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Is sulphur intolerance making you ill?

  • Egg-smelling gas?
  • Frequent headaches?
  • Hives/itchy skin?
  • Nausea?
  • Diarrhoea?
  • Problems with energy and blood pressure?

Many health experts – myself included for some clients – recommend a high sulphur diet (NB: spelled sulphur by our friends in America)

Sulphur molecules help produce a chemical glutathione which is the bodies major anti-oxidant and is essential for optimal detoxification.

But some people really struggle with foods that are high in sulphur and develop inflammation when they eat too much of it.

These people need to be on a low-sulfur diet for a period of time in order to reduce inflammation and heal.

Unfortunately, it’s not always this simple because a diet too low in sulphur can cause a lot of problems in its own right.

Symptoms of sulphur intolerance

Sulphur intolerance symptoms can express differently in different people.

  • Ammonia-smelling breath
  • Egg-smelling and foul-smelling farts
  • Diarrhoea
  • Difficulty controlling Candida / yeast overgrowth despite taking anti-fungals and probiotics
  • Brain fog (this is a big one)
  • Fatigue
  • General malaise
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hay fever like symptoms
  • Hives and other skin reactions
  • Seizures
  • Allergy to ‘sulfa-drugs’ / sulphonamides (certain antibiotics)
  • Adverse reactions to supplements that contain a lot of sulphur, such as MSM, N-acetyl cysteine and TMG

Why does sulphur intolerance happen?

Possible genetic link with sulphur intolerance

Two major enzymes are involved in sulphur metabolism – CBS and SUOX. These enzymes are printed from genes of the same name (CBS and SUOX)

Subtle genetic mutations in these genes can alter the body’s sulphur metabolism, preventing sulphur from being properly broken down.

It may also be that a genetic issue leads to increased sulphite production, but this is still being investigated scientifically.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

People with sulphur intolerance typically have a combination of genetic mutations, SIBO and leaky gut.

SIBO can involve the overgrowth of specific bacterial strains that produce more sulphur compounds.

Some people can’t break down these sulphur compounds effectively, leading to sulphur intolerance.

Nutrient deficiencies (especially molybdenum)

You need the mineral molybdenum to break down sulphite (toxic) into sulphate (harmless) and eliminate it from your body.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is also important.

A molybdenum deficiency, especially if it is combined with SIBO and a genetic mutation, can leave you far more sensitive to sulphur than other people.

Sulphur elimination experiment

If you have sulphur intolerance, the effects of eating sulphur can last for a week after you have eaten it.

Try eliminating sulphur for week and see how you feel. Keep a diary of your symptoms and rate them on a scale of 1-10.

After a week, add sulphur-containing foods back into your diet.

If you feel worse soon after introducing the foods, you’ll immediately get an answer on whether you have a sulphur intolerance problem.

You’ll need a low sulphur diet (but not too low) while you work on the other issues contributing to the intolerance (leaky gut, SIBO, etc.)

How to avoid foods that are high in sulphur

Remember that sulfur containing foods are extremely healthy for most people and it’s important to make sure you get your individual balance right.

Some of the most important high sulphur foods are:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Legumes (peanuts, lentils, chickpeas, beans)
  • All dairy products

How to avoid supplements that are high in sulphur

If you do a low or no sulphur trail for a week, it’s important to eliminate high-sulphur supplements, which include:

  • Alpha lipoic acid
  • Glutathione
  • MSM
  • N-acetyl cysteine
  • Garlic
  • L-methionine, L-cysteine, L-taurine
  • L-glycine

What to eat and drink

  • Clean water
  • Meats, poultry and fish, but in reduced amounts
  • Olive oil, coconut oil
  • Herbs like ginger, oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary and cinnamon.
  • Small amounts of organic butter/ghee are ok.
  • Avocados are ok.
  • Low-sulphur veggies such as romaine lettuce, celery, cucumbers, carrots and parsley will be very good.
  • Small amounts of potatoes, sweet potatoes are ok

It can be a little bit confusing!

No matter what else you do, if sulphur intolerance is the problem it likely won’t go away unless you work with someone who knows how to deal with it.

But I realise it can get confusing because you’re also bombarded with info on gluten intolerance, histamine intolerance, low carb, low fat and other diet approaches.

If you have some of the symptoms above, try a low sulphur diet for a week but don’t stay on it for too long because it will cause problems.

If your diet is too deficient in sulphur you can end up with a whole bunch of other symptoms due to poor detoxification.

As stated above, the key is to find your own unique balance, and this may require additional work to heal your gut.

SIBO can trigger sulphur intolerance, so clearing it while you eat a low sulphur diet is a good idea.

Healing a leaky gut if you have one, can reduce the problems you have with sulphur as well.

Are there any tests for sulphur intolerance?

There are some functional lab tests to help gauge sulphur intolerance, but they are not 100% conclusive.

A genetics test (saliva) can check for mutations in the CBS and SUOX genes, which are heavily involved in sulphur metabolism (I have a homozygous mutation in CBS).

A simple urine test can tell you whether you have too much sulphite in your urine. If you do, it may indicate molybdenum deficiency, as sulphite is converted into sulphate by this mineral.

High ammonia levels in your blood can also indicate sulphur problems.

If you see imbalances in these lab tests and you have tell-tale sulphur intolerance symptoms, it’s wise to take action.

Would you like some help?

Ongoing symptoms always have a cause. The only trouble is, there are many different causes and they vary from person to person.

Digestive symptoms alone can be caused by food, sulphur, histamine, gluten and other intolerances, or by chronic infections like H. pylori, Candida and SIBO, or by low stomach acid.

If you’d like some advice to cut through the confusion and create a roadmap for faster relief from your symptoms, we can help.

We offer a case review and consult that can be done in person or by phone and Skype.

We’ll look at your health history, symptoms, diet and lifestyle, past lab tests you’ve done.

Then, we’ll run a 60min session on phone or Skype, or in person if you are in the UK, and suggest a course of action that will help you reach your health goals faster.

Learn more about the case review and consultation process here.

Talk soon!

Dave.

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