The detoxification effect

Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in your body, after calcium and phosphorous. It’s an important mineral element that you get almost wholly through dietary proteins, yet it’s been over 20 years since the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) issued its last update on recommended daily allowances (RDA) for it.

In a study examining critical elements about how sulfur works in the body, researchers say the importance of this mineral may be underestimated, and that it’s possible that we may not be getting enough of it.

The Importance of Sulfur and the detoxification effect

Close to half of the sulfur in your body can be found in your muscles, skin and bones, but it does much more than benefit just these three areas. It plays important roles in many bodily systems.

Sulfur bonds are required for proteins to maintain their shape, and these bonds determine the biological activity of the proteins. For example, as explained in the featured MSM newsletter, hair and nails consists of a tough protein called keratin, which is high in sulfur, whereas connective tissue and cartilage contain proteins with flexible sulfur bonds, giving the structure its flexibility. With age, the flexible tissues in your body tend to lose their elasticity, leading to sagging and wrinkling of skin, stiff muscles and painful joints.

A shortage of sulfur likely contributes to these age-related problems.

In addition to bonding proteins, sulfur is also required for the proper structure and biological activity of enzymes. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of sulfur in your body the enzymes cannot function properly, which can cascade into a number of health problems as without biologically active enzymes, your metabolic processes cannot function properly.

Sulfur also plays an important role in:

Your body’s electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells
Vitamin-B thiamine (B1) and biotin conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy
Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione
Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity
Detoxification
The featured study looked at a broad scope of overlapping metabolic pathways in order to determine which ones may be affected by insufficient intake of dietary sulfur. They also evaluated the modes of action of a variety of sulfur-containing dietary supplements, including chondroitin and glucosamine, commonly used to improve joint health.

According to the authors:

“Sulfur amino acids contribute substantially to the maintenance and integrity of the cellular systems by influencing cellular redox state and the capacity to detoxify toxic compounds, free radicals and reactive oxygen species.

… Sulfur containing metabolites, of which glutathione is a key exponent, merge in their functioning with many other compounds that play a major role in mechanisms which are receiving tremendous interests as parts of conventional and complementary medical care. These include the n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals such as Selenium, Zinc, Copper and Magnesium, vitamins E and C, antioxidants such as the proanthocyanidins and lipoic acid, many of which are involved in the synthesis of prostaglandins and in the antioxidant cascade.

More and more evidence is accumulating and focusing on the cooperative role that glutathione and other sulfur metabolites play in the homeostatic control of these fundamental mechanisms.”

Are You Getting Enough Sulfur in Your Diet?

As stated in the featured research, only two of the 20 amino acids normally present in foods contain sulfur:

Methionine, which cannot be synthesized by your body and must be supplied through diet, and
Cysteine, which is synthesized by your body but requires a steady supply of dietary sulfur in order to do so
Neither of these are stored in your body. Rather, “any dietary excess is readily oxidized to sulphate, excreted in the urine (or reabsorbed depending on dietary levels) or stored in the form of glutathione (GSH),” according to the researchers. (Glutathione is comprised of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamate, and glycine, and is your body’s most potent antioxidant, which also keeps all other antioxidants performing at peak levels.)

Furthermore:

“The availability of cysteine appears to be the rate limiting factor for synthesis of glutathione (GSH).

GSH values are subnormal in a large number of wasting diseases and following certain medications leading frequently to poor survival. By supplying sulfur amino acids (SAA) many of these changes can be reversed.

In the brain, which is usually the most spared organ during nutrient deficiencies, GSH concentration declines in order to maintain adequate levels of cysteine. This loss of GSH impairs antioxidant defences… Cartilage, less essential for survival, may not fare well under conditions of sulfur deprivation, explaining why dietary supplements containing sulfur (chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), etc.) may be of benefit in the treatment of joint diseases.”

In conclusion, they state that:

“Out of this study came information that suggested that a significant proportion of the population that included disproportionally the aged, may not be receiving sufficient sulfur and that these dietary supplements, were very likely exhibiting their pharmacological actions by supplying inorganic sulfur.”

Dietary Sources of Sulfur

The best and most ideal way to obtain sulfur is through your diet. Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed/pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered “complete” as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein. Needless to say, those who abstain from animal protein are placing themselves at far greater risk of sulfur deficiency.

