How Does Sulfur Help the Body?

Garlic
Garlic on a cutting board. (Image: Smoczyslaw/iStock/Getty Images)

Sulfur is a naturally occurring element that has several benefits on your health. Supplemental sulfur comes in two forms: dimethyl sulfoxide and methylsulfonylmethane, or DMSO and MSM. DMSO is a chemical byproduct of paper manufacturing, but has been approved by the FDA for medicinal purposes. MSM occurs naturally in some plants, fruits and vegetables, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center. Both types of sulfur are important, but you should inform your physician, as a precaution, if you decide to use a supplement.

Functions

Sulfur is a part of some of the amino acids in your body and is involved in protein synthesis, as well as several enzyme reactions It helps with the production of collagen, which is a substance that forms connective tissues, cell structure and artery walls. Additionally, it is a part of keratin, giving strength to hair, skin and nails.

Arthritis

According to the University of Maryland, sulfur has been shown to be effective for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. Sulfur baths or mud-soaks can help alleviate the painful swelling caused by arthritis. Taking a sulfur bath at night can reduce stiffness you experience first thing in the morning. Additionally, sulfur baths can improve walking ability and overall strength. Applying a cream containing DMSO may reduce pain in some types of arthritis. Lastly, taking a supplement with 6,000 mg of MSM sulfur can reduce pain associated with arthritis, but it may have more beneficial effects when paired with glucosamine.

Skin Disorders

Sulfur can help ease the effects of several skin disorders, including acne, psoriasis, warts, dandruff, eczema and folliculitis, which causes inflamed hair follicles. Creams, lotions and bar soaps containing sulfur are used to relieve swelling and redness related to acne. Dermatitis and scabies can be treated with a specialized sulfur ointment. Some sulfur treatments are available over the counter, but in severe cases, you may need a prescription from your dermatologist.

Food Sources

There are no specific dietary requirements for sulfur since you generally get what you need through the diet. Foods containing sulfur have somewhat of a rotten egg smell, stemming from sulfur dioxide gas escaping into the air. Sulfur is found in protein-rich animal foods, such as dairy, eggs, beef, poultry and seafood. In particular, the yolks of eggs are one of the highest sources of sulfur. Produce sources of sulfur include onions, garlic, turnips, kale, seaweed and raspberries. Nuts are an additional plant source of sulfur.

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