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Garlic: Blessing or a curse?

I have discovered during many initial patient visits that people are consuming copious amounts of garlic. As a naturopathic doctor, you might think I would be in full support of this healthy habit. The truth is that I was in favor of generous garlic consumption until last May. I mean, garlic tastes delicious, has anti-microbial effects, and is great for the immune system.

So, what happened in May? I heard Dr. Greg Nigh speak about anxiety in Scottsdale, Arizona as part of our annual Naturopathic Medicine Institute conference. He just happens to be the author of a book called The Devil is in the Garlic. He wasn't speaking on the topic of garlic per say, but the issue of metabolizing sulfur (garlic is a high sulfur food) came up. This issue resonated with me based on my experience with patients.

The sheer concept of a "healthy" food that was abundant in many of my patients diet potentially leading to some of their recalcitrant symptoms caught my attention. It turns out that because of the toxic world we live in, many of us are struggling with a major issue of metabolizing sulfur.

If you have been downing N-Acetyl Cysteine since this last nasty virus, you might be aware that NAC is often recommended because of the effects of increasing sulfur in the body. We know that sulfur is essential in helping our body metabolize toxins, including viruses. The issue is that there are several types of sulfur available in foods and supplements (sulfides and sulfites), but our body uses the form named sulfate, primarily, for detoxification.

Metabolism of our nutrients into useful substrates requires healthy enzymatic function. Enzymes require cofactors which are typically vitamins and minerals.

The pathway from Sulfites to Sulfates requires an enzyme called sulfur oxidase. Sulfur oxidase requires a mineral called Molybdenum in order to function. Without molybdenum, our bodies have a more difficult time converting sulfites to sulfates. Then, our bodies can compensate by pumping out more sulfites that can cross into the liver and then be made into sulfates. This leads to many sulfites and hydrogen sulfide forms of sulfur running around in the body wreaking havoc! These molecules can cross the blood-brain barrier causing anxiety, brain fog, and panic attacks. Sulfur is very hot element, and thus, this can also be expressed in skin rashes, acne, and hot flashes. Too much hydrogen sulfide in the bowel can lead to bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and SIBO.

Unfortunately, molybdenum tends to be deficient in our soil, and may be bound up in our bodies by glyphosates (active ingredient in RoundUp). Research shows that most of us have glyphosates in our urine - even those of us that eat primarily organic. No molybdenum, no healthy sulfur metabolism.

Then, we add fuel to the fire by eating all of the "healthy" foods that happen to be high in sulfur! Garlic, onions, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, eggs, meat, and dairy. These foods are actually healthy - for people with functioning sulfur metabolism.

The solution? Dr. Greg Nigh has created a Low Sulfur Protocol, which we have been implementing at the clinic with tremendous success. It is a 2-week elimination diet followed by a reintroduction of foods to find out the specific culprits. Because meat is high in sulfur, the diet is vegan until re-introdution of meat at around 3-4 weeks.

The results have been nothing short of incredible! If you suffer from anxiety, brain fog, hot flashes, eczema, acne, gas, bloating, constipation or acid reflux, you would likely be a candidate for this protocol.

Of course, you also supplement with molybdenum and a few other important nutrients as part of the protocol.

Keep in mind that not everyone has this sulfur metabolism issue. Genetics can predispose someone to this problem and there are most certainly other factors involved. And, for those with the sulfur metabolism problem, it can quite easily be corrected!

For me personally, I discovered that there is a reason for my extreme onion aversion since childhood! I never liked the way they made me feel, and it is now confirmed that they definitely stress my sulfur metabolic pathways. Garlic does not sit well with me either. Since completing the protocol and discovering the key foods that I don't tolerate, my skin and gut have never been better!

Courtney, our health coach, has developed several resources to help you succeed on the low sulfur protocol. If you are ready to transform your health, give the clinic a call to schedule a visit to determine if this protocol is right for you.

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