What is a Sulfur Allergy?
There is a big misconception when it comes to “sulfur allergies” – there is actually no such thing. Sulfur is one of the most abundant elements in the human body and is essential to life. Sulfur is found in many common foods that we eat every day including fish, poultry, eggs, milk, onions, garlic, and cabbage. Being allergic to sulfur is simply not possible because we cannot live without it.
When a person says that they are allergic to sulfur, what they actually mean is that they are either sensitive to sulfites, which are preservatives found in red wines and some foods, or that they are allergic to sulfonamides, found in sulfa antibiotic drugs. Sulfites and sulfonamides, even though they sound similar to sulfur in name, are very different from one another and have unrelated mechanisms of action. Being sensitive to either of these sulfur-containing substances does not mean that you will react to the other. The reason? It’s not the sulfur component that’s the issue.
Sulfites belong to a group of chemicals that include sulfur dioxide and sulfite salts. Sulfites can be found naturally in many aged or fermented foods including dried fruits, preserved meats, red wines, and pickled foods. In the body, sulfites are metabolized to sulfur dioxide, which can cause hypersensitivity reactions. People are not “allergic” to the sulfites, but instead have a sulfite intolerance. Symptoms of sulfite intolerance include headache, swollen or scratchy throat, rash, hives, nausea, stomach irritation, and breathing difficulties. Anaphylaxis is very rare but possible.
Sulfa Drug Allergies
A sulfa drug allergy is one of the more common drug allergies. Sulfa drugs, a class of drugs which includes certain antibiotics and diuretics, contain a chemical group called sulfonamide. It is an allergy to sulfonamide that most people are referring to when they say they have a “sulfur” allergy. When a sulfonamide molecule is metabolized in the body, it can attach to proteins and form a larger molecule, which becomes an allergen in the 5% of the population which cannot clear it from the body. A reaction to sulfonamides is a true allergy involving antibodies and histamine, and which can escalate with each subsequent exposure. Symptoms of a sulfa drug allergic reaction can include fever, rash, redness, swelling, blistering, hives, joint pain, and (rarely) anaphylaxis. Severe reactions have been know to cause life-threatening internal membrane erosion. But importantly, the sulfur component of sulfa drugs is NOT the allergen, it is he drug-protein complex.
Sulfur Supplements are Safe
Just because you are sensitive to sulfites or allergic to sulfa drugs does not mean that you cannot eat sulfur-containing foods and use sulfur-containing supplements. Remember, it isn’t the sulfur component that causes these issues. So yes, it is safe to use MSM, Glucosamine Sulfate, and other sulfur/sulfate-related supplements if you have a sulfa allergy or sulfite sensitivity.
Liquid Ionic MSM Supplement
• MSM Guide
• Can a Person with a Possible Sulfa Drug Allergy Take Glucosamine Sulfate?
• What Are Some Sulfur Allergy Symptoms?
• The Difference Between Sulfa (Drugs), Sulfites, and Sulfur
• Are You Allergic to Sulfur? Allergies to Sulfur, Sulfites, and Sulfates
• Sulfa, Sulfite, Sulf-Whatever Allergies
• MSM and Sulfite and/or Sulfa Drug Allergies
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