Over the weekend I curled up with a book called “The Devil in the Garlic- how sulfur in your food can cause anxiety, hot flashes, IBS, brain fog, migraine, skin problems, and more,” and while it may not have been the most exciting book, it did not disappoint.
If you're super into chemistry you may want to just jump ahead to buying the book, but if biochem makes your head spin, let me break it down for you.
First, I was stoked to discover that all of my tried and true therapies that I regularly use in practice are the answer to improving the symptoms listed above (but I already knew that!!). And NOW I feel even more armed and dangerous when it comes to helping you overcome all of your nagging symptoms because some important dots were connected in my brain, so to speak.
What I learned was WHY those were working and HOW to apply them to a larger pool of applicable conditions. And the answers were surprising.
One molecule I don't particularly remember learning much about (outside of homeopathy) was sulfur. And that's a shame because we have a LOT of sulfur in our body and it is there for a really good reason.
Sulfur helps us build proteins, it makes up an important part of our connective tissue, assists with detoxification, acts as an antioxidant, assists the immune system when fighting an infection, assists in hormone activation, improves blood flow, and plays a vital role in energy metabolism.
After reading this list you might ask, what doesn’t sulfur do??…and to that I would say, my thoughts exactly!
What you need to know is that the majority of sulfur entering your body needs to be turned into SO4 (sulfate) in order for normal body functioning to continue. Problems arise when this is not allowed to happen either because of shortage of vitamins and minerals used in processing or the supply of raw sulfur does not meet the body's demand.
When things go awry sulfur ends up getting stuck in inflammatory compounds. And worse, the body starts compensating for low sulfate stores by pushing more substrate down these pathways and generating even MORE inflammatory substances and you quickly end up in a vicious cycle.
[Interestingly Dr. Nigh makes the argument that IBS and SIBO might actually be more of a compensatory mechanism than a cause of disease. This occurs because many of our gut bacteria support the sulfation pathway. Therefore, when sulfur demands increase these bacteria replicate to help generate more sulfur. Unfortunately this doesn't solve the problem of nutrient deficiencies so we just end up with gas, bloating and tummy aches.]
Unfortunately there is not a direct test for sulfur pathway imbalances, but there are a whole host of indicator tests that you can request from your doctor. I'm not going to go into what those are here but Dr. Nigh does include a nice list in his book. Just make sure your doc knows how to interpret them or refer to the key in the book to make your own assumptions!
Once you suspect (or confirm) that you have a sulfur issue you can begin to support the sulfation pathways to bring it back into balance. This is done with nutrients like B2, B6, Iron, Molybdenum, Magnesium, and others. Dr. Nigh also suggests that you limit foods that contain sulfur and incorporate some binders like flax meal to mop up any excess sulfur substrates.
Combine diet changes with supplements and some self care habits like epsom salt baths and coffee enemas and viola! You’ll feel like a new person (in theory at least)! Epsom salt by the way is a direct sulfate donor (the good kind of sulfur) and it avoids the digestive tract by infusing directly across the skin membrane.
The biggest mistake I see people make is not adding enough Epsom salt to each bath. Dr. Nigh suggests adding 4 cups to each bath and planning to bathe 7 nights in a row to optimize your sulfate levels. Then you can drop down to a maintenance plan of 2-3 baths per week.
The way I see it, most people can benefit from epsom salt baths and coffee enemas so if you’ve never tried it, what are you waiting for? Here are some links to get you started.
Get my favorite coffee enema set up HERE.
And my favorite enema coffee HERE. But do note that the lighter the roast the stronger the effect. Please don't use non-organic coffee (BTW you really shouldn't be drinking non organic coffee either!)
These are my favorite epsom salts. What you dont want is synthetic fragrance in your epsom salt, so if you buy a scented version make sure they use essential oils.
And if you want to read all about sulfur yourself, you can buy the book HERE.
Here is a list of sulfur foods that might contribute to your symptoms if you have sluggish pathways or nutrient deficiencies :
I would love to hear if this helped you connect any dots! I know I am excited to implement some of what I have learned into my patient protocols.
And if you’ve read any AMAZING science-y books lately, I'm always open to recommendations!
Always in health,