Sulphur: The Forgotten Nutrient

by Sarah Healthy LivingComments: 174

sulphur deficiency is serious business
Sulphur Crystals

A neighbor of mine who is in his 70’s, looks 50, and still jogs regularly once told me that his mother used to make him drink well water that stunk to high heaven of rotten eggs.

That rotten egg smell is, of course, hard water with high amounts of sulphur in it.  She told him that it would boost his immune system and keep him healthy.

Smart lady.

Unfortunately, sulphur has been all but forgotten as a critical nutrient in recent decades, yet this important element is very necessary for the maintenance of health and even prevention of chronic illnesses such as Metabolic Syndrome.

Shockingly, a Minimum Daily Requirement (MDR) to avoid sulphur deficiency does not even exist despite the fact that this mineral is the eighth most common element by mass in the human body.

Countries With High Sulphur Intake Are Some of the Healthiest

Is it coincidental that Greece, Italy, and Japan – countries that are the primary suppliers of sulphur to the rest of the world, enjoy some of the lowest rates of heart disease, obesity and increased longevity on the planet?

Perhaps not.  Icelanders’ remarkably low rates of depression, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can possibly be attributed to the line of volcanoes that formed that island nation and whose eruptions periodically blanket the soil with sulphur containing volcanic rock.

It was once thought that the Icelandic diet was so protective against chronic illness due to a high intake of fish.  This theory does not apparently hold up, however, as Icelanders who move to Canada and continue eating a lot of fish do not continue to enjoy the same low rates of disease.

It seems that the Icelandic soil which is unusually rich in sulphur may indeed play a pivotal role in the health and avoidance of sulfur deficiency of its residents.

Sulphur’s Critical Role in the Body

Sulphur is critical to many of the body’s biological processes, metabolism included.

Without adequate sulphur, glucose metabolism becomes defective and muscle and fat cells are damaged as the result of becoming glucose intolerant.   This is how sulphur deficiency can lead to all manner of skeletal and muscle disorders with corresponding pain and inflammation.

This impaired glucose metabolism resulting from insufficient sulphur is also implicated as a factor in obesity and the dangerous condition known as Metabolic Syndrome because one way the body compensates for defective glucose metabolism is by gaining weight.

When sulphur deficiency occurs within the context of a lowfat diet, the problem becomes more serious as the additional sources of glucose present in a lowfat diet in the form of carboydrates are converted to fat and even worse, released into the bloodstream as triglycerides as fuel for the damaged and inflamed muscle cells.

Alzheimer’s Disease Partly Due to Sulphur Deficiency?

Analysis of the minerals present in the cells of the typical Alzheimer’s patient reveals that sulphur is almost nonexistent compared with a normal profile.

Some research has indicated that reversal of this deficiency state can not only prevent or halt the progression of this horrible disease but even reverse it provided the patient is still in the early stages where little brain damage has occurred.

Could the skyrocketing cases of Alzheimer’s in recent years be related to the shunning of eggs, a very good source of sulphur, by older Americans?

Sulphur Helps Mobilize Vitamin D from the Sun?

When unprotected skin is exposed to the sun, the skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate.   While vitamin D is normally considered fat soluble, vitamin D3 sulfate is a form of the vitamin that is actually water soluble.   This allows this type of vitamin D to travel freely in the blood stream.

On a side note, the vitamin D3 in supplements is not the same vitamin D3 as what you get from the sun and should not be considered an adequate substitute.

Sunlight exposed skin also produces large amounts of cholesterol sulfate.  

The sun, then, has the potential to provide sulphur to the body in the form of vitamin D3 sulfate and cholesterol sulfate.

Make Sure You Get Enough to Avoid Sulphur Deficiency!

Even though sulphur is basically ignored in nutritional circles, it is nonetheless a critical nutrient and one that is necessary for vibrant health and prevention of chronic disease.  One simple way you can make sure you get sufficient amounts is by getting frequent, nonburning doses of midday sunlight with no sunscreen.

Secondly, eat more eggs!   While many plant foods such as onions, garlic, and cabbage contain sulphur, it is likely the sulphur amounts are low unless the plants are grown in sulphur rich soil.

Unless your produce comes from Iceland, relying on eggs for adequate sulphur is the decidedly better way to go!


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Sources and More Information

Sulfur Deficiency: A Possible Contributing Factor in Obesity, Heart Disease, Alzheirmer’s and Chronic Fatigue

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms Most People Miss

Picture Credit

The Healthy Home Economist holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Mother to 3 healthy children, blogger, and best-selling author, she writes about the practical application of Traditional Diet and evidence-based wellness within the modern household. Her work has been featured by USA Today, The New York Times, ABC, NBC, and many others.

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