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What Happens if You Get Too Much Sulfur in Your Diet?

author image May Fredenburg
May Fredenburg has been writing for publication for more than 30 years. She has covered topics ranging from education, health and nutrition to business and politics. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education and has taken classes in audio engineering and video and film directing and producing.
What Happens if You Get Too Much Sulfur in Your Diet?
Cabbage is a healthy vegetable, but it can "talk back." Photo Credit: TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images

The sulfur obtained in your daily diet builds protein in muscles, skin, hair and connective tissue. It also transports electrons and metabolizes vitamins and hormones, including insulin. It assists the function of the nervous system, too. Sulfur is readily obtainable from meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and raw milk. Cruciform vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, onions, cauliflower and garlic also have an abundance of sulfur compounds that are generally well tolerated, but the vegetables are notorious for causing digestive problems in large amounts and in certain people.

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Your Body’s Processing Ability

The body processes two sulfur-containing amino acids in foods, methionine and cysteine, turning them into sulfur compounds necessary for proper functioning. Because these amino acids aren’t normally stored in the body, an overabundance of sulfur-containing foods will cause the compounds to be excreted in the urine, which can impart a strong odor to the urine. Sulfur-rich foods can also cause stomach problems and, embarrassingly, flatulence. The amino acid can build up in the body if you cannot metabolize cysteine properly and cause serious damage to many organs -- particularly the kidneys and the eyes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A Caution

An occasional problem with flatulence after eating sulfur-rich foods is not a serious matter. But ongoing digestive issues may signal a problem with cysteine metabolism or another health issue that requires supplementation or treatment. People with repeated problems with these foods should consult a physician.

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