Sulfur – So What?
Some patients have difficulty clearing sulfur (sulfites and/or sulfates) from their system, most often due to specific genetic inheritance from either or both parents.
We screen for this via genetic saliva testing and urine testing of sulfites and sulfates in the office.
An intolerance to sulfur can manifest as asthma/shortness of breath, hives/itchy skin, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, flushing, high or low blood pressure, brain fog, chronic stress (via elevation of cortisol and glutamate) and fatigue. Patients who are intolerant to sulfa drugs should suspect an issue here and consider testing.
It’s important to keep in mind that limiting sulfur foods should be short-term since the body does need sulfur to make many critical compounds, such as glutathione and taurine. The length of time needed to lower urine sulfites/sulfates varies and is monitored with at-home urine testing of these levels.
There are many foods and supplements that are sulfur-containing, but we have had good success with limiting only those that are highest in sulfur, so keep in mind that many sulfur-containing items will not be included here.
It may take several weeks for urine testing to normalize to the desired level of <800. If you start out at >1600, keep in mind that your levels may actually be far above that since the strips do not reflect anything higher. In that case, it may take several weeks before your levels begin to shift lower on the testing strips.
In addition to lowering sulfur consumption through diet and supplements, we find Sparga Sulfur detox helps to assist in this process. (Use 10 drops in 4 ounces of water 1-2 times daily.) Some people require molybdenum or boron (or other nutrient support) since it gets used up in detoxification of sulfites.
- *Alpha Lipoic Acid (or thioctic acid)
- Chondroitin Sulfate
- Epsom Salts (baths)
- Glucosamine Sulfate
- Magnesium Sulfate
- Milk Thistle
- *N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
- Sulfur-containing meds (antibiotics, sulfonylurea, etc)
*These items are not only high in sulfur—they are high in thiols as well.
Medications that Increase Sulfur
- All diuretics except spironolactone
Sulfur Containing Foods
- Coconut milk, juice, oil
- Cruciferous veggies, including: bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard leaves, radish, turnips, watercress
- Dairy (except butter)
- Dried fruits
- Legumes and dried beans
- Lime/lemon juice in bottle
- Meat and fish
- Onions (leeks, shallots, chives also)
- Wine and grape juice
What About Thiol?
There are many who believe thiol content is more significant than actual sulfur content of foods. When a food contains thiols, it can cause elevation of sulfur. When foods don’t contain a high amount of thiols, it is believed the sulfur in these foods stays complexed with methionine and does not significantly raise sulfur levels.
Other common foods and supplements not listed on the high sulfur list that are high in free thiols are:
Supplements High In Free Thiols
- Dairy sourced acidophilus
Foods High In Free Thiols
- Bean sprouts
- Carob and chocolate
- Green beans
- Peas (split and fresh)
Turmeric is not high in sulfur or thiols, but has been found to raise levels significantly. I have not been able to find an explanation for this. If anyone has heard of one, I would be grateful for the reference.
Finally, Food Additives
Also pay attention to these food additives:
- Sulfur dioxide
- Sodium sulfite
- Sodium bisulfite
- Sodium metabisulfite
- Potassium bisulfite
- Potassium metabisulfite