What Mom Never Told Us About Sulfur

What Mom Never Told Us About Sulfur

Care for an extra helping of sulfur, dear? No mom has ever said…but maybe she should have.

Sulfur is present in all living tissues. In fact, did you know that it is the third most abundant mineral in the body, behind calcium and phosphorus? It is part of several crucial chemical couplings in your body that are essential to life. And while it shares the spotlight well, make no mistake, sulfur is a star in its own right.


First off, it’s a component of several important amino acids that help synthesize protein in our bodies–methionine, which is essential, meaning it must be obtained from an external source since the body doesn’t synthesize it, and cysteine, which needs a steady supply of sulfur in order to synthesize the protein, glutathione. Glutathione is an important antioxidant that protects the body’s tissues and acts as the body’s built-in detoxifier. Sulfur comprises keratin, the protein that strengthens your hair, skin and nails. It also supports the production of collagen, a substance that forms connective tissue, cell structure and artery walls.

Sulfur helps reduce pain and inflammation in the body. It is a critical part of several bodily processes, including metabolism and insulin utilization by the cells.


Without enough sulfur, the body’s protein synthesis can suffer, creating a cascade of other problems. Research has shown a relationship between sulfur deficiencies and muscle pain, joint pain, chronic fatigue, osteoarthritis. Alzheimer’s, ADD/ADHD, certain forms of cancer, arteriosclerosis, high cholesterol (LDL), heart disease, acne, rosacea and allergies. There is also some evidence that sulfur deficiency can contribute to diabetes mellitus.

Sulfur is known for its anti-parasitic properties and has a good track record treating chronic diseases caused by heavy metals toxicity. For the most part, these symptoms are examples of Vata/Pitta conditions according to Ayurveda. Heavy metals toxicity can affect anyone, however, and diabetes mellitus tends to be a Kapha condition that is aggravated by excess intake of heavy and processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle.

In the U.S., there is almost an epidemic of symptoms created by sulfur deficiency. When asked what the reason was for this, MIT science researcher Stephanie Seneff explained: “A diet high in grains like bread and cereal is likely to be deficient in sulfur. Increasingly, whole foods, such as corn and soybeans, are disassembled into component parts with chemical names, and then reassembled into heavily processed foods. Sulfur is lost along the way, and so is the awareness that this loss matters.”


As important as sulfur is to good health and cellular longevity, too much of any mineral is never advised. Short-term effects of over-supplementing with sulfur include digestive disturbances like diarrhea, flatulence and heartburn. Note that your urine will have a strong rotten egg smell when your body releases the excess sulfur. Ayurvedically-speaking, high levels of sulfur present as a Pitta imbalance.

Long-term side effects include potassium and calcium deficiencies, both of which are suppressed by the presence of sulfur. Some serious chronic diseases–like Crohn’s and Lou-Gehrig–are further aggravated by sulfur intake. Note that, over time, excessive intake actually lessens the assimilation of sulfur in the body, creating the same symptoms as sulfur deficiency.


Sulfur is a natural element and exists in many forms. There are many substances which have names stemming from ‘sulfur’ such as sulfites (preservatives in food and drugs) and sulfates (common compounds found in drugs, soaps and cosmetics). According to NPS MedicineWise, “Patients who have had allergic reactions to sulfonamide drugs do not need to avoid sulfites, sulfates or sulfur.” There is little chance of allergic cross-reactivity due to the difference in the molecular structures of each. Of course, it is always advisable to consult with your physician prior to adding a new supplement or medication to your routine.


Have your urine tested for sulfates if you’d like to measure your actual levels. According to Dr. Seneff, high LDL cholesterol levels are a sign of sulfur deficiency. She recommends increasing sulfur in your diet or supplementing prior to going on a statin drug to combat high cholesterol; it’s better to remove the cause rather than just the symptom.

If your levels are too high, reduce foods high in sulfur by following a Pitta Food Plan and consider an Ayurvedic detox. On the other hand, if your levels are on the low side, follow a Vata Food Plan and increase your intake of foods and supplements high in sulfur.

See my Positively Ayurvedic article on “How to Increase Your Sulfur Intake” for the best ways to raise your sulfur levels. And don’t blame mom for not telling you all of this; she knew how important sulfur was to your health.


Sulfur Does Your Body Good – https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/05/16/sulfur-in-the-body.aspx

How Does Sulfur Help the Body – https://www.livestrong.com/article/441274-how-does-sulfur-help-the-body/

10 Surprising Ways Sulfur Can Benefit You – https://healthfree.com/view_newsletter.php?id=150&key=a

Could You Have a Sulfur Deficiency? – https://www.care2.com/greenliving/could-you-have-a-sulfur-deficiency.html

What Happens if you Get Too Much Sulfur in Your Diet? – https://www.livestrong.com/article/430390-what-happens-if-you-get-too-much-sulfur-in-your-diet/

Are We Getting Enough Sulfur in Our Diet? – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2198910/

Sulfur Does Your Body Good – https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/05/16/sulfur-in-the-body.aspx

Role of Sulfur Containing Amino Acids as an Adjuvant Therapy in the Prevention of Diabetes and Its Associated Complications – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23547683/

Health Benefits of Sulfur and Why You’re Probably Deficient

Health Benefits of Sulfur (and Why You’re Probably Deficient)


The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at info@positivelyayurvedic.com.

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