The Most Neglected Mineral

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As published on The Malaysian Insider

Most of our major organs require it as it plays a major role in detoxification, facilitates B vitamins for energy, promotes insulin function and synthesises our master antioxidant glutathione.

Without it we will not survive. It is the organic food that carries oxygen to all our cells and is essential for optimum health. It is also essential to help build a strong immune system.

It is abundantly available in hot springs and some of the more pungent foods and yes, it is sulphur.

An essential role for sulphur is glutathione as it is essential for countless bodily functions from neutralizing poisons to anti-ageing. Of course low glutathione levels are also associated with death.

Traditional food sources of sulphur are the more pungent foods such as onions, garlic and better still, kale and asparagus. Nuts and seeds presents some of the best sources of sulphur but again ensuring that soil depletion is not significant can be a challenge. Of course these foods should ideally be consumed raw and undenatured to preserve nutrient integrity.

We have all taken for granted that the foods we eat all contain adequate levels of sulphur from the atmosphere and soil. However, the soil must already contain adequate amounts in order for you to benefit.

Role of glutathione

We all know the importance of glutathione, the master antioxidant. Free radicals are reactive particles which bounce around our cells creating damage to everything they are in contact with.

They become active/reactive when our body is under stress, or when we have a poor diet, from heavy metals and smoking. Even our cellular metabolism produces free radicals with the end result that we age. Glutathione is present in all our cells and they play a pivotal role in the synergistic action of our vitamins such as C, E and Q10.

Taking glutathione as a supplement is not recommend as absorption rate is negligible while potentially interfering with our body naturally producing endogenous glutathione. The peak of a person is about 20 and thereafter it’s downhill all the way. The question is how do we decrease the slope of this decline and the same goes for glutathione which declines roughly one per cent yearly for an average person.

Role of sulphur

Cellular regeneration is closely linked with our body’s ability to transport oxygen across the cell membranes. A study of the periodic table shows sulphur as one of only three oxygen transport minerals and the most abundant on this planet.

Facilitating oxygen transport at the cellular level, meaning across the cell membrane, is a primary function of bio-available organic sulphur, and another is it is essential for the creation of amino acids. In mammals these are crucial for health.

It is important to note that plants can store the sulphur they need, while living animals (people) cannot. We must consume sufficient quantities of organic sulphur on a daily basis.

Sulphur is a critical bio-available form that has been missing from our diet since the 1950s. The introduction of synthetic chemical nitrogen-based fertilizers in the 50s has had a profound negative effect on our health. Sulphur and its mineral compounds have been chemically stripped from the soils of commercial farming. This has caused a sulphur deficiency in plants and so in humans and animals.

Sulphur is essential for active wellness and promotes :

• Hair and nail growth

• Structural integrity of the skin

• Insulin production

• Healing of damaged tendons, ligaments and muscles, broken bones and pain

• Healing of arthritis, bursitis, rheumatism, osteoarthritis, sprains and blindness

• Fertility enhancement, especially for males

• Blood purification and detoxification of the cells

• Removal of parasites and worms

• Nourishment of the male and female gonads

Identifying need for sulphur

One of the key signs of sulphur deficiency is in the health of our nails, skin and hair. As sulphur binds to tissues, a blood screening is not the best way to assess. Apart from being the best way to identify heavy metal toxicity, a nail or hair tissue analysis would be the best way to identify your need for mineral sulphur.

Hair is used as one of the tissues of choice by the US Environmental Protection agency in determining toxic metal exposure with the following summary: The milk, urine, saliva and sweat measure the component that is absorbed or excreted.

The blood measures the component absorbed and temporarily in circulation before excretion and/ or storage. The hairs are tissues in which trace minerals are sequestered and/or stored.

Since the structure of hair remains unchanged, the minerals are fixed in the hair. The levels in hair are not subject to change once that portion of hair has grown, so the analysis accurately provides concentrations of minerals that have accumulated in the hair tissue over the hair growth period, approximately the last three to six months.

Mineral content of the hair reflects the mineral content of the body’s tissues. Human head hair is a recording filament that can reflect metabolic changes of many elements over long periods of time and therefore can furnish a print-out of post nutritional events.

In most cases, identification of the deficiency or excess can be corrected by diet changes, work practice changes, or by supplementation appropriate for your requirements.

Global deficiency

Linus Pauling is most well known for his work in Vitamin C but a less well known quote from him is that all of our modern diseases can be attributed to a mineral deficiency. Most researchers say that bio-available sulphur is one of the most important of the trace minerals, anywhere from 4th to 6th most important. Research reports suggest about 1 per cent of our body weight should be sulphur (as it is contained in amino acids and body cells).

Sulphur deficiency results in enzyme depletion, tissue and organ malfunction, physical and psychological stress, fatigue, onset of diseases and ageing, as well as soft, thick, woody, ridged, cracked, layered, and brittle nails amongst many health symptoms. One of the main reasons sulphur is deficient in most of us is that in our fresh produce it can be easily destroyed by aeration, processing, cooking, and homogenizing.  It evaporates with moisture and declines with age. Contamination with halogens, chlorine and fluorides will negate beneficial effects.

This also means that consumption with other food supplements that invariably contains fillers such as magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide etc renders your sulphur food to be inactive adding further to our deficiency status.

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