IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
“What in the name of all that smells is that horrific stink?” Jesse asked.
Lucinda looked suspiciously at the interior of the refrigerator. “ I don’t know but if we don’t find it and get rid of it soon I’m going to throw up all over the place!”
She ran out of the room, took a huge breath and ran back in holding it so the air from the fridge couldn’t find its way into her nostrils. Quickly she rummaged through the back of the fridge removing things as she did. Her hand grasped a carton of eggs which she moved to the counter. Not able to hold her breath any longer she took a short, quick breath. “Holy Crap!” she gasped that’s it. It’s the eggs. She grabbed the carton; ran outside and crossed the yard at the speed of light (almost). The whole carton went hurtling towards the compost landing right in the middle. A couple of shovels of earth later and ‘voila’ problem solved.
“What causes that smell I wonder?” Jesse mused to himself. A few words in the search bar of his computer and the answer popped up. Sulfur! When proteins break down they release sulfur which when combined with oxygen produces one of the world’s most disgusting smells.
WHAT IS SULFUR?
Sulfur – S is a non metal chemical element with the atomic number 16.
It is part of the molecular structure of essential nutrients such as cysteine, methionine, coenzyme A, biotin, lipoic acid, molybdopterin, thiamin, iron/sulfur clusters and in the thionucleosides in tRNA.
Sulfur is an essential component for cellular activity for all cells.
Sulfur is one of the most common elements in the human body. The amino acids cysteine and methionine contain most of it. Because it is part of these acids it is therefore present in all polypeptides, proteins and enzymes that contain them in our bodies.
Interestingly, although methionine itself must be ingested into our bodies it can be used to create all sulfur containing compounds for us with the exception of biotin and thiamine (vitamins B3 and B1).
WHAT DOES SULFUR DO FOR US?
Because sulfur is part of so many essential nutrients and is found in every cell in our body the number of processes it is involved in are numerous and bound to each nutrient they are attached to. Understanding what the nutrients it is a part of do for us will give us a partial understanding of its broad influence on our health. The list is far too extensive to address in this post but as these posts progress the nutrients listed above (cysteine, methionine, coenzyme A, biotin, lipoic acid, molybdopterin , thiamin, et al.) will give us a good idea.
1. Sulfur atoms are used to form disulfide bonds which supply extra toughness and rigidity to certain protein structures such as hair and in bodily secretions such as sperm.
2. Sulfur in some of its forms is also used as a reducing agent to supply electrons to molecules that have lost them during cellular repair.
There are, however, two very important substances found in our food supply that are well known for their association with sulfur.
Certain foods containing sulfur are called glucosinolates. From glucosinolates the body gets two important substances (which fall into the phytonutrient category). These are isothiocyanate and thiocyanate.
3. Isothiocyanate is now recognized as a major force against, the development of and the destruction of existing, cancer cells.
4. Thiocyanate is not as well researched but is suspected of playing a major roll in controlling the immune system’s inflammation response. In doing so it is thought to have a positive affect in fighting diseases such as atherosclerosis, type II diabetes and cystic fibrosis.
Foods containing glucosinolates is part of the list of foods below.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH SULFUR?
Not getting enough glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables leaves us more vulnerable to tumour growth and lowers our defense against cancer. There is also the possibility that inflammation in the body will not be as well controlled without glucosinolates.
It is difficult not to get enough sulfur apart from glucosinolates. Methionine is the essential amino acid (protein building block) that can supply sulfur to any sulfur containing compound in our bodies and methionine is found in a great number of foods. There is a list of food stuffs containing methionine below.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH SULFUR?
When sulfur is consumed through food there is little if any chance of getting too much, however, sulfur dioxide or the equivalent potassium metabisulfite used as a preservative in winemaking and food preservation can lead to allergic responses.
WHERE DO WE GET SULFUR?