarthritis, try 3 grams twice daily.    –WebMD

Try 2,000 mg to 6,000 mg per day. For arthritis, some studies have shown that MSM can be effective when taking as little as 500 mg per day while other studies indicate that 2,000 mg twice per day was effective. – Livestrong.com

Quality and ingredients vary by brand, which makes it harder to determine how much MSM to take. Consult with your doctor or a health care professional to help determine how much MSM you should take daily.

 

 

References
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  2. Nimni, Marcel E., Bo Han, and Fabiola Cordoba. “Are we getting enough sulfur in our diet.” Nutr Metab (Lond) 4 (2007): 24
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  4. Glazenburg EJ, Jekel-Halsema IM, Scholtens E, Baars AJ, Mulder GJ: Effects of variation in the dietary supply of cysteine and methionine on liver concentration of glutathione and “active sulfate” (PAPS) and serum levels of sulfate, cystine, methionine and taurine: relation to the metabolism of acetaminophen. J Nutr 1983, 113:1363-1373.
  5. Gregus Z, Kim HJ, Madhu C, Liu Y, Rozman P, Klaassen CD: Sulfation of acetaminophen and acetaminophen-induced alterations in sulfate and 3′-phosphoadenosine 5′-phosphosulfate homeostasis in rats with deficient dietary intake of sulfur. Drug Metab Dispos 1994, 22:725-730.
  6. Silbert CK, Palmer ME, Humphries DE, Silbert JE: Production of [3H]hexosamine-labeled proteoglycans by cultures of normal and diabetic skin fibroblasts: dilution of exogenous [3H]glucosamine by endogenous hexosamine from glucose and other sources. Arch Biochem Biophys 1989, 268:393-397.
  7. Humphries DE, Silbert CK, Silbert JE: Sulphation by cultured cells. Cysteine, cysteinesulphinic acid and sulphite as sources for proteoglycan sulphate. Biochem J 1988, 252:305-308.
  8. Humphries DE, Silbert CK, Silbert JE: Sulphation by cultured cells. Cysteine, cysteinesulphinic acid and sulphite as sources for proteoglycan sulphate. Biochem J 1988, 252:305-308.
  9. Droge W: Oxidative stress and ageing: is ageing a cysteine deficiency syndrome? Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2005, 360:2355-2372.
  10. Droge W, Kinscherf R, Hildebrandt W, Schmitt T: The deficit in low molecular weight thiols as a target for antiageing therapy. Curr Drug Targets 2006, 7:1505-1512.
  11. Parcell, Stephen. Sulfur in human nutrition and applications in medicine. Alternative Medicine Review 7.1 (2002): 22-44.
  12. http://www.sharecare.com/health/herbal-supplements/how-does-methylsulfonylmethane-work

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