Nov 29, 2011

Low Sulphur Experiment is Successful

SULPHUR AS A SUSPECT. I have long suspected that sulphur (sulfur) might be the cause of my inflammation problems. Recently I finally found a list of foods evaluated for their sulphur content. I used that list as my guide in designing a low-sulphur diet.

A PROGRESSIVE EXPERIMENT. For six weeks, I have experimented with a low sulphur diet. At first I tried to eat only foods that contain less than 10 mg/100 g serving (about half a cup). Examples are celery (8 mg) and cherries (7 mg). Many fruits fit this category. Few vegetables fit it. No major starches, except pumpkin (9.5 mg) meet this requirement. I soon realized that I would have a lot of trouble getting enough protein. To do so, I raised my limit to 20 mg/100 g serving. Thus I was able to include sweet potatoes (yellow inside) and yams (orange inside), at 15 mg.

Since I had no problems with any food having up to 20 mg of sulphur, I lifted the bar again, to 30 mg. This expansion allowed me to add potatoes (22 mg), thus assuring me all the essential amino acids -- as well as a tasteful and filling meal.

I am now slowly and cautiously adding foods from an even higher level of sulphur. An example is asparagus (46 mg). So far I have had no adverse reaction.

SULPHUR VS. PRAL? Previously I used Potential Renal Acid Load as my guide for deciding which foods to eat. I avoided foods that tended to produce acidity in the kidneys after digestion; and I ate only foods that tended to produce an alkaline condition in the kidneys. The PRAL standard worked very well, reducing my inflammation problems by 99%. The low sulphur diet, however, is even more effective. It has wiped out the last 1% of the problems I have had intermittently for several years -- particularly the last of the eczema and occasional pain problems.

SULPHUR VS. SULPHUR-BEARING AMINO ACIDS? Have I actually identified sulphur, which is a natural chemical element, as the cause of my inflammation problems? I would say "no." Sulphur load might be only a proxy, confounder, or coincident indicator. The problem might be, not the element sulphur, but certain amino acids that contain a lot of sulphur, particularly cysteine and methionine. I do not know.

REMAINING PROBLEM. So far, I have been using only the amount of sulphur in each food as my guide. I have not been calculating the total amount of sulphur in a particular meal. I do not know which is more important. For the sake of simplicity, I will operate on the assumption that I should have only one higher-sulphur food per meal. That standard is easy to meet. I always eat fruit, which is very low in sulphur; I always eat roots or gourds, which are low in sulphur; and I always eat only about 1 C of vegetable, the one food I would consider at the higher sulphur levels. (I completely avoid all the highest sulphur foods: animal products and "seeds" of all kinds, such as grains, nuts, beans, peas, and especially seeds such as mustard, which has one of the highest sulphur ratings on the list.)

ACCEPTABLE FOODS. For an ever-growing list of acceptable, low-sulphur foods, see "What do I eat now?" -- originally posted on July 15, 2010. There is a link to it in the Key Posts list in the upper right corner of this page.

I will add to this post as I learn more.

Burgess Laughlin


Anonymous said...

Hi Burgess

Congraulations on your success (and the inspiring determination & persistence you used to achieve it).

Will you experiment with re-introducing foods that are low in sulphur but have previously caused you problems, such as berries? I was just wondering if the seeds irritated you because of existing inflammation, but might be ok once your intestines are healed?

Best wishes


Burgess Laughlin said...

That is a very perceptive question. Yes, foods which I had previously rejected because of the presence of seeds (which in concentrated form, such as grains, caused a reaction) are not triggers. In my recent tests, I have tried both blueberries and blackberries. Neither caused a reaction.

My favorite food of all, figs, are loaded with seeds. I have not yet retested them. I will need to locate organic figs. The other kinds are usually sprayed with preservatives -- which seemed to be sulphur-based.

As to healing, I have assumed, based on past experience, that the condition I have will never heal. It is, so far as I can tell, permanent. I can live with that. My food choices are restricted, but I can still enjoy my food and live healthily.

Thank you for the question.

Anonymous said...

It's great that you can eat berries again. I'm keeping my fingers crossed about the figs being OK for you ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Burgess,

I am focused on the foods high in sulphur for a few weeks. I have many health issues (mainly colon and skin) and i found that foods high in sulphur worsen my condition. Surfing on the web I found this interesting link:
It is about food high in thiols and it's more oriented to mercury toxic people. Anyway I am investigating if my problems are related to thiol or directly to elemental sulphur content. In my previous experiments I found that fresh meat and fish usually do not cause me any evident negative reaction. So perhaps, the main culprit could be thiol and not sulphur.

Best wishes :)


Burgess Laughlin said...

A quick response, for now: Thank you for reporting your experiences. I saw the link several months ago in looking for a list of foods ranked by sulphur. I and another person, but one trained in chemistry, briefly examined the site. We were unsure of its reliability. (E.g., where does its data come from?)

