Sulfur Deficiency & Toxicity Symptoms

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  • 0:01 Sulfur
  • 0:47 Deficiency
  • 2:24 Sources
  • 3:39 Toxicity
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Expert Contributor
Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Sulfur is a major mineral of the body that is part of certain amino acids and helps with many bodily processes. Learn what happens if you do not get enough of the mineral through your diet and what happens, if anything, when too much is ingested in this lesson.


Did you ever accidentally burn your hair and notice that it had a horrible smell? This is because your hair contains sulfur, which is part of the compound that gives rotten eggs their stinky odor. Sulfur is not only found in your hair, it's a major mineral that is part of the proteins of your body, and it helps out with many bodily processes. For example, keratin, which is a protein that is a structural component of your hair and nails, contains sulfur. So when your hair gets burned, the sulfur is released and picked up by your nose. In this lesson, you will learn more about the importance of sulfur as well as what happens when there is too little or too much in your body.


If we had to sum up the functions of sulfur, we could say that it's an important part of other substances. It's almost as if sulfur suffers from loneliness, so it's only happy when it's a part of something bigger. For example, we mentioned that sulfur is part of the proteins found in your body. If we wanted to be even more specific, we could say that sulfur is part of methionine and cysteine, which are amino acids needed in the making of proteins. So, if there is too little sulfur, or a sulfur deficiency, it could lead to reduced protein synthesis.

The sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine is also needed for making glutathione, which is somewhat of a superhero in your body because it works as a potent antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. So we see that a sulfur deficiency can cause a cascade of other problems. For instance, without sufficient sulfur to make cysteine, there could be reduced glutathione synthesis, which may contribute to cell damage.

Sulfur is also needed to create connective tissues that support your joints, such as cartilage, tendons and ligaments. So, if we think about this connection, we could see that a deficiency of sulfur could contribute to joint pain or disease. In fact, we see sulfur contained in medications designed for joint health. If you're leafing through a magazine, you might see these medications advertised as chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate. See the word sulfur hidden in their names?


If you are an omnivore, meaning that you don't mind eating animal-based foods, then you should not have a problem getting enough sulfur in your diet. However, if you follow a strict vegan diet plan that does not include animal products, then you may have to plan your diet more carefully to ensure you take in sufficient amounts of sulfur.

This is because good sources of sulfur are animal-based protein foods, such as meats, fish, poultry, eggs and milk. Because these foods are off limits to vegans, they have to include lesser sources from plant-based foods, like wheat germ, legumes, nuts, Brussels sprouts, and some smelly veggies, like onions, garlic, asparagus and cabbage.

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Additional Activities

T-Chart to Compare States of Sulfur

After reviewing the lesson on sulfur deficiency and toxicity symptoms you will be prepared to complete this activity.

You may wish to have additional research materials at hand to help you complete this activity thoroughly. These research materials might be found on the internet or in your local library.

In the lesson, you learned about the importance of sulfur for proper human nutrition. You also learned how to tell if a person has too much or too little sulfur in their systems. For this activity, create a two-column chart (T-chart) showing signs that a person has too little or enough.

Make sure you include two or more facts not found in the lesson to increase the benefit of the activity.


The following is an incomplete example of what a student might create for this activity.

Too Little SulfurEnough Sulfur
Reduced cartilagePerfect levels of cartilage in joints
Possible cell damageAny cell damage apparent not due to sulfur deficiency


After completing the T-chart, take some time to reflect on the importance of sulfur and write a brief synopsis of this compound and how it benefits the body.

  • Make sure to include a description of sulfur in your work.
  • Include a discussion of methionine, cysteine, and glutathione in your work.
  • Include sources of sulfur.

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