Sulphur is an essential mineral naturally found in many of the food items. It is quintessential ingredient for the synthesis of protein. Protein contains ~3-6% of sulphur. Sulphur based amino acid like methionine and cysteine are responsible for synthesis of protein in the body.  

Sulphur smells like rotten egg and similar odour is observed during burning of hair which indicates the presence of sulphur in hair. In addition to protein synthesis sulphur is responsible for metabolism intermediaries like glutathione.

Functions of Sulphur

Sulphur works as cofactor for various proteins and regulates the synthesis of protein in the body. It actively participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Sulphur deficiency leads to disruption of protein synthesis in the body and in result affects different part of the body.

What is Sulphur Deficiency?

Sulphur deficiency is very common, and we often ignore that fact. It is caused by prolonged deprivation of sulphur rich diet. However, it can also be caused by the malabsorption of sulphur due to preexisting health conditions like gastrointestinal disorders, renal failure, diabetes and prolonged alcoholism.   

Sulphur deficiency leads to the health conditions like impaired protein synthesis, metabolism and Gi disorders, Alzheimer, cardiovascular disease. 

Causes of Sulphur Deficiency

The condition of sulphur deficiency can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause have been illustrated below:

  • Inadequate Diet: The long-term deprivation of sulphur rich diet is the common cause of its deficiency. The major source of sulphur is animal produce.  It may be inaccessible to various groups and may cause its deficiency. It is very much evident in South-Asian and African countries. 
  • Unavailability of Nutritious Food: Soils from different geographies have different composition. Soil deficient in sulphur may produce sulphur deficient agricultural produce. It caused by the overexploitation of fields and can be rectified by providing phosphate rich fertilisers and fortified seeds. 
  • GI Disorders: Majority of the sulphur forms part of protein in the body. It is directly linked with the synthesis of protein in the body which are necessary for the metabolism. Gastrointestinal disorders affect the absorption of protein in the body and hence affects the metabolism.     

Studies have found out that controlled intake of sulphur helps in its absorption however, excess of Sulphur intake leads to its excretion through urine. 

Symptoms of Sulphur Deficiency 

The common symptoms of sulphur deficiency include:

  • Joint pains
  • Acne
  • Fragile nails and hair
  • Convulsions
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Rashes
  • Impaired wound healing 

Health Risks due to Low Sulphur

  • Impaired Metabolism: Sulphur is key to the amino acid glutathione which acts as metabolism intermediaries. Sulphur deficiency will cause low concentration of glutathione in the body and may adversely affect the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Insufficient sulphur contents may cause GI disorders in severe case. 
  • Protein Synthesis: Sulphur acts as cofactor for protein synthesiser amino acids like methionine and cysteine. These proteins are essential element for the protein synthesis and its deficiency can lead to insufficient protein in the body which may have multidimensional impact on functionality of the body. 
  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Protein forms the core of the human cells and it can be damaged in case of protein imbalance in the body. Sulphur deficiency causes protein insufficiency which may lead to heart cell damage.  
  • Alzheimer: Severe sulphur deficiency may lead to irreversible brain cell damage and cause loss of memory. Several studies found out that sulphur deficiency may cause Alzheimer however, further study is required on the same.  

Tests for Sulphur Deficiency

Sulphur measurement (total and free) is done through the urine test.  The sulphation of renal tubular proteins depends upon the presence of sulphur in the body.   

  • Urine Test: Sulphur have very wide range of functionality and its absorption and excretion of excess concentration depends upon the concentration of sulphur in the body. The renal tabular proteins which is sulphur dependent, regulates renal excretion. It measures the total and free sulphur. 

Ideally, we don’t require any precautions before the teat however, we should stop any sort of medications which might interfere with the concentrations of sulphur in the body.

Remedies of Sulphur Deficiency 

  • Sulphur Supplements: The clinical remedies of sulphur deficiency are to take sulphur supplements. If you are diagnosed with severe Sulphur deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under supervision of doctors. As higher Sulphur may have side effects.
  • Sulphur Rich Diet: The simple way to prevent sulphur deficiency is inclusion of sulphur rich food items in daily diet. Some of the sulphur rich food items are like Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, legumes, onion, garlic, sprouts, egg.
  • Fortified Food Items: Several agricultural lands across the globe are poor in micronutrients which produces nutrient deficient food items. It can be overcome by using sulphur rich fertilisers and fortified seeds. 
  • Vitamin D Rich Diet: Moderate sulphur deficiency can also be cured by consuming vitamin D rich food items along with sunlight. Some of the food items rich in vitamin D are Salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish oil, milk and cheese.

Prevention of Sulphur Deficiency

It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true with reference to micronutrient deficiencies. Sulphur deficiency can be prevented through consumption of Sulphur rich diet.

Food items rich in sulphur:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Legumes
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Sprouts
  • Egg

Food items rich in Vitamin D:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Fish oil
  • Milk 
  • Milk Products

Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):

Simple way to prevent Sulphur deficiencies is to maintain recommended daily intakes. The intakes of sulphur vary with the different age groups however, the recommended daily intake of sulphur has not yet reached the consensus.

Sulphur is essential for the synthesis of proteins and make cells healthier. It also plays key role in metabolism and renal functions. Its deficiency may lead to cell damage which may affect different parts of the body differently. 

Although Sulphur deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by medical experts however, high concentration of sulphur may be deadly. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming sulphur and vitamin D rich diet.