Sulfur is a pale yellow, tasteless, nonmetal element that is a vital part of all forms of life. Although most people associate sulfur itself as smelling like rotten eggs, it is actually odorless. Sulfur dioxide (a compound of sulfur) is the gas that gives off that distinct odor. Sulfur is stored in the brain, cells, nerves and liver and is believed to help remove waste and toxins from the body. It helps your skin stay healthy and free of blemishes. According to the Mayo Clinic, sulfur is used in a variety of skin creams, ointments and lotions to treat skin disorders. Sulfur helps your body digest fats and metabolize carbohydrates and it can be found in foods, plants and vitamins.
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Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is one of two vitamins that contains sulfur. It is a water-soluble vitamin and is an essential part of your heart, muscle and nervous system functions. Thiamine is an important part of your daily diet because it is needed to process fats, carbohydrates and protein. The vitamin converts carbohydrates to energy and helps you maintain a normal metabolism. It is essential for skin, hair and nail health.
Thiamine deficiency can result in a loss of hair and can cause nerve damage, fatigue and weakness. Severe thiamine deficiency can also lead to brain damage. Alcoholism is a common cause of thiamine deficiency. When alcohol is consumed, the amount of thiamine absorbed by the body is decreased. Those who crash diet, eat too many sweets or drink a lot of soft drinks are at risk of thiamine deficiency.
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is the second vitamin that contains sulfur. Biotin is needed for glucose and fatty acid formation, which fuels the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, biotin deficiency is rare but if it happens, it could lead to heart problems, skin rash and loss of hair. Biotin can be found in salmon, cereal, carrots and cauliflower.
Adding sulfur-rich foods to your diet can decrease your risk of sulfur deficiency. Garlic, onions, meats, raspberries, legumes, nuts and diary products all contain sulfur. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes protein eliminates the need for supplementing sulfur in your diet. However, eating a vegan diet may increase your risk of sulfur deficiency.
Sulfur is found in minerals such as iron pyrites, Epsom salts and cinnabar. Deposits of sulfur are usually found in areas around volcanoes, hot springs and craters. Sulfur is also a byproduct of crude oil, natural gas and coal.
Several commercial products contain sulfur. Sulfuric acid is by volume the largest industrial chemical produced in the world. Products made with sulfuric acid include fertilizers, fireworks, paper, plastics, rubber and detergents.