I will take another look, read about thiols (what are they?), and perhaps hire some professional help to evaluate the site and its findings.

I notice that you say "usually" fresh meat and fish do not cause you problems. Does that mean that sometimes they do? What accounts for the difference?

Additional questions arise:

1. What test procedure are you following?

2. How large a dose per meal?

3. How many meals in a row?

4. Do you keep the other foods the same from one meal to the next during the test period?

I wish you well in your experiments.

Devorah Krause said...

discusses sulphur as related to the Methylation cycle

Devorah K

Lili said...

Hi, do you know what kind of vegan proteins that are also low in sulphur can i eat?! Because i think every type of soy has high levels of sulphur and beans, for example, have high levels too. Thank you very much.

Burgess Laughlin said...

First, keep in mind that I am not a "vegan." It is true, however, that I am currently eating only plant foods.

Second, read the linked list of foods ranked by sulphur content featured in the first paragraph of this article.

You can also go to my post that describes what I eat now. It lists the foods that I eat, which are all under 50 mg of sulphur per 100 gram serving of the food. See the KEY POSTS list in the upper right column of this weblog. Click on "What do I eat now?" at the bottom of the list.

My main sources of protein are starches (such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and pumpkin). I also get protein from a variety of vegetables (for example, green beans). Eating mostly starches (from roots and gourds), I get all the protein I need (35-55 grams per day on average). Eating lots of vegetables (1-2 c per meal) provides protein too. Fruit generally provides little protein, but fruit does add variety.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm not sure where you live, but figs are very easy to grow in many locations - you might try growing some and not have to worry about what they're sprayed with!

Burgess Laughlin said...

Thank you for the suggestion. I live in a basically one-room, second-floor apartment. I cannot grow anything. However, I could purchase organic figs online. The shipping costs are very high because they are heavy. I am now trying to lower my food costs.

P. S. -- Please remember to follow the rules of etiquette by identifying yourself. Anonymous comments are generally not allowed.

Burgess Laughlin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Burgess Laughlin said...

One reader, who apparently prefers to remain anonymous, has made this suggestion:

"Hello Burgess, I was reading about your success on a low-sulfur diet and I am curious if you have had any genotyping done? Particularly the Cystathionine beta synthase (CBS) gene (rs234706, rs1801181, and rs2298758) might explain your reactions to sulfur since they affect sulfur clearance in the body."

This is an intriguing suggestion, but I have doubts. My inflammation problems began at the age of 18 (after receiving a large dose of tetracycline, following a lung operation). Wouldn't a genetic problem have shown up before that?

Anonymous said...

Hi Burgess,

I found your blog by googling "sulfur content of food" since I tested positive for two CBS gene mutations. At age 43 I had some unexplainable medical issues pop up 3 days after a tooth extraction and a course of antibiotics. Digestive issues were one of many issues that came completely out of the blue. After a year of trying different things my doctor did a genotype test and now I am working my way through it to figure out how to support my body nutrionally. I just wanted to let you know it may be possible for you as well.

L Johnson

Mrs. Twigman said...

I also had genotype testing thru a company called 23&me and took an organic acids test. These things determined what was not working in my body . Not expensive considering all the doctors and unsuccessful treatments I have done for last 15 years to get diagnosis. I found out some very interesting things about how my body works and I too have two CBS mutations which means I have difficulty processing thiol. I was on a extremely healthy diet eating a lot of greens and I got worse so getting that test done explained why. Now that I have largely cut out those foods, I feel much better and fibromyalgia like symptoms have nearly dissipated. I am working with a "Biosignature"nutritionist who deciphers the code and determined what supplements I needed to start clearing my methylation pathway and it is working. If anyone wants more info , they can email me.

evy said...

so interesting...trying to figure out the low sulfur thing in combination with paleo/GAPS ish, what a PUZZLE! :)

Dustin T. said...

I have had problems with cystic acne, and dry skin for as long as I can remember (grade 2). It took years for me to curb it a bit (although I still have it). It turns out that sulphur-rich veggies like garlic and onions, coffee, are a huge problem for me, but also acidic forming substances such as carbonated beverages (even if its just soda water). So i tried a sulphur-free diet for awhile with much success, especially with raw veggies like cucumber. However, eventually I got lazy and nibbled on sulphur-rich foods. My symptoms came back a little bit, but I was able to overcome them with vitamin B5 also known as pantothenic acid (NOT B12 or B6 which made it much worse). Vitamin B5 combines with sulphur in the body to make coenzyme A, thus getting rid of extra sulphur. Since Vitamin B5 is water soluble and excess comes out in urine, I load up on the stuff throughout the day. So you might want to try out B5. But it would be nice to know what my problem is why I cannot process sulfur/acid forming foods properly. Then I could eat more of the foods I love (hummus).

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