Other dietary sources that contain small amounts of sulfur include: read more

How important is detox?

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Toxic agents are everywhere in our world. The food we eat, the air we breathe, the household cleaners we spray, the electronics we use on a daily basis… However, toxic free radicals are formed in the body too. Stress hormones, emotional disturbances, anxiety and negative emotions all create free radicals as well. Living without toxic buildup is virtually impossible, which is why our body has built in mechanisms to deal with toxic overload. Crying, sweating, urination and defecation are all natural protocols employed by the body to rid itself of toxins.

Because toxins are part of our daily life, both inside and out, it may seem that they are a natural part of living and that additional measures to deal with them are unnecessary. This, in part, is true. Free radical exposure is part of life, however, with the overabundance of chemicals and pesticides in our foods and environment, and the increasing levels of stress in our society, our body is overwhelmed with toxic buildup and needs additional help in expelling unnecessary waste material.

Despite overwhelming advancements in medical care our society is sicker than ever. We may be living longer, but we’re riddled with illness and disease. Nearly all sickness in industrialized countries is due to toxic build up in the body. Often times toxins bind to sex hormones or thyroid hormones which slows metabolism, causing weight gain. Additionally, toxins are stored in fat cells, also contributing to excess weight. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility, gastroesophageal reflux disease, fatty liver, gallstones, osteoarthritis, stroke, lower back pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, dementia, sleep apnea, asthma and depression are just some of the illnesses associated with obesity.

Because toxins affect both the structure and function of cells, they cause a myriad of health problems in their own right. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis and lupus, migraines, premature aging, digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea or bloating, skin conditions, aches and pains, PMS and food allergies or intolerances are all the result of toxic buildup in the body.

do i need to detoxDetoxification is so important because it can literally reverse the symptoms of illness and change your life. There are many different types of detoxification protocols and it is important to find one that works well for you. The liver, small intestine, kidneys, and colon are the major organs involved in the body’s detoxification system. However, when employing any type of cleanse (like a juice cleanse, liver and gallbladder cleanse, elimination diet, heavy metal cleanse, etc.) it is important to first cleanse the kidneys and colon, as these two eliminative organs are responsible for carrying toxic waste out of the body. If they aren’t cleared of blockages, you can end up with even more toxic buildup, as the toxins that are being expelled have nowhere to go. Herbal formulas are especially good at cleansing the kidneys. Colon hydrotherapy, enemas and Epsom salt cleanses are all excellent way to cleanse the colon.

Detoxification protocols can seem intimidating, but they don’t have to be. You don’t have to do a 30-day juice cleanse or some crazy water fast to get the benefits of detoxification. Sitting in a steam room or sauna, yoga, tai chi, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding meat one day a week, Epsom salt and therapeutic clay baths, emotional freedom technique, affirmations and acupuncture and acupressure are all excellent ways to gently detoxify your body. Of course a nutritional cleanse where you limit your food intake does accelerate the process, however it is not necessary, unless in the case of severe illness.

As a nutritionist though, I feel compelled to state that juice cleanses are an absolutely wonderful way to thoroughly cleanse your entire body. Because you do not have to chew and break down food your digestive system is given a rest and allowed time to repair and rejuvenate. Juicing your food floods your body with live enzymes and an abundance of antioxidants that help not only neutralize free radicals but also strengthen and support the immune system, reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, concentration and memory, improve circulation and increase energy. Antioxidants even have anti-aging properties! They are literally a life-changing miracle food, and juice cleansing is an excellent way to inundate your system with them.

There is a detoxification program out there for everyone – whether you’re 10 or 110. I strongly encourage you to research different avenues and find which one works best for you, and then try it! If this is your first attempt at cleansing a 5-day, 3-day or even 1-day cleanse is a great way to start – and you will be amazed at how differently your body feels. If this is your first attempt at detoxification remember that years of toxic build up may be difficult to release. There are many unpleasant side effects that accompany detoxification as your organs let go of the accumulated plaque that has built up over the years. Headaches, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, irritability, lightheadedness, fatigue and trouble sleeping are all completely natural side effects to detoxification. Start slow and please remember to consult a trained health care professional before you begin.

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