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Sulfur and your health

The "beauty mineral", sulfur (S), is necessary for healthy skin, hair and nails. But its role in your body is much more significant than making your appearance more lustrous. It is also an important element of body detoxification: as a part of detox enzymes and sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine, it binds to toxic heavy metal contaminants - especially aluminum - making it much easier for your body to place them out of your system.

At the same time, sulfur can exert toxicity in chemically sensitive, when it can be difficult to struck a balance between the need for it, and the danger it presents. Inorganic (not carbon-bonded) sulfur compounds, such as those found in fossil fuels and their emissions, pesticides, industrial compounds, food additives and drugs, can aggravate allergies, chemical sensitivities, symptoms of diabetes, impair immune system's antibody response and, possibly, even alter the DNA/RNA function.

Sulfur also helps regeneration of your joint cartilage, both by helping it rebuild and by suppressing copper, whose high levels promote joint degeneration. Among a number of other positive effects of sulfur are reduced allergic reactions and parasitic infections.

Sulfur is component of insulin, thus necessary for proper metabolism of carbohydrates. Thus low sulfur levels can aggravate symptoms of diabetes.

That, however,  doesn't mean we should have as much of sulfur as we can stuff in. As with any other nutrient, excess causes imbalances adversely affecting body function. Absorption efficiency is inversely proportional to the intake level. Not seldom, excessive intake makes that nutrient availability to the body so low, as to result in similar adverse health effects as deficiency.

Short-term effects of high sulfur supplementation can cause digestive disturbance, while longer-term it can result in lowering body levels of potassium and calcium, both being suppressed by sulfur.

Some serious chronic diseases - like Crohn's and Lou-Gehrig - are further aggravated by sulfur intake, which for that reason should be carefully controlled in such circumstance. On the other hand, extra sulfur intake helps with Alzheimer's, as well as chronic diseases caused by heavy metals toxicity.

There is no official DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes, the most recent set of dietary recommendations set by the government) for sulfur. Suggested adequate level for an average healthy adult is 1g (1000mg) a day, with short-term therapeutic doses of up to 5g.

Best natural sulfur food sources: fruits and vegetables are relatively low in sulfur, while beans, nuts, seeds, dairy, fish and meat are generally good sources. Plant sulfur levels can vary significantly with its soil content.