High Sulfur foods? What are they?
Sulfur photo by R.Weller/Cochise College
We have found ourselves once again embarking on a low sulfur version of GAPS for my eldest. We did this the first year we were on GAPS (started fall of 2010) and seemed to have progressed beyond needing it but here we are back at it again. You can read more about her progress on GAPS here. Two years on GAPS Part 1 I’m suspecting that my falling off the broth wagon is largely to blame. I did so good with broth for so long but several months ago I just stopped using it as regularly and haven’t been able to get back into it. Instead of going through 2 qts of broth each day we go through that much in a week. Not good. So we haven’t entirely quit broth but we haven’t been getting it in therapeutic amounts. I didn’t notice anything at first but now I can see that my eldest just isn’t doing as well as she was emotionally. So we are back on Low Sulfur GAPS and I’m pushing broth again.
I’ll back up though. I don’t remember where I first came across the idea of eating low sulfur but it intrigued me pretty quickly. My eldest had always had issues with egg and dairy and her reactions were largely emotional. I finally discovered something that many of her food intolerances had in common. High free sulfur, also called thiols. Meat is also high sulfur but it is bound sulfur and rarely causes a problem like free thiols can in some people.
This is what Andy Cutler has to say about people who react to free sulfur.
He notes, “You typically get a couple of hours of feeling good, energized, happy, and then libidinous, then you feel tired, draggy and depressed, which goes on for a day to a week. Of course if you are eating sulfur foods at each meal these all get stacked up and you can never figure out what is happening.”
The onset of reaction of symptoms is fairly prompt, with the tired/icky/depressed part starting within a few hours, and can last for 4-7 days. You might even enjoy eating these foods and believe that they do you no harm, but their reactions can cause you a lot of undue suffering.
Of course children who are depressed or tired often can be mistaken for children who feel the opposite. Ever notice how your over tired kids start bouncing off the walls? That sort of thing can happen to kids who are reacting to foods as well. The foods may be making the kids feel sleepy or foggy but what we see as adults is crazy off the wall behavior. That is the child trying to rev herself up so that she can keep going.
When I decided to try her on low sulfur GAPS W was pretty out of control and we had daily struggles about so many issues. I felt like it was one battle after another. I found myself walking on egg shells wondering what would set her off next. Once I decided to give low sulfur a try was a bit overwhelmed and worried about getting balanced nutrition but since I should see results in just a week or less (gluten takes 6 months!) I figured I could do anything for a week. If I saw benefit I could figure out the rest then.
The first time we did low sulfur GAPS I slipped up and included roasted garlic in a dish at dinner early in the first week. She craved that garlic and ate a ton of it. She was very excited and energized while eating it and then moved into her almost manic behavior. Crazy out of control but happy. Then came the crash and she was no longer happy but weepy and extremely emotionally unstable as well as argumentative. It was the behavior we had associated with consumption of eggs. I was sold on the importance of this diet and quickly searched out a good list of foods to avoid and found this one.
Foods High In Free Sulfur
As the sulfur left her system she became so much more emotionally stable. I wasn’t being yelled at all the time. Her attitude was largely positive. She began to read!!! Until this point she was still struggling with recognizing some letters (she was 6). It clearly had a big impact on her ability to think and reason as well as on her emotions. What a relief! It was worth it to figure out these dietary restrictions if I got this big a pay off! And she was clearly happier like this too. Despite missing her beloved eggs and yogurt she accepted this new restriction with a good attitude and prayed for healing so that she could eat them again. That in itself was a huge victory.
Over time we were able to reintroduce sulfur foods slowly into her diet and she tolerated more and more of them. She seemed to be doing very well on nearly all high sulfur foods. The only one that I kept somewhat restricted was garlic. It still seemed to cause issues but then earlier this year I no longer noticed any obvious issues from it and begain to use it freely. In retrospect I think that I was missing her reactions. With maturity, outbursts are better controled, and it is hard to know what is “just a phase” and what is a problem that needs addressing nutritionally. I try to not micromanage every little thing that comes up. We all have bad days sometimes. Plus this past winter and spring I was sicker than I had been so I missed a lot and went into survival mode much of the time..
This spring I noticed that she was getting more volitile again but we had a stressful spring and I kept waiting for our life to get calmer to see if that would help. Plus it was obvious that she and her friends were begining to shift hormonally. Suddenly they had hips and curves and sassy attitudes to go with it. Then there was a memorable melt down over how the suitcases were to be packed on one of our travels. It was then that I realized that once again I was making decisions based on my fears of how she would react to them. Not a healthy or happy place to live. I spoke with her Dr about my concerns and we agreed to wait and see what some nutritional testing told us before deciding how to proceede. Unfortunatly getting those test results has proven to be complicated and we still don’t have them.
A short time ago I realized that much of what we are now dealing with is an older and somewhat milder version of that volitile behavior from 2 years ago that led us to a low sulfur diet. I also noticed that she seemed to be craving dairy and eggs and her behavior would be worse the more of those foods she ate (although very hyper and positive while eating them). One day this past week she ate 5 eggs for breakfast and then had a terrible day. Not only was she overly emotional but she struggled to understand and focus on her schoolwork. Our day was filled with lots of crying and arguing. The next day I insisted on a low sulfur diet and easily could see that she was more stable. It took a few days for the sulfur to fully work out of her system but over the next week or so we saw major improvement in her behavior and ability to do her schoolwork. Emotional instability is no fun for anyone, least of all the person experiencing it.
There are a few different theories as to why sulfur causes this unstable mood and problems and I am pursuing understanding them better in hopes that it will reveal a way to heal this sensitivity in her. It may be that it mobilizes mercury in the system. It may be that it interferes with seratonin production in the gut. It may be that it releases toxins while it is deadly to the candida it comes in contact with. Or it may be some other theory that as yet I have not encoutered is the real reason. Whatever it is we are all much happier on this low sulfur diet even if I, the cook and grocery shopper, am not thrilled by providing it.
So here we are once again following a low sulfur version of GAPS. It is sobering to thinking that perhaps we are because I got lazy with broth making and drinking. I need to recognize that we will always have GAPS weaknesses and we need to learn to make peace with that. No matter what else we may be able to eat some day we must never neglect properly fermented foods or daily broth. Far better to drink a cup of broth daily for the rest of our lives than to return to where we once were. I do hope and pray that it can begin to taste good to W. She thankfully has recently decided to drink it fast and get it over with but far better if it could begin to taste good to her and be a positive part of her day.
Do you have any questions about this Low Sulfur diet? Have you done it yourself or are you now considering it for yourself or a family member? Leave your comments below.