top of page
  • Writer's pictureamyk73

Are You Sulfur Intolerant?

From a nutritional perspective, everyone needs sulfur in a finite amount. It helps the body's detoxification process in the liver and it acts as an antioxidant against free radicals. Sulfur usually isn't supplemented because we get the small amounts we need through diet. Despite these important benefits though, many people are finding they can have an adverse reaction to sulfur from their diet. As people move away from eating a natural food diet, we are seeing an increase in all types of allergens and intolerances and specifically with sulfur.

This problem is further complicated as more of us experience toxicity in the body, specifically with heavy metals and plastic. If you have these types of toxicity, you can react even more severely to foods high in sulfur because sulfur, metals and plastic really love each other.

What causes sulfur intolerance?

The medical science research hasn't caught up fully to understand this intolerance in-depth yet so we are limited in knowing all the possible causes and answers for supporting it. Holistically, we know there are specific things that are often root cause related to these types of problems and knowing which root cause you have can determine the best means to naturally support healing.

The most basic and common cause is genetics. A mutation in the CBS (Cystathionine Beta Synthase) genes that are responsible for how we convert homocysteine into cystathionine as part of the transsulfuration pathway. This is a detoxification pathway. Essentially, that means how our body metabolizes sulfur and produces glutathione which is used to promote antioxidants.

Genetic mutation isn't the only way though that you can develop a sulfur intolerance. The digestive system's microbiome can play a role in this as well. When the microbiome is imbalanced and over time unable to rebalance, we can develop sulfur and ammonia producing bacteria in the gut. How this happens is believed to be the result of over use of things like antibiotics, preservatives in the diet, nutrient deficiencies, and other lifestyle factors that kill off the good bacteria and never let it restore. Again, we need both sulfur and ammonia in the body but in small amounts. Once they become excessive we start to experience symptoms including food intolerances, digestive problems, and other symptoms.

What's interesting here is that as we age, our digestive system usually slows down along with other things naturally resulting in increased sensitivities because we are less resilient. What we're seeing though is an increase of these problems in people much younger in life supporting. The common thread is in nutrient deficiencies, poor diet, and lifestyle as well as exposure to heavy metals and plastic.

How do know if you might be sulfur intolerant

Unlike other allergens and sensitivities that result in reaction or histamine symptoms, sulfur doesn't typically follow these paths. Instead we unfortunately first start experiencing symptoms that can be easily ignored or mistaken for something else.

The types of symptoms most commonly experienced include hives, itchiness, asthma, headaches, nausea, fatigue, flushing of the skin, and brain fog. Some individuals can also have chronic migraines and go years on heavy prescription medications when all along it was a sulfur intolerance. Like I mentioned already, many of these can be mistaken for other things including parasites, allergies, or even illnesses. That can create a risk of misdiagnosis when working with a medical practitioner too.

A general list of symptoms to watch for include:

  • Itchiness

  • Hives

  • Loose stools

  • Brain fog

  • Muscle weakness and stiffness

  • Fatigue

  • Asthma

  • Eye pressure

  • Swelling

  • Breath that smells of ammonia

  • Feeling heavy and toxic

  • Migraines

  • Headaches

  • Flushing of the skin particularly on neck and chest

  • Dizziness

  • History of Steven Johnson's Syndrome

  • Irritability

There are two solid ways of determining if you are sulfur intolerant. The first is through an urinalysis for sulfates where we are looking for levels greater than 800. I like to test this a few different times to ensure there is a pattern that can be detected. The other method is through a genetic test where the CBS mutation can appear.

How to reduce sulfur in the body if you are intolerant

The first and most necessary step is to eliminate high sulfur foods from the diet for a period of time. The duration is based on how well your body does with slow reintroduction to identify which foods will not spike sulfur after you have rebalanced the body's system. Since these foods are highly nutritious we don't want this to be a life withdrawal as much as possible. Our goal is to heal the body and rebalance the microbiome so some of these foods can be enjoyed again where possible.

Foods high in sulfur include:

  • Cauliflower

  • Brussel sprouts

  • Broccoli

  • Cabbage

  • Onion

  • Garlic

  • Kale

  • Eggs

  • Dairy

  • Oats

  • Wheat

  • Radish

  • Brazil Nuts

  • Almonds

  • Soybeans

  • Black beans

  • Kidney beans

  • Shrimp

  • Beef

  • Ham

  • Turkey

  • Chicken

  • Dried fruits

  • Bone Broth

Supplements to be avoid

  • Collagen

  • Amnio acids (due to the ammonia overload)

  • ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid or Thioctic Acid)

  • Bromelain

  • Papain

  • Cysteine

  • DMSO

  • Glutathione

  • NAC

  • MSM

  • Methionine

  • Turmeric

Spices that are high in sulfur include:

  • Horseradish

  • Mustard

  • Marmite

  • Curry powder

  • Ground ginger

These beverages also contain high sulfur and should be reduced or eliminated.

  • Beer

  • Cider

  • Wine

  • Coconut milk

  • Grape juice

  • Tomato juice

Public drinking water can also be high in sulfur. I recommend to my clients completely avoiding public water and only using highly filtered options. It is also better when we can reduce plastic from our water options as well.

The next step in reducing high levels of sulfur is often to go through a heavy metals detoxification process. This can be done with the guidance of a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor to help you monitor progress and adjust where needed. This approach will also help you with dietary adjustments to improve overall sulfur intolerance responses and work with you on incorporating back some foods. I use a homeopathic detoxification process so it is gentler on the body and energetically works with the individual's unique needs.

As a side note, it is important to not just do any detox in this situation. Many off-the-shelf-detoxes are simply stripping the body of everything good and bad. This can further weaken and cause more severe symptoms to be experienced. It can also make it harder to rebuild health and balance.

Dietary intake of dark green leafy vegetables helps because we are looking to increase chlorophyll to help neutralize high levels of ammonia. Supplementing with chlorophyll can be done as an interim to building a diet that includes adequate green vegetables like spinach, chard, collards, and so one. However, this should be closely monitored because it can spike sulfur levels in some people. Again, this is where working with a professional will save you a great deal of problems.

I always advise my clients to try to supplement through their diet first rather than capsules and pills. Supplements should always be supplemental. - Amy Kramer, Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor.

A natural product called sulfite oxidase is often used as a means to rebuild the balance of sulfur naturally occurring in the body and help it self-regulate. This is a product that contains mineral molybdenum to help it collaborate with the body on regulating sulfur levels. Molybdenum helps the body process sulfur but it often requires a specific timing to get the best results. This is where working with a Naturopathic Doctor is key.

If you are sulfur intolerant you do want to also check all your vitamins and supplements because many will contain sulfur. Having a Vitamin Check will help you through this process and identify what nutrients your body actually needs so you can include them through your diet or a sulfur-free supplement option.

Dragonspit Apothecary is here to help you navigate your health naturally and holistically. To work with us book your session at


bottom of page