Lack of Sulfur in the Body

Brussels  sprouts in a bowl, close-up, part of
Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of dietary sulfur. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Sulfur is the third most important mineral in your body -- after calcium and phosphorous. Sulfur can be found in your muscles, skin, bones and even your hair, as well as many other systems in your body. It helps maintain the elasticity of your skin, and sulfur bonds help your muscles, skin and bones maintain their shape. A sulfur deficiency can lead to a number of health issues.

Sulfur Basics

Sulfur helps in the production of an important antioxidant in your body called glutathione, which protects cells from damage. Sulfur also helps create connective tissues that support your joints. Without sufficient sulfur, you may experience joint pain. Sulfur is available in such supplements such as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate. Some good sources of dietary sulfur are legumes, garlic, onion, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, kale, wheat germ, eggs, cheese, fish and meat.

Affects Your Health

A deficiency of sulfur in the body can cause or exacerbate a variety of conditions including acne, arthritis, brittle nails and hair, convulsions, depression, memory loss, gastrointestinal issues, rashes and even slow wound healing. Sulfur deficiency in the body may also contribute to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's and chronic fatigue. While sulfur deficiency can cause pain and inflammation-related muscle and skeletal disorders, the compound is also vital for regulating your metabolism. Insufficient sulfur in your body may lead to insulin resistance -- and insulin is vital for regulating sugar levels in your body.

Hinders Normal Cell Functioning

A study in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism found that many people, particularly a large segment of the elderly population, are not getting enough sulfur in their diets. This is important, say the study authors, because without sufficient sulfur, your body has difficulty ridding itself of toxins via your liver. The authors also note that without sufficient sulfur, your cells cannot function normally, because sulfur is vital to maintaining the structure of your cells and organs. A sulfur deficiency could prevent your cells from obtaining sufficient oxygen through respiration, which is vital to proper brain function and all cell activity.

Boosting Your Sulfur Levels

It's not just how much sulfur you get in your diet; the type of diet you eat is also important. For example, if you eat a low-fat diet, the amount of cholesterol sulfate -- an important form of sulfur found in your body -- delivered to the digestive system from the liver will be reduced, which will leave your digestive system vulnerable to pathogens. Eating a low-carb diet with sufficient protein is a better bet. Sun exposure can also boost your sulfur levels, because your skin synthesizes vitamin D-3 sulfate when it's exposed to sunlight.

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